March 17th, 2001


The road trip with Ken, first day

You know, this year many people have told me that with my experience, I could get a well-paying job almost anywhere. Now that I've given more thought to Tony's proposition in the context of all this advice, I realize that his offer is not the godsend I had first thought.

Don't get me wrong, it is a very good thing. He's being extremely generous in making this offer. In fact, I'll probably be taking the contract work no matter what I decide my long-term plans are. But I do not necessarily have to commit to working for his company, moving down to L.A., and quitting at LiM.

- - -

I get up and take a final shower, and spend a while packing. Ken arrives only an hour or so behind schedule. I say goodbye to Petrea, Tony, and Mister Poo. Before I leave I locate an old copy of my resumé and leave it on the computer so Tony can spruce it up a little. Ken and I leave my sister's house at about noon.

We have a lively discussion about vacations we've taken while Juno Reactor plays on the stereo. After some fine tuning it sounds great. Ken hovers around 80mph on the freeway, which the car maintains effortlessly. "Listen to that kitten purr!" he exclaims.

We play with the camera and pass by local valley landmarks, including a big rotating beer sign. The town of San Dimas rolls off to our right, and I am absolutely unable to prevent the association of Bill and Ted from rioting in my brain.

Doesn't their endorsement make the place seem like an above-average community? Sure, I think, because Bill and Ted is all I know about it. If I changed the name of Santa Cruz to San Dimas, everyone would get the same vague giddy feeling about that yuppie villa too. Plus there's that Boardwalk and Lost Boys connection.

We stop at Ken's parents' house, and they load the back of the car with trinkets to deliver to Georgia. I witness the trio of Ken and his parents trying to coordinate a simple process of packing luggage, and realize that Ken's hilarious team coordination skills are an inherited trait.

They buy us Tacos at a Mexican place down the road. Outside the restaurant a man is conversing with another man, wearing a t-shirt that says "Just another stuck-up yuppie from Claremont" on it.

I take over the driving as we depart the Taco stand, and we ramp up to highway 10 eastward, turning north out of the dense suburbia onto 15.

On our left a mountain range looms, dusted with what appears to be snow. This is L.A., however, and it could truly be dust. The rocky appendages flank us all the way up highway 15 until we cruise onto 40 and break for Arizona. Corrugated, grease-spackled tinsel towns slide past on either side of the highway, windows leering, the painful outer nodes of the cancer back in the valley.

The sun flutters down past the red hilltops and washes eerily over the rocks - crusty yellow lozenges heaped around like massive termite droppings. Ken and I bray along to They Might Be Giants, indulging in the incongruity of our music. We have a little discussion about Hollywood as various landmarks prompt us.

A pit stop at a Wendy's brings the attentions of a cute cashier named Jenna. The bumper stickers near the door thoroughly indicate we are no longer on the west coast. 'FBI: Female Body Inspector.' Everyone smokes and everyone is ugly and pissed. There doesn't seem to be any money, nor any means of making it, outside the doors of this burger joint.

We stop at the Amble Inn, a crumbling 30-room hotel near the freeway. The city of Williams is where two highways split - 40 goes on to Flagstaff, and another highway goes up towards the Grand Canyon.

Ken insists on bringing his camera to the door while we sign in. Ringing the bell reveals a short, beefy man, fast-talking. He offers us a room with two queen-size beds for 30 bucks, and we accept. It's 9:00pm and he claims to be showing sympathy for our late arrival - but he's obviously just interested in filling the rooms at any price.

He walks back behind the fold-up desk to get our paperwork. On the back of his green shirt, in simple yellow lettering, is the legend "JESUS IS LORD". I wonder if he'll suspect that Ken and I are a gay couple on vacation. Ken does flame a little, especially since he decided to wear his sunglasses and dress-coat to the sign-in. I wonder what would happen if he started waving his camera around.

The guy offers us a receipt that some previous tenants left behind. Using it, he claims, we can bypass the 20-dollar entrance fee at the Grand Canyon. He offers to sell it for four bucks, but when we decline, he hands it over for free. "Whatever - it's no good to me anyhow."

While Ken pays the bill with his sisters money, I wonder at the sudden change in character of the populace. Out here the economy works very differently. This place is not the top of a food chain like California is. Back in my home town, religion is an option. Out here, it's mandatory. Perhaps you're drawn to something hierarchical and humbling, because it is consistent with your situation.

It's interesting to see how strongly economics can shape the attitudes and activities of people. I spent the last couple days agonizing over whether to earn 50 dollars an hour doing something boring at a desk. Weighing the money. Out here, the idea is just insane. Bloody murder and jealousy!

So anyway, I take a shower and make a phone call, and then it's writeup time, and then sleep time. And none too soon. I'm tired and we've got a lot of driving to do. Today we went 420 miles in six and a half hours. That kitten really purrs.