Reunion, Part 3: Friday night after-party, continued

This is the third installment of a description of my high school reunion. If missed the first, about the football game, and second, about going to the bar, about you might want to read them first for a bit of context. Here is a recap: The football game felt somewhat awkward. The next part of the evening at the bar I started having conversations with people from my youth who turned out to be pretty interesting.

The last segment ended while I and the cute flautist were holding court. She was one of the only people whom I remembered having a connection with in high school and she had been my crag that first night. Whenever I got whelmed (I was never really overwhelmed), I would go back and hang out with her, her husband, and whoever else happened to be around. Actually, by this point in evening, she may have left the premises. About 30 minutes earlier she said that she had gotten some kind of communication that indicated that one of her offspring had somehow misbehaved on a school excursion which required her, or, perhaps, allowed her, to take her leave. She related later that her experience at the football game was fairly similar to mine and that she just wanted to go home, but her husband had insisted that she go out to the bar. Even without the flautist’s company, I enjoyed my place by the wall with the pretty flowers I had attended school with three decades earlier.

Another highlight of the evening was running into a woman that in my memory was the cutest girl at Crestline Elementary. As a forty-eight year old woman, I found her no less attractive. Now she is a teacher. Having spent my adult life as a teacher or teacher educator, I rather like teachers. I also learned that she is recently divorced–but not too recently. Perhaps now the girl whom I was too intimidated to talk to in my childhood could now be interested in me. Since she was a teacher, I hoped that my being an education professor would make me somewhat attractive. I save the part about being unemployed and living in a van for later. I did tell her that forty years earlier I had a crush on her, something I could never admit in my youth. As I would learn over this weekend, we are not held entirely accountable for who we were and what we did in our youth. She said something about how she looked different now. Being considerably less shy about making my desires known than I was forty years ago, I related that I found her no less attractive. She responded with something like “Aren’t you sweet!” I could not quite tell whether her lukewarm response was due to her being shy or my being no more desirable than a twelve year old was unclear. Ever hopeful, as that conversation ended, I hoped that I would see her the following night.

As the crowd thinned out I got a chance to talk to the guy with the Really Cool Job whom I had seen at the football game. We reminisced that we had also been to preschool together. It was fun hearing about what his job that had him traveling the world doing cool stuff to help people. As with the banker, I would have liked to spend a lot more time hearing about what he did; unlike the banker, I was pretty sure that our political leanings would not interfere with our having an actual friendship. I had gone to see Cool Job because I had heard that he was with was another woman whom I remembered having a crush on in 8th grade. I had the good luck to get assigned to do a group social studies project with her. She was still strikingly beautiful. And a dancer. And she had a cool air about her. Really Cool Job remarked that Annie Leibovitz had photographed her. Nude. This was turning out to be more fun than I had anticipated. (A few days later, when I typed “Annie Leibovitz” and my friend’s–I want to count her as a friend–first name and last initial Google completed her last name.)

When I left for the football game I figured I would be back to my cousin’s place by ten and with the pesky reunion activities out of the way, I could hang out with my cousin and her husband, an activity that I really enjoy. As the conversation with Really Cool Job and Ms. Photogenic came to an end, I noticed that we had closed down the bar. This reunion thing was turning out to be a substantially more fun than I had imagined.

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Reunion, Part 2: Friday night after-party

This is the second installment of a description of my high school reunion. If missed the previous post, you should read it first.

The first part of the reunion at the football game was about as I expected. There were a few people that it was good to see again and everyone I had talked to, even those whom I did not really remember was pleasant, but still felt disconnected. As I headed to the bar where the latter part of the evening had been scheduled, I hoped that with a bit of lubrication the rest of the evening would be more interesting.

I walked in the door, and standing at the bar was a guy I remembered from elementary school. He had not signed up for the reunion, but was crashing this event scheduled in a public place. I had not realized it, but it turned out that the reason that I had not seen him in high school was that he had moved out west at the end of seventh grade. The fact that I had not noticed that he had moved was indicative of how many of my elementary school chums I lost touch with after we left our happy little pond. It was fun to see him and hear about what he was up to, add one to the “glad I did this” list. We had not been really close back at Crestline Elementary, but he now seemed like someone I would like to hang out with.

Drink in hand, I went to an outside patio where fifty or more were already in attendance. It seemed that they had the good sense to skip the football game. Perhaps these were my people.

I stumbled into one conversation in which I heard a guy complaining about the Fed required his bank take TARP money that he would rather not have taken. Being the die hard liberal that I am, I had been pretty clear that the TARP money was pretty damn good for banks, and especially, bankers. I struggled to make what I thought I knew align with what he was saying. I wished that I could have an entire evening, or at least half an hour, with him to understand just what it was that I was missing, but knew that was not to be.

I flitted around for a while longer without much success in connecting with people before finding a seat next to Ms. Flautist. It felt a little bit like sitting at the back of the gym during a dance, but at least I was sitting with some people whom I sort of knew and I was somewhat relieved just to sit still with some really close acquaintances. It turned out to be a great place to sit. We were in a well-trafficked spot near the door, and people paraded by and talked to us. It was like holding court. I had several nice conversations and a surprising number of people said that they enjoyed reading my blog. Actually, they said “posts on Facebook,” but since most of what I post on Facebook is links to my blog, I chose to believe that they loved my writing.

Wow. People whom I hardly know read my blog. This was turning out to be pretty fun, affirming, even. This was starting to be fun.

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30 Years: My High School Reunion

I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. I skipped previous ones, largely because there were not that many people from high school that I had much desire to see. I might have gone to my 20th, I suppose, but it was held when was writing a dissertation proposal, and I had neither time nor money to spare. For this one, time was not much of an issue, and I was only a few hours drive away.

In high school, I was not in the popular crowd. I was a leader and well-liked in the band, but outside the band room, (and maybe the computer room) I felt like an outsider. As I trolled Facebook looking to see who was attending, I saw few people whom I really remembered and was interested in seeing. Was it going to be only the “popular” people whom I never really connected with? I wondered whether this event would bring back the feelings of otherness that I so often felt in high school. I have been working on techniques to feel more grounded and happy, so I sort of wanted those unpleasant feelings to creep up so that I could practice squelching them.

My life now has virtually no sources of stress. I have no debt. I choose not to work. I am not worried about putting kids through college. I am accountable to no one except myself. Given my situation, my work to focus on being happy seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. Nevertheless, I am more happy and at peace now than I was when my trip began.

The reunion. Friday night we were to go to the football game and eat barbecue outside the lunch room where I once bought chicken patty sandwiches. In hopes of being attractive to the many women who never spoke to me in high school, I wore new clothes, purchased on a recent shopping excursion in Florida when I had my sister play the role of fashion consultant. I had my cousin approve my sartorial choices before I headed out. It was sort of like going to prom. Alone.

With Google’s help, I found my way to a secret back parking lot that did not exist thirty years earlier. I perambulated the unfamiliar path, trying to connect what I was seeing with the school that I remembered. I passed through what was once the smoking area, a place that I was not cool enough to go (not that I ever would have asked my mother to sign a permission slip for me to be there). At the entrance to the road that I recognized would take me to the back of the lunch room where our event was to be held, was sign that said “No Entry Permitted.” I told the woman who appeared to be guarding the gate that I was there for the reunion. “Oh, it’s right down there, sweetie.” Apparently I was going to be able to avoid the $7 entry fee for the football game. This was a good sign.

Now it was time to engage, to find old friends and to meet people whom I had not really known. Near where I expected to find the registration table I saw a woman that I recognized as a flute player. I had liked her in high school and always thought she was really cute, though I had never had the gumption to make my desires known. In the world of Facebook, we were friends, and in her case, I was pretty sure that she would be someone who would recognize me and even be glad to see me. I was right. I was introduced to her husband and we talked for a while.

This was pretty fun so far. At the registration table an attractive woman greeted me and we chatted for a few minutes. Then she walked away. Uh, was I not going to get my name tag? Was I already being shunned?

Well, no. Yet another beautiful woman sitting at the table explained that Ms. Shunner was, in fact, not working at the registration table, she just happened to be standing behind it and chose to speak to me even though she was not required to do so. Ms. Registrar gave me a name tag and a plastic cup with “MBHS 1982” on it. She even penned my name on the bottom. I asked where the keg was, sort of wishing that I had not left my flask back in Walden.

I milled around a bit, feeling a little like everyone else was communing with old friends as I looked on at a bunch of acquaintances whom I barely remembered. In the moments between conversations when I started to think that I might just want to be somewhere else, I stood still and remembered that it was a beautiful night. I did find a few people to talk to, and when I tired of not knowing anyone, I returned to the cute flautist and insinuated myself into that conversation.

After I had grabbed what turned out to be a really good barbecue sandwich, I realized that I might rather have selected the sandwich after I had found a dinner partner. I walked around the tables of people, but none looked inviting, perhaps to make me feel less like a loser, this was because the tables were actually full. I finally found a table with just one guy and three empty seats. It was with someone whose intelligence fell a couple deviations away from the mean, and not the side of that mean where the bulk of my friends are. I had been to elementary school with him. He never seemed to have a hard time pushing beyond his abilities. He did not seem self-conscious about sitting alone. Note to self: maybe you are not as smart as you think you are. It was most interesting to catch up with him and see what it was that he was doing.

Halftime was approaching. We were herded to the football field where the high school kids were able to look at us, as some sort of cautionary tale, perhaps. They clapped. We left the field. It was time to leave the premises for somewhere that would have kegs available. Not wanting to repeat my dinner-with-no-table experience, I endeavored to find someone who was going to the bar down the hill. One guy who seemed like someone I would want to talk to was leaving, he too had been in the less-than-popular crowd that I identified with and now has a Really Cool Job. Sadly, I had just heard him say that he was going to someone’s house first. There would probably be people at the bar, and, I remembered, going to bars alone is something that I do with considerable frequency.

Off I went.

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And on to Utah

I woke up at about 1AM. It had not been much after 9:00 when I had gone to sleep, but I was not ready to be awake. I read. I listened to the radio. I was still awake. At about 3:00 I decided to just hit the road. I opened up the curtains, climbed into the front seat, and I was off.

Sleeping outside the Funkwerks brewery, I woke up at 1:00AM. I read. I listened to the radio. A little after 3:00 I gave up, put on some clothes, opened up the curtains, and slid into the front seat and hit the road.

A few hours later, as the sun was rising, I started getting drowsy and found a rest stop where I pulled in, closed the curtains, took off my clothes, and climbed back in to bed where I napped for a few hours.

Back on the road, I crossed the continental divide and saw some huge tandem tanker trucks.

I also saw this odd truck with a sign warning of testing with water. I do not know what it could be that it tests.

Have you ever wondered about how and where to collect antlers? Antlers, I learned in Jackson, Wyoming last year, are distinct from horns because antlers fall off each year. I wondered how and where you go to find them. This sign offers some clues.

I saw a sign about some national fossil area. It seemed interesting, so I turned off. Just off the road, however, was Ulrich’s fossil gallery. This looked too bizarre to pass up. I parked where a woman greeted me outside. I explained that I wanted to see her gallery. She invited me in. She showed me some of her fossils. They are indeed pretty cool. The rock splits easily and sometimes you can find little pieces of fish bones poking up. From there, you scrape away the rock to uncover the dark little fish bones. She showed me some kits that you can buy and do it yourself. It was almost, but not quite, someone’s Christmas give. I left taking only photographs.

A bit further down the road I noticed a hillside of similar looking rocks. I stopped and looked at them, breaking some of them open to see if I could find my own fossils. I was unsuccessful.

I drove past a beautiful lake and through fantastic canyon, and then, about 4:00 I pulled in to my friend’s driveway in North Logan, Utah. There I sat on the porch where I watched the sun set and wondered what life in Utah would be like.

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My Day of Happiness

I woke up pretty early this morning. I had trouble figuring out just how early because my laptop, tablet and my radio each reported different times and I had no recollection of which time zone either thought that it was in. I finally had the wherewithal to find my mobile telecommunications device, which, because it is connected to a cellular network knew both the time and its time zone. It was before 6:00 Mountain Daylight Time. I knew this because Knoxville’s WUOT was still playing music before Weekend Edition, which starts at 8EDT.

I stayed in bed for a while, fussing with computers (trying to get my music server in Knoxville to work properly–I finally prevailed), and writing a bit. I took a shower, because I could, and headed for the coffee shop that I frequented when I stayed here last.

I had a tasty breakfast sandwich and eavesdropped on undergraduates talking about their love angst while I wrote.

Next I was off to REI, where I bought a stuff sack and a travel towel to replace ones that had been misplaced, a small bike lock cable to replace one that I had damaged by its being drug on the ground, and a little container for lotion, because I like the other ones that I have. This was a highly successful mission.

My attempt to make my furnace work was decidedly less euphoric. I first looked for the instructions that I used to install it. No joy. I opened up the furnace and noted what the power cable looked like. Then I found that same wire at the auxiliary battery and it was missing a fuse. Score. I had found the problem. I guessed that a 10 amp fuse that I had on hand would be within acceptable parameters. I turned on the switch. No joy. And on it went. Several times I found something that I thought was surely the solution, only to have my hopes dashed. The voltage at the thermostat is 1.2 volts, about a tenth of the 12 volts or a quarter of the 5 volts that I would have expected. I took pictures of everything to send to the guy who ostensibly fixed it to see if something is somehow not plugged in right.

After spending over an hour not making my furnace work, though, I was not unhappy. It will not be that cold tonight, and even if it were to get cold, I still have a zero-rated sleeping bag.

In the work that I have been doing in anticipation of having people pay me to be a life coach, I have read that our fight-or-flight reflexes get triggered for all manner of situations that, in fact, pose no immediate danger. Somehow, this really helps. Almost the only time that I can remember being in an actual fight-or-flight situation was when my house was on fire, and even then, there was no reason to run. This simple realization has brought me considerable peace. So when I failed to make the furnace work, it was no cause for concern, alarm, wailing, or gnashing of teeth. I can send an email to the guy that sent me the parts, and move on. I will not freeze to death, even if I sleep in Walden in sub-freezing climes. I have no problems that warrant real concern.

Since I learned this technique, I have wanted to be in a situation in which I was anxious, scared, or angry, to really try it out. Sadly, I have experienced only happiness.

With my furnace reassembled, I asked the Google for a brewery and headed to Odell Brewing Company. I arrived there to learn that they are not open on Sunday. Still, not a problem; there are at least another six breweries in Fort Collins. Minutes later, I arrived at Pateros Creek Brewing Company and parked right in front of a bike store. I pulled the bike off the camper and took it in to fill the tires. I could now park somewhere suitable for staying the night and bike around town. Or bike to a car pars store as I had once in Colorado (of course then, I did almost die, sort of). Life is good.

I had a red ale and some pretzels while writing a bit, and decided to find some place that had beer and food. Man cannot live on beer alone, even with a small egg sandwich for breakfast. I headed to Equinox Brewing Company. I had quaffed the first glass in their standard flight before realizing that they do not serve anything that counts as food.

At Equinox I listened to two bartenders talking about how they could bring bags from home for customers to use to carry out t-shirts and other swag purchased on site. “I would totally be willing to do that,” said one. “Whenever I bring bags and leave them down under the register, they totally get used,” said the other. It was right out of Portlandia.

A couple at the bar recommended Choice City Butcher, a real live butcher shop with twenty taps of hard-to-find beer. There I ordered a pastrami Reuben and a Duchesse De Bourgogne, a Belgian brown ale aged in oak. The couple from Equinox joined me and bough me a beer.

With my belly full, I headed back to Funkwerks, the bar that I had closed down the night before. It was 7PM, and I was going to close it down again (at 8PM). There I had a conversation with a man about my age about his son’s college plans.

Next I talked to the beautiful redheaded bartender about the pros and cons of working in rehab counseling or a really cool brewery. The issue was further complicated because working rehab counseling allowed her loans to be forgiven. It would be one thing to throw away an education, another to throw away a load of cash.

I helped put chairs upside down on the tables, bid her farewell, and walked out to the parking lot where I retired to Walden. As I tucked myself in to my soft sheets, I giggled about just how great it is to live in a camper.

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Fort Collins: My gift to myself

It was a bit chilly in Walden when I woke up in front of the Lucky Bucket Brewery and Distillery. It was not really cold, not like when I woke up to find six inches of snow on the ground, but cold chilly. What I really wanted was to be able to turn on my furnace, but in spite of having just reinstalled some parts I had sent out for repair, it is dead. I checked the fuses. I hope it is just that single wire somewhere is disconnected. Fortunately, it was not that cold. Better still, I knew exactly where to find the warm shirt that I wanted, and it was within arm’s reach.

There is a whole bunch of nothing between Omaha, Nebraska and Logan Utah. Google suggested that I could make the trip in about 15 hours. I planned to make it to Cheyenne, where I had been last year for field days by nightfall, and make it to Logan by Sunday night, a couple of days ahead of my original schedule.

When I was on the road full time last year, I hated driving more than about four hours a day. I am not sure what my source of stress was. If I were to get in my trusty Honda, a twelve hour stint would not be that big a deal, but 350 mile trip from Birmingham to New Orleans really stressed me out. (Here is a post from that trip.) Now, an eight hour day in Walden is no problem. I have been doing stuff like meditating that has made me much more at peace. Or maybe it is that Walden is running much better now (after spending a bunch of money in Berkeley, CA last October).

I had chicken fried steak at a little truck stop and headed to the car. As I was leaving I noticed a guy wearing a real live cowboy hat getting into a big truck. I was cowboy country. Tonight I would be sleeping in the same town where I once saw the Daddy of ’em All.

Somewhere in Nebraska I got a call from my mother, who has taken to compulsively checking my whereabouts on the Where’s Walden page. She noticed that I was going to be close to Ft. Collins, and she wanted to know whether I was going to New Belgium Brewery, perhaps the only of my favorite breweries that she can name. She once brought me a case of La Folie when she visited Ft. Collins in a vehicle that contained beds.

I am doing an on line seminar and this weekend’s homework is to “Do something that makes YOU happy.” This assignment is a challenge for two reasons. First, at some level I am always doing stuff that makes me happy, since I have relatively few constraints on what it is I do. Second, though, perhaps because my life has so few constraints, it is difficult to know what to do to make myself happy. I cannot, say, take a day off of work. Going to Ft. Collins, though, seemed like the perfect treat, and taking a day off of driving seemed like a pretty lovely luxury.

I pulled over at a Nebraska rest stop and checked the geography. It was less than an hour out of the way. Taking a whole day to hang out in Ft. Collins would still allow me to be in Logan a day sooner than I had planned. And I did need to stock up on alcoholic comestibles before entering Utah.

I had not showered since Knoxville. It might be chilly and I was not going to get the furnace fixed before nightfall. The notion of staying in a motel had some appeal. Part of me wanted to spend all of this trip in Walden as some sort of badge of honor, but the thought of having a shower was really appealing, and sleeping inside with WIFI could be nice. In retrospect, I might just as well have just showered at truck stop and it was not really that cold.

After spending much too long finding a motel, I paid sixty bucks for a Motel 6 on the edge of town. I got a shower, which was as good as I had anticipated. After putting on clean clothes for the first time since leaving Knoxville, I asked Google where the closest brewery was. It was Funkwerks, one of my favorites; their flagship beer is a Saison, or French farmhouse ale, which is one of my favorite styles.

At Funkwerks I got a flight of six of their beers and a cheese plate. I was about to leave, but a big crowd came in, and they fun to watch. For the rest of the night I nursed a cherry Saison, the only beer not included in the flight. Next thing I knew, it was last call. I bought a couple big bottles of beer and a couple of glasses to replace the ones that were lost or broken since my last visit. I am pretty sure that one day I will live somewhere bigger than Walden and will be happy to have some glasses.

And in spite of closing down yet another bar, it was an early night. The place closed at nine.

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Kansas City, Here I Come

I woke up at 4:45 in the mostly empty Schlafly parking lot. It had been full when I retired. I’m not sure why I awoke so early, but after listening to the radio for a while, I decided to go ahead and get going around 7:00. I all the curtains, emptied the urine jar, brushed my teeth and washed my face in Walden’s sink, and decamped. It was just like old times.

I headed west. After an hour or so I was getting peckish. I cannot remember the last time I ate at a McDonald’s, but my mom has convinced me that their tea is pretty good, so I have been filling my mug with tea at their drive through. I would not have thought so, but it’s a slippery slope. I convinced myself that it would be OK to have an Egg McMuffin as a nostalgic treat. I associate Egg McMuffins with taking the SAT and other things that required me to be up early in my youth. It was early. I was hungry. From a pragmatic perspective, I knew that there would be WIFI, allowing me to post the story that I wrote at Schlafly.

I was absurdly complicated to explain that I wanted to drink my tea from my cup. After looking for it for two hours the day that I intended to leave Knoxville, I was not going to let an opportunity to use it go by.

I got on the network and clickety clacked. I got an idea that since I was going to Utah, I should follow the trail that those Mormons followed when they were ejected from Nauvoo, Illinois, and moved to Salt Lake City. According to Wikipedia, I could connect to the trail in Omaha, and according to Google, it would not add many miles to my trip to Logan. I dialed in the route on my tablet using McDonald’s bandwidth and was on my way.

Actually, I had one stop to make. I went in Walmart and bought a new memory card for my camera. It cost twice as much as it would from Amazon, but I did the math and decided that it was worth $20 to be able to take pictures of this leg of the trip. I loaded the new card in the camera and it worked. This was much, much better than getting a new camera.

I noticed that my route went through Kansas City. I was pretty sure that the Romans in Kansas City ate barbecue. I asked the Google where to go and decided on a place that was not far out of the way. The reviews made it sound like it was the Real Deal. When I pulled up out front, I could see that it was.

I checked the menu and saw that I could get a plate with as many kinds of meat as I wanted for something like $12. I was sold. After I ordered my plate with sausage, burnt tips, ribs, and sliced, the server asked whether I wanted one or two pounds. Usually a serving was half a pound. I almost went for the two pounds, which, as I understand it, is eight times as much protein as one should eat in a sitting. This is not necessarily true for ribs, if you do not consume the bones. It turned out that there was no sausage available. Yes, I had to get fries too. And yes, I had to get a Boulevard Pale Ale. I had a lovely time at Boulevard Brewery last year, so I took it as a sign from God. I don’t actually believe in an Omnipotent omniscient being, but I do try not to fight the universe.

My goal was to make a visitor center for the Mormon Trail by day’s end, but by the time I got near there, I was sure it would be closed. At about 6:30 I pulled in to a casino, where I was sure that I could park for the night. The idea of spending several hours awake with nothing to do but go to a casino was distasteful, so I asked the Google about breweries. I found a place called Lucky Bucket that sounded promising.

I arrived there. It seemed like a safe enough place to stay for the night. The beer was good. I turned out that there was a bike ride that was having the after-party out back. They had a very strong porter. It was aptly named.

The party was pretty fun. I met a few people and got a few pictures.

Food for the event was provided by The Pizza Gourmet. She saw my camera and I promised to mention her to my loving readers. She gave me a free sandwich! And it was good. This sandwich represents all of the income I have made from this blog this year. If you are ever in Omaha and want some good food, you should check her out, not only because the food is good, but because she has three hands.

The event also included costumes. I heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll just show you some pictures.

If you were there, you might be interested in seeing the rest of my pictures from the event.

I somehow ended up riding a skateboard around the parking lot before retiring to Walden. It was another good day on the road.

Hey. If you’ve read this far and think this is a good story, please consider “liking” it or clicking that “share” link in the Facebook. I’ve been on hiatus for quite a while and am trying to get my traffic back up. Thanks.

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The Gateway to the West

I really did leave Knoxville on Thursday, a day later than planned. I thought I was on the road at 9:30, but I somehow managed to make two wrong turns leaving a town that I lived in for eight years. The first took me at least a couple of miles in the wrong direction. The other sent me in another mile circle. Why is it so hard to leave town?

By noon I had reached Nashville, where I got my cheeseburger on French bread at Rotier’s, a mom and pop meat-and-three that I frequented in a former life. They don’t have their own web page. One thing I loved about Rotier’s when I lived in Nashville was that they did not take credit cards. A couple times a year, I would get to the register and realize I was out of cash. “No problem, just pay next time you come in.” I expected there to be an ATM there now, but to my dismay they now accept credit cards. Worse, though, was that there was no Durkee’s to put on my burger. It was good, though, and the hash brown casserole was just as good as I remembered.

As I left Nashville, Google estimated my arrival in St. Louis to be at about 6:30. A year ago, I liked to have some idea where I would be sleeping much earlier in the day, but for a number of reasons, I am much less concerned about figuring that out now. I asked Google for a list of breweries in the St. Louis area. It turned out there were several. One, Schlafly, sounded familiar and I thought it was one that I had visited on my last trip to St. Louis. It was in a suburban area and it seemed likely that their parking lot would be a safe place to sleep for the night.

Driving through Kentucky it occurred to me that I was going to Utah, which, I have been lead to believe, has a limited selection of alcoholic beverages, and that given that information, even though I am far from being an aficionado of bourbon, purchasing Bourbon in Kentucky seemed essential. When in Rome, drink as the Romans, I always say. I asked the Google to put liquor stores on the map. The one that appeared to be closest to my route was called “Dirt Cheap.” I was sold.

Dirt Cheap was awesome, though I was somewhat dismayed that my camera, for the second time in recent memory, claimed that my memory card was broken. I hope that the memory card is indeed broken, as it will be much cheaper to replace than the camera. In front of the bourbons I met what appeared to be septuagenarian and her fifty-something daughter. We talked at some length about the joys of buying bourbon in Kentucky, and indeed the bourbon in Kentucky seemed a good deal cheaper than I have seen it anywhere else. I bought a bottle of Four Roses, which my new friend said that she had heard of when she was a child, and another one that I was familiar with, but whose name escapes me.

Approaching St. Louis I encountered a bunch of traffic where three lanes went down to one, but I still made it to Schlafly by 7:00. It was not the suburban place I remembered. It was in the heart of downtown, or at least seemed so. I was pleased to get what appeared to be the last place in their large parking lot. For the first time in a very long time, I closed all of Walden’s curtains in anticipation of returning there to sleep.

Schlafly Tap room is a big place. There are two bar areas downstairs and another area upstairs. I missed the bathroom on my first circumnavigation of the lower level and decided to check out the Haiti something-or-other upstairs. It was some kind of fund raiser. I went up and asked a woman at a table about it. I was chipper and friendly and tried to find out how and whether and why one might attend the event. The woman at the table never said anything like “For $100 you’re welcome to attend our gala event.” Perhaps I was inappropriately dressed. After being shunned from helping the Haitians, I descended, this time successfully locating the bathroom.

At the bar, I got a taste of their pumpkin ale, which was quite delicious, but, as I told the bartender, the generous taste was all I needed. He said that he understood. Thinking that a few ounces might be all I needed of any of their many beers, I ordered a sampler of six, which were all good. The menu included frog legs. Before I ordered them, I quoted Kermit the Frog, saying that I was somewhat saddened by the thought of all of those frogs in wheelchairs. They were over-breaded as the bartender had promised, but pretty good. I can probably wait another ten years to eat frog legs.

I asked whether “my car” would be okay in the parking lot over night. The bartender said that he thought so, but was reluctant to make any promises. He did assure me that I would not be towed. I ordered another beer, knowing that I was home for the night.

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On the Road Again, Again

I had such great intentions to leave Knoxville yesterday. It seems that the road to nowhere is paved with good intentions.

I woke up at a friend’s house, where I managed to post yesterday’s story about being on the road again. It was ten o’clock before I made my way out of their house.

The next stop was my aunt’s house where I collected my laundry from her dryer. I was pleased to find that I had successfully removed the stain from the shirt that I foolishly wore while staining my new door panels. I took a shower, not knowing where I would find the next one. So far, so good.

Then I went to retrieve a hard drive and finish backing up my photos. I had upgraded the hard drive in my server that holds all of my music and photos. It took a little while for that to complete. While I was there my friend came home for lunch, so we got to hang out a little and we took some pictures of me in front of Walden. It turns out that I paid attention neither to the camera’s settings nor the images themselves on the camera’s display. As you see above, they were horribly over exposed, even after fussing with the raw image files. Here I am with my friend. For the photo I had changed the settings, but with the light behind us it is still rather disappointing. Such is life on the road.

I did get a nice picture of a Monarch butterfly, though.

It was at about this point that I realized that I had a 1PM conference call for a workshop and that there was little point in my hitting the road before the call. At 2:30 the call ended. I gathered up my stuff to make my last stop at the storage unit, still on track to make it to Nashville in time to eat a dinner at Rotier’s, a little meat and three I frequented back when I was a married homeowner in graduate school.

At the storage unit I unloaded most of my short sleeve shirts, grabbed the leather sports coat that I bought last year in Jackson hole, and was ready to hit the road. This is where my departure began to unravel completely. The stuff sack that I use for a dirty clothes bag had gone missing. Perhaps I had left it at my aunt’s when I did the laundry. I planned to go to my aunt’s and called the friend whose house I had slept at the night before; it could be there.

It was three o’clock and I had eaten nothing, perhaps I could just hold out for that cheeseburger on French bread at Rotier’s. I went to fill my cup with ice tea before actually departing my former home when I realized I was unable to find my cup. I love my cup, a stainless steel pitcher from a French press. I would not leave town without it. I had taken it in to my friend’s house during the conference call to wash it, and now it was missing. Had I really left it there? Back I went.

At this point it was four o’clock and my friend was home from work with my Goddaughter. He began lobbying me to stay the night, though I had not quite given up. The cup was nowhere to be found, however. I went back to my aunt’s. Perhaps I left it there when I got the laundry? No joy.

I think it was about this point when I decided to just throw in the towel.

I located the cup in the back seat, hidden by the leather jacket. Oh, well.

I spent the rest of the evening with friends at watering holes downtown and returning to my aunt’s house where we watched a bit of whatever the second opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle is before retiring to bed.

I do know where I will get a shower today. With a little luck, I’ll be on the road by nine and, maybe get that hamburger after all.

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On the Road Again

I have spent most of the past few months down in Florida. I have mostly done nothing but watch stuff on Netflix (e.g., all 120 episodes of Lost in 10 days). Part of why I have not been posting is that it has not seemed to me that there would be anything I could say about watching TV eight hours a day that could possibly be interesting. The other reason, of course, is that after watching TV for eight hours, going to happy hour to eat oysters and then sitting on the beach for a couple hours to watch the sunset, there was no time left to write.

Last weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion (actually, it was only the third reunion, the first that I attended). One thing that I realized after talking to a few people who claim to have read and enjoyed my writing, the life that to me feels like that of a “worthless slug” has more interest to “working stiffs” than I might have expected. Not working for a living and being able to do wherever and do whatever I want is a fairly fantastic luxury that several people told me brings considerable vicarious pleasure.

I have just loaded up Walden for a trip to Utah, where I will work with a friend from grad school on some grants that she has and also work on writing a couple of grants that will explicitly include me. More about that later, but for now, I am very excited to back on the road with just me and Walden.

The reunion gave me an opportunity to describe to people who I am and what I do. When you meet someone you can generally ask a few questions that are “safe” in the sense that their answers will not be too intimate or require lengthy explication. These questions are “Where do you live?” and “what do you do?” Most people do not need to practice an answer to these questions. For me, neither of those questions has an answer that is quick and credible.

Saying that I do not really have a place where I live because my house burned down and that I have not had a job for over a year because I was denied tenure is not really fair to people. Most people think that not having a house or a job is a bad thing and that remorse is the proper response. My life is fantastic. I am happier than I have ever been. What I needed was a quick answer that at least mostly described what it is that I do that would allow the other person to move on without a lengthy explanation that they would rather not hear. After over fifty attempts, I got pretty close.

So, go ahead, ask me “Where do you live?”

“Wherever I am. I have been nomadic since I moved out of a house a year ago last May.” If the inquisitor appeared to need more explanation, I would add “This year, I have mostly stayed in my aunt’s vacation house near Seaside, though I spent six weeks in Ecuador and a couple weeks in San Francisco.”

That worked pretty well. Some people would ask more about what that was like, but the people who were accidentally trapped by someone that they did not really know or like thirty years earlier and were just being polite could say “Nice talking to you” and make their escape.

Ask me “What do you do?”

“For most of last year I traveled in my VW camper and blogged about it. This year I have focused more on learning what it is that makes people happy. I am working on a book about downsizing, travel, and happiness, though I am considering returning to a life as an academic.”

And with that, gentle reader, I am off to load up Walden and head West.

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