halfacanuck

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect my actual opinions.

November 15, 2004

Finally, some words

Well, I'm back from my trip and sufficiently recovered to string together a coherent sentence or two. I suppose you all want to know how it went, right? Nosy bastards. I wish you'd all stop living through me vicariously. Alright, here we go...

Dateline: Bay Area, California. Why is it called a dateline, anyway? It should surely be a placeline. Anyway, California was sunny and filled with eccentric characters!! Not that I'm stereotyping or anything. I was in San Francisco (pictures) to do two stories, one of which involved getting a makeover. I can't go into details until I sell the story, but suffice to say: my color is gray. Yes, gray. I was delighted to hear that. The other story involved crashing four parties in one night, during which I had my first 40 and was fined US$15m by a girl with a great ass in a cop costume for being Canadian. I pointed out that I'm not Canadian, I'm English, and so she fined me US$30m for impersonating a Canadian. Luckily she gave me 30 days to pay, since I didn't have my checkbook on me. I was also in San Jose to visit cowonahill and Tarantino27 (who, I'm now quite convinced, isn't actually Quentin Tarantino). We played pool and I was still a tad tired from the 437 sleepless hours it took to get from Kitchener to California, so I 1) Wasn't very good and 2) Said about three words. Most impressive. In addition I accidentally visited King City, which is about as exciting as the web site implies, "on the way" to Carmel, where Clint Eastwood used to be mayor and where the tourist shops sell things like $112,000 Picasso prints. Yes, really.

Dateline: Las Vegas, Nevada. And met with my brother, who'd arrived a couple of days before. The first day we didn't even make it out of the hotel due to pathological laziness, opting to dine at a phenomenally expensive restaurant ($7.50 for a bottle of beer? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, because you can't afford a fucking plane ticket out of there). Day two we visited a ghost town called Nelson (pictures), where we met Brent, the owner of the abandoned gold mine who now makes a living by operating tours and wearing a really cool cowboy hat. He told us that a tour group was arriving shortly -- and lo! he was correct, and they were, surprisingly enough given how infrequently Australians travel, Australian -- so we decided to tag along. The mine was interesting and safe, having electric lights throughout and regular inspections by the US Department of Making Sure Interesting Old Mines Are Safe, and Brent told a very entertaining story about how he'd been down the mine once on his own at night and something had chased him and it turned out to be his dog (his version was rather better than my summary). We then took a walk and found the Colorado River, and I noted to Sean how interesting the day had been, and yet it wouldn't be very interesting when I blog about it. On the way to Nelson I picked up some food at a 7-11, including some Beef "E" Beef (incredibly, I can find no official home page for the Beef "E" Beef product), a name which was to inspire much hilarity for the next ten days. That night we took in the Strip (pictures) and ate at the Harley Davidson Café, where my wife and I exchanged 78,000 text messages regarding her latest work crisis and Sean got hit on by a 55-year-old Pennsylvanian chain smoker, almost certainly called Phyllis.

Dateline Zion National Park, Utah. Ah, Zion (pictures). Home of entirely non-smoking hotels with homicide-inducingly slow net connections, no cell signal for 43 miles, no televisions in the rooms, and bars that close at 8pm. Luckily the scenery made up for it... just. We found another ghost town and its cemetery, including the grave of an entire family killed by Indians (or "child-murdering First Nations," as they probably would've preferred to be called) on the same day. We puzzled over Utah's bizarre alcohol laws. We hiked through the park and discovered the soon-to-be-infamous Zion Curse. We pointed to people at random and postulated that the chances are good he or she is a Mormon (since 75% of the Utah population is). We joked about Beef "E" Beef.

Dateline: Cedar City, Utah. Time to meet up with Corey and Dave of Gold Rush Expeditions (my pictures, and also Corey's) outside Wal-Mart. The day before Sean called Corey for the first time and got his voicemail -- and discovered that Corey isn't in fact female as he'd assumed, but very male. It was fun to watch Sean's expression evolve from surprise to dismay as he recalled all the flirtatious things he'd written in the organizational emails that had been exchanged. I asked if he was still going to read the poem he wrote for "her," or just give "her" the earrings he'd bought, but strangely he didn't find it funny at all. I did. We switched from our rental car to Corey's Land Rover (I offered Sean the front seat and got myself another glare) and headed into the wilderness, to Frisco, where we toured abandoned mines and explored a silver mine that was definitely far from safe. As we clambered over piles of rocks from previous cave-ins and dodged bats it suddenly occurred to me that there was a billion trillion gazillion tons of rock above my head and I was in a 100-year-old hole at the very bottom of it all. I didn't enjoy that thought much, but, somewhat oddly, the fear added to the excitement. I wasn't quite excited enough to climb up a rickety old ladder surrounded by rat crap to the second level of the shaft, mind you. Only Dave was excited (i.e. insane) enough to do that. After we emerged and changed underwear we headed off into the Wah Wah Mountains to Pine Grove, another abandoned mine, where we set up our tent (or, rather, stood around useless and self-conscious while Corey set up our tent) and then sat around the camp fire drinking impressive quantities of beer and eating the delicious moose-based supper Dave had prepared. Finally we retired for the night and I was very glad I'd invested $5.60 in a hat and gloves at Wal-Mart because the temperature dropped well into negative-C and my sleeping bag should've come with a label reading: "WARNING: SUITABLE ONLY FOR USE NEAR THE EQUATOR." Initially we followed Dave's advice of not sleeping in our clothes (because it would make us sweat, and that would make us even colder) but then at about 1am when we were nearing death we realized that Dave's full of shit and got dressed again. We passed the night in some discomfort. Lovely stars, though, and it was a weird feeling being 30 miles away from the nearest other human. In the morning, after we'd thawed out a little, we had breakfast and then shot at cans with several dangerous-looking guns and one ludicrously tiny one that Dave bought for his girlfriend and with which was impossible to hit anything ("Happy birthday, honey!" "What is it?" "It's a ludicrously tiny gun with which it's impossible to hit anything." "Oh, thanks"). As Corey notes on his web site I have a "natural aptitude" for firing handguns. Sean, on the other hand, merely "stalked the can," which is code for "didn't actually hit it." Then it was back to Cedar City and our rental car.

Dateline: Kayenta, Navajo Nation. After three days with no Internet and no cell signal I was looking forward to arriving at the Holiday Inn, Kayenta. Surely, I thought, the Holiday Inn would have Internet, at least in the lobby. Er, no. But hey, at least I'd be able to make phone calls! Er, no. Still no cell signal (I guess a bunch of poor First Nations aren't top of the list for GSM service in the US), and due to a hard drive failure none of the phones in the rooms worked. I became very familiar with the six feet of lobby corridor containing the pay phones over the next two days. We mostly just lied (laid?) around recovering from the seven hours of driving it took to get there, but did visit Monument Valley (pictures, impressive panoramic shot). If you've ever seen a Western, you've seen Monument Valley. There's a weird sense of déja vu: I've been here, I've seen this, but I haven't.

Dateline: Phoenix, Arizona. On the way from Kayenta to Phoenix we stopped at Flagstaff to get an Internet fix (I spent the entire time trying to repair the cybercafé's wireless network, while Sean simply went somewhere else. He got the net, I got free beers. Not sure who won that one), and then on to a ghost town called Two Guns (pictures), next to Canyon Diablo (they sure knew how to name these places). Two Guns had a very strange atmosphere: a sort of threatening air mixed with wistfulness, a certain malevolent sadness about the place that was hard to pin down. While we were there the sun set, casting everything in a wonderful golden light that was a photographer's dream. The Golden Hour, they call it in Hollywood, and now I can totally understand why. To Phoenix, or a suburb of it called Scottsdale, and the nicest hotel yet (pictures). We did very little again, but this time because we discovered we had a grand total of US$15 between us. Not so bad for me because I was returning home the next day, but less than great for Sean, who was to drive to LA and spend a week there. To top it off he discovered he'd left his power adapter in the hotel in Kayenta and so was unable to recharge his phone when the battery died. He's still incommunicado and might in fact be dead.

So that, minus many details, was my trip. It was a lot busier and a lot more tiring than I've made it sound. Now I just need to sell and then write (or vice versa) all those stories in an attempt to recover the money I spent. Will I ever be a successful freelance journalist? I guess I'm about to find out...

2 Comments:

At November 15, 2004 at 4:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your freelance writing career gets off to a great start with these upcoming stories. Fingers crossed!

-Shaun

 
At November 16, 2004 at 3:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. Nick is not, in fact, Quentin Tarantino. But might cowonahill REALLY be a cow? That's the important question here.

 

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