Bad Liver and a Broken Windshield (In 3 Parts) By: Sean McCallum CHAPTER 1: Wed, Aug 8, 2001 17:15:17 PT. 415,156 km. That’s 259,472.5 miles. That’s like driving from Toronto to Cleveland and back 439 times. Sound awful? If you made that trip Monday to Friday, beginning on the first Monday of the year, by the middle of the second week of September in the second year, you would have driven close to 415,000 kilometers. The circumference of the earth is 40,074 km. You could drive around this planet ten times, and have enough mileage left to drive from Anchorage to Atlanta, twice. 415,156 km. That’s how many kilometers our car had on it when we began. Sorry it's taken so long for the Ambiguously Gay Duo (every single person we've met has assumed that we are gay) to let you guys know that we're still alive, but Internet access has been sparse in these parts; I guess that where they don't have running water and power, there isn't exactly a premium put on surfing the net for porn. Anyways, I am right now STANDING in the Flagstaff public library. “Why are you in Flagstaff?” you ask; well, lets just say that the ol' VW needed a little tune up this morning; tune up, engine rebuilding, whatever. So today we've been...checking out the town. Who am I kidding? We're stranded. But not to worry. Foley, we'll be there in Vegas to meet you tomorrow morning, just like we said. No problem. So here's the breakdown on the trip thus far. Up until today, the car has been running like a dream. Carlisle was a blast as always. We ate like Vikings, partied like rock stars…yeah. There was the traditional run in with Carlisle security, after an errant potato fired from a homemade cannon slightly grazed the side of a security guard’s parked van. As usual, Tom smoothed things over with his peaceful, gentle, soothing words of eloquence; “Show me where in the fucking rule book it says ‘POTATO GUNS PROHIBITED’. That’s what I thought, asshole”. Security had him spread up against the golf cart like a drunken wife abuser on COPS. Nobody was arrested, and nobody had a three-month old baby waiting for them at the front gates, so apparently no harm was done the year before either. Perfect. We left Carlisle PA Sunday morning, hung to the tits as usual, and drove 13 hours in the pissing rain, across the Mason/Dixon line and into Confederate country: through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and into Tennessee, where we stopped for the night outside of Nashville in Kingston Springs. [It was during the course of this drive that we realized that we would soon be experts in the field of Top 40 Pop music. With no tape player (CD player? You’re kidding, right?), we would be forced to listen to whatever the radio was playing. Number one on the charts for us at this point in time (number one denoting the most frequently played song: quality of music is irrelevant) is that shitty Sugar Ray song (“When It’s Over” – these titles are guesses), but close on it’s heels is Janet Jackson (“All For You”) and Gwen Stefani with Eve (“Blow Your Mind”). Somebody kill me now. Although it may be true that we, quite frankly, have nothing else to listen to, there is one rule pertaining to the use of the Volkswagon factory deluxe radio: if the “top 40 industry’s most appalling insult to musical taste ever” song, ‘Drops of Jupiter’, is on the radio for more than five seconds, the driver must immediately drive the car into the nearest tree and/or telephone pole. I refuse to listen to that song while I’m on vacation.] We shared a room with the biggest unidentifiable bug I've ever seen, but he was friendly and didn’t complain about the smell, so we let him stay. The next day we woke up and it was a hundred degrees and we were dripping with sweat almost instantly (the 89 Golf Diesel didn't come with the air conditioning option). When we stopped for gas, we figured that it would be a good idea to check the fluids. You know, coolant, oil: things we know absolutely nothing about. We topped everything up and closed the hood. It was like something out of a movie, honestly. We were pulling onto the highway, and CCR’s “Travellin’ Band” came on the radio (“Seven-thirty-seven comin’ out of the sky / Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride”). We’re two hours from Memphis. Too perfect. So we’re merging into traffic, gaining speed ever so slowly, eighteen wheelers wizzing past us with spine-numbing nearness, absolutely butchering a classic tune with our over-zealous singing, and loving the fact that the sun is shining, we’re in the prime of our youth, and we’re eighty-five miles from Graceland. When we hit about 90 km/h, I had the slightest moment of self-doubt: “Did I shut the hood properly?” Of course I did. I’m just being paranoid. I mean, I’ve been driving for seven years…FFTHUMP!!!-as the hood comes flying up, cracking the windshield, the two of us looking at each other like a couple of fucking idiots (“Did you see that? Um…no…see, there’s this blue sheet of steel in the OF COURSE I FUCKING SAW IT!”), ducking down and trying to look through those little air vents in the hood that are our only visible links to the shoulder, tiny slits of visibility to lead us out of harm’s way, out of the war path of the eighteen wheelers barreling past, truck drivers presumably pointing and laughing, yelling over the CB, “Hey Earl! Check ott dees two asshoes thank der’n Tommy Boy er sompnin! Fuck’n Kinnuks!” When we finally came to a stop, we got out of the car, passersby helpfully honking and pointing, and again looked at each other like a couple of fucking idiots (which, at approximately this point, we came to the realization that we, in fact, were). When we finally pried the hood back down, shredding the wipers in the process, we took in the new look of the windshield, and the altered configuration of the now-more-aerodynamic-for-the-new-millennium hood. We decided that the best way to keep this new and improved hood from flying open again would be to duct tape it, because duct tape is clearly the answer to any automotive (or household, for that matter) complication, and because, as previously stated, we are a couple of fucking idiots. For the rest of the trip, we would have to periodically pull over to ensure that the hood was in fact properly fastened. We eventually got back on the road, slightly humbled, slightly more knowledgeable in the intricacies of sheet metal work, and a great deal more appreciative of our lives. We drove to Memphis with the intent of simply passing through, but when we got there it looked like such a cool town that we decided to stay the night. We went to Graceland, but in keeping with what will become a recurring theme throughout the trip, we were too late, and Graceland was closed (sorry Richie). But we took our own picture outside, so it was almost the same as going in. Then we went back to the hotel (Red Roof Inn, $50 a night) and started partying. We had everything you could dream of: a cooler full of beer, a couple of chairs set out on the front balcony/hallway with a crazy thunderstorm to watch, and an alarm clock set to the oldies station. Life couldn’t possibly get any better. The people on one side of our room were running a child prostitution ring, and the people on the other side were smoking mass quantities of marijuana. These two things are apparently par for the course at the ol’ Red Roof Inn, but just make sure you don’t have your alarm clock turned up too loud, because security came by around 10:00 telling us to turn it off and to get the beer inside the room. But the joke was on them, because by that point we were essentially hammered, and decided to head down to Beale Street where it was nice and safe...riiight. We hit up a couple of blues bars, and then these two girls began salivating over us because we’re so money, so I (yes, the perpetual wing man) began talking to them, and it turned out that they were doing the same thing as us (driving around aimlessly), and they ended up becoming our best friends in the world. One was from New Hampshire, the other from England, and they were definitely lovin’ us. We went to BB King's Blues bar and saw probably the best band I've ever seen in any bar, anywhere (they finished off the night with an a cappella version of Montel Jordan’s “This is how we do It”, while an old albino man in Peter-File Elvis shades got his groove on with a 350 pound black woman; dead ringer for that girl in Road Trip. I had a tear in my eye; love is a beautiful thing). It turned out that our two lady friends were staying at the same hotel as us, so they gave us a ride back and we partied some more. I guess that they were simply too intimidated by our stunning physical beauty to pursue any physical relations; that’s the only reason I can think of. Skeeter, in sticking to his patented formula, ended up passing out while they were still in the room, and I, sticking to my patented formula, ended up failing with my “A” material. Sad but true. They told us where they were staying in New Orleans, and we told them that we'd stalk them and see them there. Hey, have you ever drank all night in the south and woken up in July? The morning sucks. To say that we were hung-over would be a severe understatement. We managed to somehow drag ourselves out of bed, and went to the Sun Recording Studios, and then to the Lorraine Motel (where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot). I can't believe that we are actually doing things that could be considered educational. But whatever. We got in the car and drove down to Mississippi. We planned on stopping in Clarksdale to go to the Blues museum, but when we stopped in town for gas... we just decided it was a very bad idea. Ole Miss is a pretty impoverished state, and two white guys in Hawaiian shirts weren’t exactly diggin’ the groove. In the gas station, an old drunk man with no teeth refused to take his eyes off the hundred dollar bill that I was paying for gas with (nothing smaller than a hundred at a gas station in Clarksdale? Like I said, complete idiots), so we decided to get on the first wagon train outta dodge. Bad Vibes. We had planned on camping at the Great River Road State park in Rosedale (“Cross Roads”, Robert Johnson reference), but when we got there, nobody was working the gate, and people were free to come and go as they please. Once again the vibes were less than good. We took a hike through the Mississippi River dyke, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. We dipped our feet into the ol’ big Muddy just so we could check it off our list of “things to do before I die”. Then we got in the car and drove to Natchez, which is, I would imagine, one of the few affluent towns in the state. The next morning we woke up, had some barbecue, and took a walk around town to look at the different styles of architecture and the beautiful lush gardens…I mean, to look for chicks…’n’ stuff. After the brief encounter with our feminine sides, we decided to drive down to New Orleans to party like the vigorous, heterosexual men that we are. We checked into the hostel ($12 a night, free parking, plenty of cockroaches), and, like the idiots that we are, began drinking immediately (“hey, is it OK if we drink in here?” “Yeah dude, this is New Orleans”). A cold case of Bud to celebrate the fact that the Raps had resigned Vince and Antonio, and some guy called “The Dream”. I had goose bumps when Ronnie told me the news over the phone. When we left the hostel at 8:30, we were already feeling pretty good, and I’m not sure whether or not you’re aware of this, but you can drink anywhere in N.O. (streets, cabs, church), so the beers on the Trolley also helped. Oh yeah; and there is no last call. This is a recipe for disaster. We got down to Bourbon Street, and you can't even imagine what it's like. Guys selling beer on the street for the purpose of consumption on the street, strip clubs, live music coming from every bar, women bearing their breasts for beads that can be purchased by the dozen for pocket change: it was heaven. Like a couple of bulldogs locked in a butcher shop for the weekend, we jumped right in (but what the hell did you expect?). By one o'clock, I didn't know my own name, and Skeeter was developing a severe case of the legendary stare (look out, ladies). All I know is that we were hanging out with some guy who was there on his honeymoon (second marriage, same woman), his wife sleeping alone back at the hotel so he could twirl beads around his index finger and say things like, “show me some fuckin’ titties baby! Aw Yeah!”, while doing a ritual celebratory dance with every successful cat call; a patterned form of body movement that had Skeeter’s stumbling loss of decipherable motor control looking like a choreographed Lakers girl routine. We also hung out with some underage, camcorder bearing kids from Nebraska (apparently drunk girls in New Orleans love getting naked for the camera: who knew?), and some father who brought his fourteen year old son’s baseball team to the deep south, presumably to teach them about the infield fly rule. At some point we took a cab home (“hey man, you mind if I polish this off in here?” “Mi Casa Sous Casa” “Sweet”), and I ended up at some dance bar alone and pirouetting disgustingly close to a rather large and grotesque member of the opposite sex, while Skeeter somehow managed to get home alive; I know this because I stumbled over to his bed at four in the morning and put my hand on his foot to make sure that he was in attendance. Ever the pillar of responsibility. 2:30 in the afternoon. My head hurts when I think about it. That's when we woke up. I remember lifting my head off of my towel (I hadn’t thought of bringing a pillow into the esteemed establishment that was our hostel, and they surely weren’t going to provide one for me, considering that I was sleeping on a stained mattress [stained with what, I’ m not exactly sure] sans linens), looking over at Skeeter and asking him what time it was. I thought that he was lying, but we actually had managed to sleep for two thirds of the daylight hours without waking up once. We decided that we should at least attempt to see the city. After 15 minutes of being soaked in the heat and stench of baking vomit and urine, we decided that we had to go back to bed. We would start partying a little later on our second night. And we did. We ended up at “The Cat's Meow” (a girl in our room worked there), which is a karaoke bar, and the place where Skeeter fell in love. While he was well on his way to reaching third base with his (beautiful?) baby on the dance floor (hey, it’s New Orleans; it’s not like they haven’t seen it before), I, for the better part of the night, was attempting to dance with her younger, much less esthetically pleasing sister: and failing miserably. We had clearly learned a great deal from our experience the night before, and were able to remain relatively coherent for the duration of the evening. We went to bed in broad daylight, with Skeeter vowing eternal love for the well-endowed beauty from Slidell, Louisiana. The third night we pulled out all the stops, as I polished off three Hurricanes (fruity slushy drink with four ounces of 151 proof rum) at Pat O’Brien’s before choking back a Hand Grenade (I don't know what's in it, but it is supposed to be more powerful than a Hurricane, and it certainly does the trick) in an hour. As Ronnie, our resident New Orleans connoisseur, can understand, I was literally on my ass. It was our last night with our Memphis Belles, and our last opportunity to scream vulgarities with the lone ramifications being sinful glimpses of feminine flesh; we had to make the most of it. Luckily, I had a bunch of beer to wash down the mass quantities of fruity cleaning products that had poisoned my body earlier, and my iron liver was able to keep me up past seven in the morning. Before going to bed, I took our English lady friend out for grits and biscuits’n’gravy at “The Trolley Stop Diner”, where we were the only white people in the joint, and loving it. It was beautiful. New Orleans: you simply have to have been there to understand. The next afternoon we drove to Houston. It was a long drive, and I was angry at the fact that in Lafayette, the town where the freakin' University is situated, I couldn't even get a “Ragin' Cajuns” hat. I now hate that city. But it wasn’t so bad because, while we were driving, we picked up a pretty cool Cajun radio station where the DJ’s spoke nothing but French; not what one might expect 1700 miles from Montreal. That night we stayed outside of Houston in a motel that was infested with more stray cats than I’d ever seen in my life. On Sunday afternoon we went to Enron Field and saw the Astros beat the Expos because the Expos suck. The stadium was great, the game was decent, but long, and we were ready to move on. That night we drove past San Antonio. The next day would be a true test: over five hundred miles across the Southern Texas desert. There were stretches where we didn't even get a single radio station; and we are clearly not interesting enough to entertain ourselves with simple conversation. We also went two hundred miles without seeing a McDonald's. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, but the scenery was new and interesting (driving along side the Rio Grande was pretty sweet), and I got a pretty decent sun burn on the arm that I stick out the window while I drive. Chicks dig that sort of thing, I hear. We got to El Paso, because Big Tommy's girlfriend goes to school there, but, surprise! She wasn't home. Apparently, she hadn’t even arrived in El Paso yet, so we were just kind of…there. We are, officially, the biggest losers in the world. We had absolutely nowhere to go, nowhere to stay, and the one person that we thought was our friend had decided to spend some extra quality time with Big Tommy. Imagine that: hanging out with your boyfriend rather than providing a couple of upstanding guys like us with the comfort and shelter that we so desperately needed. To compensate, we had to drown our sorrows by buying cowboy boots and hats, because, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Texas, spend a bunch of money that you don’t have on stuff that you’ll never use. It’s the American way. We ended up driving to Elephant Butte State Park in New Mexico to camp for the night. We polished off a case of Silver Bullets around a fire-less fire pit, before being told to hush by those who were there to enjoy the nature, which, for the record, was quite beautiful. The desert sky at night is truly something to behold. The next day (yesterday) we woke up early, took a quick dip in the Rio Grande, and drove to Albuquerque, and then across ol' Route 66, crossing the Continental Divide, and into Arizona. We stopped off to see the world's greatest meteor crater, but, as has come to be expected, we were a little bit too late, and the meteor was closed. How one can close a meteor is something I’ll never know, but apparently this happens every evening at six. But the detour wasn’t a total loss because we got the security guard to take a picture of us in front of the “Closed” sign. We made it into Flagstaff just at sundown, and got a room in one of those cheap plastic motels right on 66. We went out to some bar called San Fellipe's where they had the world's greatest two dollar margaritas, and a couple of lovely 31 year old women from “Gilburr, Arr-zonuh” who enjoyed drinking tequila and showing their breasts simply to prove that said breasts were real (“those aren’t real” “sure they are” “I don’t believe you” “do you want me to prove it?” “absolutely”…you get the idea. The amazing part is that this same logic seemed to work on her friend as well). Lord love'em. We ended up back at their motel room, and after Skeeter went to bed, the girl who I was sitting with on the bed decided to strip down to her underwear. I was money. When some hockey highlights came on ESPN, she said that she loved hockey, and I thought to myself, “well, this one’s in the bag”. Then she said to me, and I’m not making this up, “Yeah, my nine year old son plays”. I literally spit my drink all over myself and made up some terrible excuse about having to get to my room because my buddy wouldn’t be able to sleep not knowing where I was…it was awful. We woke up this morning with the intention of driving to the Grand Canyon, but, alas, the car was spent. And this is why I have this much spare time to waste yours with. I think (hope) that the car should ready by now, so we'll be hitting the road for Vegas, baby, where we will find a beautiful hooker for young Foley (who should be boarding a plane for Bugsy’s playground shortly), and we'll get Skeeter so drunk that we can marry him off to a large, agricultural woman in the Circus Circus "Get Married by a real live Elvis Impersonator" Wedding Chapel. It should be a blast. We miss you all, and hope that you're keeping our spots at the House nice and warm. We'll talk to you laters, Sheen and Skeeter. CHAPTER 2: Tue, Aug 21, 2001 14:05:49 PT Greetings, From the great city of Seattle. Dinner, your Auntie Beth is a saint for taking myself and young Foley in. Lord love her. Anyways, we have survived thus far, but not without incident. So here you go. At last check, we left you all in Flagstaff AZ, awaiting the fate of our beloved car. Well, the prognosis was less than good; the alternator was shot, but it would take two days to have one sent in. We clearly couldn't wait two days because we had to meet Foley in Vegas the next morning. Any other options? “Sure, if you can get it started, it should run fine as long as you don’t ever shut it off.” “Do you think you would ever try that?” we asked our trusty mechanic. “Umm, just make sure you guys have lots of water.” Ouch. So, like the morons that we are, we boosted the car, and decided to drive through the desert, at night, without having the luxury of being able to turn off the car. Need gas? Leave'er running. How about some food? Leave'er running. Need to take a leak? Hey, you’ ve seen “Dumb and Dumber”. No problem. Oh yeah, there's one other catch; don't use the radio, or the lights, or the wipers for that matter, because using these superfluous luxuries will drain the power from the car, and you will inevitably die lonely and forgotten in the Nevada desert. No problem. Vegas, baby! “You think we'll be there by midnight?” “Hell, we'll be up five-hundo by midnight, baby!” VEGAS!!! After driving for about 20 minutes sans radio, we figured that we were in the clear, and started blastin' the tunes. Soon night fell, and it was only proper to turn on the lights; you know, as a courtesy to the other drivers. By the time we reached the Hoover dam, it was pissing rain, so it was time for the wipers. When we left Flagstaff, it was in the mid 60's. When we got into Vegas, it was 96 degrees in the pouring rain. So we're cruisin’ the strip in style. High class hookers blowing kisses at us, valet parking attendants practically begging for the privilege of gracing the wheel of our custom-steel-orgasm-on-wheels. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves having made it all the way without an alternator; the city is buzzin’ and we're a couple of class guys just out to own this shabby little town. On top of the frickin’ world. And then the radio goes off. Me and Skeeter look at one another like we've just seen the second coming of a pissed off Christ. Two seconds later, the car is sputtering to a devastating, deafening silence, and we are stranded on Paradise Blvd in the pouring rain. Just a couple of class guys out to own this shabby little town. Ouch. Vegas Baby. After turning various rich and beautiful women away (“Ladies, I’m sorry; maybe we can get together for a cocktail later?”), the tow truck finally arrived and dragged our sorry asses to a Pep Boys where the car would remain for the next two days. The good people at Pep Boys rebuilt our alternator for the bargain basement price of $340. Vegas is a bitch. But it truly was one of the funniest, most pathetic nights of our collective lives. After standing out in the rain in our “Vegas Money Suits”, we ended up in a terrible, Swingers-esque all night diner inside Circus Circus, saying things like “You're so money baby, you don't even know it”, “There she is, personality plus”, and “You know what? I wouldn't eat here. I wouldn’t even… Hey, you want this?” We thought it was funny, but by that point, a colonoscopy would have seemed like a regular barrel of monkeys. Few others in the esteemed establishment saw the humour in our ramblings. The next day, young master Foley arrived, and suddenly the Ambiguously Gay Duo had grown to an Ambiguously Gay, multiple-partnered Trio, and we were once again ready to take the city by storm. After touring the various four star super-hotels (all of which paled in comparison to our $29.95/night master suite at the only hotel in Las Vegas with “The World’s Largest Permanent Circus” – pure class), we ended up sneaking into Caesar's Palace, and drinking cocktails poolside where we were clearly out of our league. It did not take a master of espionage to determine that we were not guests at this particular establishment. Maybe it was because we were swimming in our underwear; maybe it was because we got our towels out of the “Soiled Towels” bin; maybe it was because we were tipping our beautiful poolside waitresses with quarters, telling them not to spend it all in one place. Whatever it was that gave us away, I’ll never know, but the patrons looked at us with the utmost disdain and disgust. Despite this fact, I’m positive that the towel girls were loving us; I think that it was the cannon ball off of the “Roman Ruins” fountain that did it for them. We were feeling pretty good and ready to do the town up the way it deserved to be done; so much in fact, that when we went to take a wee nap, we didn't wake up again until the next morning, vowing to never tell another soul about it. We're sad, old men, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Ever try to walk across melting tarmac for 300 yards in 110 degree desert heat to get your wallet so you can order a round of margaritas at noon? Not exactly the wisest decision of my life. My feet are still peeling from the blisters. But the margaritas helped. Our last night, we went huge because Vegas is clearly our kind of town. We went and saw George Carlin at the MGM Grand (“Something people don’t talk about in public anymore…”), went to some pretty cool bar with an embarrassingly bad DJ, and concluded the evening by playing the high rollers blackjack table ($5 minimum) and drinking complementary triple scotch and sodas until the wee hours of the morning. After losing more money than we could afford, we ended up scaling the hotel wall in a frantic race to “not be the one sleeping with Skeeter” – two beds + three grown men and ten hours of drinking = bad scene. The perfect Vegas night. The next day it was off to LA. I'm not sure if any of you have ever driven from Vegas to LA on a mid-August afternoon in an ‘89 VW diesel without air conditioning, but it is, at the very least, an experience. It was 114 in the misty shade when we pulled off at the coolest little roadside stop I’ve ever seen (“just a little lemonade stand we have set up; let your car cool down, take a dip in the tub, listen to the band and watch the sunset” – That was the dude’s answer to my question: “what is this place?”) When the car eventually cooled down enough to drive (“Whooee! I seen you guys from about 3 miles back; you must’ve gone through about two quarts’a oil comin’ up that mountain!”), the air coming in through the windows was hot. I mean, it was scorching! I've never felt anything like it. The windows were down, the sunroof was open, and it was like a furnace blasting heat at us. We’d take a bottle of water out of the cooler, and would put a tea bag in it five minutes later. But the death-valley heat was clearly no match for our luxury sedan, and we pulled into LA sometime after 8 o'clock, the excitement so overwhelming for Foley that he had to sleep the entire way into the city. We stayed in a hostel in Venice beach for both nights. When we walked in, there was a guy drinking beer and watching pre-season football on the big screen TV, so we knew that we would fit right in. The first night we went to a pretty cool patio bar on the beach that played great music, the three of us butchering that awful Bran Van 3000 tune. The next day we chilled on the beach all day long, swimming in the Pacific, putting on a display of elite athleticism by tossing the pigskin around, and generally appreciating the finer physical attributes of west coast women, while nursing a rather severe hangover. Later on in the day, we awoke (still on the beach) to the sights and sounds and (good) vibrations of a group of about 60 people playing bongo drums in a circle on the beach, while homeless and clueless and cultureless Californians danced haphazardly around, smoking weed and drinking beer from cans hidden in paper bags. It was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. In seeing this fusion of people from all walks of life on the beach that day, I came to a realization about culture and American society, with regards to our southwestern progression. Memphis and New Orleans are cities that embody everything that is the old, deep south. Driving down the Mississippi River along Highway 61 is like becoming part of a William Faulkner novel. These are places that are alive and vibrant with custom and tradition and poverty and a racial tension that seems to be embedded in the very soil of the delta. It is through this region’s very troubled history that its inhabitants have come to exist as they do today. Its people are characterized by themselves as much as they are by the land that they till; they are defined by their past to the same degree that they are presently portrayed by those outsiders who stake a claim for the area’s backwardness. Sandy creek beds and fried catfish, cultivating cotton and signifying blues music, white wealth and black lack: each exists because of the other. For better or for worse, the old south is a place which is very real, and despite the various problems that continue to exist to this day, its authenticity instills in it a certain degree of honesty and dignity. The south is a place which is soaked in culture. Las Vegas is the structural embodiment of the anti-culture. It is capitalism on speed and xtc and sixteen cups of coffee waiting in line for the bathroom. Everything that the south is, Vegas ain’t. Every stereotype, preconception, misrepresentation and false pretense concerning American life (from gangsters and gadgets to billboards and beauty contests) exists in seeming infinity. It is everything that America shouldn’t be, multiplied a million times. It is as if someone said, “here is an unlimited amount of space, an unlimited amount of sunshine, and an unlimited amount of money: go make a city”. The Americans created Las Vegas. Everything deplorable about the U.S. exists in a boundless sea of flashing lights, ringing bells, and scantily clad cocktail waitresses. It is the garbage dump of American culture; a void which will be unable to fulfill yours with any feeling of substance. But if nothing else, Las Vegas can be a whole lot of fun, and if you play your cards right, you might eventually be allowed to leave. Everybody is a tourist, everything is meaningless, and reality doesn’t exist. Venice Beach, California, I’m convinced, is the only place in the world where culture does not exist. The south has its down home tradition, Vegas has its flashy money/brain draining, lonely lunatic lullaby; but Venice Beach has…I’m not quite sure. Everyone who has given up on the prospect of participating within their own existing culture heads west. When those who have journeyed from the far corners of the continent find that they cannot go any further, they find themselves in Venice Beach. They are the people who simply could not and did not fit into your schools and your towns. They are the eccentric, the excitable, and the extraordinary. They are failed actors, models, screenwriters, and hustlers, all of whom work as either dog walkers or coffee shop waitresses. They sell beads on the beach and smoke pot and surf all day long. They do nothing. They are a lost people, but in their collective disorientation, they are somehow found, existing somewhere within the realm of semi-unreality. There is a sense of community and acceptance in Venice Beach unlike anywhere I have ever been. In Venice Beach, nobody gives a shit about who you are or what you do. It is beautiful. On our last night in L.A., we made a necessary pilgrimage to the only other bar on the planet called “The Oar House"; unfortunately, when we got there, the place had been closed down for a year. We were so bitterly disappointed that we ended up walking around in a directionless haze for the rest of the night. Life is cruel. But I guess that this misfortune substantiated a fact that we have all known since the beginning of existence: there is only one “Oar House” for the likes of us. To think otherwise would be little more than feculent self-deception. The next morning, Skeeter flew back home. We took a great picture of the three of us in the hostel parking lot in front of the blue beauty. The Ambiguously Gay Duo, after toiling in the treble cocoon that was the Ambiguously Gay Trio, experienced a type of rebirth; your heroes had evolved, and had taken on a new form. Myself and Foley drove around Hollywood all day, went up to the big sign, did the Chinese Theatre and the walk of fame, graciously declined an invitation to attend a live taping of Jeopardy (the producers probably wouldn’t have appreciated Foley’s incessant habit of screaming out the answers during a taping), took a tour of some of the crazy houses up in the Hollywood hills, cruised Ventura Blvd, and eventually drove, into a blinding sunset, back to the coast along Sunset Strip. We drove passed Santa Barbara and the interestingly named town of Oxnard before staying at the Bates Motel in the middle of nowhere. The next day we did the Big Sur drive. It was amazing, what with its majestic cliffs and hidden coves, its sprawling coast and crashing waves, but when we stopped at a beach, the water was absolutely freezing, and we were the only ones out there without a wet suit. So much for sunny California. We took countless breathtaking pictures of the natural scenery en route. That night we camped at a place where you had to hike to your site, and there was a big sign posted warning us to watch for rattlesnakes. Perfect. We took a classic photo of myself standing, thumbs up, next to the “Beware of Rattlesnakes” sign, and then began hiking, terrified, to our site. Luckily, we had the protection of a near dead flashlight, an aluminum baseball bat, and a seventy-year old Dutch woman who had gone back to her car to retrieve some marshmallows. We set up camp between a gang of neo-nazi punks from Santa Cruz and a group of Korean children who had come to experience the beauty of nature with their pastor. Myself and Foley polished off eight hot dogs and a twelve pack of Coors Originals by the fire, and decided to call it a night. We were the last ones awake in the entire park. It was midnight. Party on. The next morning we walked the mile-long trail to the beach, took more breathtaking and life-altering photographs, and then Foley jumped into the water with the camera, destroying it and everything that it had ever captured over the course of our trip. It was only a matter of time before young Foley tore the arse out of something. Not to worry; it’s all up here. That afternoon we drove up the coast to Monterey, but it was way to expensive to stay there, so we ended up in a character-filled, scuzzy little motel in Salinas where we were almost attacked by a bread-peddling Mexican youth. We went to a local bar where some lady asked if I were interested in 41 year old single women (but honestly, who isn’t?), and whether or not I would come see her at work the next day where she'd take me out for lunch and let me test drive a Cadillac. I told her that that sounded great and all, but that I had to go to the National Steinbeck Institute in the morning. Sorry honey. We went to the Steinbeck museum for three hours, and it was amazing, but I won't bore you with the endless details of literary and cultural enlightenment. We did, however, buy an absolutely classic bumper sticker for the ride. You will undoubtedly laugh your ass off when you see a blue, rust-bucket VW driving around, spewing black soot from the exhaust pipe, fuzzy dice and Mardi Gras beads hanging from the rear view mirror, Jagermeister and Rolling Rock labels plastered to the sides, with a brand new “I (heart) Steinbeck” sticker on the bumper. Too funny. After our educational pit stop, we continued up the coast and stopped in Santa Cruz to go to the boardwalk pier where we strapped on the Peter-File shades and rode the rides all night with the kids for $5.95. Included in this price of admission was an unlimited number of rides on the national historic landmark roller coaster, "The Giant Dipper" (no sexual innuendo there). The boardwalk amusements were a great time, and educational in a way, as well: after consuming one doused in whipped cream and strawberry sugar sauce, I realized that I am far too old to eat funnel cakes for dinner. That night we drove into San Francisco, got into our “pleasantly situated in the absolute worst area in California" hostel after midnight, and went to the bar on the corner where they had the best juke box selection I've ever seen (Sex Pistols, Tom Waits, The Pogues, face to face, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams…). Great piercing on the patrons as well. The next day we walked down to the fisherman's wharf, saw the sea lions, attempted to take the Alcatraz tour (sold out- tickets go on sale at 8am; yeah, we’ll be awake for that), bought a UC Irvine Anteaters hat, and then went to the Giants game where we saw Maddux and Li-van start, and then Smoltzy get his first career save. That ballpark is beautiful, but ice-cold; San Fran doesn’t exactly have the most pleasant climate in August. The game was great (Giants lost 2-1), but no dingers for Bonds-o. Great garlic fries at the park, although I'm not sure that anyone who came within ten feet of me afterwards would have agreed. Later on, we ended up at the “Boom Boom Room” (John Lee Hooker's Blues bar) and saw the Larry McCray band from Chicago. They did a heartbreaking rendition of “Soulshine”, and the fact that we were nicely oiled at that point made it that much better. There were a bunch of girls there who clearly wanted to dance with us, but I guess they were just too intimidated by our stunning physical beauty to ask. Yeah, I’m sure that was it. Saturday, we took the world's longest walking tour of the city, which eventually ended up at the Golden Gate Bridge, ten miles away. In case you haven’t been paying attention, we are a couple of fucking idiots (the new addition to the AGD did not do anything to alleviate the degree of idiocy on this expedition) and assumed that, since you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, it can’t really be that far (and I guess because you can see the moon, one might assume that hitting it with a baseball isn’t out of the realm of possibility). And those hills; how steep can they really be? My legs still hurt. That night we partied with some Australian dudes (the Wayner is an absolute legend) and Dutch girls from our hostel, and then went out to some great punk bar which would have made young Dookie proud. The lead singer of one band was wearing a Jeff Garcia jersey, and after doing a punk version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, gave me a disgustingly sloppy hug because he thought that Garcia was Canadian. I tried explaining about how American players can play in the CFL, but he ended up buying me a beer, so he can go on thinking that his main man is a Canuck. We were bombed, and up way too late, and I think that one of the Dutch girls wanted to hit on me, but again, there was that whole “intimidated by my stunning physical beauty” thing. We woke up early the next morning and drove 500 miles into Oregon. Yesterday, we drove about 400 miles up the coast, and you wouldn't believe how amazing the beaches are up here. The water is way too cold for swimming, but the beaches are a great place to pull over and toss the ball around for awhile. So that brings us to today. We're going to the M's game tonight, and then hitting the town with Dinner's cuz, so it should be a treat. I hope that everything is cool in O-town, although, there is one staggering development that I need to have clarified; is there a new bartender at the House? What the..?! Kyle, I wish I could be there tomorrow night for the inaugural shift. Somebody please order a round of Screaming Vikings for me. Also, Marie, Magda and Spindler; we'll be in touch, although we might be arriving a little earlier than originally anticipated (i.e. tomorrow), so Marie, keep your head up. Also, Uncle Mike, the cyber vibes are beauty, so keep 'em coming. We'll talk to you all laters, Sheen and Foley. CHAPTER 3: Thurs, Sept 27, 2001 02:15:57 ET OK Kids, Sorry it's taken so long for the final installment, but in light of everything that's gone on in the past two weeks, I have found myself unable to muster any kind of inspiration to recount the entertaining events of our adventure. But as things begin to slowly approach a certain degree of normalcy, we must attempt to get on with things, because there truly is nothing else to do. My thoughts are, as I'm sure are yours, with those who will no longer be able to experience the kinds of things that we have. And that is a sad thought. So without further delay, here is for your enjoyment, your pleasure, your relief, as the Oaf so eloquently stated, “the most eagerly anticipated piece of non-fiction since ‘Tuesday's With Morrie’". The Ambiguously Gay Duo left you last on a rainy Thursday in Seattle. It didn't stop raining on the west coast; ever. We spent that day getting lost in the city and trying, in vain, to get tickets to the M's game that night. We failed miserably, and ended up back at Auntie Beth's place for a couple of hours. We told Dinner's cuz that we were going to try to go to the game, and that we'd meet up with him afterwards. We eventually drove downtown, parked ten miles from the stadium, and ran in the cold rain to buy tickets off of a soaking wet scalper, who reassured us that we were getting a good deal because “I jus wanna git da fuck otta dis rain, yaw!” Great seats, behind the plate, $25 each, no problem. Great game, M's won, a seven year old child thought that I was his long lost father, and Ichiro is an absolute legend. And Johnny O still looks great in that hard helmet. We went for a beer after the game, and then returned to the saintly Auntie Beth's, where we committed a terrible, unspeakable act which left our gracious hosts thinking that we were nothing more than psychotic stalker foreigner freaks. The eventual realization of what we had done was far too much for us to handle; think of King Lear’s moment of revelation (“Thou’lt come no more,/ Never, never, never, never, never!”) multiplied by Kurtz’s final breath of air (“The horror! The horror!”), to the power of the fact that we had just, the day before, met the people who were so kind as to take in a couple of dysfunctional strangers like ourselves, and you have some indication as to what kind of precarious predicament we were in. Naturally, we fled the house immediately and got drunk at a bar down the street; a bar in which we were clearly out of our element, but that had the sweet, soothing, seductive booze that we so desperately required at that point. To make up for our irrevocable blunder, we bought some flowers and a seven dollar bottle of wine from the Safeway (only the best for our gracious hosts), and walked back hoping that the police would not be waiting for us when we got there. The next day we talked to our hosts about the unspeakable incident, and everything was smoothed over, and we are consequently stronger, although maybe not better, people for it. We decided that we would hit up the Experience Music Project at the Space Needle before we left, but when we got there, it was $25 to get in (that's more than the deluxe Graceland tour, the Sun Record Studio tour, the Giant Meteor tour, and the Alcatraz tour, for the record), and we were on a tight budget (only permitting such exorbitant amounts of money to be spent on beer and women), so we walked away. This is the other thing; the EMP is put on by the dude who co-founded Microsoft; in other words, one of the richest men in the world. How the hell can he justify charging that much money to get in to what is essentially an oversized record store? It's beyond me. It was clearly time to get back into Canada. We drove the three hours to the border, and bought some duty free Rolling Rock. When we crossed over (the border chick obviously wanted me, and we considered driving back to get her number, but we weren’t sure whether or not the car would make it, so she’ll just have to do without) into Canada, we both felt an overwhelming sense of relief, followed almost immediately by sheer, ecstatic joy. I can't even begin to explain how good it was to get back home. And at the risk of having this sound like the ultimate cliché, you can never really appreciate what something means to you until you have been without it for awhile. Having never been in the province before, I felt more at home on that lonely stretch of BC highway than I had in the past five weeks. To that point, I had never really realized just how much I love this country; that was, until we went to a beer store in Vancouver and found out that a case of Molson Canadian was $47. What the F#*k? We got to Marie's, and she was actually happy to see us (she must have been high, because I wouldn't have been happy to see us at that point). Her place was crazy: right downtown, in the red light district with no shortage of peep shows and sex shops. We felt right at home. We had a few bevies at Marie's place, and then decided to give ol' Kliner a call. The paraphrased conversation went something like this: Foley: Is Chris home? Roomie: No. He's gone. Foley: Do you know when he'll be back? Roomie: Never. Foley: What do you mean, 'never'? Roomie: He moved out. Foley: Where to? Roomie: The park. Foley: You're kidding, right? Roomie: No. Foley: When did this happen? Roomie: About two hours ago. Only Kliner; he is an absolute classic. The man has the ultimate knack for timing: like no other. There was no possible way that he could have known on what day we were coming to town, but he managed to pull this one out of nowhere. His roomie gave us his cell phone number (yes, Kliner is the only homeless man in existence with a cell phone), and we left a message for him (“Yeah, hey, uhh…Kliner? We heard that you were, uhh, living in the park? Hey dude, if you need somewhere to stay, I’m sure that it’d be cool with Marie…”). When we had finished trying to bend our minds around the (lacking) logic behind Kliner’s idea, we went out to the Blarney Stone in Gastown, met up with a bunch of Foley's buddies (yes, young Bill is a wheel. Here we are, thousands of miles from home, and he knows every freakin' person that walks into the bar), and got absolutely smashed. We took a walking tour of Hastings after last call (there are some lovely women for hire at that hour), and then the picture gets a little blurry, because between myself, Foley and Marie, we can't, for the life of us, remember how the hell we got home. Needless to say, Marie was late for work the next day, and when she saw that I was shivering on the couch at 9 in the morning with nothing but a towel to cover my hypothermic body, she near nakedly threw her blanket on me. That day we met up with Kliner and he told us his story; it is simply too good for me to tell. Let’s just say that God told him to give up all of his worldly possessions, to continue working at the local Swiss Chalet, to live in his “vinyl burrito” sleeping bag in various parks in the greater metropolitan Vancouver regions, and to seek the true meaning of life without the distraction of all those superfluous material items; you know, things like food and shelter. This, of course, does not do it justice. You really have to hear it from the man himself. WOW! But what a tour guide; those homeless religious fanatics: they sure know their way around a city. We drove around some body of water, and then onto the UBC campus, and then down this picturesque street that Kliner wants to live on if he ever pools enough funding together to upgrade from his sleeping bag. We ate at the mighty Swiss Chalet (where Kliner is the manager: only in BC!), and then took off for Whistler. Oh yeah, it was still raining. The drive to Whistler is amazing, as anyone who has ever done it can attest. But I won't bore you with details; you can just look at the pictures. Oh yeah. We didn't have a camera. In fact, over the course of the next week, we would see some of the most spectacular scenery on the entire trip. We didn't have a camera for any of it. But we’re guys, so what do you expect? We got to Whistler, and Spindler obviously has no idea where she lives, so it took us an hour to get to her place in a town that has a total of four streets. When we got there, we started given'er, and believe it or not, we were actually hanging out with girls. One of them was from North Bay, and was, officially, the dumbest human being I have ever met. She kept saying “I need to take some classes or something because I feel like I'm getting dumber”. I don't know whether or not you've actually sat and watched a person "get dumber" before your very eyes, but it is one of those rare experiences that I recommend you jump at if ever given the opportunity. Anyways (I just found out today, not that you care but, the word "anyways" is grammatically incorrect. It should be “anyway”. My professor told me that you can tell that a person is illiterate if they say “anyways”. I personally think that if you say “anyway” as opposed to “anyways” in everyday conversation, simply for the sake of being grammatically correct, you probably won’t be carrying on too many “everyday conversations” with everyday people. It is this type of pretentious condescension that gives us English students a bad name, and I, for one, refuse to subject my readers to such patronization. Out of spite, this recital will be oozing with “anyways’s” Yes, that’s anyway- zizz), we ended up going to a bar called “Garfinkel's” where I ran into Hot Jen from Queen's (she still wants me), and we were fortunate enough to pay $5.50 per bottle. Gotta love BC. We also ran into Magda, who is the Queen Waste-O-Rama, and was an absolute treat. After putting on a dancing clinic, we ended up back at Spindler's place, playing an endless game of Baseball trivia with Dave, her hee-larious roomie from Chatham (“who holds the record for most strikeouts in a season without hitting a home run?” Answer is at the bottom; an answer which I, for the record, nailed), listening to the likes of Bob Seger and Steve Earl, watching highlights on the tube, and partying BC style, if you follow. It was a beautiful night. The next day we woke up bright and early at 2:00pm so we could come into Vancouver just in time for the Friday night rush hour. At one point, we could see Marie's building, but it still took us an hour and a half to get across the Lion's Gate Bridge (good luck on getting those Olympics, kids). At this point, that Sum 41 song (“Fatlip”) took over as the number 1 hit on the trip, displacing Nelly Furtato’s “Turn Out The Light” (rankings, lest we forget, dependent entirely upon number of times heard; quality of song irrelevant). We also saw our first Ontario license plate; it was on a motor home driven by 12 kids our age on the "Pissing in the Wind Tour 2001", drinking beer, and filming us in our Peter-File shades as we sat together in traffic. It was touching. That night we went to the Stone Temple, and then ended up back at Marie's where Foley and myself recited the entire dialogue of "Dumb and Dumber" while we tried gasping for air amidst screams of school-girl-esque laughter. Marie's dork friend tried to be a hero by telling us to keep it down (“Hey guys, let’s try to cool it” “Yeah…um, what was your name again? That’s what I thought. Ready Harry? Mock…yeah…Ing…yeah…”); to say that his attempts were thwarted would be a gross understatement. We had to wake up the next morning at 8:00am so that Marie and Spindler could fly to Cuba. Though that part sucked, their hospitality was wonderful, and we are forever in their debt. You guys rule. Question. It's 8:30 in the morning, you can't even speak because you're so hung-over, what do you want to do? Let's go climb a mountain. Like I said, idiots. For anyone who is familiar with Vancouver, you probably know what the "Grouse Grind" is. For those of you who don't, it's like running up a two-mile ladder into hell. It sucked. Every last second of it. It was myself, Foley and Kliner, and at one point, I swear to you, I thought Foley's sickly ticker was gonna give right out on him. I saw the look of it in his eye. The poor lad had to take a rest on a tree stump halfway up. It took us about an hour to climb 1000 meters in altitude, and I can honestly say that it was the worst single hour of my life. The view from the top was amazing, but come on; I think I'll buy a post card next time. Prior to our “I’d rather have my head sewn to a carpet” climb, we saw the spawning salmon of Capilano, and that was...neat…and educational! For lunch we ate at Earl's, the former employer of young B*Rad when he was a Vancouver resident, and even though the food truly was amazing, the waitresses were even more delightful. Bradley, I don't know how you ever gave that gig up. And to quote the wandering apostle (Kliner), “that Earl is a good man”; even the homeless and insane can appreciate a fine looking waitress. After lunch, it was time to move on. We left Kliner on the street corner (we really didn't know what to do with him – “Well…see you later…”), and started the drive to Calgary. Would the car make it? Probably not, but what the hell are you gonna do, right? I can't describe the scenery because words do not do it justice. The mountains are more majestic than you could believe, the running water is a colour unlike any I've ever seen before, and the sunset was even more breathtaking than all of those on the coast that we never got to see. It was awe-inspiring. But not even God’s greatest natural wonders could measure up to the smoke that was coming out of our car while all of this was passing before us. I mean, picture all of this scenery, and then a five-mile cloud of lung coating black smoke, leading eventually to the spewing exhaust pipe of an 89 piece of shit Golf with Ontario plates and an “I (heart) Steinbeck” bumper sticker, going 15 km/h in first gear up an 11% incline, driven by two complete assholes (more than willing to return the middle finger waving of those passing them by) on the two-lane. It was absolutely classic. At one point, we saw our double (another VW diesel) coming up hill towards us on the other side, and when we saw what we were doing to others, we couldn't help but laugh. You couldn't see anything but diesel smoke. It was beautiful. We eventually got into Calgary (after driving through the aptly named town of “Grindrod”) on Sunday night, and Maki and his girlfriend were, inexplicably, happy to see us. We had a few wobbblies and then headed out to “Desperadoes”, a great country-esque bar, where it was “Seductive Sundays” (you simply could not believe the women there; girls in cowboy hats and tight blue jeans; you’d think that you had died and gone to heaven. If there were ever any question as to why Phatty and Maki moved out there, “Desperadoes” on a Sunday night provided all of the answers necessary). The bar also had a countdown to Stampede (it was 313 days, 1 hour and 23 minutes at the time), where Guns and Roses will be opening up the festivities. After the bar, we met up with Phatty and Laurie...oh wait, no we didn't. We drove all the way out to Calgary, in large part because they hadn't had anyone come out to see them yet, and what do they do? Go back to Oakville for the week. Thanks guys. But not to worry. That night Foley and myself shared a single mattress with each other and two frolicsome canines. It was very romantic. I'm not sure how Maki woke up at 6:00am for his 12-hour shift, but the man is an animal. Myself and Bill spent the day hanging out with Maki's girlfriend, and it was a blast. Foley decided that he wanted to go see his cuz in Medicine Hat, so he went out to start the car. You know where this one is going. Of course, the car wouldn't start. We had to wait for Maki to get home so we could push start the damn thing, and then take it to the dealer. When we pulled in, the guy told us that he didn't even want to look at it, but I made him understand, and he said he'd call in the morning. That night we went out to some Firkin bar where we dominated the punk rock pool tables in the dingy basement while the DJ spun the likes of NoFX (“Don't Call Me White”), and that Nickleback song countless times (well, not really countless; but when you hear the same song four times within the span of two hours, you become consciously aware of its over-playing, and thus begin counting…I guess you could say that we heard that Nickleback song counting times). Then we went upstairs and got our groove on. I think I took my shirt and belt off at one point, but I've been trying to block that ugly scene from my memory. The next day, I phoned about our beloved car, and the girl said that it didn't look good. “You simply need a new car”, she said. “This one has driven far enough, and it's time to bury it”, she said. I asked why all the black smoke, and she said that they thought that “there might be a (like the self-proclaimed drunk explains) piston gone”, and that there wasn't anything she could do about it. Ouch. “Would it make it home?” I asked. Probably not, but that was a chance that we were (unwilling, but) forced to take. She said I could come pick it up any time. When I got there, it wouldn't start. This should come as no surprise, considering they didn't do a frickin' thing to it. I had to get Boris the Russian custodian (God Bless his Bolshevik heart) to help me install a new fuse for the glow plugs. When that produced nothing but futility, he push-started me with his car. I popped the clutch, and the fuckin’ thing started. Unbelievable. I am forever indebted to that man. That night, we went out with one of Foley's buddies from Red Deer, and then the three of us (Foley, myself and Maki) went to this place where lots of people go to park their cars and you can get this really great view of the city at night, not to be mistaken for any type of “make-out” or “inspiration” point. We just wanted a view of the city that Maki is so proud to call home. That’s it. Just the view. Sure, we were the only all-male threesome at this particular spot, but the view was well worth the confused looks we received from the other partygoers. Plus, I had been travelling, for the most part, with one other male for the past five weeks, and had grown to expect, accept, and even appreciate such gazes. And the view was lovely. The next morning, we were up at 6:00, shook hands with the man on his quiet suburban street, and parted ways until the next time. He told us that the prairie sunrise was one of the most beautiful we'd ever see, and I have to hand it to the man; he was dead on. Blinding, but beautiful. The car miraculously fired up on its own, and we vowed that we wouldn't turn it off until we reached our beloved homes on Madden Blvd. We drove to Medicine Hat to meet Foley's uncle and cuz for breakfast, and Foley's uncle (Homer look alike, honest to God) was a laugh, buying us breakfast, and telling us that his daughter, who we'd be staying with in Winnipeg that night, was a “treat”. I'm not sure what it means when a father calls his own daughter a “treat”, but we would soon find out. The drive across the prairies was amazing. There were no trees, and no hills, and no radio stations. And no traffic. After breakfast, we got on the highway with two trucks carrying a load of pigs, and when we got off in Winnipeg, they were still right there with us. Every so often we'd stop for gas or food, and so would they, but we'd always meet up with them again, and they'd give us a wave, and we’d give them the “rock on” sign, and then they’d laugh at the condition of our means of transportation. I read once, in a book by Dave Bidini (On a Cold Road), that driving through the prairies is a provocative, out of body experience: a form of meditation. And in a strange way, it is. I remember Foley being asleep for about two hours before we hit Regina, and it was the strangest thing. Just you and your thoughts, and this endless flat expanse of dancing wheat fields. No traffic to pay attention to. No music to distract you. Nobody to talk to. Just you and your entire life to contemplate. It was pretty surreal. Anyways, we got into Winnipeg some time close to midnight, and met up with Foley's cuz. Now, we all know how partial I am to Foley women (Foley: your sister says hi, by the way. Don’ t worry, I’m taking good care of her here at school), but his cuz was a definite “treat”. Very easy on the eyes, if you read me. And overly welcoming, if you read me. More than eager to make you feel at home…you get the idea. It didn't hurt that her roomie was a model either. We didn't do much in the Peg because we had been driving for 17 hours, and it was time for a long, much deserved nap; just us and the four cats. Yes, the apartment had four cats. I felt like I was visiting somebody's 93 year old aunt. We planned to get up early the next day because we had a long drive ahead of us (Winnipeg to Toronto = long drive by anyone’s standards). Naturally, we rolled out of bed sometime after 2:00pm. Vacation rules. We said goodbye to the chicks and the cats, and got on the road. We didn't turn the car off until we got to the Soo the next morning at 9:00am (great breakfast at “The Busy Bee”), and then not again until we pulled into my driveway at 7:00pm. We drove 28 straight hours around the great lakes, and we loved every second of it. I drove from the Peg to Tunder Bay (the weirdest thing happened; just outside of Dryden ON [the home of Chris Pronger], we began to pick up “Oldies 1150” in Hamilton. Beauty), Foley drove from Tunder Bay to some shit-hole town (White River, I believe) where we actually had to wait for 45 minutes for the gas station to open so we could pay $1.00 per litre for diesel: a new record. I drove from that hole in the earth, along highway 17, and while listening to CBC Radio (our oldies station faded out with the rising of the sun), a song came on about highway 17, naming all of the towns that we had been driving through. Too cool. I stopped at this amazing beach at seven in the morning for a wee dip in Lake Superior, and then it was on to the Soo, where I relived every Cowboy Joel story that began, "Back in the Soo this one time...". Foley drove from the Soo to Sudbury, and then I took'er all the way home. Our skin was literally black when we were finished. I remember having a shower that night and having the shampoo come off of my head as a grayish-blackish paste. It was excellent, although I'd hate to see what my lungs are like. Windows and sunroof open the whole time? We might as well have been taking bong hits from the smokestack of a steel mill. What a great feeling getting back home. All in all, it was an amazing experience, and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Thanks for reading our sometimes sad, often pathetic, but always entertaining (“and never duplicating”, as the great bard once said) adventures. Hopefully we can recount them to you in a more personable setting sometime in the not too distant future. In case you were wondering, the odometer on the ol’ VW ended up reading 430,213.8 km when we pulled into the driveway. That’s over 15,000 km. That’s like driving from Toronto to…you get the idea. For now, I have to get back to the five young women that I share my dwelling with. Skeeter and Foley, thanks lads; it was a blast. We are legends, even if it be only in our own minds. Talk to you all laters, Sheen. Trivia Answer: Manuel Lee.