Thursday, June 5, 2008


Bought the Ticket, Took the Ride

The trip ends where it began, Station Sushi on La Jolla Blvd. Friends and rolls and Asahi's, the big ones. Naturally, we're recounting our favorite stories from the last couple months, the conversation is light. Then Adam and I get into the what's been gained? discussion. 


When I left, I thought that I might encounter truths and insights that would change my perspective, change my life. That every person met and every place visited would enhance my awareness of and appreciation for the good that surrounds; that these experiences would excite, inspire, enrich and endure, and they would therefore be far more valuable than the money spent and wages forgone. I really believed that. I went broke believing that.  

But then, on the road, there's the fatigue, the wax-and-wane of moods, the relentless calls of hunger and thirst and need, the intermittent pang of loneliness, the occasional failure of faith. In order to feel something larger, I had to learn to ignore myself, to just be happy and aware. This happened gradually, then suddenly (EMH). This helped:

Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking ot surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?  -Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Soon enough, sights and events that previously went unnoticed began to pull at my eyes. The dogged diligence of a black busboy in New Orleans who wants a saxophone. The auto mechanic in Bethesda who wouldn't accept my tip, That's my job, son, keepin' you safe out there. A couple's excited reunion at an airport terminal in Denver. A baby's staggering first steps on Malibu Beach to the laughter of his parents, waiting to catch him when he falls. 

Maybe freedom from obligation allowed me to see and sense more, maybe belief did. Or maybe just the uncomplicated effort of driving from town to town -senses softened and prepared by all the physical beauty inbetween- and watching people helping one another, loving one another, was enough to enlighten a little. Whatever it was, I do feel changed, enlightened. And I think it will stick, but in case not...

A few thoughts I'm thinking now and wish to remember: 

People want to help. It's incredible and uplifting and everywhere. For two months, I was highly dependent on the generosity of friends and strangers, and I was not once let down. Beds, meals, directions, advice, whatever. Amazing what you can get with a smile and a promise to pay it forward. 

Go and grow. Routine is blinding, numbing. Be lightfooted and lighthearted always. Take risks, take leaps, and where there's an opening, go! Just go. There is value and virtue and poetry in the unseen. Always go. Come back. But go. 

Seek thrills but also moments. Be constantly curious and aware. Seek subtlety. Allow yourself to be moved. Ask, what about this do I wish to keep? And keep it. And the biggie, recognize expressions of love, it's a beautiful thing, and it's everywhere.

Get to know yourself. Be okay with being alone. Think about your faults, or better, think about what you admire in others and how you might improve.  The road offers sufficient time for this, and the evolving landscape hints at the err of stagnation and the possibility of transformation. 

Set your compass, enjoy the journey. Know where you're going. Be thoughtful in choosing a path and be sure the reasons are sincere. But then, enjoy the road. Turn up the volume, see and feel everything, be open to what adventures may come, make today memorable. 

About a month ago, I am flying up the East Coast, listening to Motorcycle Driveby, pointed toward New York City ...watching the long skies over New Jersey and sensing all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it (JLK)...  Lost in my thoughts, high on hope, I'll never forget how it felt to be there, in that moment. 

I've never been so alone, I've never been so alive. 

Monday, June 2, 2008

San Diego, CA

I am tearing down the 405, now the 5, now the Coast, every inch bending and breathtaking. I am burning through Santa Ana, Laguna Hills, Dana Point. What this look must like from above! A little black car hugging the edge of a coast -the camera pans out, revealing more landscape- Death Valley, the Rockies, the Great Plains, the Mississippi, the Appalachians, the Empire State Building, the Atlantic. A little black dot, hugging the edge of continent. 

Outside San Juan Capistrano, the trip odometer hits 10,000 miles. I am running on three hours of couchsleep (on eight weeks of couchsleep), but no matter, I have the energy to power a city. I am negotiating curves, I am drumming at the steering wheel, I am doing the most incredible Bob Dylan impression: How does it feel!? Oh how does it feel!?? To be without a home!?? 

It is Saturday in San Diago (discovered by the Germans, 1904). There are beach BBQs in progress, catamarans at sea, Del Mar dads on longboards. A setting sun is glimmering on the water, too bright to look at, too pretty not to. All around, people are playing. And above, not a cloud.

I haven't given my friends the details of my arrival, figured I'd just waltz into my old apartment and surprise some folks. I go. Tattered hat, long hair, western shirt... I'm looking rather vagabond as I reach for the door. What will I say? 


I don't have a key. Doorbell, nothing.  Fortunately, I know how to break in the place, so I do. Anybody home? Nope. I've made it though, I'm back at the starting point, where the idea was hatched and set into motion. I am back, and I am spent. I fall into pillow face first, and drift into a long and fitful sleep. 

Sunday, backyard party with friends. We're eating tacos and mixing margaritas, playing whiffle ball and flipcup, chit-chatting and catching up. It feels good to connect.  For a while there --through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California-- I felt pretty isolated. Real conversations, especially with trusted and esteemed friends who know what to say, what to ask... that's something I don't want to be without again. That and Mexican food. 

Ah, San Diego, it's good to be back. It seems people here move a little slower, smile a little more, even bob their heads a little, as though Inaudible Melodies was playing from a huge speaker atop Mt. Soledad. Laid-back and temperate, playful and innocent. If San Diego were a person, he'd have sunscreen on his nose, saying hey, forget about the heavy stuff for a while and grab a bucket, we're gonna build a castle.

Wrap-up coming. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Los Angeles, CA

Thursday afternoon, I drive the Pepperdine campus and stop at Alumni Park, where Brother Tom and I used to do some serious route-running. There are a few girls on beach towels. Students here? No, we go to high school in Thousand Oaks. Cool! You ladies take care. And so I spin the football in my hands and stare at the view for a while. The babyblue lifegaurd shacks, the dramatic cliffs, the zillion dollar houses, the sky. I mean, have you been to Malibu? 

I drive the PCH to Santa Monica, where I meet Lauren, Andrea, Justin. I've been in LA for less than an hour and look at me: I am beachcruising to a Lakers bar on Wilshire, I am watching Kobe and the Foreigners, I am schmoozing with fashion reps...

I spend all day Friday on this beachcruiser. Down Montana, left at Ocean, right at Santa Monica Pier. Up Arizona Street, down the Promenade, to Main.  Granted, I'm doing all this on a beautiful, why-live-anywhere-but-here Friday, but everyone I encounter is soo nice. A few cars pull too far into the intersection; they reverse and apologize! The waiter at World Cafe is little late with my beer; he comps it! The barista at Urth likes my new fedora (purchase validated)! A stranger on Third Street complements my beachcruiser, Nice ride my brother!  Picture-perfect Friday in Santa Monica. A nice ride indeed.

And now for the drive into Hollywood. It's 4pm, could have timed this one better. Traffic is nightmarish, but whatever, I'm in Westwood, I'm in Melrose, I'm in Beverly Hills! Look at the houses, the trees, and pretty gates and shiny Bentleys. And CRUNCH. San Diego to LA (the long way) unscathed. And, today, my first collision. 

It's my fault. We pull over and assess the situation. Everyone's fine, damage is minimal. The guy I hit (more like bump, more like tap) is Joshua, a nice young guy, but he's nervous because he's leasing this Beamer, typical, and is accountable for every ding. We exchange info and we part ways amicably. I pull onto Sunset two hours after leaving Santa Monica and call Steve. I'm a little flustered. Pinkberry? Pinkberry. 

Later, Crown Bar in Hollywood. The kids are hip and the music very fresh, written seconds ago. So I'm walking the place, surely rubbing shoulders with future Hollywood greatness, and I'm telling my story, making friends... 

Her: What's your number? 

Me: 858-

Her: Okay, 310-858-

...And who do I bump into (again) but Joshua. Dude! Didn't I rear-end you today? Yeah man! How are ya? I apologize for the inconvenience and buy him a drink. I meet his friends, some curiously beautiful people in skinny jeans and gossamer V-necks. I meet a guy that I thought was Danny Masterson but is in fact a just a film editor. I meet Dom from Entourage. I meet Pau Gasol. Everyone is soo nice. 

And why wouldn't they be? This is LA, the sunny 33rd parallel, where broke actors wear True Religion and drive BMWs, where the floor ain't bad and the ceiling is high. The razor's edge of cool. The good life. Why live anywhere but here?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Santa Barbara, CA

Wednesday 8pm, Santa Barbara Brewery on State. Alone again, watching the Celtics game. Just had a nice drive through town, and I'm wondering, how does a town with so many great street names (Miramonte, De La Guerra, Pedregosa, etc) choose State for it's main drag? What to call the road that goes from the mountains to the harbor, past the Presidio and the Mission? Let's call it State. State. Same as Madison, which at least was the capital of one. So anyway. I'm a little disappointed by this. Okay, I'm over it. 

State Street's a beauty. Everywhere, palm trees-- tall skinny ones, short stubby ones, a dozen variations between. And then the cafes, the hotels, the courtyard restaurants, the tan women in serapes, the blonde surferkids with square jaws, little Laird Hamiltons. 

And then the architecture. White stucco buildings dotted with blue-yellow tiles. Even my hotel (not to brag, but yeah, I'm staying at the Holiday Inn on Haley) looks to have been designed purposefully. Mission Revival, says the concierge (receptionist). Interest piqued, I wiki that and pick up some facts. Look at that, a curved gable. Aha, now that's what you call an arcaded archway. Travel, learn.

So I'm drinking beer alone at this bar. Enter, 40-year-old woman in heels and no wedding ring, might have been a dame in her day. I'll have what he's having, she says, winking at me. I guess this is where I should ask a question, maybe turn my barstool. Nope, I just get super awkward and stare at the TV. Well, look at that. Ray Allen is having quite the game, isn't he. 

I rise early Thursday, like 7am early, and get this, I go jogging. I haven't been a model of healthy living these last two months, so I really dig in. Along the boardwalk, to the end of the pier and back, past some mexicans playing 27-on-27 soccer in a park with three balls and lacrosse nets for goals. And I just keep going. Past the Mission. Past some Spanish Colonial architecture (notice the projecting eaves). At least three miles this jog I do. So yeah, calorie-wise, I think I'm good for a while. 

After, I walk into a coffee shop on Figueroa. I am wearing Dri-FIT. I am wearing the hat of an eastcoast university. I am petting stranger's dogs. I am ordering the Fair Trade Blend. I am reading the LA Times. 

I am in Southern California, and this is what I do. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Highway One

We merge onto California Route 1 without much ceremony. No welcome signs, no palm trees, no 1991 Patrick Swayze ripping waves. I guess I thought maybe the Equinox would to turn into a red convertible and Phantom Planet would come on. This did not occur. 

In fact, for a while there, the so-called Pacific Coast Highway wasn't even coastal. So, there we are, Mom and I, expectations soaring, on the California 1, and everywhere we look, just flat, scrupulously organized rows of, I dunno, wheat? I'm thinking, that Anthony Kiedis was full of shit, man. 

Okay, maybe I made a wrong turn at Gilroy. Next exit, I'm turning this thing around. 

And then. 

 Mountains Left, Ocean Right
Looks a lot like this for from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. 
 Incredible views and hairpin turns. Takes a real pro behind the wheel

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row
The ultimate irony here is that you can watch, learn, and read about all kinds of marine life at the aquarium, then walk down the street and eat it for lunch

Memorial Day at the beach. That little golf hole? Pebble Beach

Windblown Cypress, Carmel
So this a golf hole... if the wind does this to the trees, 
what does it do to my ball?

Hog's Breath Inn, Carmel
Mom and me, and some six o'clock beers. 
I think I end up drinking both

Carmel to Big Sur
One of many Okay-This-Is-Unbelievable-Let's-Pull-Over moments

Big Sur
So I've read about it, seen pictures, watched documentaries, and still 
I'm standing there thinking, 'you've gotta be effing kidding me'

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Sunset and cocktails on the water, except 1,200 feet above it

Monday, May 26, 2008

San Francisco, CA (2)

Saturday afternoon, I meet Mom at a hotel on Sansome and we walk through Financial to Union Square to Market Street. This side of San Fran is different... feels like New York. Transamerica is the Chrysler, Union Square is Bryant Park, Market Street is Park Ave. Everywhere along Market, hustle, bustle and havoc. A little overwhelmed, we cab it to Cafe Divine on Stockton, where Bike messengers pedal by. Asians are doing yoga in the park across the street. We order tea. This is more like it. 

Sunday morning coffee in Sausalito, then we head to the dock to meet some friends for a sail (those Topsiders I bought in Hyannis are actually getting some use, who would have thought?). We motor out into the bay, and in no time, we're pulling this rope and tying that one, rigging, keeling, tilling. We are sailing baby! Flying! Every bit of 15 knots! By skylines and giant bridges and maximum security prison islands (click). And it's thrilling. I nearly spill my Dos Equis. 

Late-afternoon, we're making our way back to dock, gawking at the Golden Gate as the fog rolls in from the West. Soon the bridge is invisible, nothing between The City and Marin but us and thick white cloud. How does a mile of red steel disappear? I try not to act too surprised, something tells me this is common. 

Mom and I do a late dinner, Italian in North Beach. We agree that we could stay here for days, weeks even, and barely scratch the surface of all there is to see, do, eat, drink, purchase. We finish our gelato and realize, it's probably best we get going.  I pull out the superphone and check the way to Monterey. Market Street to US-101 to California 1. How's that for a route?

We step out to the rolling basslines and crowded cafes that line Columbus Ave. Love the vibe. All arty and smart and fresh and outdoorsy and bohemian. My kind of town, would love to stay a while. But it's not that kind of trip. 

Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Francisco, CA

I arrive Thursday night after the long haul from Vegas. I'm not gonna glass-half-full it here, that drive is awful. The first eight hours are a hard fight versus gale force winds, dust clouds, eighteen wheelers and boredom. The only reprieve from the maddening highway comes when stopping in one-horse towns like Barstow, Bakersfield and Modesto for petrol at $4.29/gallon. It's a sad stretch of America, I recommend flying. 

But about 20 miles East of Modesto, everything changes. That's when the sky goes ocean blue. That's when things when things get lush.  That's when you know...

I suddently realized I was in California. Warm, palmy air-- air you can kiss. -Kerouac

We're in California! All is New! No rules! The Future!  - Eggers

Green hills, palm trees, Range Rovers... I must be close. Past Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, Berkeley, traffic is flying. I'm listening to Everclear, the Sparkle and Fade album.  Bumper to bumber to bumper, but everyone's doing 90, around sharp bends, down steep hills. I climb onto the Bay Bridge, and there's San Fran, beyond it, the Golden Gate, beyond it, the Pacific. I've made it. 48 days. 9,300 miles. Coast to coast to coast. 

Over the bridge and onto Embarcadero. I scale Nob Hill via California Street, weave through the Presido, pass the Haight, wiggle down Lombard, then cruise Columbus past City Lights Books and Kerouac Alley. No question, San Francisco is beautiful. But it's also completely insane. Dave Eggers describes it pretty well:

Of course, there is no logic to San Francisco... A city built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored construction paper. It's the work of fairies, elves, happy children with new crayons. Why not pink, purple, rainbow, gold? What color for a biker bar on 16th, near the highway? Plum. Plum. The light that is so strong and right that corners are clear, crisp, all glass is blinding. Stilts and buttresses and turrets--the remains of various highways--rainbow windsocks--a sexual sort of lushness to the foliage. Only intermittently does it seem like an actual place of residence and commerce, with functional roads and sensible buildings. All other times, it's just whimsy and faith. Even driving to and from the Castro is epic, this hill and that hill, this vista and that, always the hills, the curves, the maybe our brakes will fail, maybe someone else's brakes will fail--it's always kind of an adventure in faded technicolor, starring a vast cast of brightly dressed losers: homeless people wearing bathing suits and doing headstands on the sidewalk, activists throwing bagels at police in riot gear...

Dave Eggers

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Thought that was apt. Anyway. I'm writing this on a Saturday. I've done nothing particularly interesting for the last couple days. I've had a few solid naps. Hung out in Marina coffee shops. Bought a $42 t-shirt that I didn't need terribly. I've met up with a few friends, we've had some casual beverages, some stimulating talk. The weather is not particularly good. Umbrella weather. Tomato soup weather. 

The thing is, I'm really enjoying myself. I am in San Francisco, in the Marina, no less, and therefore, I am "with it", I am "in the know"... These cheap shoes, this old-ass jacket? On purpose, both. It's called fashion. This computer, yeah, I chose it over the MacBook Air. It's really a question of capacity. And yes, I am blogging. I keep a blog. And I'm thinking of starting a startup, a social networking thing, I'm looking for a venture capitalist. This coffee is a bit blah, did you grind the beans today? Like, this afternoon? And may I have a heated ceramic cup? Ah, merci. Geez, Peet's is really falling off. Oh, you're from Manhattan? What streets? Actually, my friend is having a thing, just some friends and some new wine he just found out about, so I think I'm just gonna do that. Not really into the BarNone thing anymore. Yeah, I know a ton of people that went to Dartmouth.

All things I've either said or overheard on Union Street in the last 36 hours.  

Here for a few days. More anon.