So I went back and filled in the missing details over these last coupla weeks, Oregon & Seattle trip esp. Since I put em in chronological order you'll have to backtrack to get to em.
Had our break-in-the-house party last night, wasn't the greatest ever but not bad for a first one I guess, best part was at the end when we put on The Blue Album--at this point it was just me & the guys, and an amused Jamie (Andrew's cool & cute gf) watching on--and we sang and air-guitared it to it's happy conclusion.
Sunday Drewster & I drove for 7 hrs down to St. Louis to see Radiohead in concert. As we pulled up to Riverport Amphitheater after dark Radiohead had just come on stage, and we heard 2+2=5 booming from over the hill across the parking lot. Eventually we broke into a run.
The setup was amazing. The stage with seating was surrounded by a giant hill; most of the crowd was standing in the grass, listening to the music amped out of a second set of hanging speakers and watching giant video screens that they tuned to Thom and the gang. Behind the stage was a big flashing light board that somehow exactly captured the color and feel of each song: "Myxamatosis" was a violent heaving green, "Pyramid Song" a shimmering blue, "Paranoid Android" burst into angry red sparks in the middle. The stage was littered with all kinds of instruments which the band members moved about at random, demonstrating that yes they could play every one, Ed playing xylophone on "No surprises" and drums on "There, There," and of course Thom shuffling back and forth between various guitars and various keyboard instruments, or sometimes just singing and spinning around on stage into his own little thing. They tried to play everything for us but just ran out of time, after two encores of about 4 songs each they turned in. I sang and danced and practically cried several times the music was so achingly good, esp. Thom's voice smooth & clear on stuff like "Sail to the Moon."
They weren't afraid to change things either; Ed had some idea that he kept returning to in which he chopped through otherwise smooth passages, as if trying it out for the first time. I liked that. Thom also did this super lovable little dance after setting up the keyboard for Idioteque, sitting there on the bench swinging his arms back and forth for a while in his own little world.
Well as this was our first Radiohead concert we were both completely blown away. I mean, midway through the concert, I realized that no other band in circulation right now can even come close to this...with six awesome albums spanning the whole musical spectrum under their belts there's just no hope for anyone else. And what a show they put on, man oh man.
Still it seemed a little strange to drive 14 hours for 2 hours of enjoyment so Drew & I went to a riverboat casino afterwards. This was just plain old goofball funny. We walk in there with our casino id cards trailing behind us on the floor on stretchy little snap-on cords (got these from bored tellers at the front, whom we flirted with & teased) and each turned a whopping $10 into one-dollar chips. We walked around with our cheap well drinks looking for a blackjack table with a minimum $1 bid but the lowest they went was $5, so feeling like scummy cheapskates we went upstairs and frittered it away on blackjack machines, whom we accused of leading us on to get us to spend more, and argued with, until we lost it all & left goofily.
Geez there is just too much to write now it's overwhelming. Suffice to say I am back in Lincoln in new apt. getting settled in. When I find the time--tomorrow?--I will sketch out my trip to the Northwest and the subsequent long drive back home from Phoenix to Lincoln, which gave me lotsa time to reflect on & mull over recent experiences. Travel is always good for this...it was about a year ago, I guess, that I went to Vienna & had some of my best life-thoughts. Same thing happened on this trip. So stay tuned.
Upon my return to Phoenix the good times were definitely over for a while: I had a two-day hellish van trip without music or air conditioning back to Lincoln staring me in the face. My plane got in at midnight, and I had already moved out of my summer hotel, so I just took the van out to an empty field in Mesa & laid out my sleeping bag on top and slept in the wild. The sunrise woke me up so I only got 5 hours for the second night in a row--a problem later that day when, after hours of boring driving, I had to stop and take naps at truck stops or fall asleep at the wheel. Before I left I had to gas up, which sucked because the gas was $2.50 a gallon due to the valley-wide gas shortage brought on by several major gas line ruptures.
Anyway the part of the trip I was looking forward to the least was the drive through Kansas at night. The Kansas night turned out to be the tenderest & kindest however, I could see all the stars even from the interstate, and all my music (on the 2nd day I figured out how to get my mp3 cd player to work) suddenly started making sense. Jack Johnson floored me; I realized the songs came in pairs that were related thematically. I also realized that Blonde Redhead must be really into Ayn Rand. And other similar sudden truths came to me. Maybe by this point in the trip I was starting to lose it a little. Probably I was--when I stopped for gas in small town Kansas I took out my pen and gave the "don't steal gas" police officer picture a little mustache, and added, "Yeah, we bombed people so you could waste this stuff!" underneath him.
Eventually I arrived safe (if not sound) at the doorstep of my new apt. with Drew in the western night.
Seattle was a blast. By day Jonas & I lived the high life by dining out in expensive Redmond places, an Italian place with a huge wine list, an Asian restaurant where we ate a banana ice cream, a Japanese all-you-can-eat sushi buffet where Jonas ate grey murky crab innards until a waitress showed him how to crack the legs open proper. It was at this place that Jonas overdid the wasabi sauce: suddenly, his eyes got huge & frantic, and he started shaking all over like a volcano about to erupt, groping wildly for his ice water. I practically cried I was laughing so hard at the sight of poor Jonas.
By night we partied at expensive Seattle clubs, twice at a place called the Fenix Underground. Cover was $12 and a beer started at $5, steep. It was a split level deal; a live band played at ground level & you could watch them from a loft level. Below, in the dark underground level, there were two more weirdly glowing bars and a dance floor that was usually packed too close for comfort. One night the band did a cover of Tool's "Stinkfist" which was pretty amazing; the lead singer even sung through a megaphone on the verses, which is I guess how Maynard got it to sound that way.
Later that same night on the advice of some random dude we went to a club called the Standard, which had a dimly lit black & red fan de siecle feel about it. There was no one there except for the DJ, some people who knew the DJ, and a few stragglers like Jonas and myself. Despite this we got searched for weapons by security at the door. But later we started talking to the security guys, and they turned out to be okay, ran a record store together. By the end I had talked to everyone in the place. Jonas and I then drove out to the beach and watched the sun rise over the Seattle skyline, Jonas making me stop like every quarter mile 'cause he thought the view was getting better. The sunrise was indeed amazing as we crossed the sound back over to Redmond, with Mt. Rainier in calm brooding bigness off in the blue distance.
Besides all this we also did a lot of walking around Pike street & poking around in artsy stores & had a big conversation about Kafka as we went down to the docks. One day we hiked up Tiger Mountain in the Washington woods. Then on the last day we went bouldering at the first rock climbing gym in the U.S., where a funny climber dude named Hans talked to us about blind jazz men who played three saxophones simultaneously, and complained about their store inventory software (realizing we were computer guys). We bouldered hard for two hours and I ended up with 8 blisters on my hands.
Finally on the last night I was there Jonas & I had this great talk about America. Jonas's friends always joke that he's the best American they know but it had never occurred to me that *of course* he's the best American, he's a 1st generation immigrant. In fact these always make the best Americans, followed by 2nd gen. immigrants, and so on down the line. By the time you reach the 6th generation--i.e., me--you are a pathetic non-American who has grown up in a comfort zone & whines about the system way too much.
Anyway more to the point, we decided America was a new kind of experiment in which the interaction between people was not force (as in feudal times) or feeling (as in Europe or Asia or anywhere culture, tradition, etc. are emphasized) but a number, a quantified exchange of value for value. As with any good experiment, in order to see if the hypothesis--that this system leads to happiness--is true, you have to prevent other kinds of interactions from interfering. And this leads to America's state of culturelessness. Essentially when you immigrate to America you are asked to leave your own culture at the door; people who fail to do this & instead try to preserve it by forming their own communities are shunned, and are not really allowed to participate in the American experiment.
Because here we're not about the fuzzy interaction of feelings, tradition, society, community, etc. but about the crisp numerical interaction of dollars with other dollars. When these fuzzy interactions exist they are mediated by the dollar on both ends, insulating the people behind them, and this is how we have reached the form of culture we currently boast--pop culture.
Yes this eradication of all non-quantifiable relations with other people does leave something to be desired; that's what I'm really wailing & railing about half the time, the lack of fuzzy feeling interactions. But maybe we can all live without them & be better off for it. Well, that's the experiment, I guess!
Got a rental car and drove down to see B in Eugene. We picked big Pacific blackberries & went to the Oregon fair, where I tried to win her prizes by throwing baseballs at milk jugs but failed at this. Also failed on a rock climbing challenge in which I could have won back my $5 plus $5 more, all I had to do was follow the blue route, but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult and I fell off near the top when I tried to match hands and slipped. So was not feeling like much of a man after this. But it was all silly & rigged anyway.
Next day we drove out into the Oregon woods & went to a hot springs. There was a huge difference between industrial Eugene air and big pine tree mossy forest air, the first time I've actually noticed the difference, thinking all this time that people who complained about noxious city air were just exaggerating. Sometimes all you could smell was blackberries--what a great smell. The hot springs consisted of 5 different pools going down the hillside, each one a little cooler than the previous, so that when you started sweating you just moved on to the next one. When we finally got out I dumped a bucket of cold clear Oregon creek water over my head & suddenly achieved clarity through this act. Everyone, I decided, needs a bucket of freezing Oregon water dumped on them once in a while.
The third day in Oregon we spent driving up the coastline to Seattle. We stopped at a white beach hemmed in on either side by black volcanic cliffs with sea-carved caves, and a lighthouse overlooking it all. It was a place straight out of a painting. I ran out into the cold Pacific surf--too cold for swimming, B was right about this--and turned around before it got above waist-high. Later we also stopped & had clam chowder at Mo's restaurant, with the sun setting behind us on the docks.
Ha, well here goes. So I flew into Portland from sunny Scottsdale AZ but my glad sunboy smile faded when I got off the light rail and walked to a grocery store: it was a gray day, and a beat guy with a feed & seed hat coughed and wiped a long tenuous spiderweb line of drool off his chin. In fact everyone looked pretty beat. (This though was probably just the area of Portland I was in.) When I got to my scary dirt motel I only left to go eat two personal pan pizzas at the Pizza Hut across the street, and didn't investigate the area further--full of liquor stores & adult shops anyway. But one good thing about poor old beat Portland was their light rail system, *exactly* like a European city in this respect, very cool & efficient & even cheap.
Went alt house party hopping last night with Nick & Meghan. First place I heard about through two druggie-looking L.A. chicks I met at Casey's, there were three bands that were supposed to play that night, but it ended up getting busted, so we quick jetted to the next alt party and had a better time there anyway I think. Alt people are funny though. The only scene that comes close is a coffee shop...I mean these hipsters you can tell spend every waking microsecond thinking about how to be alt, which primarily comes down to music, but there's thrifty clothes & shaggy haircuts to worry about as well. Every waking second trying to be different!
Just took a close look at face in mirror. Music suddenly stopped playing, and there was this face which I examined as if a stranger's. Everything about it suddenly interesting and new as if I was seeing it for the first time. Tiny little unshaven mustache hairs, slight upwards curl at corner of mouth, pores on nose, who are you friend? I hardly knew ye. Unreal. This is when you know with certainty that you have been programming too much and too hard.
Good thing today was my last day at General Dynamics. All told, a crazy last week, with goodbyes and arrangements and errands and my developer tasks swelling up again after a lull. This weekend is the last in Phoenix--a very hip city, I dig you--and I will try to get and post pics of some of the sights I'll miss, along with rock-climbing pictures when I go climbing for the last time Sunday.
Then Monday night I am flying into Portland Oregon and will visit Bianca in Eugene for several days. After that it's up to Redmond to visit Jonas. Then back to Phoenix, drive 1400 miles to Lincoln, move in with Drewsky in our new apt. I am getting all newsy here. Sunday before classes start Drew & I'll be in St. Louis at the Radiohead concert. At some point I'll settle down to my last semester as old greybeard 5th year veteran last semester at UNL.
Nick, from out of the freeflow...
Tonight after workout and a pack of fig newtons I fell asleep in the bathtub to the sound of dripping water. Guess I was real tired--it was a 3 dog night weekend since I took off work Friday--dissipation Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights leading to quiet Sunday during which I tried to integrate stuff (preparing for Math GRE), made phone calls, etc. Sunday tho was foreshortened cause of Saturday night when Nick, Meghan and I broke on through to the other side and saw the sun rise.
So today I was going to get a haircut at Great Clips but the woman who took my name down couldn't speak or hear proper English. I think she was semi-retarded, because I enunciated very clearly for her my phone number and she still messed it up, and was almost unintelligible herself through all the slurring. I waited around for a bit until it became apparent I was going to get her as a stylist and then I fled without a word. Mean? Yes, mean, but I didn't feel like donating the next three months' haircut to charity, which was inevitable if she understood my haircutting directions as poorly as the other things I said.
Whew so Thursday night: beer & more beer at Casey Moore's, also an Irish car bomb and a Jaeger bomb. Unsuccessful attempts to woo a sarcastic girl with a less cute friend. I decide later that these two are like level 5 in the game, and I a mere level 1 or 2, so I should have steered clear. But you know what they say about hindsight. And about the sight of hinds. Oops that was offcolor. Anyway. They also had an annoying gay friend who kept producing weird items from his backpack. A stethoscope, KY Jelly, a pair of Durashears which he uses to cut a penny in half...scary.
Then it was off to chill at the Oasis Cafe. Here we meet a cool Hispanic dude named Pedro who starts bongo drumming to the music on a glass tabletop. He's wearing lots of rings and they go clackety-clack-clack-clack, and Nick and I are clapping, sometimes on and sometimes off the beat, digging it. Pedro comes over and so do his two friends--tough Hispanic lesbian girls named Laura and Africa--and they share our hookah for a while. They invite us to a party afterwards out of a sense of reciprocity. Very friendly people. We take them up on their offer and it ends up a Hispanic scene, but this not too bad, mostly just talking & singing folk songs in Spanish. By this time it is 3:30 am anyway and so we throw in the towel.