Adventures at home, abroad, and online

Category: Cross Country Page 2 of 7

Roadtrip Day 6: Salt Lake City UT to Donner Pass CA

The next morning, we toured the monstrous temple in the center of SLC. Marko asked serious questions of our cute Finnish tour guide about the religion to which she had committed her life. I wondered why all the guides were young and female, and all the “living prophets” were old and white. The guide tried very hard to demonstrate that they weren’t a cult, and that they take the word of Jesus seriously, but the words rang hollow when compared to the preposterousness of their claims. Perhaps all organized religion seems as odd to the naive observer, but the Mormonism really seems to be a fabrication by Joseph Smith. He must have been quite a smooth talker to get so many to follow him to the desert shores of a salty lake, and settle there to recreate the Garden of Eden. At least there’s decent skiing nearby.

Mormons

Creepy Mormons

Had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, which appeared to be the coolest place in town judging by its clientele. Had a wonderful pesto pasta, which stopped my hunger but didn’t make me feel as if I was full. We stopped at KFC for seconds on the other side of the Nevada wasteland. Made it across that entire state, surrounded by biker gangs and truckers, all enjoying the scenery once we got off past the Bonneville salt flats. There was little sign of civilization until California, and we were careful to watch the gas gauge.

Stopped for dinner in Truckee, where we ate at an upscale yuppie bar, with a nearly twenty page wine selection. Luckily they also had a wide array of taps, and we toasted to the end of our journey together. Spent the night at Donner Lake State Park, the site of the infamous early pioneer camp. We didn’t resort to cannibalism, although we had discussed our feelings about it, and decided it was perfectly acceptable under the circumstances. One should be able to sign away one’s right not to be eaten, if one so wishes. What sort of country is it where you can’t decide that you want to make someone a tasty meal as your last wish?

Roadtrip: Day 7, Donner Pass CA to Carmel CA

Woke surrounded by Sierra pines, and wandered about the campsite while Marko slept in the car. Took some photographs of the pioneer memorial, and then paid the park fee. Our first day in California, and we learned the true expense of the state. Paid $25 for a night sleeping on the ground, where it had been $12 and voluntary in Kansas. Had our first $50 tank of gas, and headed south to Lake Tahoe.

Marco Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Passed some bike race, with perhaps a thousand participants, all on expensive bikes and not all seemingly fit enough to ride them. Trespassed by some condos and got a look at the lake; not as impressive as I had thought, as least when compared to the emerald eye of Crater Lake in Oregon. Turned around and got back on the highway.

Passed through Sacremento, and by innumerable fast food joints. Our quest for a decent lunch took us to Berkley, where we figured there would be cheap student grup, and were right. Stuffed ourselves at an Indian buffet, and then over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Traffic there was quite exciting, with trolley cars and bike lanes confusing the hell out of me. We finally found Marko’s hostel, and then our stoic farewell. A quick handshake, a promise to keep in touch, and I was alone.

Marco SF

Marko at the journey’s end

It was even more difficult to get out of the city without a navigator, so I focussed on not hitting any pedestrians and hoped the directions would figure themselves out. They did, and I turned south and eventually got on the 101.

Two hours later, past Silicon Valley and Cupertino (resolving to make my hajj there later), and I was through Monterey and on my new doorstep. A shower, dinner, and now I write this account overlooking my first Pacific sunset. Six days, 3921 miles, and over $500 in gas, and I am tired. Eager to start my job, have some fun in the sun, and no longer afraid of any prospective road trip.

World Cup

World Cup

Walking through the mean streets of Monterey today, I bumped into high school acquantances Ben Wiley and Sam Chamberlain. They were bumming around California with friends Alex and Andrew from Reed. They came out of the woods specifically to watch the World Cup final, and so I couldn’t help but join them at a local drinking establishment. A photographer for a local entertainment rag snapped a picture of our group.

Those penalty shots are bullshit, what a way to ruin the game. Sudden death would make more sense, and allow more opportunities for headbutting. I do love the headbutting.

A Night on the Town

This weekend, I got hit on more times than I can count, by men. Most of the interns here went to SF, staying on the edge of a bad part of town. One of the girls here is a lesbian, and wanted to see the gay scene. I thought it would be a cultural experience, and went along. Our first night, we went to Castro, the gay district, and asked strangers for recommendations on where to go. A couple at an ice cream parlor, suggestively sharing a cone, told us to go to “The Badlands.” The long line and thumping bass told us that they were right. When we got in, an older guy with boozy breath approached me, and I could tell that he wanted some. I demurred, and instead grabbed the hand of the one available straight girl in our group, and strode off to the dance floor. Others eventually joined us, and we formed a straight haven in the midst of the gay. If you’ve ever seen an episode of “queer as folk”, or know anything about the gay scene, you can probably imagine it. Barechested, sweaty men gyrating, either locking lips with their current partner, or gazing around for another. One large black man told me I was “the prettiest boy out here”, which was flattering. Someone stroked the small of my back, which was a little too much for me. We left after about an hour, having had our fill of Madonna, Cher, Dido, and other divas.

One of the straight, square guys in our group suggested a place up the street, named descriptively enough, “The Bar.” Upon entering, I immediately recognized the scene. This was the flip side of gay male culture. Instead of effeminate, slender men, these were the big, burly, hairy men known as “bears.” I had to piss, and so queued up for a urinal. At the trough, there was a mirror at just the right height for scoping out your neighbor. Luckily, I was flanked by my fellow straight interns, and no one grabbed for my goods. At this point, I was ready to leave, but our square companion, either unable or unwilling to recognize the kind of place we were in, had calmly sat down and ordered a beer. Hilarity ensued, as large men eyed him hungrily. I told him to drink quickly or become someone’s sweetheart, and we got out of there post-haste.

On the street, a naked old man strode confidently past. He was approached minutes later by two officers of the law, who asked him politely to put something on. He produced a flesh colored G-string from God-knows-where, and declared himself appropriately attired. The cops didn’t give him any more trouble.

At this point, it was 2:30, and the straight bars near our hotel were closed. Apparently the whole city closes down at 2, and there isn’t a drop to drink. We retired to our rooms with a final bottle of wine, and to deal with the drunker among us. Someone started a toothpaste fight, which ended with casualties on both sides of the gender divide.

The next day, there was a call for sightseeing. Half the group wanted to see some tall colonial ships and hit the wax museum. The lesbian wanted to see the “Fetish Festival.” Guess which one I chose? Back to the bad part of town, we could hear the fetish fest before we could see it. The throbbing bass, and the lines of Village People lookalikes lead us there. We paid our $5, for charity, and entered the closed off block. I saw more naked men in that hour than I had ever seen before, or ever plan to see again. There was the standard leather stuff, a few master/slave combinations, and a drag queen or two. But the most popular costume was nude, or nearly so. One man wearing red leather straps that held up his equipment, wondered aloud if he was “coming on too strong.” On the other hand, a straight woman said that “the most disgusting thing she had seen all day was two barefoot people.”

We perused the shops, and considered the merits of leather cuffs, studded versus Xena-style. I tried to get her to buy a collar and chain. She convinced me to try on a kilt, which was out of my price range even after some serious haggling. I did find a sweet belt buckle, with a menacing bear in a natural background. I liked that it was subtle, and would work in any suitably masculine context. I bought it.

We rendezvoused with the rest of the crew, and returned to Monterey flush with our new acquisitions: my buckle, a souvenir paddle, a really explicit comic book, and memories of things that I can’t unsee. I’m still straight, but I’m not narrow.

MIIS

Finishing my final piece of work for Clay, and filling out an evaluation form, gives me an opportunity to reflect on the internship experience. Certainly better than last summer, due to the pay, climate, and social circle. But I still don’t feel like I accomplished much. Sure, I wrote several short briefs which aided Clay’s research, and may be published on the web. But there were days where I didn’t really do much of anything. Janet reminds me that this is part of entering the work world, finding ones place in the capitalist machine. But if I have to be a cog, I’d rather be doing something I really enjoy doing, so I’m motivated by more than pay or the threat of being found out to be a slacker. I’d rather be actually doing cool stuff than just writing about it. Reconsidering the think tank/academia route, and re-enamored of building the future. As always, plans are subject to change. But at least I have this to fall back on.

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