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.