Leaving Colville, continued

Onward from Colville (rhymes with Smallville), dodging squirrels and following the Columbia River. I took it easy, watching for eagles and eagle food. I passed some fractured igneous rocks reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, then caught some big roads south to the Oregon border.

I drove on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge and was beginning to lament not finding photos opportunities where I could actually stop the car, when I had a chance to take leave of the Interstate and take the narrow, winding historic highway 30. Rule of thumb: When there are two ways to get from point A to point B, and one is far more efficient than the other, there is a great drive waiting to happen.

The day was soft—generally cloudy and often raining lightly. The roads were wet, not idea, for performance driving, which made it all the more pleasant to slow down and smell the moss. At lower speeds on a freshly-surfaced road, the motor purring, the tunes easily filling my little cabin, I was doing well. I tried not to think about my gas gauge flirting with “E”.

You know what you get when you have basaltic cliffs towering over a major river in a moist climate? Really cool waterfalls is what. Lot’s of ’em. I managed not only to curb my go-go-go instinct but I even doubled back once

—We interrupt this narrative to comment on the juke box in this little sports bar in a Portland suburb. Planet P is playing right now. Remember them? The song is “Why Me?” and the line that caught my attention was “He won’t be back this way ’till two thousand ten.” When that song was popular, that seemed like a long time away. Now it’s just about here. Wow.—

for a picture. I haven’t looked at the results yet. The shot I went back for I don’t think I got, though. I just couldn’t make what was in my head match what came out on the camera’s little screen. I’ve just got to keep practicing, I tell myself.

Now I sit, pen in hand, dangerously close to the pool table (some of these guys see to think it’s a contact sport), drawing curious glances from the locals. I think I’ll challenge the winner.

A couple of snaps from the road.

I finally got some semblance of a workflow to get my pictures from the camera to the blog (should have checked to see what software I had on the laptop before leaving — neither Canon’s nor Apple’s software can be downloaded). Anyway, here we go!

Misty Mountain, somewhere east of Seattle

Frozen Lake.

Black and white sure is artsy!

Ritzville Sunset

I’ll put up a larger collection over at the gallery once I have software that doesn’t suck for that sort of thing.

Keyless in Colville

I sit right now in the parking for Hearth & Home in Colville, WA. I am watching a couple of guys take my car’s passenger door apart. They are looking for a number — a secret number they can use to manufacture a new key for me. At the moment, you see, I have no key.

Just where did that key go? There’s no telling. The number of places it could have gone seems limited; there isn’t much that I did between having the key and not. Not having it has proven to be a more or less permanent situation, however. Fortunately my key is an old-fashioned low-tech one without chips and stuff inside, so given the correct secret code a replacement can be manufactured. But wither the code? Mazda would not give out the code over the phone (a pretty reasonable policy, really), but rumor had it that the code was stamped on the lock cylinder in the passenger door.

The guys from The Key Place are most friendly and helpful. Chalk it up to the small-town vibe (I have honestly not met anyone in this town who is not friendly and helpful), but if you’re going to be stuck and in need of less-than-routine service, this is a good place to do it.

* * *

On the road again, and everything’s fine. I now have not one but three keys.


4:30 p.m.

As I write this I’m wondering if I can slip out the window. I’m sitting in a cheap hotel room that has Internet access, and outside my door are two girls, one ten and the other eleven years old. They are bored. I talked to them. “You look like you would be fun to hang out with,” the younger one said. So much for ‘don’t talk to strangers’. They are out there, waiting to pounce. I’m hungry.

I stopped here for two reasons. First, the name Ritzville was such an obvious misnomer I just had to become an active participant in the non-ritziness. (I am far from a stylish and suave sort of guy.) Somewhere nearby is the Historic Center of Town, which is likely to be a far cry from ritz but potentially a good place to find my sort of bar. I’m sure I’ll have more to report later.

* * *

6:30 p.m.

Downtown Ritzville!

Ah, the incremental blog episode! I have wandered the Historic City Center and I can say that it’s pretty close to exactly what I expected, although based on the signage the area enjoyed a brief renaissance in the 1960’s. I was looking for a pizza place that had left a flyer in my room. They name their options after ammunition. Although Kate’s favorite cartridge in Dark War is the .40 Smith and Wesson, I was going to opt for the simpler .357 Magnum. Unfortunately, I could not find the pizza place. Considering that there really isn’t much of anywhere to hide, I suspect R2J2 is defunct. It’s hard to stay funct these days.

Instead I am at the legendary (just ask ’em) Circle-T Inn, a comfortable diner-like place; it’s easy to imagine that this restaurant hasn’t changed since the oldies playing on the radio were hits. I ordered pure Americana — an open faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes piled on top. I was just digging into it when the next set of customers arrived and I thought about the price one pays for a regular diet of this stuff. (One lady ordered a 12-ounce New York steak, baked potato with extra sour cream, and a diet coke.) After seeing them, I felt my waistline expanding with every bite I took. Every yummy, gravy-coated bite, until my plate was clean. This was no goo. This was food. The price was reasonable as well, even for the Alaskan Amber I washed it down with.

* * *

9 p.m.

“You want another?” Dave the bartender asked.

“Yes, I do,” I said, “but I’m not going to have one.” And so I departed the Whisperin’ Palms. As I looked back on the sign, I though it an odd Tex-tropics hybrid of a name to find in a small town in central Washington. In the bar there are no palms, and there is certainly no whisperin’.

There’s a difference between loud and boisterous — boisterous implies a certain joy of being loud. I was approaching the bar and I heard the voices inside, along with loud laughter that spilled into the deserted street. I hesitated, then walked in. The place is fairly large, but the booths were all empty. All the action was around the central bar, a squished horseshoe with the tender in the middle and the ragged assortment of drinkers arrayed around.

Downtown Ritzville!

I say ragged and perhaps that’s not fair, it’s not like the partons were grungy or dirty, hell, I was probably the only one there who hadn’t showered that morning. But there was something of the ragged about them, a feeling that these folks could make a little go a long way, a feeling that ‘used’ is synonymous with ‘broken in’. Probably I’m just romanticizing. Anyway, I walked in.

“Excuse me,” called out one of the regulars (they’re all regulars in places like that — except for the flies), “we’ll have to check your backpack.” There was general laughter. I wasn’t ready for this sort of welcome, usually the locals are happy to ignore me. Of course, now I know what I should have said. “Oh, you don’t want to know what’s in here,” I should have said. I just laughed along with the others and took my seat on the opposite side of the horseshoe. “We got a warrant,” another guy said. More laughter. “You got rolling paper, at least?” asked another. My hair has gotten long again. I’m a hippie.

I pulled out my pen and paper; the laptop I thought would have been too dissonant in that place. A guy pulling his hair out as he scratches with a ballpoint is a curiosity, a guy with a laptop is (at least in his own mind) doing important work. Whisperin’ Palms is no place to be doing important work.

Don’t ask what I’m drinking as I write this, and I won’t have to lie to you. The bartender asked what I wanted, and I knew that I was in Rome and I thought I’d roll with whatever the Romans brought me. “Beer,” I said. That was not good enough. “What kind?” Dave asked. “What you got?” “Well, Coors Light, Bud and Bud Light on tap, pretty much everything in bottles.” I allowed myself to hope. “Do you have anything like Sierra Nevada?” “No.” I did not order Bud Light, but beyond that I will plead the fifth. I had more than one.

A regular punched some buttons on the juke box, and music blasted forth with all due loudness. This was a bar for people who like to be inside the music as it replaces the air in the place. There was singin’ along. There were requests to turn up the volume. There was good happy loudness. As I write this, all the tunes have been ones I like. A song just came on that is our song (it doesn’t matter who ‘we’ are), and it’s probably a good thing that my phone could get no signal. Nations have been bankrupted by their monarchs getting a couple of beers in their bellies and picking up the phone.

“You drive up from California?” the cook just asked me. California plates parked outside, strange face, the math is easy. “What are you writing about, over there — if you don’t mind my asking?” “Playing around with a short story,” I said, which at the moment was true. “Are we in it?” “Not yet, but you might be.” He laughed. “As long as it’s not a murder mystery.” Big laugh from all, including me. I didn’t mention the above paragraphs I’d already written, and I felt a little dishonest about that, but I didn’t want to put a stink in the good atmosphere of the place. I liked it there. I liked the acceptance they offered me.

There are lots of Jerry’s in Ritzville. I met two of them tonight. One of them was particularly outgoing and accommodating. “You know, you should write about Ritzville,” he said. I’ve heard worse ideas, but I think I’d just end up doing another Centennial. Someone else is going to have to pick up the ball there. When the next Jerry arrived, First Jerry told me he knew all about the history of the town.

I was pretty much done with the place when First Jerry came over to my stool. I wasn’t ready for a sustained conversation, but just then Johnny Cash started singing about the Battle of New Orleans. I started to spew Battle of New Orleans trivia, and First Jerry stopped me. “Can I just listen to the song?”

I shut up. I’m glad he stopped me. Often enough I’ve wanted to say the same thing to the people around me. Our conversation (never sparkling) did not recover, and First Jerry moved on. It was time to go.

Deer Creek Bar and Grill

The Miata, almost exactly where I left it at the end of the homeless tour.

On the way over the hill to collect the Miata, John pointed to a place we had eaten at some unknown time ago. “Nobody seems to be able to keep that place open,” he lamented. We discussed why that might be, my theory being that although it is on a busy highway, it’s not near anything. When you’re on you way to somewhere, you don’t want to stop half-way, no matter how picturesque the destination. The place needs to be a destination in its own right to succeed here.

We discussed various gravity-enabled entertainment options – I started with a water slide but then figured that would be difficult in the current water-aware political environment. John suggested other lubricants for the slide (glycerine and KY). We went through some other ideas to make the place successful. When I suggested a bar with an attached hotel that forces patrons to spend the night if they drink too much (at an exorbitant rate), John wondered out loud just why it was we weren’t rich yet.

Looks nice out there, but I’m inside.

After one minor navigational snafette (In czech, snafuček) and a bit of an electrical infusion the Miata was purring like a 500-lb kitten, the top was down, and I was ready to drive. The first stop was supposed to be the DMV, but I wanted to run the alternator a little more before shutting things down. I’ll take care of that driver’s license thing later. I drove back south, up the winding road that connects San Jose with Santa Cruz, enjoying the light traffic, revving things a little higher than necessary to turn the alternator a bit faster. At the top I figured there must be enough electricity in the battery for one start, so I pulled out at the restaurant that always fails for a little lunch.

This is a nice place. I am indoors, with a good view of the patio where I would like to be on such a beautiful day, and the wooded hillsides beyond. There are no tables out there, however. Service is friendly and efficient without being oppressive. I am taking advantage of that peculiar North American tradition of free refills on ice tea, and the caffeine is starting to hit my system. My chicken sandwich was tasty. Soon, though, it will be time to go out and see if the car starts. It’s going to be very inconvenient if it doesn’t.

The New Mini

I was discussing my plans with John the other day. I said I was going to go up to the Seattle area, then perhaps a couple of days in Colville (rhymes with Smallville), then working my way back down and ending up in San Diego before crossing the desert to New Mexico. All that in three weeks! I called it a “mini road trip”. He laughed.

I’m getting a little antsy, though, as I still don’t have a car. The guy with the keys has not gotten back to me. The guy who might know another way to contact the guy with the keys hasn’t answered my last email, either. I like it here, don’t get me wrong, but the road is out there.

My lucky day!

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.


Where are you from?

It’s a simple enough question, and most people have a ready answer. In general, the question could be rephrased “where do you call home?” During my childhood years through college, the answer was Los Alamos, New Mexico. Once I moved out to the west coast, I gradually changed from being from New Mexico to being from California. (This was partly a pragmatic move, as telling people I’m from New Mexico will confuse some folks, and there’s no explaininig it because they don’t even know they’re confused. So, I was from San Diego, unless the person asking also lived there, in which case the question can usually be phrased “where did you live before you moved to California?” In my generation at least, there proportion of native Californians to emmigrants is tiny. Everyone is from somewhere else. The fact I actually was born in California just adds to the ambiguity.

On the homeless tour, as I puttered around the back roads of North America, I usually answered “California” when asked that question, for simplicity’s sake, but as time passed my association of San Diego with home began to fade. Now, I life in Prague, but I am hardly from Prague. Now, when someone asks me where I’m from it can generally be translated to “What part of the US did you come from?” (People can guess my nationality quite easily. Shorts, facial hair, bad at speaking the local tongue: American.) Generally I answer California, because it has a semi-mythic image here, a strange paradise of palm trees, movie stars, beaches, and violent crime. Sometimes I say New Mexico, however, and generally people know where it is, even if they have no image to associate with it. It is a squarish area on the map, and is likely desert because it is next to Arizona, and probably has cowboys because it is next to Texas.

When I got back from Spain I let out a deep sigh and said, “it’s good to be home.” But what did I mean by that?

Neto’s Passtime Bar, Gila Bend, Arizona

I hadn’t planned on stopping today, but somewhere between Pistachio Rock and Gila Bend inspiration hit me head-on and I had to stop and do something about it.

It was one of those moments that catch you off-guard, although they seem to be more routine in the desert than elsewhere. I was driving into the sunset, in true western fashion, and let me tell you, it was one hell of a sunset. It started out subtle; the sky an ever-deepening blue, a few wispy clouds adding their own commas and question marks to the sky. I rounded a barren, jagged hill, and across the plain in front of me was splendor. Saguaros slid past, their arms akimbo in gestures of praise and wonder, standing in silhouette against the vibrant pinks and oranges that filled the western sky. Farther away the rocky hills became mysterious shapes, almost reminding me of things.

I spun the radio, and landed on a Spanish-language station without accordions. The next song that came on was achingly beautiful, a woman singing of sorrow in a language any human could understand. I will probably never hear that song again, and I will never know who the singer was. Like the sunset, it was just for that one moment and then gone forever.

The station fuzzed out on the outskirts of Gila Bend, but I decided to stop anyway. I found a hotel that advertised wireless internet and checked in. The signal doesn’t reach my room. The bathtub faucet was dripping — a sign of evil in this arid land — but I could not make it stop. I closed the bathroom door to at least shut out the sound, and realized I had a locked door between me and the toilet. The large Coke and 32-oz Gatorade I had consumed on my desert trek chose that very moment to make it known that their probation was up and they were ready to be released right now.

Back at the lobby to get a large paperclip to spring the door, I asked if there was a bar nearby, where I could sit, have a couple of beers, and maybe get some work done. The lobby staff exchanged a skeptical look. “Just down the street a couple of blocks,” the guy said, “there’s a bar. It’s the only bar in town.”

“Can I just sit in your restaurant and have a beer?”

“They don’t serve alcohol. There’s a circle-K across the street,” he added helpfully.

“Is the bar any good?” I asked.

The guy nodded, and got a confirming nod from the girl. “Yeah, it’s a good bar. I like it anyway.” Good enough for me. I had given him the opportunity to issue a safety warning and he hadn’t. Chances of getting beat up or knifed seemed low enough to take the walk up the road.

Now I sit in a long, narrow building constructed of cinder block, listening to “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”. There are no windows and no chairs that can be thrown in a fight. It is winter, and there is a large box fan set up on the table next to mine. Most of the light in here comes from neon beer signs (the only exception is a string of blue christmas lights), and almost everyone in here is sitting at the bar. The freight trains pass right outside the door, blowing their lonesome whistles through the security mesh and adding to the crooning of Patsy Cline doing a song I don’t recognize.

The only nice car in the parking lot belongs to a guy I assume to be the owner. Someone is wearing an obscene amount of perfume or cologne. I’ll sneak a picture once the locals have becomed accustomed to a guy being in the bar with a laptop. In a way, I feel like Diane Fossey with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. They will accept me, but I can’t do too much all at once.

Beers are two dollars and everything comes in longneck bottles. I won’t tell you what I’m drinking, but rest assured the word “lite” is not in the name anywhere. An obscure Stevie Ray Vaughn song has just come on the juke box and it’s time to order a second beer.

Time has passed, just how much I’m not exactly sure. I’ve been here, trying to put a short story out of my misery. A few minutes ago a longneck appeared at my table. “It’s from that guy over there, Gary,” the bartender explained. I thanked her and sent a toast Gary’s way when he finally looked over.

This is a very friendly bar. I have spotted chairs that could be thrown, but I will not revise the above description because I like it, and reality be damned. There’s a good vibe here, the oasis-in-the-trackless-desert vibe. We come from different places, we’re going different places, but at this moment we are together, bound by a common need. And at the oasis there is an eclectic jukebox, and there is joy.

Post-Amy Stress Disorder

I slipped out of San Diego without saying goodbye – just a short phone conversation during her lunch break. I don’t like goodbyes all that much – better just to slip out the side door and move on. I didn’t even wait for Rory to drive me to the airport. I was done with Ocean Beach, my home for the past week, and ready to move on. I was tired.

Physically tired, certainly, and mentally weary as well. It’s been a grinding couple of months, and my stamina has been sapped. Crashing on the sofa of a whirlwind who is trying to figure out if she has a boyfriend or not, who loves wine a little too much, and finds sleep optional is not how you regain your energy. Luckily this time around Amy was starting a new job – a square job with square hours. That meant we only stayed up way too late three-qarters of the time, and I had mornings to recover while she had to go to work. “Have fun,” I’d croak as she passed the sofa on the way out the door. Then I’d roll over and try to sleep some more. That only worked once.

Ocean Beach is a small neighborhood, and is geographically isolated from the rest of the city. That means it has managed to hang on to some of its small-town charm, and it means that if you don’t have a car lying around your options are limited. It wasn’t long until I well knew all the places of interest. There was the brand-new amazingly cheap café with free Internet, run by a really weird guy. There were other, swankier places with Internet, but not for free. Once I had locked Amy’s door behind me I spent my days in those places, trying to string words together, but, in my frazzled state, editing was the activity of the day.

Then it was off to the O. B. Grille, which became my office in the late afternoons when I had no place left to go. This is where Amy knew to find me when she got off work, finished her evening activities and negotiations with Cute Boy, and was ready to play. There was no question of sneaking in any writing later, The only thing that ended the evening was sleep.

Now, in the calm after the storm, I miss that wildness, the unpredictability that is Amy. She is a tiny little Las Vegas, a loud and constant invitation to excess, all bundled up and ready to travel. You know when she is there. As the night begins, there is anticipation. Amy is grinning ear to ear, only a little bit crazy yet, and the night extends before us, a journey into the unknown. Somewhere along the way someone says “one more,” and you know it’s not just one more, and someone has to be the designated walker or you’re not getting home.

Like Las Vegas, that sort of lifestyle can only be sustained for a few days before the brain goes into rebellion, shuts down, and leaves you for another head. When you part with Amy, the rest of the world seems muffled; your ears are still ringing after a sternum-thumpingly loud concert. Cowering behind their defenses, your synapses are still tender, still skittish. When a stimulus punches through the scar tissue it rasps across your raw psyche like a cheese grater. You jump, the look of a trapped animal in your eyes, and blurt out “One more!” You are suffering from PASD, Post-Amy Stress Disorder. It’s in the medical books. Look it up.

As I was driving through the desert my thoughts began to slide into their old grooves; a story was born, teased, and buried (one little bit stashed away for future use). There were too many cars for a Saturday. I sighed, relieved, disappointed, adrift, vaguely missing something, already looking forward to the next time I enter Amy’s world.

I’m a writer again

During the last weeks of non-stop prep work for filming, I have been so busy with technical details that even when I sit down to chronicle my adventure, I have been typing more than writing. I haven’t been able to get my head into that free-flow state, looking at things a little bit sideways, measuring the effect of the world around me on who I am. This morning, a full day of shooting behind me and with no clearly defined role in the remaining production, I felt myself slide into that happy place.

I was driving, enjoying the sweet clean air of the desert morning, tunes up loud, and the words started to come. I remembered experiences over the last few days that had meant little at the time, but now I could take the time to feel them.

Buggy asked me about it once. I don’t remember his exact question, but he wanted to know if writing about my road trip as I went along affected the way I experienced it. Was I detaching myself from an event as it happened, imagining how I would write about it later? Sometimes it’s true. There are times when, as I look at a sunset, I’m experimenting with different words to describe it. It’s like when someone goes to a museum and takes a picture of a famous painting, then moves on without looking at the painting itself. Sometimes I have to stop the little typewriter in my head and just enjoy things.

But I’ve missed that voice lately. I’ve missed putting words together just because they sound nice next to each other, and carry a little extra meaning. I miss putting a little more of myself than I’m comfortable with into my writing (which I don’t do very often anyway, alas). This morning I had the feeling again, and even as I write this I’m off in another place, reflecting on the last few underreported days.

Stay tuned.


Around the State

Time is moving just too dang quickly for me to put up an episode a day, so I’m trying a different approach and doing things by theme. Today’s episode is about driving around. You do a lot of that in New Mexico, and when you’re trying to get everything together for a movie you do even more.

Friday fuego and I went up to Santa Fe to meet with the Air National Guard. It was a good trip, and productive. We met with Major Bob, who was enthusiastic about the whole thing but didn’t have a whole lot of authority. He took is to meet Colonel Montoya, who has only a sketchy idea of what it was we wanted to do. We explained it, discussed location and altitude and other logistical issues. The good Colonel paused, thought, and said, “Yeah, I don’t see why not.”
out latest prop - a blackhawk helicopter
Ladies and gentlemen, out latest prop: A blackhawk helicopter. It will be at our disposal at oh nine hundred hours Tuesday morning for a flyby or ten.

So that was a good day. Yesterday we were on the road again, scouting locations for the b-cam to go to shoot some road, and taking stills to supplement the ones I had already taken for the opening title sequence. The morning was hot and bright when we reached Trinity site, the place where the first atomic bomb was detonated. The place is not open very often, and even if we couldn’t get anything interesting for the flick I was interested in seeing it.

In fact, there isn’t much to see except a bunch of other people standing around thinking that there isn’t much to see. The glass-lined crater has been filled in except for one part where a shed was build to expose one section of Trinitite – the name for the glass created there when the sand of the desert was melted by the blast. We moseyed over to the shed, where there was a door in the roof to provide a view of the crater. Instead we found the door shut, with a sign that said in effect, “This used to be a way to see the crater floor, but now it’s covered with sand in there, so neeners.”

Trinity Cleavage There is an obelisk at ground zero, and we spent several minutes waiting for a moment when we could get a shot without some other tourist standing next to the black volcanic obelisk. Everyone wanted their picture next to the thing, although no one read the inscription, or really seemed to consider what it stood for. It was just that there was nothing else to take a picture of out there. After a few minutes fuego did manage to get one without other people in it, but most of the time the place was like this picture.

White sands leading edge Trinitized and armed with photographs we hit the road again, heading down to White Sands to get some more beauty shots and to get pure clean gypsum sand between our toes. As we headed south we saw thunderstorms forming over Alamagordo and heading in the general direction of White Sands. Not ideal for our photos, but certainly cooler. After pausing in the gift shop so fuego could get a White Sands cap so he could be cool like me, we headed out to the dunes.

white sands We kicked off our shoes and tromped out while raindrops blew in on the gusting wind. There was a good chance we were going to get very wet. As the wind flowed over the contours of the dunes it created a halo of sand, softening the edges of the snow-white dunes against the threatening sky. Lightning would flash in the distance and the rumble of the thunder would roll across the desert for an improbably long time. We tromped around, took pictures (only a few of which didn’t suck) and generally had a good time.

funky rocket After White Sands we continued our research at Missile Park, part of the White Sands Missile Range. The folks were right friendly there. The museum was closed, but there is a little outdoor area with a variety of the rockets, missiles, etc that had been tested there. We took some pictures in case a pirate needed to come up with an anti-tank missile. The one pictured here was my favorite – it looks like it belongs in an episode of Speed Racer.

Finally we headed back north, back to the duke city, hot, clammy, coated with sunscreen and sand, and tired as can be. We stopped by Rudy’s house for Yet Another Location Crisis, and that left us all even more drained. I was in the perfect mood to go home and just read a book for a while, or work on edits to a short story. Instead we went over to Charles the First’s place to discuss the opening sequence. I’m taking it a bit easier today, trying to shed some of the stress I picked up last night.


A day on the road

The day was already warming up in Roswell when I woke up. It had never really cooled overnight. I took advantage of what might be my last Internet access for a while by checking up on emails and generally goofing around and then it was time to hit the road.

“Be Happy! You’re In Roswell!” proclaimed a billboard along highway seventy. I was happy, not for where I was but where I would be soon. The road. “Where’ve you been, old friend?” she asked as I rolled out of town. “It’s good to have you back.” The sun low at my back I headed out for Alamagordo and White Sands. There is no route between the two towns that is not scenic. I took the simple way, up the Hondo valley, through picturesque if decaying towns, cottonwoods lining Rio Hondo.

Ruidoso, nestled in the mountains, where gusty winds may exist, remains healthy based on income from Quarter Horse racing. I passed through for the first time in memory, waved hello, and on I went, into the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Past a little road called “A Little Road”, and down onto the desert floor. From there, south to White Sands to plunder the gift shop. There were no snow globes, but I found some other stuff to use instead. Then it was back north, to get a look at the inside of Wild Horse Mesa Bar. I was to join Rudolph and the bar owner there.

On the way back north, I stopped here and there along the way a series of pictures of landmarks that the pirates would pass on their trip, in case we needed something for a title sequence. I was late to the meeting, but it turns out the person the producer met with wasn’t the owner anyway. I did take some shots of the interior of the bar.

Once that was out of the way it was time to head north to Laguna Vista, nestled high in the mountains up toward Colorado.

It was a great drive, the air cooling as I climbed, and a small thunderstorm providing shade and color as the sun set – a good chance to return to the tradition of shooting pictures out the window while driving.

stackologist at work

It wouldn’t be a visit to Five O’clock Somewhere without a little rock stacking.

I give you Rock Stack 5.
Night fell, someone whacked a space ship into a comet, and all is well.

Farley’s, Roswell, NM

I considered filing this one under Bars, since although I spent the day on Pirate-related tasks, I didn’t accomplish much. I spent the morning writing, something I had been pining to do, and then I hit the road. I scouted some more roads, this time to the east of Albuquerque, looking for a better location for the shoot. The terrain just isn’t deserty enough; the only bar next to two-lane that I found was in distinctly alpine territory. I asked some bikers if they had any suggestions, but they couldn’t come up with anything close enough to the city. They were yuppie bikers, as so many bikers are these days, so really all they were familiar with were nice places that get crowded.

So it was I shifted into the second phase of my travels: PropQuest, a thin excuse for a road trip. There are a couple of key props that will make a big difference in the overall feel of the movie. They’re not the kinds of things that will be sitting on truck stop shelves, so I set out to find them. One of the props, I figured, if it existed at all would be in Roswell, NM, and this would be the ideal weekend to come down to visit, as this is the weekend of their UFO festival.

It was late in the afternoon when I got here, and the temperature was over 100 F. There wasn’t much going on at all in the blocked-off section of main street. A few vendors had booths up, but only the snow-cone guy was doing any business. I’ll try again tonight – there’s a parade at 9, after things cool off a bit. There were several UFO crap shops, but none had what I was looking for. Surely I’m not the first person to need a rubber alien suitable for putting in a jar of fake formaldehyde. I’ll try to find it online tonight.

Now I’m at Farley’s, a big place with reasonable prices. It’s a bit boomy in here, but all I really care about is the air conditioning. I’ve had so much iced tea I’m starting to vibrate with an audible hum. After I finish my green chile won tons I’m heading back to the hotel and an internet connection. Tomorrow: White Sands, to plunder the gift shop.


Dateline: Liptovský Hrádok, Slovakia

It was a pleasant trip down here yesterday. fuego did the driving, MaK the navigating, and I the passengering. To navigate in this country you have to know the names of every damn village and cottage between your start point and your destination — referring to roads by number at an intersection is rare, and using the same town name at two consecutive intersections also seems to be against the rules. Sometimes even when you do recognize a town name on a sign it’s difficult to tell what intersection the sign is referring to.

One wrong turn eventually led us to a little place whose name translated (with only a little license on my part) to “Snowville”. It was pretty and appropriately named. The snow was coming down hard as we went through, and it seemed that everyone in town was out with shovels. We got to see the village twice, as we reached a dead end at the far end of town. The road went on, but when we asked a guy if we could get through he said “maybe in a Jeep.”

Eventually we got here and settled in. This place is nice, and very inexpensive. We have the bottom floor of a house — two bedrooms and a fully-equipped kitchen — for less than $30 per night.

Once we settled in it was time to set out in search of pivo and a bite to eat. We quickly discovered that options are limited in L. Hradek. We walked down to the most center-of-town-like area and surveyed our options, but one place had the wrong kind of beer, one was an English-style Pub which was right out as far as MaK was concerned, and one was a not-so-special hotel restaurant. Finally we asked some people on the street where a good place to go would be. After much discussion, first directing us to one place and then another, we said we just wanted to go to a place to have a nice beer and relax. One of the guys took charge, and walked with us to a place very close to our little home away from home. The man said hello to everyone in the pub, including the kitchen help.

It wasn’t a fancy place at all, but it was comfortable. It is part of a hotel that serves a sports complex; I assume it is where teams stay when they visit. We sat, our beers came, MaK chugged hers in the Czech fashion, and we settled in for a nice meal. My dinner was excellent. While sipping my dessert beer I said to fuego, “You know what I like about this place? It’s not smoky.”

fuego looked around and noticed that there were no ash trays on the tables. It turns out we were in a non-smoking bar. fuego asked if this was a Slovak law, and the bartender said no, they just didn’t want people smoking in there. I honestly never thought I would find anything like that in Eastern Europe, where tobacco is a food group. When we were done we bought some beers to go and made the short walk back here, tired, happy, and not smelling of smoke. It was a good day.