Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Batman and Alex On The Road To Portland (Part 2)

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.”
~Dr. Seuss~

So the last we heard, our intrepid adventurers had faced the treacherous Tim and his pleather palace, and stepped fourth once more onto the road of destiny....or maybe we should call it the road of wonders...I guess take your pick. Now on with the show! 

Zach the Garlic Farmer: (Tremonton, UT to Pendleton, OR) This was by far the longest ride I caught going to Portland. I spent 8 hours riding approximately five hundred miles with Zach. He was an extremely laid back individual who had two new born baby businesses. A pest control business in Salt Lake City and a garlic farm in Washington on some land that he had inherited. So for Zach, picking up a hitch hiker was a blessing and a half, as the ride to and from his entrepreneurial endeavors could be quite lonely. One of the methods he used to pass the time along the way was to smoke copious amounts of pot. He was nice enough to roll down the window, though I wasn't as concerned for myself as I was about the possible effects on Batman... I imagine Batman getting a contact high would be entertaining to say the least, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do that experiment on the road in the middle of Idaho.

Ned: (Pendleton, OR to B.F.E., OR) I don't actually remember his name, but Ned will do the trick. Short ride with a nice guy. Had a dog that looked like it was in a comma. It did not move once, not even when Batman jumped in and began sniffing him.

B.F.E.: If you don't know what B.F.E is, (In my best Mr. T voice) you better educate yourself, fool!

Ray the Disgruntled Railroad Worker: (B.F.E OR to Cascade Locks, OR) So there was very little traffic pulling off the highway in B.F.E, but luckily I encountered another road warrior named....well I really don't remember. He informed me, that in Oregon you can hitch hike out on the highway and the police officers don't give a "rat's fat ass". So after about 3 hours of waiting, I walked out onto the shoulder of the highway with my thumb held high. I probably walked for a half an hour before a kind gentleman pulled off to the side and offered to give me a ride to Cascade Locks (about 100 miles or so) for twenty bucks. It was very hot outside, so I opted to pay and ride. Ray was an interesting fellow, and by interesting I mean he was angry about everything. This character trait of his shown through most clearly by the fact that his favorite word was "fuckin". The fuckin government, the fuckin railroad, my fuckin brother, my fuckin ex-wife. There was a lot of fuckin in this man's life and he was happy to tell me about it....wait that didn't come out right. Anyways, other than the immense amount of complaining he did, he was nice enough to Batman and I and offered to go a little out of his way to get us closer to Portland.

Cascade Locks: A really beautiful location, even at night when I arrived. There was a minor artifact here called the Bridge of the Gods. I'm not sure the bridge was worthy of the name, but the river it spanned and the area surrounding it surely was. Totally lush and a wonder to behold in the moonlit hours as we looked for the next locale to catch a ride. Sadly, this was not meant to be. Late night hitching is quite challenging as I think most drivers have visions of horror movies as they see me standing on the side of the road with my grizzly beard, my ferocious cross-eyed pitbull, and my chainsaw. So I decided to splurge on a hotel room, as there were no truck stops to sneak into. I tied Batman to a tree a good distance from the Hotel, which was wise as he quickly decided to bark and whine like a banshee as I walked away. I got my room key and went back to retrieve Batman, not having not told the lady at the front desk that a dog would be staying with me. Batman and I covertly made our way up to our room on the third floor, avoiding all of the security cameras, barb wired fences and the pressure sensitive floor tiles. Batman had to kill a security guard, but I'm sure he deserved it. Once in our room, we spent the night lounging on our queen sized bed and watching HBO. It was a glorious occasion. In the morning I made sure I woke early enough to partake in the continental breakfast. There were quite a few people who shot me an odd glance as I piled up three plates with food and carefully took them back to my room. It was Batman's first time eating biscuits and gravy, bacon, waffles and scrambled eggs all in one sitting. I know that might be a bit much, but I'm sure he deserved it. There was only one maid on the way out that managed to catch a look at Batman, but I used my mannish charms to sway her into not telling on us. And by mannish charms I mean crying a lot and begging for pity.

Michael: (Cascade Locks, OR to Troutdale, OR) This was a quick, half an hour ride that was pretty uneventful...."But why not spice it up with the power of imagination?" you ask....Well kids, imagination can be dangerous. Sure, you're a kid and you're running around the yard, a cooking pan on your head and a blanket doubling as a cape tied around your neck. Life is grand...but try getting away with this as an adult! Make no mistake, you will be ostracized and looked down upon for engaging in this type of activity. Trust me, I know. "But Alex!" you cry, "Can't you please add just a little creativity to this part of the story? It's so boring. It makes us want to cut our eyes out and impale ourselves on a fence post just so we'll feel something!" Okay, okay, fine! I'll make something up about Michael, but read on at your own risk....So Michael was obviously a werewolf. His clothes were torn up and dirty from the full moon the night before and his face and hands were covered in dried blood. Boy did he have some interesting stories to share. I was also surprised to discover that werewolves can speak to dogs. So for most of the ride, it was just Michael and Batman, chatting it up. I really felt left out. At the end of the ride I mustered the courage to ask him if he would bite me so I too could be come a werewolf. He then said he normally would, but after the things Batman had told him about me, he didn't think I would be a good fit for the werewolf community....There are you all happy now?! See what happens when you make me use my imagination!!! Bad things. Really bad things. No one enjoyed that! Why would a werewolf pick up a hitch hiker? That makes no sense at all!

Mary and Pattie: (Troutdale, OR to Portland, OR) This was probably the most unexpected of all of my rides. Mary was a 62 year-old woman and Pattie was her 84 year-old mother. As I got settled in the car, they quickly began explaining why they had decided to pick me up. It just so happened to be Mother's day and that morning they, both being mothers, had agreed to go a little wild, jump in the car and see where it took them. "We're on a Mother's Day adventure!" Mary exclaimed proudly. Both of them were delighted to hear my story and went out of there way to find out where the nearest hostel was located in Portland. They dropped me off in the Chinatown district of Portland and my first hitch hiking experience came to an end. Wow. The world wasn't as scary as I had been led to believe...maybe talking to strangers wasn't such a bad thing after all.

A shiny building in Portland...I like shiny things. :)

Some more wicked art that was on display in Portland.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Batman and Alex: On The Road To Portland (Part 1)

"If the clock appears to move faster than it did in the sixth grade, it is only because we haven't actualized our power as adults to set our own recess schedule."
~ Rolf Potts ~

...so where did we leave off? Oh yeah, my first ride. 

(magical wavy dream-like effect activate!) 

I had been sitting there beside the I-25 on ramp for about twenty minutes when a truck filled with construction equipment pulled off to the side and stopped. Batman and I ran up to the passenger side window and asked "Where you headed?" The guy inside said "Greeley." It wasn't far, but I really didn't care. Someone had actually stopped and was going in the right direction. We jumped in and off we went, one step closer to Portland.

Sean: (119 and I-25 to Greeley, CO) Sean was a college graduate who, after finishing college three years ago, had been working as a construction worker. He was beginning to worry that life was passing him by, and that maybe he had settled into an existence that was less than satisfactory.

Steve: (Greeley, CO to Fort Collins, CO) Steve, not two days earlier, had moved from Chicago to Fort Collins. Like myself, he had packed up and left without a place to stay or a job waiting for him, and leaving behind a storm of criticism from most of his friends and family. Steve was a cool guy. Since he didn't have a job yet, he was nice enough to drive me to the far north end of Fort Collins.

Paul the Racist: (Fort Collins, CO to Laramie, WY) Paul was an old white man who, for whatever reason, seemed to think that Mexicans were to blame for pretty much all of the problems plaguing America. I found it strange that he felt compelled to refer to them as Hispanics, or "those damn Hispanics" and not some of the other more colorful names our southernly neighbors have acquired over the years. He also claimed that he had no qualms with Mexicans who stayed in Mexico, and that they were all good hard working people. It was just those damn Illegals who came over and stole his jobs (as if all the jobs in America belonged to him) I waited until we were close to Laramie to calmly disclose that I had dated a "damned Illegal" for five years and that she had become a valuable part of her community. To which he responded "Well, I guess some of them can turn out all right."

Heidi and Karen: (Laramie, WY to Salt Lake City, UT) Heidi was a student at CU who was headed home for the summer and Karen was her mom. This was a really enjoyable ride. I didn't need to worry about Kelly or her mother robbing me, or sexually assaulting me, so I actually managed to catch some sleep. We ended up listening to my ipod, via my car charger/radio transmitter, and we had some pretty good conversations.

Salt Lake City: It was dusk when they dropped me off in Salt Lake City and I decided to explore a bit before heading off to catch my next ride. This was a huge mistake as I unknowingly wandered into the seedy underbelly of the city. I was surrounded by people who were wearing jeans and t-shirts, and sometimes their hair was long and unkempt. There wasn't a tie or button-up shirt or a pair of slacks to be seen. I even saw one guy smoking a cigarette. It was a harrowing experience and my whole concept of Salt Lake City was shattered! I'm just grateful I had Batman there to protect me, with his pointy teeth and his big strong muscles. Luckily we managed to find our way to the highway, before Batman was forced to defend us.

Morgan the Ladies Man: (Salt Lake City, UT to Tremonton, UT) After two hours of sitting with my thumb out (I think it was because it was dark) I managed to get a ride with Morgan. Morgan was a fellow couch surfer and traveler, but tonight he was just heading home from the symphony. Our conversation quickly became focused on the topic of fear, and the things we had done to overcome it. For Morgan, it wasn't jumping out of planes or picking up hitch hikers, it was talking with girls that frightened him the most. And in order to conquer this fear he had become part of a community of people known as PUAs, or pick up artists. For those of you who aren't familiar with the book The Game, a pick up artist is a man who is skilled or tries to be skilled at meeting, attracting and seducing women. The Game is a book that basically outlines how to become a PUA. From my limited knowledge of the book, most of the ways in which you achieved these ends was by using subtle manipulation and subversive psychology. But for Morgan it was more about how to increase the speed between meeting someone he was attracted to and really getting to know them. He explained the different approaches he might use to start a conversation with a total stranger and how he would lead it to a place where sincere, open conversation was possible. This was the first time I had experienced the methodology of The Game being used as a way to cultivate genuine human connection and to overcome personal boundaries (and not just to get laid). It was a good reminder that tools, whether they are physical or cognitive, are neutral and are only a way to increase the effectiveness of a person's efforts in reaching a specific goal. Whether that goal is good or bad, is up to the user.

Burger King and Father Time: Morgan dropped me in Tremonton, UT at approximately 11:30 pm, and since there was almost no traffic turning onto the highway there, I decided to go into a Burger King/gas station and see if I could strike up a conversation with any of the people stopping in to see if any of them were going my way. To make a long story short, this doesn't work very well. Sure people will talk to you, especially when you have a dog as epic as Batman, but as soon as you ask where they are headed, they tend not to want to talk with you anymore. So at about 1 am I sat down in the Burger King to rest and started up a conversation with a very old man with a very long white beard. (Thus the Father Time reference. I used my big boy brain to think that up all on my own!) Well, to be honest, it wasn't quite a conversation because he spoke so softly I could only understand about one in three words he was saying. I gathered that he lived somewhere nearby and that he owned a truck. Then he became adamant about buying Batman some Burger King, so he went over and spent ten dollars on a variety of hamburgers and fish sandwiches. He brought over the pile of "food", wished us good luck and told me that I could have whatever Batman didn't finish. He obviously didn't know Batman.

Tim the Big Black Trucker: Later that night (approx. 2 am) Batman and I relocated to a truck stop that had a TV lounge upstairs. Inside there was one couch, some chairs, a TV, and a big black trucker named Tim. I didn't get much of Tim's story, other than he was tired from driving all day. I sat next to him on the couch with Batman on my lap, watching late night reruns of crime dramas, and ended up falling asleep. I woke several times throughout the night feeling like I was being boiled in my own sweat. The combination of Batman, Tim and the fake leather couch created a sort of super furnace/insulator, but after a bit of adjustment I managed to get some sleep. In the morning Batman and I went downstairs and purchased the use of a shower. The woman who had been working all night informed me that at one point she had come upstairs and had seen me and Batman on the couch. But when she had approached us to tell us that we couldn't be in the lounge (as we were not truckers), Batman's eyes had opened slightly, like some stereotypical movie monster, and emitted a low growl of warning. She decided that she would let us sleep and just hope we woke up before her boss arrived in the morning. Batman = My Hero.

Zounds!!! Is Batman doomed to a life of truck stops and pleather couches? Will Alex be able to resist Tim's trucker charms? The answer to these and other questions next time. Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel.

And now some pictures for y'all to enjoy.

A very long staircase going up the side of a mountain. Almost a third of the way up, Yay!

The famous VooDoo Donut where I enjoyed my first Maple Bar, which is a long john with maple frosting and strips of bacon on top... it was so good it was redundant.

Batman loves to play the Put my mouth on the cat game. He wouldn't bite Maki the cat, he was simply determined to taste him a bit. And here is a picture of Sefo, (my first couch surfing host in Portland) trying to hold his cat Maki and repel Batman. It was quite the wrestling match and when it was over Sefo was curious where all the blood on his shirt had come from. It ended up that when Batman would pin down the cat and chew him gently, and Maki would go to town on Batman's face and neck with his claws. Batman didn't seem to mind.
This is just an average street in downtown Portland. It is ridiculously green and lush there.

Batman and I lounging in our Hostel bunk bed. Life is good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Batman and Alex Decide to Believe in Something New

Batman and his couch surfing buddy Maki

The Wondergasm begins!!!!

May 7th, 2010 - I wake from a restless sleep, nervous and still somewhat shocked that I'm about to hitch hike across the country. My friend Matt drives me out to I-25 and unceremoniously abandons me. He didn't even stop his truck! It totally reminded me of that scene in Terminator 2 when the T-1000 jumps from his motorcycle onto the helicopter, cracks through the windshield with his head and then slides in all silver-liquid-like and tells the driver to "Get out." Matt was even wearing the same motorcycle cop uniform (which I thought was odd) with the reflective mirror sunglasses and everything. I was terrified as I leaped from his speeding truck, with my enormous backpack strapped to me and Batman in my arms, but as my feet hit the ground I realized that the truck was actually parked nicely outside of a gas station. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. I was going to be okay. All of my wild imaginings seemed to vanish with one little step down from his truck. (except Matt's motorcycle cop uniform, I still don't quite know what was going on there). And all of my screaming and crying, it seems, had been all for naught. Matt even gave me a hug before he left, and then it was just Batman and I, about to hitch hike almost 1,300 miles across the United States. As I watched Matt's truck turn onto I-25, heading south, there was only one thought on my mind... how the hell am I supposed to do this? I had read up on safety tips, and the what to bring lists, but somehow I had missed the part about what you need to do to get a ride. My first inclination was to sit near the ramp where people got off the highway with my little sign saying Headed to Portland, OR. which Marisa had so kindly printed out and laminated for me. But as I sat and watched the traffic move past and turn either towards Firestone or Longmont, I realized I needed to relocate.

I walked toward the highway on ramp and caught sight of another hitch hiker. He waved, calling out to me and ambled over wearing his over sized backpack. He looked to be in his late fifties, about half of his teeth were missing from his smile and skin was red and ruined. He was exceedingly happy to meet me and offered to make me some coffee, coffee grounds being the only food he had. I instead offered him a granola bar and informed him that this was my first time out hitch hiking. It turned out that Greg has been hitch hiking around America for the past 8 years, ever since he got out of jail for drug trafficking. He ended up being a wealth of information, a vagabonding Yoda of sorts. He proceeded to give me a run down of the tips and tricks that I would need along my journey. His first piece of advice was "Don't talk to folks about religion. That's why I'm here, I couldn't keep my mouth shut on my last ride so they dropped me off early. By the way, do you have a relationship with Jesus?" He continued to give me lots of good and interesting advice, like always wait on the on ramp to the highway where people can see you and have room to stop, and never hitch hike on highway 101, and that my sign was nice but people would be intimidated by long distances (i.e. Colorado to Oregon), and then he stopped for moment and closed his eyes. Almost thirty seconds later, he opened them again and said "Well, God just told me I should move on down to the next exit and let you have this ramp." I didn't quite know what to say other than thank you, and with that Greg was on his way. I almost expected him to vanish into thin air, but no such luck. Batman and I walked up to the I-25 on ramp and sat, stuck out our thumbs and 15 minutes later we were on the road.

As we've journeyed across the U.S. I've been asked one question time and time again. Why? Why hitch hike to Oregon? Why sell and give away everything you own? Why? To be honest, there were lots of motivations, adventure, excitement, experience, meeting new people, seeing new sights, but there is only one real underlying reason. An inadequate self image. That might not make much sense, but hear me out. For years it has been apparent to me that many of the people in my life have grossly inaccurate estimations of what they are capable of achieving. I have friends who barely ever date, and not because they don't want to, and not because they're ugly or stupid, and not because they are incapable of having wonderful relationships, but because they don't think girls will like them, so they don't try. And that is just one small example of the ways in which an inadequate self image can rob people of a life more in line with their desires and capabilities. So to bring this reasoning full circle, I came to the conclusion a while back that I too suffered from an inadequate self image. And if that were true, that means I am capable of much more than I think I am. So I decided to believe in something new, something out of sync with what I usually believe. I decided to believe that I was wrong. I was wrong about myself. Once I started acting on this belief, I found that I stopped asking myself "Can I do this?", and just started assuming that I could. So why give everything away? Why hitch hike across America? It's simple really... I've always wanted to, and until now I was under the impression that I wouldn't be able, but thankfully, I was right about being wrong.

For the sake of not having this entry go on forever, I'm just going to add some pictures, and continue to try and catch up with my experiences thus far in future blogs. Enjoy.

Mount Hood at sunset.

It was cold in Utah and Batman was shivering as we ate breakfast, so I put my sweater on under his backpack. It seemed to do the trick.

Batman in Burger King at 2am. Ask for forgiveness, rather than permission. ;)

The sun reflecting off of Windmills at Sunrise.

Batman running up to get in our next ride.

Some interesting art at a free gallery in Downtown Portland.
Batman running free at Mt. Tabor, which is essentially a mountain/leash free dog park. It's huge!.

More fun at Mt. Tabor

Batman waiting for the bus at midnight.

Batman's first tram ride.

Oregon wilderness.

Portland's motto is "Keep Portland Weird". This guy in his shiny gold stretch pants with army boot is just doing his part.

Most of Portland's fountains are made to be played in.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Batman and Alex Start a Blog

I look pale next to Batman's golden brown tan.

So for those of you who don't know....at the end of March, (2010) I sold or gave away everything I own, except what I can carry on my back (okay, I kept some books), and have begun traveling around with my dog (Batman). Everyone I have talked with about this little escapade has insisted that I start a blog, so here it is.

Peer pressure 1, Alex 0. I hope you're all happy.

During the course of our adventures, I have only one rule. Anything that makes me nervous, apprehensive, or outright scared, I have to do it. This has encouraged me to engage in random conversations with strangers, walk Batman without a leash, live with people I barely know, and visit a medical marijuana farm in a random guys basement (and that's just the beginning of that story).

More on that later...

So far it's been amazing and I'll be adding more and more to this blog as this new life unfolds. I hope that this servers as a means of staying connected with, and becoming connected to, all the people out there that want to take part in this adventure with Batman and me.

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