Pretty safe to say that 16.000 on the Muddled Calendar is the strangest of times to be saying Elevator, Ocelot, Rutabaga (so far). Still I wish you, each and every one, a happy and prosperous new Muddled Year.
Today is 9.0 M.C. (Year 9, day 0 on the Muddled Calendar). I was annoyed last night when my technology woke me up, but then I realized that it was merely reminding me to repeat the Mantra of Good Fortune: If the first words you speak at the dawn of a new Muddled Year are “elevator, ocelot, rutabaga” then the coming year will be happy and prosperous. I muttered the Muddled Mantra and fell quickly back to sleep.
Nine years it’s been since I signed the receipt for the check for my house in San Deigo, joining the ranks of the affluent derelicts, and went to drive around for “a few weeks”. I was thinking maybe three weeks of seeing the US before I moved to Prague. That estimate was a poor one.
A lot has changed since those days; I’m gainfully employed again, in a pretty sweet gig that’s way easier than digging ditches but pays dramatically more. I didn’t invent this system, but I’m not complaining. I’ve got a sweetie to come home to and that’s the coolest change of all. By far.
A couple things have changed only recently; my morning workout and no-beer-till-below-target-weight-for-the-month plan (on hold today) are starting to show results, and I just feel good for the rest of the day after a vigorous morning workout.
Some things haven’t changed: I’m still working on getting a novel published, I still like beer, and overall I have a pretty rosy outlook on life. This blog just keeps chugging along, though perhaps the stories aren’t flavored with such exotic spice these days.
How’s the Muddled Age been treating you? Well, I hope.
As I write this on April 3rd (5:001 M.A.), I am sipping tea and trying to convince myself that all I need is some rest and plenty of liquids and that I AM NOT CATCHING A COLD. This is annoying, especially since I had to turn down an invite from zlato to go and drink beer outdoors. (“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” his message read.)
The scratchy throat and cough are annoying, as is that fact that I can’t find Internet that doesn’t come with cigarette smoke. Nevertheless I’m in a good mood. Road Trip Day saw two events that have lifted a weight off my shoulders. First we met with the owner of a restaurant and he was very cool and now we have our last elusive location. It is a place I hadn’t been to in a while, that has a lovely terrace with a view. We won’t be using that in the film, but it’s still nice to have.
Actually yesterday the terrace was closed; it was to be opened today, one day late. They should have checked their muddled calendars. What better day to open up your beer garden for the summer than Road Trip Day?
The second thing is that for the last few weeks of pre-production I simply wasn’t having fun. The production has grown dramatically since it was first born in my head; and a job that I was barely competent to perform at the start has mushroomed into a big mess that I don’t even know where to start with. All the stress was eating at my gut and I worried constantly about my boat-anchor-like effect on the production. Finally yesterday I called Cowboy Bob. He has experience chasing all these details around, and already the film is becoming fun again. Hooray for Cowboy Bob!
Shooting starts one week from today. Suddenly that seems like a good thing again.
Well, here is it again, the Muddled New Year. For those keeping track at home (eagerly awaiting the restoration of the holiday ticker in the sidebar, no doubt), today is day 5:000 of the Muddled Age, marking five years since I piled way too much stuff into a Miata and headed out to see some of the United States for “three or four weeks” before moving to Prague. That trip took a little longer than expected, spanning more than seven months, 18,000 miles, and over a hundred blog entries dedicated to that trip alone.
Good times. Coincidentally, Road Trip Day is also my birthday.
The holiday is a young one, so the traditions aren’t as entrenched as some of the old-calendar events, but I’m happy to report that I did remember to make the first words I uttered for the New Muddled Year “elevator ocelot rutabaga”, virtually guaranteeing a happy and prosperous year to come.
This year has already started auspiciously. March 31st (4:363) was a beautiful sunny day, but still on the chilly side. Today the weather was simply spectacular, the kind of day where things like this happen. (I was dismissive of that story at first, but the loyal readers of this blog enjoyed it and took the trouble to tell me so, so I submitted it to Piker Press. The rest, as they say, is history.) Lest you think my description of the first nice day of spring in Prague is an exaggeration, let me just tell you that I was talking to a dude about it on the 31st and he got downright misty.
I once also joked that somewhere there is a bureaucrat with a big button on his desk labeled “spring.” when he pushes that button crews rush out and dig up every third street corner and all the trams sport yellow signs alerting passengers that there’s really no telling where the tram is going to go. (Actually the yellow signs tell exactly where the tram is going to go, but it may have nothing to do with where it went the previous day. By that measure Monday was the first day of spring. I laughed repeatedly as I walked past holes in the sidewalk that had not been there the day before, cobblestones piled or asphalt carted away. In most cases the crews who had dug the holes were nowhere to be seen; no doubt they were off digging other holes in another part of town — holes don’t just dig themselves, you know.
Happy New Muddled Year, everyone! It’s off to a great start!
Calendar Note: the pedants among you can relax; the Muddled Calendar started with year zero, so when the calendar reads five that means five years have elapsed. There will be none of the silly arguments around millennia we have with the old calendar. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do.
It really wasn’t that long ago, as the crow flies, that I wedged as much as I could into the Miata and headed out for “about three weeks” to see a bit of the United States before moving to Prague. Probably two months later as I was tooling through the pacific northwest I thought, “man, if I could get someone to pay me to do this I’d never stop.” I did not find anyone to pay me, and eventually I stopped.
But there remains here at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas an echo of that desire, the love of the wind and the sun on the open road, the long stretches wondering if there’s enough gas in the tank, or skidding sideways in a hailstorm, or seeing a ruin at the side of the road with “burgers” still legible on its sloping roof. The occasional glimpse of the Great Unknown. The road still holds a certain magic for me, an american in-between nowhereness, the place where all our dreams are stored.
So please join me in this celebration, and if the first words you utter this muddled year are “elevator ocelot rutabaga,” then good fortune will follow you for the next
These things I know:
I will be in Dallas on March 7th. I intend to go straight from there to San Jose. There’s a Polkacide concert on the 10th in Oakland that I don’t want to miss. Jet lag and punk polka! Yowza! I need to be back in Dallas on April… um… 8th, I think. Road Trip Day will indeed be celebrated on the road.
I will be in Catania, Sicily, on June 19th.
I leave from Catania, Sicily on June 26th.
I missed out on the 50-cent round trip fare from Prague to Sicily and had to settle for the $5 rate. Of course, after all the airport taxes and other crap were piled on, the tickets ended up costing quite a bit more than that, but still it was just too cheap to pass up. I’m crossing my fingers that Mt. Etna erupts while I’m in the neighborhood (current status is orange, whatever that means). Syracuse is not far, and I’d love to hear other suggestions for places to visit as well.
When booking the flight to Dallas, I looked at the price, decided I could handle it, and went on to make the reservation. On the next page a notification came up. “This is your lucky day! We found a lower fare for that flight!” The amount saved: almost exactly what the tickets to Sicily ended up costing with all the fees and stuff. My lucky day, indeed.
I sit now at Cheap Beer Place, sipping not-so-cheap tea, pondering doing something that could be interpreted as productive before the hokej play-off game starts. (Interestingly, Czech for “play-off” is play off. You’d think they would have grown their own word for it in the centuries before the ubitiquization of English.)
It was a good Road Trip Eve celebration last night, going long past the traditional midnight toast. At one point in the festivities I found lined up on the table in front of me beer, whiskey, and slivovice, and I knew that some brain cells weren’t going to live to see another sunrise. Today, as the survivors grow accustomed to having a little extra elbow-room, thoughts are moving slowly and wandering off course, like a sloth with attention deficit disorder.
It’s the kind of day televised sports was invented for. Today the Beers play Slavia. The Beers are down in the series one game to two, so this one’s important for the team to continue their cinderella run for the championship. This is their first trip to the semifinals since 1951. Go Beers!
Yes, tomorrow is Road Trip Day, the day we commemorate the beginning of Jer’s Homeless Tour — the epic journey fabled in legend and song, which began two years ago tomorrow. This year, since Road Trip Eve falls on the weekend, the celebrations promise to be even bigger than usual. Here in Prague, fuego and MaK are taking advantage of the fact that this is the one social occasion of the year that I cannot shirk, and they’re throwing a bash. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by!
For those new to the ranks of the muddled, April 2th, 2004, was the day the sale of my house in San Diego closed. I spent the night before that first day at Callahan’s, sitting at the bar, talking to Rose. I was watching the clock, and when midnight rolled by I said, “Wish me happy birthday.” Purely by coincidence, the first road trip day was also my fortieth birthday.
That afternoon, big chunk of cash confirmed, I packed up all the stuff I could fit into the Miata and drove away to look at the US for “two or three weeks” before moving to Prague.
Late that night found me in a little beach town in central California, hanging with friends, sipping good wine and eating good food, tapping out my first blog entry from the road. In two weeks I had made it as far as San Jose, and week three saw me (if recollection serves – sticklers for the truth can go look it up) at Lake Tahoe. Not really that close to Prague. Weeks passed, miles rolled by. Months snuck through there somehow as I trundled around North America, hanging with old friends, reconnecting with family members, falling in love with pretty bartenders, thinking, and writing. It was me, in my ideal environment: ample solitude, new places, new adventures, old friends.
Hopefully I can get back out there again someday — ideally as a book tour, but you have to publish a book first for that to make sense. It would be fun to have book signings in all the bars I wrote in along the way. Fun but not terribly profitable; I have been forgotten in most of those places by now, and the clientele in many of those places didn’t strike me as particularly bookish.
So wherever you are tonight, at a quiet little private celebration or the giant beerfest in Times Square, the tribal dances on the plains of the Serengeti or the wild street parties of Rio de Janeiro, mark moment with a toast and make your first words of the new year “elevator ocelot rutabaga.” It’s good luck.
Location: Grover Beach, just south of Pismo Beach in Central California.
I’ll not bore you with the details, but let’s just say moving out of a home you’ve occupied for ten years is like when you’re a kid and the snow is melting, leaving some really good mud to squish way down in, only to discover that you can’t get your boot out. I never knew how many clothes I had, especially since I don’t buy clothes very often at all. Triska’s last legacy.
The problem was exacerbated when I was told that the boxes I had packed to ship to Prague were too large. They didn’t really seem that large to me, but then no one asked me. Suddenly I had even more crap to take care of – I had already taken three large garbage bags of clothes to Goodwill. The break wasn’t as clean as I wanted it to be, then, as I must go back to take care of a few boxes, and some other junk. If I had stayed another day I could have got more of it done, but I was getting antsy to get out of there.
So, finally, on the road, car loaded with new luggage poorly packed, I almost missed the turn to go north on 5, driving on habit. Yesterday I was imagining that the moment I drove away to be one of euphoria or excitement, but instead I felt nostalgia, melancholy and just plain tired. I couldn’t help but think how much I had liked living in that house, and in San Diego in general. I stopped off at the Chevron on Birmingham and I wondered how much two twelve-packs of Sheaffer would cost these days. Certainly more than $9.10. I was not tempted to drive by the Emmadome multi-sport complex; I just jumped back on the freeway and rejoined the stop-and-go traffic.
LA was LA. I regretted moving out of range of KPBS, but then I found other stations. North of LA, when the scenery becomes spectacular, it was dark, but the drive from there on up was pleasant. Got a little lost finding the house (East Grand is west of Grand, which made me think I was going the wrong way, so I turned around and then I was going the wrong way.)
Got here just in time to have a single Birthday Guinness before it wasn’t my birthday anymore. Bushed, I went to sleep.
So the trip did not have that Hollywood “Vegas, baby! Vegas!” opening scene. It started in a contemplative mood, as a sequel might, which is perhaps more appropriate.