Thursday, February 14, 2008
And so it came to be that on the morning of the 17th of January 2008, we became captives on Bainbridge Island. The isle (due west of Seattle) spans miles -- several -- and encompasses mountains, lakes, roads, houses, vegetation... in short: all you could ever hope for. A modern day utopia. A garden -- nay, a biosphere -- of Eden.
And also a hell. A hell of Eden.
Our visit began pleasantly enough: pleasant company, pleasant conversation, pleasant Rock Band rocking (one song, anyway). And yet. And yet. And yet. If only we'd known the horror that would transpire upon the light of the first sun! (It is widely known that Bainbridge Island's residents -- a wealthy bunch -- purchased their own sun, thus leading to two sunrises.) If only we could reverse the flow of time!
10AM: My aunt picks us up from my uncle's house and takes us to her -- I'm sorry, I was about to say "house." But that would be incorrect. More like jail. More like penitentiary. You know, the coop. Cooler. Slammer. Can. Clink. Black hole. Stir. Rack. Lock down. Big house. Tank. Iron city.
Yeah, I've served my time in the joint, using urban dictionaries to research synonyms for "jail."
(This is a view of my cell ---->
Can you believe that shit?)
But I digress. At my aunt's, we should've taken heed from her three dogs, all locked up in cages.
What's that, doggy? You want to escape into the wilderness? Harness the energy that's pent up from hours in a cage? I hear you! I hear you all too well...
At this point, Ben had to bring me back to reality.
"Brian," he said, cocking his gun, "you're talking to the dogs again."
"You know how I feel about talking to dogs." He holstered his weapon, the second sun's rays reflecting off the smooth barrel.
10:10AM: Breakfast. Bagels, cereal, croissants -- all laced, we discovered later, with some translucent sedative. That would explain the lethargy. (More on the lethargy later.)
So the lethargy. At one point in the afternoon, Ben and I devised a brilliant escape plan. We scribbled on napkins, walls, the dogs themselves -- any surface would suffice. It was perfect. We would be free at last. And right as we were about to execute the grand escape........................................................................
It felt like a coma lasting 1000 years while drowning in molasses in slow-motion with a sloth. The lethargy!
10:20AM: Commence laundry.
10:50AM: The washer finishes its cycle.
10:55AM: We walk the dogs.
11:55AM: We return from the walk.
11:57AM: I offer to move the laundry into the dryer.
Now, astute reader, learn from our follies! Never let your host hold you captive with laundry!
But this is only the first in a series of many, many, many tips. One more shall follow.
If you ever find yourself in a rush to catch the 3:50PM ferry to Seattle, do not -- I repeat, DO NOT -- let your driver pass through mock Norway. Or Sweden. Or Finland. It's hard to keep track of your mock Scandinavian countries when your head is aswirl from the pressure of time's sweet window closing in upon your body, your mind, your whole essence.
Should your driver take such an unforgiving detour (perhaps with the intent to sabotage your ferry expedition), it is best to run -- not walk -- down the 1.45 mile corridor that leads to the ferry. Your baggage will surely flop and tumble and roll, but run, dear reader, run. Run as though your lungs were full of air, even though they are cut off from the rest of your body due to the unrelenting strap from your over-the-shoulder bag. Run, run, run, Lola, run.
And finally: Peace. Tranquility. Freedom. God.
And then we had to battle the Dwarves. But you know about that already.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Leah and Dennis welcomed us into their city with open arms and a deserted living space. Just before we returned to the mainland, they had signed the lease for a new apartment, located on Capitol Hill. Here we stayed for the additional nights, shacked up in a warm, narrow room not unlike a miniaturized fun house. With a low ceiling, and two, regular sized doors adjoining the remaining apartment, nothing seemed to be at its proper scale. Such architectural contrasts gave the room a warping feeling, as if it were a big optical illusion. A tall figure, standing in the room’s center, might even seem to diminish the space. Appropriately, when we approached the room our first night, Leah and Dennis remarked, “this is where we keep the Dwarves.”
The phrase haunted me for some nights after leaving Seattle, not simply because it was a creepy thing to say, but because we literally had to sleep with Dwarves.
Albeit not the cheerful variety from David the Gnome—the boring Swedish show on Nick Jr.—but a wretched, positively satanic breed. These were miniature beasts boasting silver nails and teeth—weapons, we came to learn, that required incessant filing long into the night. Their eyes were blank gems that seemed to reflect, somehow, the darkness of the room itself. Even when the lights were off, there appeared, mottled across an infinite void, pairs of glinting motes, staining the dark with sheen.
But it was the rasping of metal on metal, not the glistening eyes, that eventually drove Brian mad, and eventually moved me to steal the Dwarf leader’s life. A mistake, I admit, because it only augmented our original Dwarf troubles.
It had been a rocky start, dealing with these Dwarves, and communication was always an issue.
“I’m Ben, this is Brian, I guess we’ll be sleeping here tonight.”
“Alu-sha naga warem pa na, googa sham,” answered the Dwarf.
“Sure, and how do you go about regulating the temperature of the room?”
“Na sham! Na sham! Ki, Ki, Ki, Ki!”
In addition to language, a second hurdle was interests. I enjoy reading in bed at eleven. The Dwarves, around said time, enjoy colorful masque ceremonies in which they imagine their bloody triumph over humankind. I enjoy sleeping next to a fire, drowsily snuggling under my covers. The Dwarves set fire to my goddamn feet. Also, the Dwarves, who seem to be missing every other tooth but their incisors, work nightly perfecting shark like dentures, grinding away endlessly and screaming of a year long hunger finally reaching its end.
So I decided to kill their leader.
“I was pretty sure it would make me your king,” I explained to a vicious pack of them, afterwards.
Being a reader of Dwarf fan fiction since early high school, I was pretty sure that, in slaying the Dwarf leader, I would rightfully stake my claim as the Dwarves’ next ruler. However plausible this seemed in 9th grade, I now quickly realized that demonic forces living in the recesses of Seattle apartments have no time for online fantasy. (Some revision among Dwarf fan fiction is perhaps in order).
After burying their king, the Dwarves began to encircle Brian’s shivering body, chanting and marching as if he were a slain beast. Sinking into madness against Leah and Dennis’s hardwood floors—which were in great condition by the way—a good hue—Brian moaned something to me about messing up big time.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said, not realizing that he was probably talking about me.
At some point during Brian’s nervous breakdown slander, Spooky entered the fray. Later, Brian would recall the Cat emerging from the wall itself, appearing first as a great cacophony of sparrows that divided, subdivided and finally coalesced into the body of a magnificent feline.
But he was just delirious.
Regardless, Spooky attacked the Dwarves ferociously, and with each tear, perhaps through additional enchantment, transformed the creatures’ dark, fleshy bodies into gossamer strands of ribbon. We watched in awe as the Dwarves unraveled in bright strips of colorful fabric, falling slack and silent on the sheen lacquered floor.
“Wow, that’s great,” I said, “but it doesn’t explain how all of this happened in a single room.”
As I expected, the magic Cat could take on a Dwarf army, but fall flat on a simple question of spatial reality. This is pretty typical of magic entities, I’ve found, and one of the few things fan fiction gets right.
Soon after the ordeal, Brian muttered something about me being an asshole—but I think he was still out of it. The Cat gave us some garbage about following our hearts or whatever, but I was too busy thinking of fan fiction to care.
I imagine there is more here to tell—gourmet donuts fit for royalty, a fantastic modern library that trumped most other architecture witnessed on our trip, or even, perhaps, the genuine hospitality and kindness of Leah and Dennis, who taught us how to play the Settlers of Catan—but nothing quite matches our adventures in Dwarfland.
Stay tuned for Minneapolis.
And in the end, this was how Ben and Brian discovered what it meant to be alive and young in great America.
"hold my head/we'll trampoline/finally through the roof/on to somewhere near/and far in time/velouria/her covering/travelling career/she can really move/oh velveteen!”
A possible example of how I might have concluded this blog, had it concluded on time, when our trip ended yesterday.
Only too bad we’re half a month behind! Yeah! Eat it! Suck on my big fat voided rail pass! Bennie C. won’t finish no blog for chumps—BENNIE C. WON’T FINISH NO BLOG FOR NO ONE!
I won’t stop now, because the long deceased voice of Great American Train Tour Ben echoes posthumously, from the purgatory we call: “Once upon a time, a Great American Train Tour sounded better than a contract renewal with Virginia’s oldest theatre.”
Unemployed? Certainly. But wiser for it.
And that’s how I find time to give you, the gentle reader, stories to read in bed with the covers pulled up and the lights turned down.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Cast of Characters:
UNCLE: Uncle Brian, my dad's youngest sibling. In his late 40s, early 50s. Burnt-out.
AUNT: Aunt Julie, my dad's older sister. In her late 50s. Lonely.
CHRIS: Uncle Brian's oldest son. 17. Senior in high school. Smart-ass.
ANDREW: Uncle Brian's youngest son. 15. Sophomore in high school. Jock.
BRIAN and BEN: Unsuspecting travelers in their early 20s. Scared.
Setting: The dining room of my uncle's house. 10pm. Chris and Andrew play video games off stage. Uncle Brian and Aunt Julie work on dinner in the adjoining kitchen. Brian and Ben sit at the dining room table, unsure what to do. Uncle Brian enters with some fish.
UNCLE (to Chris and Andrew): Kill it! Come set the table.
BRIAN: Oh, it's all right. We can help you set the-
UNCLE: Kill it, boys!
Chris and Andrew enter the dining room.
UNCLE: Help Auntie Julie set the table.
BEN: We can help, too.
BRIAN: What do you need?
Aunt Julie enters with a salad. Chris and Andrew remain seated. Brian grabs the salad dressing, Ben gets silverware.
UNCLE: Do you guys want something do drink?
UNCLE: That's right, you're old enough now. Beer, wine? Soda? Water?
BRIAN: I'll have a water.
BEN: Me too.
UNCLE: So tame.
Uncle Brian leaves to grab some water. He brings back two waters and a Coors Light for himself.
AUNT (to Brian and Ben): Go ahead, dig in.
BRIAN: Oh, it's okay, you can go first.
UNCLE: We already ate.
Brian and Ben stare at the massive amount of food on the table. Fish, salad, rice. All this for two people? While they're serving themselves...
UNCLE (to Chris): Did you vacuum today?
Uncle Brian drinks his beer, looking at Chris.
UNCLE: You sure?
UNCLE: So, Brian, Chris is also interested in creative writing. What is that, anyway?
BRIAN: Well, you know, it's anything, really. Short stories, scripts, whatever.
CHRIS: It's such an inane debate. It boils down to the eternal question: whether you want an empty stomach or a full wallet.
UNCLE: And how do you get a job in creative writing?
BEN: Actually, as soon as you graduate, they give you a fancy car, a corner office, and all the money you want.
ANDREW: Like in that cartoon, the swimming pool full of gold coins.
No one laughs.
CHRIS: So, in college, does everyone stay up late talking?
UNCLE: If there's a keg.
BRIAN (dismissing Uncle Brian): Yeah, sure. I've had a few of those.
CHRIS: What do you talk about?
BRIAN: Whatever. All sorts of stuff.
UNCLE: Chris only applied to four schools.
BRIAN: Oh yeah? Which-
ANDREW (coughing under his breath): Procrastinator!
CHRIS: It's a family thing.
UNCLE: No, you knew the deadlines-
CHRIS: How long have you been working on your thesis, Dad?
UNCLE: And he's taking six AP classes, too. His senior year, six AP classes.
BRIAN: Whoa, that's a lot.
UNCLE: I told him not to. I told him to relax. But he took six fucking AP classes.
CHRIS: It's not that bad.
UNCLE: Are your grades slipping?
UNCLE: Are your grades slipping?
CHRIS (thinks): They've gone down from an A to an A-
UNCLE: Uh huh... So, Ben, do you have a job?
BEN: Well, uh, no. I just finished an internship at a theater in Virginia, but the contract ran up and I chose not to renew it. So we'll see, we'll see.
UNCLE: And what about you, Brian?
BRIAN: I'm actually teaching SAT-prep classes for Kaplan.
UNCLE: Andrew just got his PSAT scores back.
BRIAN: Oh yeah? How'd you do?
UNCLE: They weren't very good.
ANDREW: It was around 1500.
BRIAN: Oh, okay. Well, for a sophomore that isn't too-
CHRIS: I did better.
ANDREW: Well, at least I did better than Andrew Jong.
ANDREW: Yeah, he only got 14 something.
UNCLE (pointing to Andrew): He's also only taking two AP classes.
ANDREW: Tennis takes up a lot of my time, though.
CHRIS (to Brian and Ben): Hey, do you guys want to check out my room? I have lots of drawings I've done up on the walls. I've been writing this long story-
UNCLE: How long have you been writing that thing?
CHRIS: Since sixth grade.
UNCLE: Jesus Christ.
CHRIS: Anyway, the pictures tie into the story.
BRIAN (forcing the enthusiasm): Sounds cool.
ANDREW: Yeah, and then you can check out my room, too.
CHRIS: Andrew just has a guitar and video games in his room.
BEN: No, it's okay, we can see both of your rooms.
CHRIS: Great, let's-
UNCLE (to Chris): Did you vacuum today?
CHRIS: Yeah, Dad, I vacuumed today.
ANDREW (coughing under his breath again): No he didn't.
CHRIS: Shut up.
UNCLE: 'Cause there's one part of my bedroom that still has dirt in it. I know you didn't vacuum today. You have one job -- one job -- and you can't even do that.
BRIAN: Hey, let's go check out your guys' rooms.
The boys exit the stage.
AUNT: Brian and Ben can stay with me tonight.
UNCLE: No, it's all right. They're already here.
AUNT: Yeah, but I brought them over.
UNCLE: They want to catch up with the boys.
AUNT: But I finally unpacked everything in my house. I've got room for visitors.
UNCLE: No, don't worry about it. We've got room here.
Aunt Julie picks up some dishes and takes them to the kitchen. Uncle Brian finishes his beer. Curtain falls.
Artistic liberties? Sure! But that's the gist of it.
Welcome to Seattle!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The trip is the blog, and the blog is the trip, lest we not forget dear reader.
Lest we not forget.
Oh, dear reader, I had become shame. And shame is for the penniless and transgendered. Let shame find its way into the hearts of beggars and Cher replicas, but not I.
Brian is a poor slanderer. Brian is a cross-dresser.
Which brings us to the laser light show.
Was it not I, tender fool, who first alerted you to the great Radio Head light spectacle? Was it not I, soon-to-be-abandoned traveler, who openly craved a show drawing only the most sophisticated of Seattle's stoned middle schoolers?
The choir of heaven sings "yes!"
But your blasphemy sings "no!"
Why would I, a lover of all things majestic, forgo a chance to partake in a torrent of dazzling laser light effects synchronized with a groundbreaking 90's alternative sound?
Heaven intones once more, crying, "Nay, he has asked the unanswerable. Let us entreat him to enter through the Gates of the Lord."
Exactly! Brian you are wrong! See what they're saying? And hear them calling you a punk-bitch too? I do.
I do, dear reader.
So let the house that is glass not cast the first stone, for it shall inherit the earth. Let, conversely, the bush bird silence the falling tree in the wood, for it is of a meek nature, and deserving of a meaty, black-bird pie.
Much more than Brian could ever say about Seattle later.
In Seattle, we had a chance to go see a laser-show set to Radiohead music. It was a mere $5 (okay, maybe $8 -- but definitely no more than that) and it was at a science museum. Who could resist? Only the most cold-hearted, apathetic, and curmudgeonly person in the world. And surely someone like that could not exist.
Except that person does exist. That person is alive and well. I know. I was there.
More on Seattle later!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I'm wasting everyone's time. Let's cut the crap and go for the bone. The blog bone. Or something.
Right, the trip. Portland greeted us with gray skies and rain. A heartwarming welcoming. The Portland rundown: hostel was nice, clean, and cozy; Powell's is a fucking juggernaut of a bookstore; Nick Barbery --- Sorry, I need to interject Ben's rant when he just discovered I'm blogging: "Stop blogging! I say, everywhere we go, 'Stop blogging! Don't blog anymore!'" --- introduced us to corn pizza (as in, the topping is corn); Merlin is totally, for real, 100% coming back (and he means business, what with his awesome 80's cover art); Portland is a small city, has a hometown feel; I bought boots and left my sneakers near a trashcan in the SW district, hoping someone with size 9.5 feet can use them; the birds in Portland are massive and will swallow small children whole; Santa will fucking cut you if you get on his bad side.
Our 10 minutes are up. And that's just a slice of Portland. More to come later. Here are some pictures, so maybe you won't feel like this is a complete waste of a post.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Hey Brian -- your post is all pictures or, what results is the most embarrassing post of my life.*,**,***
**Now we're IN Seattle and Brian has TWO posts on me -- SHIT.
***Now I am like, so over 2pac. On to 2pac.
So 2pac visited me in a dream.
”Ben, you need to tell people what L.A. is really like,” he says.
“You’re dead,” I say.
“You’ve been chosen to give birth to the anointed daughter of the lord,” he says.
Now, I’m no expert on the language of West Coast 90’s rap, but I think our friend was trying to say that L.A. weather is truly the most incredible weather in the United States of America in the history of the world (Southern Ca overall, but for the sake of hyperbolic storytelling – and 2pac’s love of hyperbolic storytelling – L.A. and only L.A.).
Allow me to transition poorly into a discussion regarding heat lamps. L.A. has heat lamps at any number of restaurants. Heat lamps are located outside and activated in the event (off chance event) that the moderate SoCal temperature falls to a chilly 65. Brrrrrrr. I’m glad I don’t have to put on my bulky, SoUnhip sweatshirt!
SoUnhip like SoCal. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Lots and lots of laughter.
As Brian, Tam (more on Tammy soon), and I sipped our margaritas looking out over the pacific, heated by lamps, I felt certain we had reached a final destination in life: a beautiful, sun-drenched utopia marked by attractive people wearing sunglasses not unlike face masks.
But then I remembered we would be traveling to Minneapolis in a week. Hey Andrew, I want a gym and a Mojito when we arrive. That’s a drink they serve in L.A. That’s a drink I can’t afford to miss.
They probably serve Mojito’s everywhere.
Alright, what else? I’m losing steam as I travel on a train through Oregon. There’s snow all around and I don’t really want to think about the weather in L.A. as I watch the cascades cascading through the cascade or something. Shut up conductor. Shut up Dr. Bayliss. Shut up Mom and Dad in our stupid pink living room. Shut up everyone about the stupid cascades I can’t see through the stupid abundant evergreens.
But I digress. Tammy is a relative – so like, a cousin or something out West. Not only is she blonde, smart, and the type to crack liberal jokes about unions and sweat shop labor (classic) – she also owns an acoustic guitar. And talks about things like the club scene. And intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM’s – if you don’t know now you know). And goes to bars. Bars? Turn my life upside down! Why do we have a liberal blonde relative in L.A. who knows what a Mojito is?
I have no idea, but I know what a Mojito is.
And I am thankful Tammy allowed two unshowered travelers into her home. She also showed us around L.A. Thanks Tammy (not the sailor statue)! My parents are boring compared to you!
Just kidding Mom and Dad. Just kidding Dr. Bayliss.