keepin' it crunk, from my hood to the trunk.
Tuesday the 19th
Jeremy, shotgun navigator and DJ
My only objectives for this trip were to rekindle a connection with my brother Ryan, whom I love dearly, and to figure out what the hell is going on throughout this gigantic incomprehensible country. I've been stationary here in the city of dreams (oh LA) for a few days now; the last seven days are a swirling patchwork of faces and counties - strange people acting perfectly normal, anonymous buildings crumbling under the desert's blinding sun and howling wind.
Ryan and I woke in Fort Stockton, Texas not by the sun but by the mechanical sounds of Motel 6 maids. We realized quickly that we were in the middle of the goddamn desert (the night had hid the forbidding tundra well). Fuel (gas, coffee, hash browns) sent us roaring into the West Texan desert. I hope to never return. The cattle and human populations tarnish the landscape equally: 1 for every 200 acres. We might as well give it back to Mexico. To add a bit of drama to the landscape, we drove into deep grey stormclouds and rain drops the size of golf balls. The oil drills kept pumping.
The two of us had visited Carlsbad Caverns in 1991 on a cross-country trip with our family. I was a wide-eyed kid giddy with delight; this time around I noticed both the mysterious beauty of the caves and the unnaturalness of the human occupation therein. Microwaved chicken and rootbeer was lovely 750 feet below the earth's surface (in the Caveteria) and while buying a desert candy bar, I asked the cashier why there was a USPS mailbox next to us and he didn't understand why I might remark on it. He said "oh, people like to send postcards" as if we were on mainstreet of Anywhere, USA.
If you drive from Carlsbad Caverns to White Sands National Park taking "The 82" over a small mountain range, you will pass through a little town called Hope. I can't imagine there was much in it, only skinny skinny goats and cattle scraping out a grimy life. It was a cracked shell of a town and I didn't bother looking back as we shot into the gorgeous emptiness of the landscape.
Before you die, be sure to drive through a perfectly clear night on an Arizonan highway. I'm a suburban Yankee who has been duped by too many parking lot lights and road-crowding trees, too many buildings and people. The southwestern desert gave stars. Stars perched so low on the horizon that I had never glimpsed them before.
If this trip has taught me anything it is that we humans still haven't managed to conquer every corner of the earth. At least not completely. Drive into the desert until the only earthly lights you can see are headlights, and look up.
Fort Stockton, TX
Ryan D. Gantz
We left Houston and drove west on the 10, across hand-hand-me-downs and flypaper towns. In San Antonio we stalled to a halt in a K-Mart parking lot and sauntered inside to purchase sunglasses too large for our faces.
In its densest downtown area, San Antonio has money, history and a splash of soul. We remembered to visit the Alamo, for to honor our forefathers, and otherwise spent hours wandering and dining along lovely canals that wind synthetically through the well groomed tourist quarter. Crowds of people, Mexican food, and boat tours. It felt like a cross between Venice, Disney World's Frontierland, and life on the bayou. I ate my Quesadillas. Our waitress was very amiable. We gassed up again and followed the sun out west.
Pilot to Exxon to Texaco to Diamond Shamrock, on and on. We listened to Tristeza, The Soft Machine, Shalabi Effect, Koop, Automator, and so forth. Lane changes in the darkness. Sonora, Texas: a tiny ranch town in the middle of nowhere. We bought submarine sandwiches and watched the occassional cowboy hats.
We watched a little of a George Carlin HBO special before falling asleep in the Motel 6 here in Fort Stockton, Tejas. Anytown, Desert Ranch, West Texas, Auto America, Space. Only $31.99 per night, with data ports in every room. They didn't even have data ports in our the Austin Homestead Inn, where a week ago we stayed for the interactive
confrence. The shower in the bathroom here is nearly high enough. +
March 6th to the 12th
from Illinois to Austin
Jared Dunn drives along.
The wave of love (and tall drink of water) that is Ryan D. Pants rolled into C-U early wednesday morning, and found an unseasonably warm Central Illinois, combined with an unusually harried Jared Dunn. For some weird reason, Sxsw didn't coincide with my spring break this time around, and thus I was pressing my luck by even trying to attend. I had a lot of work to get done before skipping town, and I was so overwhelmed by it all by the time he arrived that I had actually made a list
(containing fifteen items), even though I absolutely abhor the idea of lists. Somehow, I managed to get it all done, and still find the time to show Ryan a taste of my idyllic little college microcosm, introduce him to dear friends, take him to a couple of my favorite watering holes
, and even halfway-mystify him with an immunology lecture on mast cells
. Being the affable guy that he is, he even managed to garner a job offer only five minutes into his short stay on campus.
After some delay due to my frantic last-minute scrambling, we finally hit the road for Tejas late in the afternoon on thursday, and despite some early ill mechanical portents
, the trip itself went swimmingly, with plentiful musical, photographic, and personal conversation, intermixed with running commentary on the scenery and five-minute drifts into the land of nod in the passenger seat. And way more Deltron3030
and Outkast than is probably healthy for normal growing young men.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of post-dawn, mist-obscured driving through Eastern Texas, the land that time(and architecture featuring frames and foundations, while lacking wheels) forgot, with paradigms of creative nomenclature like "Big Creek" and "Red Road(the road was indeed red, though the creek wasn't so big)," we arrived in a smog-fog enshrouded
Houston. After a brief, fitful sleep at Alison's
classy pad, it was back on the road, for the longest 3-hour drive ever, to Austin, and adventure. After that, it's all a blur, which I have already chronicled to the best of my abilities elsewhere
Like many of us probably are, I'm still getting used to this strange and wonderful idea of having new friends scattered all over the country. It's a bittersweet sort of thing, knowing amazing people you wouldn't otherwise, but being condemned to only see them a couple of times a year. I'm still amazed at what fast friends Ryan and I have become, especially considering my slow-to-trust nature when it comes to relationships. That speaks to the power of this medium to share identities and bring people together, when used sincerely and properly. I'm glad I'm one of the people who "gets it," and it makes me sad that my not-yet-converted friends are still so suspicious of my online life.
Because of that, it still seems weird mixing the two worlds, online and off, as I have attempted now a couple of times, but it has worked out quite well so far, once the original suspicions and trust barriers on the part of my non-wired friends are broken down. This has generally been an easy process once undertaken, and so far all of my online friends seem to have gotten along well-to-famously with my offline ones. Perhaps the two aren't so different after all. Great people are still great people, friendship and connection are still much the same, be it online or off. I feel blessed to have had the good fortune to find the best of both worlds. +
Dzigavertov in the 25th Century
Pizza of the Stars with the world's most lovable surly waitress. A Chippendales t-shirt is high fashion for the dressed down, down beat, un-down town evening that awaits us. And all the while Nero burns his silicon wafers.
I struggle aimlessly to discover a mixer that works with every beverage. Gantz is that mixer. With friends old and new, blog and bar, man and woman, he is the secret elixir that allows for a evening unbeset by the nagging realization that we all travel in different circles that usually mix like milk and lemon. I want to bottle him and carry him around in a boot flask. And it is all captured on video. And it is all coming soon to a media player near you. And all the while Nero burns his silicon wafers.
All the wrong people pass out on all the wrong couches, and in the morning only Dapper Dan and aviator glasses provide a sufficient disguise for breakfast. Take home defensive driving while Gantz wanders the city, a break to pick up his brother from the Greyhound station. Gantz steals my blue sharpie to label what Nero has given him. Denim vests with Unforgettable Fire appeal and orange wrap arounds - can this disguise end 3rd world debt? Perhaps we will find the answer at an icehouse. Drinks, Texas style, on picnic tables with the smell of steak still lingering from bbq grills only recently extinguished.
An extra day. The feast on St. Patrick's; pizza and salad. The television whispers to the stereo, to ensure that muted viewing of the NASA channel has the perfect random audio accompaniment. Only Amnesiac can guide us through newsreel footage of the Friendship 7. And all the while Nero burns his silicon wafers.
Monday afternoon, home from work. Nero has retired to his chamber. The brothers Gantz, now racing sunward on a west Texas highway, are gone. Not for long, I hope. Not if I can do anything about it. A note and my blue sharpie are waiting at the door. I had hoped that the marker would make the trip with them.
From time to time my mind's eye turns west to the bright lights of the only city smoggier than my own. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to seek my fortune with you. If I do, I promise only to check in once every hour.
So long, Houston
I've never spent so many successive days in Texas before in my whole life. And with at least 12 hours of driving to the New Mexico border, I've probably got a couple more. Within the next hour Jeremy and I will be outta this town, LA bound. I'm glad we're getting the chance to take a brotherly road trip.
You'll find pictures
of me in Austin with friends all over
, if you care to look
. I'll put my own slides up once I get to Cali.
I already miss this place. I don't know when I'll ever make it back here. Thanks to the whole gang, and particularly to Alison
and Dr. Zig
for showing me a good time. I wish I could spend time with all of my incredible friends in every incredible part of the country all at once. A quantum cloud of friendship, all momentum and no certain location. (Sometimes I move like a particular person, but mostly I behave like a wave of love.)
Back on the boat, y'all.
Keep on keepin' on. +
Sunday the 17th
by brother Jeremy Gantz
Many of you might possess a well-cultivated but misguided conception of Travel as Romanticism. You know, the whole cross-country On The Road deal. Allow me to kindly relieve you of those notions right now. The Greyhound Bus Company, which provided my (admittedly cheap) 30 hour trip from Minneapolis to Houston, is an overheated den of obesity and overcrowdedness. My bus drivers were slavedrivers hightly trained in the art of condescension. My fellow passengers and I made a sincere effort to tease one man like wild schoolchildren revolting on a lousy fieldtrip. And for some alarming reason, every bus station was located in The Bad Part of Town.
An abbreviated catalog of the passengers that surrounded me through five states includes:
- eight non-english speaking mexican-americans forced to take whatever shit busdrivers gave them.
- four miserable babies (two spanish-screaming, two english-screaming).
- four dedicated mothers (two spanish-hushing, two english-hushing).
- two fat overbearing women fiending for cigarettes.
- one large portion of baby-vomit sent directly to a mother's blouse (hilarity ensued!).
Claustrophobia is no joke. Also, never go to Tulsa, Oklahoma; it is too industrialized, too poor, and too grey. Des Moines is not much better. And pre-wrapped pre-cooked cheeseburgers from obscure Iowan airports are a waste of time and stomach acid.
But Houston, how I love thee. Your subdued humidity, your spacious outdoor bars. Last night, the West Alabama Ice House beckoned - The Guess Who unleashed raucous Rock from the house stereo. Bliss. May last night beers inaugurate the automotive part of my journey around the country. The Southwest must be better than the Misssissippi. Central Corridor. +
Austin, Plymouth, Maine
is tall and skinny.
That's the kind of plain statement that begs to be expanded on, and numerous options leap immediately to mind. Like Douglas Adams' description of Wonko the Sane, involving no less than five David Bowies. Or something about Ichabod Crane mating with a rare and undernourished species of Argentine stork. Marcel Duchamp would have run out of space to paint elbows in his masterpiece "Ryan Descending a Staircase." That sort of thing.
Ryan's head perches on top of his body, like a Dadaist comedian sitting on a flagpole, issuing gnomic pronouncements on the absurdity of the ant-world far below. His own absurdity is a baseline, a touchstone for assessing the status of the rest of us. It is taken for granted.
Me and Ryan go way back. We used to carpool to the bus stop in high school. 6AM, freezing Massachusetts winter, won't be light for another 3 hours, there's Ryan and his dad in my driveway, idling car spouting great blue clouds of New England emissions. This went on for three years.
I was there the time he got banned from Rich's. Something to do with some Swedish fish and dandruff shampoo, but we don't like to talk about that. Back then, Ryan would occasionally sink into a deep gloom. You could see the lenticular clouds forming around the cornices of his brow. The normal hormone surges of adolescence seemed to sour and blacken, seeping through his hundreds of vascular miles; tectonic rumblings that brought forth some atavistic urge to carve glowering enigmatic idols and sacrifice virgins to them. But we were in high school, and that sort of thing just wasn't done.
Then I graduated. I didn't see Ryan for 7 years. I went to college, moved to DC, started a website, moved again to San Francisco, got married, and moved again to Maine. I'd hear rumors from time to time. FA was small, and pretty tight, and no one really ever escapes. The grapevine never dies. I heard he was living at home, working at the Stearns's new golf course. I heard he kept a weblog.
One thing leads to another, the complexity butterfly flaps its wings, the eternal harmony of the spheres takes it to the bridge, and Ryan and I end up in Austin, Texas together at South by Southwest. It's a funny old world.
Driving since Feb 24th
Read all about it.
Copyright 2002 by Ryan D. Pants and friends.