Friday, October 29, 2010

Reprints: To Health With All of You

Reprints are essays written in another time and place, reposted in part because the archive holding them is going away and in part to remind me that I used to write pieces I enjoyed reading.  A new Reprint will appear each Friday until I feel like ending the series.

To Health With All of You was originally posted on February 5, 2004.

In 1937, O.C. Hartridge, founder of the Pedoscope Company, wrote about a device that was gaining popularity in the shoe stores of the world. "[It is] a valuable ally of the retailer. By enabling him to demonstrate the correctness of his fitting, it permits him to impress customers with the reliability of his service; and in those rare instances where people insist on having shoes that are wrong, it put the onus on them." No, he wasn't talking about the Brannock device, that most obscurely well known tool of the shoe trade. Hartridge was referring to the shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

Have you been to an airport in the last few years? Have you watched them put your luggage through the big scary machine with the Warning: Radiation! stickers all over it? The shoe-fitting fluoroscope is basically the same thing. It is an x-ray machine in a box…that you put your foot into…and then turn it on. Apparently, up through the early 1950's, children found this device to be quite the source of entertainment. A physician interviewed about his childhood experiences with the device recalled "going into shoe stores just to stick [his] feet in the machines: 'Seeing the greenish yellow image of your bones was great fun.'"

Although it is not possible to tell from my current state of footwear (or my frequency of church visits), I am all for a well fit sole. However, it wasn't until 1957 that the first states began to ban these misguided adventures into the high frequencies of science. Perhaps the Smithsonian curator Ramunas Kondratas captured the moment best when he said the shoe-fitting fluoroscope represented "the triumph of salesmanship over common sense and a lack of knowledge about the health consequences of certain technologies."

A triumph of salesmanship over common sense and a lack of knowledge about the health consequences of certain technologies.

That one resonates rather strongly in today's jumped up, technologically driven world. Cell phones on our hips when they aren't on our ears; Cathode ray tubes 30 inches from our optic nerve (how close are you to your monitor right now?);

And the insidious evil that is the levorotatory sugar.

The human body is capable of processing left-turning proteins (levorotatory) and right-turning sugars (dextrorotatory). The orientation is based on the direction of rotation a beam of light takes as it passes through the long axis of the crystal structure of the molecule. The takeaway, though, is that the body cannot process levorotatory sugars. Following that line of thought, if the body cannot process something, it passes through without the body extracting an useful energy from it, hence indigestible cellulose from salad. That means zero calories. It is probably a good thing that we do not typically find indigestible sugars in the foods we eat, or we would be constantly coming up short on our caloric intake.

Ah, but lest we forget: A triumph of salesmanship over common sense and a lack of knowledge about the health consequences of certain technologies. NutraSweet; the insidious evil that is the levorotatory sugar. Have you ever wondered why Diet Pepsi is a zero calorie drink? Have you ever wondered why people use the pink packets in their coffee?

There is a significant danger to consuming something that the body cannot process. What happens if what you ate (in this case the pink packet of "sugar") doesn't leave? The body cannot process it, and it gets stuck in there somewhere. Bang. You now have the fertile greenhouse conditions for cancer. Cancer, according to Merriam-Webster, a : a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis b : an abnormal bodily state marked by such tumors.

And so, as I look back at the second third of this century and shake my head at the insanity of shooting x-rays into your foot on a Saturday morning because you were bored waiting for Jimmy to bring the baseball bat, I am struck with an image. The year is 2041 and my Arizona driver's license has just expired. I am talking with the son of my nephew David. He wants to know why we attached signal emitting devices to our bodies at all hours of the day, why we hunched in front of electron guns, and what ever possessed us to consume levorotatory sugars. I look at him and shrug. In my mind I am thinking it was simply a triumph of salesmanship over common sense and a lack of knowledge about the health consequences of certain technologies.

Aloud I tell him, "Well…we didn't want to get fat, did we? That can cause health problems." 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ritual Consumption

I was going to write about ritual.  That is what I had on my schedule.  But when I sat down to write, my mind blanked out so I spent a few minutes just punching in whatever came to mind.  Fortunately it worked out:

  • Advertising works on me.
  • What’s with all the zombies.
  • I can write a thousand words on anything.
  • I have forgotten how to do calculus and this bothers me.
  • Is it ok to not finish something?
  • I am being willfully lazy
  • Connectivity
  • Tweetups are not people standing around posting to twitter from their mobile devices.
  • When the hell did I start drinking diet coke?  When did that happen?
  • I was going to write about ritual.

I have a difficult time maintaining rituals.  I don’t get sushi every Friday.  I don’t see a new movie every week.  I am not consistent about my workout schedule.  I don’t arrive at work at the same time each day.  I don’t have a meatball sub night, I don’t even have a Chinese food night even though my dinner is ordered and on the way.

Actually, tonight probably marks one of the last times I am going to succumb to just calling the Chinese food place and trying to keep it under $15 and 1000 calories.  Last year at my work there was a small push for a weight watchers club.  I joined, because why not...if it works great, and it point.  Well, it worked.  I lost a bunch of weight and haven’t gained it back.  That was a year ago.  In fact, since the program ended I have lost some extra weight and would feel better about it if I wasn’t coming off of the most party-filled October in living memory.

We had some vendors in town this week who pushed our tables around in the cafeteria and threw off everyone’s lunch schedule and routine...or should I say ritual.  When I look at my day to day life, the only consistent items are my breakfast (two english muffins with two sparse bits of butter...a little carb, a little crispy, a lot delicious) and when I try to eat lunch (and with whom).  These vendors monkied that all up and I ended up sitting with the program management people about thirty minutes off my schedule.  To top it off the cafeteria only had one thing available, a free salad bar.  

Free.  Great.  Actually, no.  Tarp.  Free salad bar is a god damn Tarp, Admiral Akbar.  Just because something has the word ‘salad’ in it doesn’t make it good for you.  Six ounces of chicken, two handfuls of spinach (I used the tongs but two tongfuls of spinach sounds creepy), two kinds of cheese, and other assorted awesome things later I had a delicious creation and had blown through most of my points for the day.  Yes, I still semi-track my points, I just don’t go to meetings.  Weight watchers is just self-control and math.  I am good at math and ...well, I am only ok at self-control.  Anyway, all this led to a conversation with the program management people and that was when they pointed me at one of the products a vendor was schlepping:  prepared meals.

Specifically Diet To Go, but beyond the specific brand, I was fascinated by the concept.  As I told the people at lunch, I subscribe to a prepared meals system just happens that the people putting together my dinner work at Chipotle, Panera, and Glory Garden.  Diet To Go would let me pick up meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a place very close to me...on the way home in fact, much like the aforementioned establishments.  The price per meal ends up being less than I am spending now and the system has a fair but regimented caloric total.  Actually, the calories per day are a touch higher than I should be at right now, but the difference between “should” and “ehhhh just be better this weekend, nom nom nom” means the math would likely work out on my side.

The unasked for assault upon my willpower to behave should be the easiest fight on the planet.  A Little Caesar’s opened up nearby recently and they are shitting out pepperoni pizzas for $5.30 (after taxes).  And it isn’t good pizza.  I know it isn’t good pizza, you know it isn’t good pizza.  Everyone knows.  But what the hell.  Five bucks and a shout of “Pep Out!” and boom, you have something that will be edible for the next sixty minutes.  And I have tried all sorts of ways to cheat around the fact that it takes all of twenty minutes to stroll through eight slices.  There was a week where I convinced myself that scrapping all the cheese and pepperoni off onto a plate in some sort of cheesy casserole (A cholesterole according to a friend) was acceptable.  There are some rituals that should not be.  Bowing to bad bad choices late at night for no acceptable reason is one of them.

Against all of that I am going to pit this Diet To Go thing.  Of course, I have secret motives for all of this.  If the money math works I end up saving.  If the calorie math works I end up losing (weight).  And if the food is good I end up holding on to some sort of ritual.  I’d like to lose another fifteen pounds, and I keep meaning to put in the miles (I was so good last week!), but the sun keeps slipping out early and catching the first train home in the morning.  Soon the rains will start and the real battle to pound the pavement will begin.  If I can button down a few loose ends maybe I will have an easier time fighting that fight this winter.  Regardless, it is still October and I am geeking out this weekend, so all of this ritual starts next week.  Honest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Superhero Date Conundrum

“She is completely amazing.”

“Her name is Lady Change, I think she can look as hot as she want at any given time.  And besides, you have to look good to wear a cape, I think that might actually be in the city’s bylaws.”

“No I mean...yes, of course she looks great, but it’s more than that.  She...she...sigh.  Everything she does is amazing.  Like that time...”

“She is a superhero.  Again, it comes with the territory.  Mind you, she has the power of a chameleon so it isn’t like she is going to save people from burning buildings or tackle Brickhouse.”

“You don’t need super strength or invulnerability to be a great superhero.  Look at the Living Flame, he didn’t have any of that and...”

“And he ended up dead in the East River, if I recall correctly.  Your Lady doesn’t mix it up is all I am saying, she has a polished public persona...”

“She connects with her fans.”

“Her publicist replied to you on Twitter, I don’t think that counts.”

“That was a verified account!”

“Easy, easy.  Ok, the love of your life, Lady Change, replied to you on Twitter, once.  Big deal.”

“She is completely amazing.”

“And we are back to this.”

“Hey I was having a really crappy Monday until that happened.  She saved my day, literally.”

“And you haven’t shut up about it for three hours.  Look, she is dating what’s his name, anyway...Vapor Trail.  You don’t have a shot even if you do live in the same city.”

“Bah, everyone knows Vapor Trail is just trying to make Miss Magnet jealous, the relationship won’t last.  It’s just for show.”

“Honestly, where do you find the time to keep up with all that crap.  It wouldn’t matter if she was single, you don’t have a chance.  You can’t date her.  You aren’t a superhero.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“How dense are you?  Only superheroes can date other superheroes.”

“Says who?”

“...Says...physics...look, Miss Magnet right?  Powers over all thing magnetic.  Do you think she has an iphone?  An ipod?  A credit card?  No.  She doesn’t have any of that because if she did it would be a useless piece of junk in seconds.  So say you are out on a date with her, she isn’t going to pay...she doesn’t have any money on her.”

“She could be carrying cash.”

“Not in that outfit.”

“I could be carrying cash.”

“Where are you going to eat?  Just grab a table somewhere?  She is going to trash every piece of equipment in the place just by walking to her table, so forget going out to eat ever.  Or going to a club.  Nope, it’s delivery, every night, forever.  Reading books by candlelight.”

“That sounds romantic.”

“No TV, no radio, no Netflix, no Xbox, no Twitter...I hope you love her because it is just you and her...can’t have friends over.  It’s a nightmare.  I think I am starting to see why Vapor Trail is with Lady Change.”

“Ok, well that is just Miss Magnet, it doesn’t mean it can’t work with someone else.”

“Really?  Ok...let’s see...super strength, death by hugs.  Super speed, probably give you fatal concussion in bed.  Sound powers...blown eardrums.  Flying...”

“How is she going to kill me with flying?”

“She isn’t, but she sure is hell isn’t going to carry you all over town.  Your whole relationship will be surrounded by the words ‘See you in about an hour’ because it will take you that long to get anywhere.  Meanwhile she could have flown to the restaurant, had dinner, and called it a night already.”

“You are picking the worst case scenarios and hanging everything on that.  I could date Lady Change.  All she does is change into things.  Nothing about that is dangerous.”

“Well then consider for a minute all of the crazy crap that surrounds superheroes.  How many times has Lady Change and Vapor Trail been in the news lately...other than the gossipy stuff?”

“Well there was that thing at the U.N...and uh...the airport thing...and I think they were up in Boston for something but everyone was really vague on the details.”

“So, three times in the past...two weeks?  And that is just the stuff we hear about.  How many crazies and nutjobs, excluding love-struck fanboys such as yourself, try to take shots at capes every week?  Plenty.  If you dated a superhero you would just get caught up in the crossfire.  You’d become some sad little raison d’etre for your superhero to go from Lady Change to Lady Hunger or something.”

“That’d be cool.  I would be a part of history!”

“You’d be dead!  Or hideously wounded or insane or both or all three.  Superheroes only date superheroes.  Sorry, buddy, that is just the way it is.”

“No, wait! What about the ones with secret identities?  I could be the man in her normal life, constantly looking the other way just in time or wondering why she keeps going to the bathroom or something.  All the while she is saving the day leaving me completely unaware of her super identity.”

“Two problems.  One, you are living a lie.  You aren’t dating a superhero at that point, you are dating the librarian or the shop clerk or whatever.  You could be doing that now except you are too chicken to ask anyone out.”


“Two.  Do you really want to be the primary source of conflict in her life?  If you don’t know she is a superhero then she has to spent countless hours keeping that from you.  She has to rescue you from ridiculous situations every month.  She has to pretend not to get jealous when you start falling for her superhero persona, because you will.  You will be used as a lever against her and she will have to make all sorts of banal choices that she would otherwise not have to make if you just knew.  Which is why superheroes only date other superheroes.  The Brickhouse isn’t going to capture Vapor Trail and hold him hostage...he’s made of freaking mist.  You on the other hand...”

“She really did reply to me on Twitter.”

“True love, buddy.  It must be true love.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reprints: Seek Alternate Route

Reprints are essays written in another time and place, reposted in part because the archive holding them is going away and in part to remind me that I used to write pieces I enjoyed reading.  A new Reprint will appear each Friday until I feel like ending the series.

Seek Alternate Route was originally posted on August 25, 2004.  It recounts, with a short pre and post amble, a recorded series of pre-Twitter updates around a cross-country trip taken from Phoenix, Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts in July of 2004.


Moving, as evidenced by my timeliness, takes a lot out of me. That is to say, it replaces whatever it took with an abundance of procrastination, laziness, and righteous blinders that declare a to-do list with two items checked off a full day’s work. To foreshadow, I nearly undid in three days time what took my chiropractor ten months to accomplish. However, beyond the near passing of the fleeting phase in life wherein we all have healthy backs, everyone involved survived in tact. Even Dave, after playing games for an hour with my seven year old niece. I am getting ahead of the story, however. My latest sojourn began on a Tuesday…


My last day ends with very little left undone, I hope, and I putter around before heading to the airport. It is only a few minutes away from my apartment in Phoenix. When I drove Leigh to the airport after she helped me move, we took the long way around, as I was yet unfamiliar with just how close the facility was located. A year has flown on me again and I chuckle at the memory, a map of the greater metropolitan area printed clearly in my mind. Dave has no trouble with his flight and the city greets him with lovely one hundred and five degree weather. So lovely, that we retire immediately to an Appleby’s for appetizers and iced tea. Dave has agreed to join me in my quest to cross the country, and has also signed on for the inevitable onerous task of loading my truck.


When I say truck, what I mean is a twenty eight foot trailer that arrives five hours later than anticipated. The upside is that we do not load during the peak hours of the day. The down side is that we finish all but a few items at roughly midnight. Three hours in, Rich, who was out investing in his hobby of paying people to make his truck work, arrives and contributes a fresh back and arms to the chore. Eventually, Rich makes his goodbyes, as, unlike some people, he has work in the morning. One last upside, we come in four linear feet under the estimate, saving considerable money on the endeavor.


The original plan calls for an early morning departure. … After several minutes of convincing, my arms and back once again respond to mental command. It will be a late start, so late that we are still there when the carpet people arrive and clean the carpets. All is good though, the car is packed, we have supplies, maps, planned routes, and a mini-tape recorder to capture the adventure…

“All right, Dave and I are taking off from Phoenix, … Late… it is 12:30 on Thursday the 22nd of July, 2004. And we are headed to Boston, it is going to take us about five days. And because we are headed out pretty late today, we wanted to get going early today, but, uh, heheh, yeah…cleaning my apartment and moving everything took a lot more work than we thought it was going to and the truck arrived late so we got started late, but uh, we might not make Amarillo Texas today, we are headed for it from Phoenix. It’s about a plus eleven hour drive And I don’t know how far our energy reserves are going to take us. We should be able to clear at least all of New Mexico, we might stop on the Texas border. And then we’ll see. The plan originally was Phoenix to Amarillo Texas, Amarillo Texas to Greenville Illinois, from Greenville Illinois to Wilmington Ohio where Chris and Ellen and the kids live. From Wilmington Ohio to Allegany New York, hometown, mom and pop, and then from there up to Lynn in time for a game of Babylon 5 with the boys. So. How are you feeling Dave? [Ehhhhhh] Yeah, that about describes it. Ok, I’ll be checking in here again, trying to keep a record of this alright, heading north on 17 noon lunchtime traffic, yay Phoenix.”

“Alright, It’s about ten of three. We just ate at Quizno’s in Flagstaff. Gassed up, heading out on 40 east which we will be doing for a couple days. We burned a lot of energy, a lot a lot of energy, getting out of the greater phoenix area. The valley is only at about three thousand feet Flagstaff is at about six, seven thousand feet, we used up quite a bit of gas. That is obviously indicating that we are carrying quite a bit of load, so hopefully our luck will hold now that everything is a little more flat. It’s about to become very very flat. So anyway, near on three o’clock, about to head east from Flagstaff, and everything else is going ok. Got good tunes going and we are all fed and watered so yehaa.”

“So its about 115 miles from Phoenix to Flagstaff and about 320 miles from Phoenix to Albuquerque and we are going to pass Gallup and Grant on the way if I remember correctly. It’s a pretty desolate desolate land. Trip counter 138.”

“It’s about 5:18 and we are just pulling into New Mexico, about 4 miles outside of Gallup and about 70-80 miles away from Grants where we are going to gas up and continue on. We are continuing our discussions about the Cthulhu larp which is what all these nonsensical notes previous to this between lunch and now have been about. Things going on well. Light traffic, nothing but trucks and us, really, beautiful sky, no storms out there, a lot of clouds but nothing really nasty for the most part.  Looks good. Gas mileage has dropped down a bit it is a lot better than it was coming out of Phoenix but I am still a little curious. It’s been down, we are over a half a tank out which would be about 6 gallons and we are looking at about 160 miles on that …not too hot to trot, but eh, oh well, car hasn’t been doing any long hauls in a while so it is not really used to it. Engine temperature’s fine, only time we ever peaked up was going uphill out of Phoenix. RPM’s steady, just under half a tank of gas, looking good.”

“Ok, it’s about 6:20, gassed up at Grants. Got combos, some cooler ranch, still have good liquids, just put uh another 7.9 gallons in.  Trip counter right now says 238.9 and I am resetting to zero.”

“224 miles to Tucumcari where I think we are gonna call it for day one. That puts us about 100-120 miles west of Amarillo our original target. Day 1 was supposed to be an eleven hour road trip from Phoenix to Amarillo, day 2 a 13 hour road trip from Amarillo to Greenville Illinois. What’s probably going to happen is we will redistribute those two hours into day two which would make it a 15 hour trip. We’ll cut that back to a 13 hour trip and probably drop off in Rolla or someplace before St. Louis and then we’ll make the seven hour day three trip into an 8-9 hour day three trip. Still get us to middayish to Wilmington, plenty of time to hang out with the kids and have a good time. Especially if we get going early on day three. We’ll see. Right now, it’s cool, we can see the end of the road, it’s three and a half hours to Tucumcari.”

“License plates, forgot all about em. California, Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, so far. And Texas…I saw a Texas.”

“License plate: Missouri! … Also known as Missoura.”

“State: Michigan”

“State: Nevada, and a personalized license plate no less.”

“State: Utah, yehaaa”

“License plate: US Government. By the way, following the guys from Utah. Not at a very discreet distance, though”

“State: Worshington…(it’s Washington)”

“I think we hit it already but Arkansas, I think it’s actually the same red car as last time. We just passed Albuquerque, heading through the mountains to Cuma cumo whata [Tucumcari] Tucumcari! Riiiight, they are just making these names up. Oh yeah, and there is a storm rolling in ahead of us but it shouldn’t create too much of a problem. It’s a quarter to eight and we only have a couple hours to go.”


“Alright. It’s Friday morning, it’s about 9:30. We are checked out of the hotel. We stayed at a Day’s Inn, got charged too much. But it was necessary, we were pretty beat tired by the time we got to…to, uh,…Tucumcari, that’s it, and we are gassed up in Tucumcari and we are headed to (sigh) we’d like to hit Amarillo, but that’s a little whoa whoa whoa, we are going to hit Amarillo, but we’d like to hit Greenville, but that is going to be a little far. So we are probably going to stop short probably St. Louis something like that. But, it should be a decent trip, Dave is picking up drinks right now inside, we are all gassed up, put another 8.26 gallons in, expensive stuff but only 86 octane which is kinda cheapo. Let’s see what the trip counter says, mileage is 99601 but the trip counter is 256 miles on about whatever the last marker was so mark 256 miles and resetting trip counter. Ok, and we’ll be checking in when I hit 100,000 miles on my car. License plate: Nebraska.”

“Picture: The lands beyond Tucumcari.”

“License Plate: South Carolina”

“Annnd we just hit Texas. Wooohooo eh heheh however, exit zero [Hahahaha, That’s a good start]. That’s a great start. Um, [ (reading) Drive friendly, the Texas way] Oh, it just gets better and better [Hahahaha]. So, we are not going to stop for very long in Texas, cause we are going to drive straight through. Yeah, that’s the plan.”

“Oklahoma license plate, OK.”

“License plate: Rhode Island, License plate: [Here] Got it. O-hio. As the Texan tried to kill us.”

“License plate: North Carolina. God, I love truck stops, though these aren’t from trucks. These are from cars. Actually, I don’t really like truck stops, they are just convenient. We are going east. Alright, so, we just got food, we didn’t gas up, we’re outside, er, just leaving Amarillo Texas, yehaa, and we are continuing east toward the Texas Oklahoma border.”

“License plate: Florida. And we’re in Texas!”

“We just passed the largest cross in, I guess, the Western Hemisphere, it’s pretty funny, and this is a good song.”

“Alright, well we stopped in a little place called Alan Reid Texas which has about everything you could possibly want, it is about the size of my backyard in Allegany. Let’s call the mileage 175, that’s about right, and we dumped another six and a half gallons into the tank. Then, we moseyed on out of there and we are closing in on the border to Oklahoma. And it looks like I will actually get to celebrate 100,00 miles outside of the state of Texas, so yehaa.”

“It’s ten after one and we have just have just entered the state of Oklahoma. Goodbye Texas.”

“Oklahoma started with exit 1.”

“By the way, we are getting rained on something fierce, outside of about 50 miles outside of Oklahoma city. And it looks like a lot of people out here don’t have the right kind of tires, or don’t know how to drive in the rain.”

“License plate: Indiana, where obviously they don’t use turn signals either.”

“Passed 100,000 miles on my car, yehaa”

“Alright, we’ve pulled into someplace between Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, [Chandler] Chandler! Chandler Oklahoma, versus Chandler Arizona. And gassed up with another 7.7 gallons and mile marker is at 235. This is adding in the 15 miles, it says 223 but it should actually say 235, and trip. Ok.”

“License plate: Kansas, also no turning signals.”

“Ok, we are passing out of Tulsa, it’s about 10 after 5 and we are headed for Joplin Missoura. Check that we are actually just coming in to Tulsa I thought we had dodged around the side of it and we just crossed the Arkansas river.”

“Ok, so, apparently, when we crossed out of New Mexico we went into Central Time, so, it’s actually 6:15 now, instead of 5:15 that we thought it was a moment ago. But, we are still crossing through the middle of Tulsa. 6:15 Central Time.”

“State: Illinois”

“License plate: Cherokee Nation. Very cool.”

“License plate: New York. Just crossing, wait, are we actually in Missouri yet? [Not quite] Not quite, I think we getting very close.”

“I do think we have just crossed into the state of Missouri, a state to which I have never been. It is twenty to eight according to Central Time. Yup, there it is, Missouri has welcomed us. And Oklahoma, we bid you a fond adieu. You are a very boring state.”

“As a note, Missouri is already far more interesting to look at than Oklahoma. A bit of a roll to the hills and there is a lot of green. Joplin looks very nice. Driven through several storms since we have gotten here. Nothing terrible, nothing that has just followed us or we’ve followed. Mostly just side squalls that we seem to be running into. Plenty of lightning, plenty of rain. But, it looks like the drainage is fine, the car is running fine.”

“Alright, Springfield Missouri, which is arguable the home of the Simpsons. 7.65 gallons of gas into the tank. Trip counter says 239 resetting to zero now. And, we just ate at a Hardy’s. And had, they are called the thickburgers, two and a third pounds each, two slabs of one third pound burgers, bacon, tomatoes, and onions, which Dave took off because he doesn’t like that stuff. And lettuce, and they were quite good, and the fries were generous. We ordered a medium, and they were generous. The whole meal cost us $17 and it was well well worth it. Ohhff. It was fantastic food. We are thoroughly filled up. We are 114 miles away from Rolla plus the mile and a half it is going to take us to get back to the 44 east. It is 9:16 on Friday night. What is today? The 23rd of July, 2004? Yeah. Alright, see ya in Rolla. [Yup, sure is.]”

“State: Michigan, State: Oregon. We are looking for a place to stay in Rolla.”

“Against my…nature…because I typically just jump at the first thing, we are passing Rolla by. Apparently there is a huge conference of volleyball teams here for some sort of tournament and whatnot. That means the cheapest hotel around is about just under $75 and we think we can do better than that. So we are going to head out past Rolla and see what we can find.”

“It’s a quarter after eleven and I am feeling fine.”

“So, we are staying at the Finn’s Motel, in Salem Missouri which is about four miles down the road from Rolla. Got the room for forty bucks plus tax came to about forty-four bucks. Cars parked right out front. Got the alarm on the car. Got a stick in the room, it’s a motel and there’s sketchy people about, who knows. But, as long as they don’t have a gun, I can take care of anything. Alright, air conditioner is on, and we are calling it a night. Didn’t check the trip counter, I’ll get it in the morning. Good day today, Dave? [Not bad] Not bad, not bad he says. Alright, goodnight.”


“We’ve just started again in the morning. It’s, uh…Saturday morning…yeah Saturday morning, which makes it the…24th of July, 2004. We dropped another 4.83 gallons in the tank, we were only halfway down or so. And mile marker says 126 miles, resetting to zero now. We are in the town of Salem Missouri, having bypassed Rolla last night because of the presence of an abundance of volleyball teams, meaning that all reasonable hotels were taken. As I said last night we got a good place for like forty bucks, decent sleep, pillows left a little to be desired, I should have gone out to the car and grabbed my old pillow, but nobody broke into the car during the night and for the most part it was just filled with weird dreams that’s all. Did you have any weird dreams? [Yeah, I can’t remember them exactly] Most of mine involved high school reunions and dinner parties associated with them. Very very odd because I don’t remember Erik going to high school with me. [Hmm] So we are getting back on 44 east, headed to St. Louis, St. Louie. And apparently we are going to be driving nearby the arch. Today is going to involve some actual navigation. As in, changing routes more than once as I think we are going from 44 to 55/70 or something along those lines. [Yep, I believe that’s correct] And then from there up through Illinois punch through Indiana, and we are into the edge of Ohio. Our destination is Wilmington which is halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus. Cincinnati being on the very west border and Columbus being down there in the middle. We are going to stop off there, hang out with my nieces and my nephew, and my sister-in-law Ellen. Probably go get some good Mexican food. A good Mexican place, which apparently on Saturday nights has a mariachi band so that’ll be thoroughly entertaining. And then in the morning head off to Allegany. But right now we are 94 miles to St. Louis and looking good.”

“Not sure if I mentioned it, but it’s about 8:30 in the morning. I advanced the clock, it’s actually 7:30 in the morning where we are at. But, I figured, our frame of reference is the car anyway, so we can call it whatever time we wanted as long as we know what we are doing. So I am calling it 8:30, when really its 7:30, but in Ohio, it’s 8:30.”

“About time we see the American institution of armadillo road kill. It’s been a while, not a lot of road kill out west, not a lot of animals. Which is one of the reasons why most people don’t travel with their high beams on at night because they don’t need the stopping distance to dodge all the animals. Well, they have never been to New York. Well, now I have finally seen what I have been looking for for the last day, which is the dead armadillo on the side of the road.”

“I don’t recall if we got it already, but last night, License plate: Indiana.”

“License plate: Pennsylvania.”

“Fantastic fantastic, State License plate: Iowa, alright.”

“Pretty sure but I think we have Utah. And we definitely do now, but license plate: Utah.”

“Alright, well, we just crossed the Mississippi River. First time for me. I just saw the arch, the St. Louis Arch that is. Now we are in Illinois, and we are headed to uh, well we are headed through Illinois up 55/70. And yay for crossing out of the west and maybe someday I will go back there, maybe not. Good to be back east again, though. Oh, and as an addendum to crossing the Mississippi, M-I-S-S-I-P-P-I, it is ten a.m. and we might actually be in uh eastern time [Uhh], Illinois is very very odd it has…er no is it Indiana, I think that has very very odd sections. By the way Ben Franklin really mucked around with this state.”

“My guess is we are central until we get to Ohio. Something seems to ring a bell that hopping over the line from Cincinnati to points west jumps a time zone, but that’s because Indiana is pretty curious.”

“And we are just passing the…no, it must be the baseball stadium, because the football stadium is covered. So that has got to be the baseball stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals which would be the home of the steroid popping home run slugger there McGuire, until I think he got traded or something, but anyway, yay landmarks.”

“License plate: Tennessee”

“Bonus for stopping at a travel plaza to grab some supplies. License plate: Wisconsin. So, great news there. We’ll see what else we get on the way out.”

“Ok, remember that huge cross we apparently passed? Well, we just ran into another one. And, yeah, it looks exactly the same. In fact, exactly the same. Same materials, little bit different stuff lying around but it is the same design. Interesting [Putting them up randomly in various places?] Or maybe this is where they build them, that’d be kinda funny. Anyways, we are at exit 159 in route fii where are we 70 east in Illinois? Big huge cross looks just like the one in Oklahoma.”

“Alright, we are somewhere in Illinois. Just stopped for gas, put about 6.2 gallons in. And, mileage marker says, trip counter, 196 miles resetting now. Cool.”

“It was Effingham, we stopped in Effingham. I knew it was an interesting name I just couldn’t remember it for some odd reason. Effingham. Eastward ho.”

“License plate: Colorado.”

“License plate: Maryland.”

“Excellent, license plate: Maine. Way to go Maine. That was one that I didn’t think we were going to get.”

“Welcome to Indiana. Time is twenty to one according to our internal clock here. We just passed exit one. Oh, true. If we just hit Indiana, then all time is now right. Any uh, how does that line in the Hitchhiker’s Guide go? All… [Normality has now been restored therefore anything you cannot deal with is your own problem.] Quite right. Quite right. So, exit 1 Terre Haute, which we are driving right on by, we have a full tank of gas. Twenty to one, Eastern Standard Time, and we are headed to Williams… [Daylight] Eastern Daylight Daylight Daylight, oi I tell ya. Ok, 70 east, next stop Indianapolis.”

“License plate: Virginia. Excellent. Seventy three miles from Indianapolis about 173 from Cinci.”

“License plate: Georgia.”

“License plate: Kentucky.”

“Just passed a sign for the Veal Insurance Company. In case you really were concerned about the likelihood of you losing your veal. Veal Insurance Company. Go Indiana. Actually we are just outside of Indianapolis headed toward Cincinnati Ohio, where if we were hungry we could get skyliners, but we are instead going to plow through in preparation for Mexican tonight.”

“Just crossed over Brandywine Creek in Indiana. Approaching Indiana Downs, they race horses here.”

“Yeah, they certainly do race horses here. That’s a very very lush uh uh area the greens what do they call it? I have listened to a bunch of Dick Francis novels and I still get it all messed up. But that looks, heh, certainly isn’t far off the road. Looks like a fun place.”

“Ohio has welcomed us! We just crossed into Ohio, we are about 20 miles outside of Cincinnati, it is ten after three. I called Chris and he started to tell me that we should have come in on 70 or something. I’ll just have to show him what Mapquest said. We are looking fine. We got a change off too, when we get to Cincinnati, and then we are off to Wilmington.”

“License plate: Mississippi. Alright.”

“License plate: Massachusetts.”

“If we didn’t have it already, License plate: Tennessee. And I do believe, barring Washington DC, that completes..No we are missing Alabama. We do need Alabama. Other than that we have the south. So, Tennessee. And we have just left Columbus it is 3:35 and we are making a quick pit stop [Cincinnati] Oh, I’m sorry, we have just left Cincinnati, and it is about 3:35 and we are making a quick pit stop and then it is about 20-30 miles to Chris’s place.”

“Alright 8.6 gallons of gas. I actually got so excited that we are almost done that I forgot to do this. But, based on where we are, seventyeightyfour we’ve come seven miles, I think? [About] So that would put it at 260 miles, resetting trip counter now, not to add seven and 8.65 gallons I think.”

“We are at Chris’s and mileage is, lets see, trip counter says, 38.5, not resetting. And it is twenty to five.”

“Calling it a night in Wilmington. Just hung out with my brother Chris. We actually went through the entire tape and you know what? He was right. I don’t know what MapQuest was on about, but 70 essentially bisects the country and I could have taken that straight out of Indianapolis and gotten here about an hour earlier. Good to know now. So, we are going to crash here and then get going tomorrow probably around 9 o’clock, something like that. Try to get into Allegany around 4-5 o’clock. Played a little Hack n’ Slash with my nephew David and one of his friends. Got to see my two nieces. Dave was a trooper, and entertained Erin for quite a while. And other than that, don’t forget about the plus seven on the mileage tomorrow.”


“So we have just left Chris and Ellen’s and David and Erin and Martha Rose. We are headed back out onto 70. It is 9:15 in the morning on Sunday, July 25th. Destination Allegany. It is only about six and a half, seven hours away. We’ll do mileage when we actually gas up. Since we had no need to gas up and theoretically we could make it most of the way on one tank. But, we will gas up on probably the Ohio Pennsylvania border around lunchtime. Should be a pretty easy drive, get in around 4 o’clock or so. Probably do dinner with Brian down at Lakeview and the folks. We’ll check in a little later. I think right now we are looking for an Alabama license plate we haven’t found it yet, and I don’t know if I taped over it or not or if it got lost in the confusion. We reviewed the tape last night. We did see a license plate Cherokee Nation back in New Mexico? No it must have had to have been Oklahoma [Yeah had to have been Oklahoma] Oklahoma. So I wanted to make sure that was down there for the record, License plate Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma on day two, I think it was [Yeah]. Alright, that’s set, see you at the next stop.”

“License plate: New Jersey. I was wondering when we were going to get that one.”

“License plate: Quebec.”

“License plate: West Virginia. We actually got one of them. Cool, all we need is Alabama.”

“We have gassed up. We are on 90 about 47 miles outside of Erie Pennsylvania. I put 9.9 gallons in and the ticker says 298 miles, and I am resetting the trip counter now. And that includes the 38 from yesterday and the seven from the screw-up of not doing the ticker before. So, from the last gas, it is 298 miles. Ok, we are going to Burger King. If we don’t have it already, License plate Nebraska.”

“License plate: South Dakota. Way to go South Dakota.”

“We passed into New York at about 2:15 or a little before that maybe. And it’s ye olde 86/17. Same old route, there are a couple cars about here, but the license plate game is going to have to wait until we get more towards civilization. Eh, we are like 20 miles outside of Jamestown. We should be home in under an hour. And this side of the tape is pretty much done so I am going to just fast forward and flip to the end. Eh, maybe there is enough to do a mileage marker at the end, we’ll see.”

“We have arrived at Allegany, it is twenty to four, mileage marker says 143 and I’ll pick it up tomorrow with the same thing.”


“Taking off from Allegany, we just got on 86 heading east. It’s 9:15 in the morning. That might be off, the Allegany clock said 9. [Got it right by my watch] Alright, we’ll see, I haven’t looked at what my cell phone says. Anyways, I think we are just about out of tape on this side so I think I am going to flip it. We still haven’t stopped for gas we’ll do mile markers when we do. See you on the other side.”

“Soooo, there is some serious construction going on on eightysi…oh my god. They are detouring us through Friendship. Ugh. Ugh. Oh, I am so ticked. Ok, anyways…ok, this is seriously annoying, but anyways we have an idea for…alright, so that’s the thought. Meanwhile I get to tour through Friendship to find my way back to 86. grrr”

“License plate: New Hampshire.”

“We stopped at Horseheads and used our Burger King coupons and some other stuff for food at BK. Gassed up put 9 gallons in mileage is 260 miles, resetting now. Alright, and that should do it for the rest of the trip.”

“And we just crossed into the state of Pennsylvania. Which is a funny little thing about I86 at this point. It dips into Pennsylvania for a few miles and then back into New York. And we are back into New York State. Elapsed time about 30 seconds.”

“License plate: Vermont. VW Bug, er not bug VW Bus no less.”

“License plate: Delaware. I think that does it for the east except for Alabama and DC.”

“We just crossed into Massachusetts. Dave is actually driving for a stretch because I have been feeling a little under the weather since I woke up, thanks to dust, allergies, and the weather and all that. It’s about ten after three and we are just entering into Massachusetts. Its about 130 miles to Boston, we’ll stopping short at Lynn.”

“Alright, we are just past the 84 exit on 90. Gassed up one more time, put in 9.9 gallons. Mileage marker said 309? [Uhuh] 309. Alright, and off we go.”

“We have arrived at Lynn, Browns Ave. Home of Sharky and Luke. It is twenty to six. We have made good time. I am logging out.”

It is the prerogative, if not the calling for every American youth to cross the country in one fell swoop at some point in time. It was educational for me. I learned that the Mississippi River impairs my spelling and sense of time. That friends should be revered because the close ones will perform physical labor for free and the absent ones will support you financially. And that the east and the west should be more thankful that they look nothing like the states caught in between. In California I found the ocean, in Arizona I found the frontier, and in the east, I have once again found my home. And as I drove up I95 toward my destination, an electronic sign proclaimed its wisdom, “Seek Alternate Route”, and I was at peace, for I knew that I had. 

About Me

My photo
Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.