Last Wednesday around 8PM, my Dad experienced a stroke. I flew out here to Pueblo, CO on Thursday. He is getting better, but there’s plenty of rehabilitation ahead. My better half is back in California doing finals week. We have been having a rough time the past couple of months, to say the least. While things have tended to look pretty bleak, I continue to learn new strategies I can follow to effect positive change. I continue to be driven by the image of a better marriage. We shall see if that vision can be attained . . . for now, it is nice to be around family, where I can be a positive influence. It builds hope.
I haven’t been doing nearly as much computer stuff lately. Instead, I have been spending much more time working on personal concerns and talking to friends and family. My employer has been good about giving me some space to work things out, as well as some time off to visit Dad. All the same, I like to update the “blog” every once in a while. There is some entertainment to be found in pictures.
We are moving! Starting in March, we’ll have nicer digs at the same price we are paying now. The move was inspired by an effort on the part of our current landlord to raise the rent, despite their stunning mediocrity. One of the few advantages the current place has is a hot tub, but as we visited it yesterday, we were soothed by the fact that the hot tub is merely a warmish tub. When we moved in last year it was hot and half the jets worked. Now it is merely warm, and only two of the jets work. And the construction noise next door is ramping up. The new place is a condo sublet, which a nice old guy wants to keep occupied by nice tenants until he is ready to sell it in a few years. Two levels, lots of closet space, a big ol’ kitchen, 1.5 baths, a fireplace!
So, yeah, we are totally looking forward to our new digs. This morning we found a “goodbye” gift in front of our door, of a half-drunken bottle of Miller Lite. Our neighbor down the hall got an even bigger surprise, as someone vomited a spaghetti dinner all over his newspaper. You’d think we were back on Walton!
Also, I am super big in Turkey! I have been getting a lot of heartfelt comments letting me know that Allah, who is great, is watching me . . . and that good Muslims will have sex with Danish cartoonists. It is all very exciting. The best part is that the Turks, in addition to leaving nice comments, also click on my ads. So, my AdSense revenue is up a good deal this month! I think that these Mohammed cartoons will eventually buy me a sandwich, so while I don’t really approve of disrespecting anyone’s religion, I gotta admit–blasphemy pays!
This might be a neat time to demonstrate the niftiness of Google Analytics. Here is a pie chart of traffic on this web site for the past week, showing us that, this week, at least, my audience in Turkey is larger than my audience in the United States:
Lift every voice and sing
’til Earth and Heaven ring
Ring with rejoicing sounds of liberty!
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the listening skies!
Let it resound
Loud as the rolling sea!
Sing a song . . .
Yes sir, I grew up in the public schools of the Chocolate city. Unfortunately, I’m working in the vanilla suburbs, so this cracker doesn’t get King day off. Oh well, that’s alright, I have work to do, you see.
And on Wednesday, I’ll be thirty years old. Neat, huh? I’ll have to start acting like a grownup.
If you haven’t received Yayoi’s e-mail invitation, and you would like to help us celebrate on Saturday, drop me a line and I shall send you details.
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr
Somewhere I read recently that just because you are content and satisfied with your life, doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you ought to be re-considering and working on. (more…)
!!! SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY !!!
!!! NOON 'til WHENEVER !!!
Danny and Yayoi will host a laid-back open house and birthday
party at their new (as of last November) apartment in Walnut
Whose birthday? Yayoi! How old? A PRIME NUMBER!
Friends, neighbors, friends of friends, neighbors of friends,
friends of neighbors, children, grandparents, and other
generally good people are welcome to drop by and participate.
We will feature:
- BIRTHDAY CAKE
- A picturesque view of MOUNT DIABLO
Of course, if you like to bring stuff, you are welcome, but
you are in no way obligated.
Yayoi likes to play fun strategy games, so, we might spend
some time playing "Settlers of Cataan" or "Ticket to Ride" so
if you like that sort of stuff, there ya go.
Depending how things shake out and who shows up and when and
whatnot, we might wander off to eat, drink, make merry
elsewhere, or we might eat pizza. You never know, do you?
- If you plan to come, maybe just maybe let us know?
- firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
- <Contact us for tele ###s>
<Contact us for directions.>
We look forward to seeing you whenever we do see you.
Walnut Creek 20/Nov/04 — Highs and lows in the rugged terrian around Mount Diablo. I took a new job in San Ramon, which is known for being a nice, quietly dead town. Fifteen miles up the road is Walnut Creek, where Yayoi and I have selected an apartment very close to the BART.
When Yayoi came out, everything was beautiful. I rented a car from Thrifty but they cajoled me in to spending a little extra for a convertible. Normally, I might frown at the excess, but what better way to welcome my new bride to California? She has school and can not join me out here ’til December, but she was able to spend a few days out here. The first two days I had to work, and she trudged around Walnut Creek in the rain evaluating housing options. On the weekend it cleared up and we decided on a two bedroom place with a pool and a hot-tub for the modest rent of $1200.
Then, as the sun was shining on the newly verdant hills, and the leaves were turning colors, we hopped in the convertible and drove to the top of Mount Diablo. We surveyed the land as man has surveyed this territory for hundreds of years, if not more, from the tallest peak in the land. It was quite the honeymoon, for it is about a week after we were married that I had landed this job in California. (more…)
So, the past few days, Mom’s cat, Madeline, had been extremely lethargic. Not only had she stopped eating food for the past four days, but two days before had stopped drinking. And while she was barely inclined to move and would walk awkwardly around the house, she fought strongly when Mom would try to give her fluids.
At some point during the weekend I went out to warm up my car, and Madeline was by the back door, and it was still not too cold out, so I let her outside, in case she wanted to do her thing of eatin’ some grass. But this time she took off down the steps, and left the yard, which she hasn’t done forever, and hid under my car. Mom brought a flashlight and I lay down on the ground and pulled her back, though she didn’t want to come home.
On Monday we took her to the veterinarian. She was a pound lighter than when we took her in the month before. I learned a new word, “uretic” which is that smell you get when your kidneys don’t function well.
With some forced feeding and steroids and she might perk up feel better. We vacillated. Was this, perhaps, her time? The vet didn’t want to take a position, and offered both that cats can be suprisingly resilient, and that many owners have felt regret after the fact that they’d kept treating their animal past a certain point.
It took a long time to decide. Mom and I are both thoughtful people, and we both tried to clear our judgment of whatever prejudices we could find and arrive at the best answer. The veterinarian acknowledged that even if she did start feeling better, that she’d need to have fluids injected, daily at first, and at least a few times a week, going forward.
Madeline had herself quit at some point in the weekend, and the question was if we could get her feeling better maybe she’d feel differently. She’s a cat, and as cats go, she has a pretty strong sense of autonomy. She really disliked getting fluids, and she wasn’t getting any better.
She’s been Mom’s companion for seventeen years.
I finally voiced my conclusion that, I think it was time for her to go, and Mom repeated this position. It was kind of like in the movies when they fire the nuclear missle, you get both of the guys in there to agree and turn their keys at the same time before the terrible thing can happen.
We brought the vet back in. Madeline drifted off to sleep in Mom’s arms, her heart going ever slower. I learned another word, “agonal breath” which I think would better be termed “terminal breath” which for Madeline was two or three loud sighs. Sounded like sneezes or coughs, but with a special quality to them. I can get why people believe in souls, escaping the body at death.
The body, and the towel that we had brought Madeline in, we left with the veterinarian. The former turned to ashes and the latter turned to the business of whatever use animal caretakers can put it to. We grabbed some take-out, and found that Uncle John had stocked the kitchen with a coffee cake and beer.
Grandma sent some e-mail:
She’s so charming, on little cat feet,
She’s so lovely, incredibly sweet.
And it proves you’re a sap
If you don’t make a lap
For Maddy, because she’s so neat!
Sweet Maddy was really a lover
When over your book she would hover
She’d curl up in bed
And tuck in her head
And snuggle up close as a cover.
Time with Maddy was quality time,
She was always so warm and so dear
And it’s hard to make up a good rhyme
When writing while shedding a tear.
Mom had retired for the evening when it arrived, so I read it to her in bed.
So, early in the month of August was Grandma’s seventy-fifth birthday. Not my Grandma Howard in da Yoo Pee of Michigan who died in May, who had previously turned ninety herself, but my Mom’s Mom in Chicago, who is pretty healthy and quite spunky. Anyways, since August is a big month for birthdays in our family, we had a big party at Grandma’s house in Chicago.
I also had to move out of the apartment that I was subletting from Dan. Moving myself out of an apartment is easy, because all my stuff packs neatly into a dozen or so boxes that fit into my station wagon with ease. The trick is, that I was also obliged by the terms of the sublease to clear all of the junk that had accumulated over the years in the apartment and store it with Dan’s Uncle Marty, who lives three blocks away. So, it wasn’t enough for me to just pack my stuff in my car, drive up to Chicago to attend Grandma’s birthday party, then continue a little farther North to start a new life at Mom’s house, but I’d have to come back to Urbana and clean out Dan’s apartment. By Tuesday. So I drove up Friday evening with the intention to return Sunday. But I’ll get to that later.
Friday, August 8
Now, being as I don’t drive much and my car is old and I value the occasional Confucian ethic of ritual, I keep a mileage log in my car of every time I fill up for gas. As I drove North toward Chicago with all my belongings and stopped for gas I noted with pride that I had not stopped for gas since May. The car has a fourteen gallon tank and gets a little over twenty miles per gallon on the highway, so you can see that I’ve been putting a lot less carbon dioxide into the air we breathe than your average meat-eating red-blooded American is obliged to. And that made me feel quite good about myself. All the same, since I was low on cash, I paid for the gas with my Busey Bank Visa debit card.
Saturday, August 9
The party was wonderful. We had old ladies, and neighbors, and family, and friends of the family, and plenty other people I don’t really know who they are show up. I invited a few friends myself though none were able to attend. There was lots of food and my sister Jessica brought lots of fancy pastries she home-made herself, and I brought some booze I’d found in the apartment that Dan doesn’t drink, and Aunt Linda brought a lot more booze, to add to Grandma’s booze collection, which was augmented by other gifts of booze, not to mention beer. And I was sent out to purchase ice with the neighbor lady who suddenly decided that we needed eight 22 pound bags of ice instead of 8 pound bags, which struck me as a bit excessive at the time, but what with all the beer and soda pop, there were many many coolers hanging around the place yearning for ice. And well anyway Aunt Linda, twenty-first century Renaissance woman that she is, is studying bar-tending, and was thus mixing drinks in Grandma’s basement. I don’t have to tell you all that we had a good time.
Anyway, I just tried to relax because the apartment was going to be tough, but I pitched in with getting the place cleaned up whenever I was asked. Uncle John and Mom did me the favor of driving my stuff up North in Mom’s mini-van. We pulled our tailgates together and shifted my boxes from my blue Ford station wagon to her blue Ford mini-van. And I proceeded to drive back South on Sunday, and carted several carfulls of Dan’s stuff to his Uncle Marty’s house.
Sunday, August 10
Now, Uncle Marty’s a good guy with an extremely beautiful house, and a good heart, near as I can tell. He asked was there any help we needed and I said maybe you have some boxes, and he said yes, he had some at work, which was in some agricultural research building on campus not far from Allen Hall, which is where I lived many years, so we drove over that way, and I noticed the University Police behind me, and then they were flashing their lights, so I pulled over across the street from Campus Visitor Center, where incidentally a friend of mine recently started working.
Now this here is where the story starts to get a little upsetting. I’ll share with you what I wrote to MikeyA about it:
You know when they pull you over, you have to go to court? They don’t just send you a fine in the mail and stuff. Well, I don’t even remember getting pulled over in Palo Alto, but the other day I was pulled over in Illinois on account of the license plate on the back of my car had no tags, because it was the license plate from the front of the car, because the license plate from the back of the car had been stolen while I was travelling in foreign lands.
Well they ran the plates and found my registration was expired. I’ve been putting off worrying about that because I’ve been kinda broke and not sure do I wanna change the registration to Illinois or renew in California or what. Anyhow, they pulled me over and asked for my license and insurance card. I have insurance but I don’t drive so often so I hadn’t gotten around to putting the new insurance card in the glove compartment yet and the one that was in there was two months expired.
Well, they ran my license through the computer and you know it was suspended!? I did not know that it was suspended. Well, so anyway, they asked if I knew why and I recalled them pulling me over in the Mission District one night when I was driving around, missing my back plate, looking for parking, and they had two cop cars then and they asked me to keep my hands on the dashboard because they didn’t know if I was really there to snuff anyone out, and they seemed nonplussed to find out that I merely had a missing license plate. I’d drove around the peninsula for two months or more and nobody ever wondered about my license plate, and the only reason the cops got excited in the Mission was because they thought I might have been up to something else.
I’ll interject here to explain that the Mission District is one of the less yuppified parts of San Francisco, where I was staying with some friends my last few days in California back in April before I went and drove through the blizzards back to Illinois. The cop told me that the license plates were a fix-it offense, and I’d receive a thing in the mail that I could send back to them after I showed my license plate to an Illinois cop and he signed off on it. For some reason, these past few months, this has not been foremost among the things that I’ve been worried about.
“They do it differently,” the Illinois cop told me. I had the front plate on the back of the car because in Illinois one day I was pulled over twice because I had no license plate and the second cop said put the front plate on the back for cryin’ out loud.
There was much more discussion about my shady story as to whether I live in Urbana or do I live in Chicago and the last time the University Police pulled me over in 1999 I said I was a student just about to leave town so it seems awfully suspicious to them that I had the same story in 2003, except that this time I wasn’t a student. Anyway, they said that since I must have lost my license because I had Failed To Appear that they couldn’t trust that I’d appear there. So they arrested me. The back seat of the cop car was split in half and I had my own little plastic bubble to myself.
Another aside here, but the cop who frisked me wanted to know if I had any Bad Things on me. I forgot about my tiny pocket knife, and he never found it. He examined my cell phone and castigated me that if I had enough to purchase a cell phone, but not to keep my car registered, that my priorities must be awfully screwed up. I couldn’t think of anything to say to that at the time, because I was more preoccupied with getting arrested. In my defense I’ll point out that the cell phone cost me $50, and was purchased when the car didn’t even have a working transmission, which was another piece of really foul fortune that I ran up against early this year, and that anyway, I do use the cell phone a lot more than I use my car, and have a greater need for it, as it facilitates job hunting.
At the Champaign County Jail a guy with a moustache and tattoos who looked like he had experience in such matters smiled and waved at me in the back of the cop car as we waited to go into the secret garage. Then another guy who had been working too long and was slap-happy took all my stuff, and my shoelaces, but then let me keep my credit card so I could bail myself out. I never went in a cell, but got my mug shot taken and fingerprints scanned and then my hands covered with ink so they could have an old-fashioned paper record of my prints.
When it finally came around time to bail myself out, they had me call this service that processes credit cards for people who are getting bailed out, and as soon as I was off the phone a fax came through verifying the payment. But they were confused because it was already signed. Huh? Dan’s Uncle Marty, who had been in the car with me, had bailed me out on his credit card. So we called the service up again and asked that Uncle Marty get refunded and I signed my own piece of paper and I was released.
Now, to get back to the story here, and the task at hand, which is that Uncle Marty had come with Milly, my subletting-from-Dan roommate for the summer, and I thanked Uncle Marty for being such a noble character here, and we drove all together in his Volkswagen Golf and picked up boxes from his office. I had a dinner date to catch up on that evening because Yayoi had baked an Apple Pie that she had wanted to share with me, but she’d been pretty confused when I didn’t show up, why didn’t I call? Because I got arrested. But then, why didn’t you call? Because they don’t let you do that, when you get arrested. And she said oh, because my friend Yayoi is from Japan, and maybe they do things differently over there when you get arrested. I don’t know. But I finally got to her place and we made curry rice together and it was delicious.
Monday, August 11
The next day I dropped by the bank to clear out my account. They had the $220 charge from Sunday recorded as deducted, and I hadn’t wrote any checks lately, so I took the remaining $400 or so in cash. I felt somewhat glad that even though I had had to post $200 in bail, I was leaving Urbana with a little more money than I had when I left Oakland.
Milly’s Dad and Little Sister came down in their own mini-van to help with the moving. Together, we loaded up the rest of Dan’s stuff and made a few more trips and completely filled Uncle Marty’s living room with stuff. Mom and Uncle John were nice enough to register my car in Illinois on short notice when I explained that the title was in a box of my stuff in Mom’s van in Chicago and I was down in Champaign without a license, but the Police Officer wasn’t satisfied to hear that the car was registered, he bitched about “plates on the car” that he never was going to look at anyway so I hopped the Greyhound to Chicago. I told Milly that I’d say that I felt bad about leaving the remainder of the apartment cleaning to her, but that I’d be lying, because I really wasn’t eager to scrub the apartment’s naughty bits, and anyway, I’d already hauled a dozen heavy bags to the trash in removing, among other things, cans of soup from the mid-nineties, and numerous other mysterious things, and all of Dan’s stuff, and I felt somewhat done.
I have my proof of insurance, which was actually in a box that I’d kept in the car when I was originally pulled over, but I hadn’t thought of that at the time, but I can’t get my driver’s license so quick. I called California DMV about twenty times and finally I got through and the lady said two FTAs, here are the docket numbers and telephone numbers in San Francisco and Palo Alto to call. Of course, the San Francisco number went to an automated system that only worked if I had my Courtesy Warning Notice with me, and the Palo Alto number played some new-age space music and said please leave a message. So I looked on the Internet and found an e-mail address for San Francisco that told me that they wanted $250 over the missing license plate, and an accurate phone number for Palo Alto informed me that they wanted $300 for a “traffic-related fine” and a $7 fee for a copy of the abstract that I could send to DMV to get my license un-suspended.
Tuesday, August 12
Anyway I rode back to Champaign the next day, though the surly Greyhound bus driver threatened to not let us on the bus because we must have been deliberately ignoring him when he said Champaign people move to the front of the line to get first crack at the local bus but because we hate his guts we deliberately stood at the very end of the line ignoring him, but he eventually swallowed his resentment, because we never met the guy and hadn’t had anything against him and had never even heard his voice before even when he told us to get at the front of the line, so he moved some people from the local bus to the bus that would get them wherever it was that they were going faster anyway, and drove us down to Champaign.
I needed proof of registration and two licensed drivers so we could all go over together in one car and return with two, but I wasn’t a licensed driver. I got Raad, who is another great guy with a white heart, and Yayoi, who has a great attitude about life, to join me at the Public Safety Building, where I showed them the sticker and my two friends driver’s licenses, and then Raad drove us over to Tatman’s and I got my car out of the towing lot. It had been $75 to tow and $15 / day to store. And since it was two days to get everything together, he wanted $105, but he didn’t have any change, and none of anybody else was around had any change, but the boss was around and said make it an even $100.
We dropped the car off at Yayoi’s and then Raad took us to his place for dinner. We ate a delicious, hand-made, vegetarian pizza, because Raad’s a vegetarian, and drank beer and wine, and Raad shared with us what he believes is the greatest movie ever, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” which I admit was pretty good, but Raad was probably uniquely able to relate to it most vividly because he grew up in Iraq and I don’t think Yayoi got much out of it, but it was a nice way to punctuate everything else that is going on, and I got to see Raad’s paintings and his cats. Yayoi likes cats. And I got to see a picture of his girlfriend in Malaysia, and he was flying to Texas to see his son next week. It was all extremely homey in that comingled diaspora kind of way that makes me smile. Such distances we all have to go to live and to love!
And then as I had further written to MikeyA:
So, I got my car back but I couldn’t legally drive it. My Japanese friend, Yayoi, drove it back to her place, where I stayed for a couple of days, coaching her driving skills. You see, Yayoi grew up in the enchanted land of public transportation infrastructure. And she was kind of scared of the Interstate, but she wanted a ride to Chicago, on the next Friday, so we got along well enough.
Eventually the big day came and we drove up North. We got started kinda late though, and when it got dark I took the wheel, brazenly driving without a license, on the story that it is better I drive than Yayoi deal with my unreliable headlights while driving into Chicago for the first time at night. No troubles … no troubles.
So, you can see, I’ve been kinda slow in getting around to updating my web site. :)
I returned to Urbana for court the other day, and I was the first called. I was charged with insurance, and I showed them my proof-of-insurance card. I was charged with driving without a valid license, and I showed them my driver’s license. The charges were dropped. I’m waiting for the $200 to show up in the mail.
Why did that go so easily? Because driving on a suspended license implies that you were busted for a DUI. It’s a really big deal that I think you actually do go to actual jail for, so unless the cop thinks that you deserve a Really Bad Day, they just charge you with the technically incorrect, but inconvenient offense of driving without a valid license. Apparently my license is valid if you show it to a prosecutor in a court room, but suspended if you have it run by a traffic cop. All the same, I have the CTA at my disposal, so I’m not driving until some unemployment comes through.
Two weeks after I filed for unemployment in Ilinois I was told that I had to re-open my existing claim in California, which had previously been determined invalid, but was subsequently validated when I showed them my earnings from the Coffee Shop. Since I was terminated, I had to do a phone interview, and the lady was able to just pull my account of the story right off of the Internet via a private URL. She was very pleased to have this, because it turns out the Owner lied to her about what had happened, but the burden of proof is on him to show gross misconduct. She has ten days to make a determination in the case, and that was a week ago, so I’ve been anxiously watching the mail for word, and likely cash from the State of California so I can pay off the State of California and drive around Illinois.
Anyways, Busey Bank later called me because they received the charge from the gas station for $19.24 on Wednesday. And they wanted that and $25 fee for overdrawing the account I no longer had. Gah! Anyways, I had put off paying them until I have a bank account, but the other day they called and said, really, the $19.24 would make them happy, so Yayoi said she’d take care of that on my behalf and I get to pay her back. After that call I returned a call from a recruiter who thought I was in California but wanted to present me to a very prestigious University in Chicago. The job sounds good and we’re working to tune my resume, so … things are looking up for a change.
Friday, 21 May
Well, I couldn’t sleep. Part of it was the generator in the truck I had parked next to to avoid the flashing lights of the truck stop, and part of it was restlessness from a sound sleep from the lazy night before. Around 0200h I got out, set up the flashlight, and did a valve adjustment. She was a little warm and the valves were mostly pretty happy. Well, putting things back together the flashlight suddenly went out. Weird. Walked to the store and the bulb looked okay, bought some batteries. No go. Returned and picked out a nice-looking maglite. The lady at he counter suggested that the Coleman four-pack of flashlights was a better deal. Okay. I hadn’t been doing so hot lately so I got the four flashlights, hoping they might start breeding, maybe.
Had enough light to get the bikes back on and secured to the rack with bungee cords. And I was off.
Still, she wasn’t the happiest bug in the world, and it wasn’t the valves, and it couldn’t be the timing, I didn’t think. Could it be the altitude?
While I had time to think, slowing to 45 and shifting in to third up them mountains, crossing the Utah border, I thought about heat, and altitude, and thin air, and burning fuel, and warming up and eventually hypothesised that between the thinner air and the cold night air and the middle-grade fuel I had been treating her too, she just wasn’t firing on her cylinders with the power she wanted. Next fill up it was cheap gas, 85 octane if I remember correctly. She started perking up.
Drove through Salt Lake city about 0400h, getting a little lost because of their shutting down I-80 and having a poorly-marked detour route. The sun was coming up as I crossed the salt flats. I pulled in to one of the few fueling stations along the way, a makeshift truck stop which had a gas station, a small store, and a restaurant around back built from two trailer homes. I wanted to keep going, but my body didn’t. Two hours of sleep at the gas station, sitting upright in the driver’s seat, head leaning on a pillow.
Saturday, 22 May
Around 0800h and 0900h I had some eggs over easy and toast and orange juice and coffee in the restaurant. My bill came to less than five dollars. I think I left six or seven, because it was more pleasant than the overpriced meal I’d had in Cheyenne two mornings ago, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast the day before, just a cup of coffee at the truck stop.
On the road again. Wondering if that white stuff on the ground was snow or white sand or salt. Farther west, there was water, but it was still, probably because of its brackishness and probably because the desert is not a very windy place. It shined like a mirror, and was a very nice picture, reflecting the sand and the sky. Surreal. I wanted to stop and explore, but I wanted even more to finish my journey.
Stopping for gas, I encountered a large group of folks my own age travelling in a caravan of vehicles. As I added another quart and hypothesised that maybe they were a church group, one of the ladies asked had I come all the way from Illinois, and that she had a squareback that she didn’t trust very far at all.
I had indeed, I told her, breaking down only a few times, and that it was kinda boring without a radio.
That’s right, no radio. I tried to score one off of Andrew Ho, who it turns out is also coming out this way in the future, but I couldn’t get in touch with him fast enough before leaving town. Besides, the early Wagons had no radios. Heh …
I asked what her group was, and it was from some college tracking some bird … If memory serves the college was Carleton and the bird was the Peregrine Falcon, but I could just be making this up.
And on we drove, leaving Utah, spending much time in Nevada. Boring armpit of a state.
Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning they yearn for the cup
They deftly maneuver, and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent, and secretly stern
As they speed through the finish, the flags go down
The fans get up and they go out of town
The arena is empty, except for one man
Still striving and driving as fast as he can
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he’s striving and driving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns
HE’S GOING THE DISTANCE!
HE’S GOING FOR SPEED!
She’s all alone, in a time of need
Because he’s racing and chasing and plotting a course
He’s striving and driving and riding on his horse
He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed
He’s going the distance …
That song was on auto-play in my head for a long time. Cake, The Distance. Good song. Ask me for the mp3 some time.
At first I was afraid I was petrified
Kept thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights just thinkin’ how you done me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along …
Ahhh, yes Gloria Gaynor did it well, but then again it’s Cake’s performance that just sort of haunts me.
You know, Nevada is like four hundred or so miles across. I crossed it in one blur, noting the gas getting progressively more expensive as I approached California.
Slowly did I approach Reno. And drove through Reno, and crossed the border, and was asked if I had any fresh fruit or vegetables on me. Nope, just junk food, and you know it was downhill straight through the Sierra Nevadas, or whatever the heck they are. I got 30 MPG. It seemed fitting that my mileage should increase nearly 50% upon crossing the California border.
Around Davis the odometer flipped. I managed to pull over and get pictures with the digits halfway across the line.
And as it was getting on in the evening, and it was on the way, I got off I-80 at San Pablo and tried in vain to find MikeyA’s place, maybe a suprise and a meal.
You know … there be hills in San Pablo. The biggest difference, I thought to myself, was that California has hills. And since they mark not only with traffic signs but with copious pavement markings, driving takes on a three-dimensional aspect. Nothing like pulling away from a stop sign in second gear. There were a few awful scraping sounds as Lucy’s loaded rear end found pavement to scratch against.
Anyway, I found a pay phone and Dana gave me instructions on how to find the liqour store Mikey was workin’ at that night. Found the place no problem and gave Mike a good suprise. He and Dana proved again to be gracious hosts and I communed with their couch another night.
Tuesday, 18 May
So in the wee hours did Gwen wake Dad who woke me. She hadn’t heard from Desi and wanted to get back by CO as soon as possible. It was like 0430h or somesuch, and we pulled away from the small town in the early morning dewy air. As we sped towards the highway I saw a deer kick up, its white tail flying along. A little ways down the road we had breakfast, and kept driving through the day, stopping mostly at truck stops like Sapp Bros. Gwen was shopping for an Angel to replace the loaner that was riding on my dashboard. Figured anything that helps me West, including heavenly intervention, can’t hurt.
Later down the road I checked on the monitor, and found that it and several other items had suffered heat damage. You know how Beetles don’t have heat? Mine does! Entire canisters of deodorant had vaporized, my electric shaver had melted, blowing out some battery acid for good measure. The plastic on the front of the monitor adopted a cool Salvadore Dali affect, as Dad described it … hrmmm, well, we cleared off the passenger seat floor, moving the monitor to a position under the bonnet, and the junk food rested on a clothing box which held my cup holder well. On the road again …
Come the afternoon, we stopped at a town that claims to be Buffalo Bill Cody’s home town. I remembered the gift shop from a previous trip out West. The racism tends to bother me, but then I’ve been going to University of Illinois, where the appropriation of Native American culture is a recurring topic of controversy. Not much farther down the road it was time to part company. Dad and Gwen rode their interstate into Colorado and I continued down 80.
Later that evening, I stopped in Chappell, Nebraska. After getting gas, Lucy stalled down the street, and wouldn’t start again. I walked over to a Bar and Grill that was decorated with cattle brands and had a generous taco / tortilla combo plate and a Coke. Back to Lucy, the rest did her no good. It was too late for a mechanic, and I took the sleeping bag and tent over to a nearby campground, which was unmanned.
Later in the night I shifted in my sleep, and found the sleeping bag zipper was broken, splitting down the seams. It started getting colder, and colder, I became uncomfortable. I took a walk back to town, stopped in a bar and inquired about a nearby hotel. Got directions, down the street about five blocks, never found it. Ended up sleeping in the car, this time curled up with the windows shut.
Wednesday, 19 May
I awoke the next morning, and there were two mechanic’s shops within a block and a half. Neither were yet open. I retrieved my tent, and they were still closed. I hunkered down with Lucy as I had the evening before, and for lack of inspiration of what I could do, did a valve job. It was, after all, morning. Well wouldn’t ya know it but she started? Back on down the road!
I puttered along, Lucy less than entirely happy and me suspecting I might have bunged something with the valves. Got out of Nebraska and stopped for gas in Wyoming, with my eye out for a mechanic. No mechanic where I stopped, so I figured I’d stop further down the road. Lucy stopped a few hundred feet from the gas station, and called a tow truck.
Got towed to one place that wouldn’t handle Volkswagens, and then we ended up, with no additional mileage, at Collins Automotive, a shop that specializes in older vehicles. We were greeted by a surly old guy with s short white beard, who said I couldn’t work on the vehicle on his property, if only because they believed that at their shop, it was their quality work. He said also that they normally did appointment work, and could maybe get to me tomorrow. I rode on up to the Holiday Inn on my bike and splurged the $75 to stay there that night. My idea was that he was the prototypical grumpy old sysadmin type of personality, and that by acting meek and staying out of his way, his curiosity would take over, and he’d get to my car a lot earlier than he’d let on.
Like I said, I splurged on the Holiday Inn. Unfortunately their pool was closed, but I got a nice thorough shower and cable TV. Between being alone on the road, the car insisting on failing ever since parting from Dad, the frustration of the night before, the crappy progress that day, and the crochety old coot of a mechanic, and the clean, air-conditioned quiet of the Cheyenne hotel room, and the lack of anything to read, I suddenly felt horribly lonely. I came near tears, read a few passages from the Bible – bless them Gideons, and then screwed myself down, my macho side reminding me that there had been those heading West before me that faced far worse obstacles, and that there was really nothing preventing me from getting to CA on time, whether my Wagen died or not. Nothing to be too upset over really.
So I watched the latter part of that movie where Richard Gere is framed for murder in China, grateful that the very ending was not the cliche I feared it would be. Some more TV, and dozed off to sleep, snug as a bug, as it were.
Thursday, 20 May
I knew those guys would tackle the car, so I headed downstairs, ate a liesurely, if expensive breakfast, and headed back to the mechanics.
Car was good. The bill was impressively modest. Timing had been way off.
Took off down the road, Lucy purring away. Slowed down for the construction that is ever-present throughout Nebraska and Wyoming, then sped up again, speed climbing and … dead.
Walked a few hundred feet back to the construction site, found a manager with a cell phone, called the shop, got some advice, walked back.
Advice no help. Walked back to the construction. The guy with the phone was gone, but another guy in a little car with a cracked windshield gave me a ride back to the repair shop. I offered him a few bucks, as he said he’d been inquiring about a badly-needed job with the road crew, he declined. The grumpy old man of the day before was far more hospitable this time, and when his coworker, Bill, another old guy with a short-cropped white beard and kindly demeanor, who reminded me an awful lot of Uncle Bill McConeghey, returned from lunch he drove out to Lucy in his pickup truck. I’d only made it a few miles down 80. He couldn’t get her started either, and so I rode in Lucy behind a tow strap back to the shop. Not an easy thing, but by riding the brakes I got the hang of it.
Where yesterday I’d gotten a single grouchy old man, today I got a pit crew swarming around Lucy. The two older guys and another in his forties named Bob, they puzzled over why she didn’t start – she had gas and spark. A little exploratory surgery, and the coil was found questionable, and the points and condenser were bad. A coil from an old BMW parts car, and other quick replacements later, tightening down the distributor, and Lucy was happy. After extensive test-driving, I managed to finally get her to start dying again. A little adjust to the carb idle on Bill’s part and she was golden. More test driving and we took off down the road.
And things were good.
And I drove.
And I drove.
Near midnite, I was nearing Utah. Not long later I suddenly lost power, as if I had lost a cylinder. DAMMIT! I got into a truck stop and decided to nap until the morning when I’d do a valve adjustment.
Wednesday, 12 May
Wednesday before last I finished my last final, for Geology 118, at about 9AM. I walked out of Greg Hall and toward the crowd and just kept thinking to myself, “Done, Done! DONE! DONE!!”
It’s one thing to be done with a final. It is another to be done with all your finals, and thus with your semester. It is another thing to be done with your last semester, about to graduate. It’s another thing to be done with the last formal education you have any immediate plans for for the rest of your life.
Saturday, 15 May
After relaxing and packing and otherwise casually enjoying myself and trying to tune the car, and visiting Chicago one last time, I woke up Saturday and remember driving over to Piccadilly and fitting two kegs of beer into the back of the Volkswagen – one Honey Brown and one Ice House. Throw in another 100 lbs of ice and you have yourself a party, if you count the propane fillup, and all the food and other stuff gathered by Scott and Chad, and the legwork done on getting the hot tub working, on the part of Scott and Oleg.
Before taking off for Piccadilly, Dad and Gwen arrived. After getting the kegs set up and Mom, Grandma, Uncle John and Jessy arrived from Chicago, we headed over to Foellinger for Humanities Convocation II. A relatively small ceremony by U of I standards, but still probably lasting at least an hour, each of us from several majors, most notably English and Rhetoric, taking our turns to strut across the stage. Everyone was in a good humor.
Upon returning home, some friends of Chad had already arrived and the grilling was beginning. Scott started out strong on the grill, making much food as he had prepared to do. As the night wore on Tunji, Goth Dan, Brijeet, Jay, Tim Skirvin and all the Allenites, ‘toly and Morris and Anne Nowinski and Rene and others showed up. Vern rode the nookie van down from Chicago and Mark Meyer and his girlfriend showed up. What started as a nice cookout got better as the hot tub opened up, and the less inhibited folks, almost exclusively my friends, tried it out. The sun went down, Beth came by, beer in a hot tub … ahhh …
Sunday, 16 May
… and we woke up the next morning … Adam had slept on our couch, and I believe he and Scott were hung over, the hot tub having a dehydrating affect which improves the punch of alcohol. About one in the afternoon we finally got up and going with Chad and Christina over to I think the place is Merry Anne’s. Good breakfast food. In the afternoon Beth came by and we took a walk together and bid some goodbyes. The day was good and slow and lazy, and included the Simpsons going to Japan, which I found hysterical and over the top. Plus a rerun of a good, classic X-Files.
Monday, 17 May
My bike rack and other car parts arrived via UPS in a pretty timely fashion. The last bits were packed in boxes, the rear seat folded down, computers in the way back, under boxes and boxes and blankets. Bike rack and two bikes, one being Erik Gilling’s, on the back. Passenger’s seat held junk food, monitor on the front seat floor, covered by a blanket. Dad and Gwen arrived from Chicago and thus did we hit the road, eventually finding our way up to 80 West and driving on through Iowa until the wee hours when I started feeling punchy and we pulled over in a small town in Nebraska. I slept across the front seat, wrapped in a sleeping bag, legs resting out the driver’s window. Dunno if Dad got a picture of that or not.
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 01:27:32 -0500
From: dannyman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: DaZeD! Notification <email@example.com>
Subject: [dazed] the time is now
well, in the morning i'll wake up, finish packing, clean the floor, and head
out in the beetle to california.
it still seems unreal, but i reckon it'll pass. this is the wackiest thing
i've done with my life since joining the army, and i agree with grandma when
she said this struck her as a much much much better thing that joining the
on friday i returned to chicago and closed my bank accounts ... well, actually
i left about $500 in checking and i've got to balance to make sure nothing
will bounce, but i've a happy bankroll to bring me out here, then a few
thousand dollars with which to pay rent and cover tuition on upon arrival.
then i went by enteract, going out to lunch with vernell and sharon, and
buying pizza in the evening for those employees present.
saturday, i got the two kegs for our party, then went with the family to the
humanities convocation. afterwards it was barbequeing, drinking and hot tub
madness. beth dropped by later in the evening and there was some nice
today? pretty lazy, we woke up late and had breakfast at aunt sonya's. beth
again dropped by and we had a little walk and a talk together. the day was
cleaning and packing and watching tv. we also helped chad grade cs225 exams.
tomorrow? wake up, finish packing, drop off my cap and gown, await the ups
shipment, do additional tuning to the car, pack up the car and hit the road.
i start one week from today - next monday that is. i'm betting lucy will make
it out there without any major troubles. the odometer oughtta flip right
around CA. I'll snap a picture, i promise. one friend observed before i
could think of it the symbolism of making a "new start".
perhaps i'll find some flowers for my hair as i drive through san francisco.
well, consider this a preview of a forthcoming journal entry, and a thanks to
those of you on this list who have played key roles in making my future seem
all the more reasonable. i love you all.
see you on the other side.
.. terminating transmission from urbana ..
dannyman - http://www.dannyland.org/~dannyman/
http://www.dannyland.org/cgi-bin/majordomo for assistance.
Saturday night we went down by San Francisco’s version of Navy Pier. Pier … 39? Anyway, all they got is a lame little carousel instead of a giant Ferris Wheel, but we had some good steaks and I saw a cute little teeshirt I just had to grab for a honey I know.
After impressing MikeyA with my ability to finish off a good meal on a full stomach … he had been concerned because I’d been taking it slow, but slow and steady and I think I finished before he did. Well, we took to ridin’ around and at an overlook just off the golden gate bridge, I did finally work loose one of my baby teeth … cuspid, I think it is. This tooth has been loose since Highschool and is all the more noticeable because of the “fang” … a canine that’s been waiting to descend into it’s place for the longest time.
Well, losing a tooth may be no big deal, but for me, it don’t happen all so often. And while I’m not one given to superstition, even this atheist tends to suspect that there may be some fate guiding his destinies. If ever there was some kind of sign, it’s losing a tooth I’ve had loose since my last big life change at the monument of the area to which I am considering my move.
At the least, it does serve as a symbol of the changes in my life. The new tooth started coming into place as I left High School, but it is not until now that the old guard has fallen away, leaving the path clear. You see in that interpretation why I can hold my own in an English course?
I had also a touch of Deja Vous. One of the few times I’ve flown on a plane was one morning as I flew from O’Hare towards Alabama when I enlisted in the Army after High School. Well, Saturday morning, I hit a sense of Deja Vous as I swear I walked past a spot I had walked that morning years ago as I boarded my flight for another destiny. This time I was walking the other way. And there wasn’t anything I really recognised … it was a section of window overlooking the runway, but I had a sudden feeling of familiarity. It was spooky cool. To interpret again, the airport represents a crossroads in one’s life, where one goes to meet their destiny. The trip to San Francisco was at a cross to the trip to Alabama. I failed in the Army, and this time I felt myself walking the other way through the cusp.
Well, this weekend, indeed, the rest of this week, is a great big one in the life of dannyman.
Last week I got the word that Tellme wanted to fly me out to San Francisco. Well hot diggidy dawg but I found the most inexpensive plane tickets I could find for such a short-notice flight, and away I went. I left early Saturday morning, riding a very uncrowded 757 from Chicago. I returned Monday afternoon, riding an overbooked MD80 from San Jose.
A quick rant about airlines here – the tickets available at the last minute go up in price about threefold, but the real kicker is that it’s cheaper to fly through Chicago from Champaign than direct from Chicago. Flying from Champaign though, this doesn’t actually upset me, but let it be observed that the cheapest last-minute flight I could reason from Chicago would have involved riding Amtrak away from the city and flying back through.
Does anyone know why it works that way?
Anyway, as I stepped out of the San Jose airport to ride along in Angus’ A4, the first thing I noted was sunshine. It was a pleasant, sunny 70 degrees. Not bad, it’s been shitty cold rain in Illinois lately, though it has been nice since I got back.
Indeed, everywhere I went the weather was different. It gets chilly at night, unlike Chicago, and because it’s all hilly and different parts are closer and farther away from mountains, oceans, and desert … well, it wasn’t any warmer than Illinois except where it is usually warmer, and some places are chillier. Weird stuff.
From the airport we drove around Mountain View and the West Bay, Angus showed me the shiny buildings that were Netscape, and a few other places. Lots of big names and impressive stuff out there. Neato. We pulled up to the Tellme temporary offices, and I met some rather interesting folks.
I’m not sure, especially because I was a little dazed at the time, having arisen at 0345h PDT, but I think I was interviewed by about half the people who were there at the time. I talked of course with Angus, but also with John, their current Internet guru, who said that I’d also have to learn myself about some secure tunneling, which struck me as interesting. I talked with Mike, the CEO, and some Engineers, Brad and Rod, each one on one.
One interviewee seemed uncertain what he should be after, so I started asking him questions, and was left impressed by my own comfort in the situation. I was actually pretty proud of that one, and glad that I didn’t make any obvious snafus that a nervous candidate might make on any of the interviews. The whole rigamarole was quite pleasant, and I felt that I got along quite naturally with everyone, and even watching discussions about internal development that went somewhat above my head, I didn’t feel out of place. The atmosphere was cordial, even better than NCSA had been, but with the informality and smallness that just made things a little more cozy, and avoided the cynicism you’re going to find in any organisation large enough to be self-conscious about itself in such a way.
I also got the impression at least, that the folks out there were each intelligent, and some especially so. The impression I’ve gotten from Angus is that he’s running about and putting together the best people he can get ahold of to put up this exciting new idea he and Mike have developed. The question that had been lurking in the back of my mind was why he’d take much interest in little old me, and as that came out in the interviews I began to put together my own little picture.
Consider if you were young and excited about creating your own startup. You have plenty of cash to go and pursue the best folks you need for the R&D stuff, and among the staff you would need are also support folks, including a Systems Administrator. For this position, a whiz kid from college should do, and so you, being the Internet hipster you are turn to the web and get yourself piles of resumes from Collegehire.com. Unfortunately, Collegehire is a slightly funny entity, and has a habit of returning a lot of obtuse suggestions. It turns out that a lot of EE/CS types, even if they have had experience adminning machines, tend to be more interested in just doing code. One candidate though is reasonably bright, and has experience and interest in the sort of stuff you’re looking for. He’s also different – a Writing major with a fairly extensive website and a sense of humour. Hrmmm …
I believe that in putting together the team, Angus may regard the company as a pallet onto which he places the colours in contrast and harmony with one another. He has some creative ego invested in the team, and takes pride in it, and one thing I have going for me is a somewhat unconventional flavour that seems to work. Voila!
Or so I tell myself. A useful mythology that pleases me, for now, for lack of any better understanding of the mysterious forces at work here. I think reality adds in a factor that maybe Collegehire didn’t do a great job, but did return one prospect that actually, when you get to know him, sounds like a good fit. At the day’s end, we know that dannyman gets it done.
Come to think of it though, the folks I know who are into running the systems tend to be more unconventional. I can think of an English major, two Rhetoric BAs, a dropout, and the entire team at EnterAct as examples of Admin-types who fall far from the traditional CS mould.
You know I graduate in less than a month. I have to tell myself as much more often. It helps motivate.
Last night I was up late doing homework at the last minute for ECE 338. Probably my favourite class. I’m still behind on my schoolwork, but have been catching up. I think I should pass everything.
Today I got up early and hauled ass over to DCL to hand in the homework I was up late working on. I took maybe half hour of nap this evening. I skipped lunch and had apple and a matzo for dinner. Maybe I have anxiety or somesuch shit.
So … gotta find my dream job by the end of the month. I’ve got a letter nearly ready to go back to EnterAct expressing some dissatisfaction with their initial offer, meanwhile I’m a bit anxious to score myself a trip out to California to check out this startup called Tellme Networks. It’s kind of hurried and given the lack of organization it being a startup and all it sounds a little iffy. There’s an off chance I may ride this weekend with Joe and Dave who are driving there this Friday. It all comes down to busy people finding telephone time in common.
I’d miss EnterAct though, Chicago and Illinois even more, I think. I can’t help but spending a few years in the Bay Area might make me a better person – being well-rounded and stuff. Plus joining a startup that’s just getting their office in May sounds like more of an adventure than returning to EnterAct, now EnterAct Corp. The weird thing is though it seems like it’s coming down somewhat by fate … can I get out there or not? Can EnterAct come through on a better offer on short notice or not? Maybe that’s why I hunger more for caffeine than calories … I’m as laid-back as they come, but sometimes life moves like a slow-motion toss-up.
I’m calling this Angus Davis character, the Tellme guy, tonight though. I haven’t heard anything since the second telephone interview. I don’t think I turned them off …
… meanwhile, I get calls …
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