26 July 2006

Just don't go for the food.

In my bathroom, on the shelf in the shower, are travel-sized bottles in varying colors. Face scrub, shampoo, conditioner. In my side of the medicine cabinet Q-tips sit in a neat handful-sized cluster. Things have been unpacked but my toiletries still think I'm on vacation.

And so do I.

Being there, being out there, it's something else entirely. It's a reminder of just how much of a microcosm our individual existence really is. A vast expanse of nothing but nature doin' it's thing. A real eye-opener. Just don't go for the food.

Here are some of the mental notes I took during our 7-day trip:

A Boeing 747 to Denver airport, an Airbus 320 to Durango -- on the plane, out the window, everything looks so fake. Little pretend people and cars going about their little pretend lives, driving to pretend places. There are mountains with little houses sprinkled in for scenery. A town here, a city there. Nothing too gaudy or garish. A forest, an odd-shaped rock formation, some clouds, a river. Everything's small, modest and model-like. I can't help thinking of Katamari Damacy. I want to roll everything up, make everything one. Bring things closer together only to jettison it all into the atmosphere. I doubt the other passengers would appreciate that though. *sigh* The King is so fabulously misunderstood yes?

So, on the list in my mind I can officially check off two more states I've visited -- Colorado and Utah -- bringing the grand total up to a whopping 16. To be honest, some of those I'm only counting because I've driven through them, so yeah, I'm inflating a bit. Coming to terms with the fact that you're never going see everything is hard but I'm dealing with it.

At the top of a mountain, we take pictures of a lake with wild flowers all around it. Trout live in there, in the lake, in the lake at the top of a mountain. Where the air is so thin that I walk ten feet and need to catch my breath. I'm told the snow up here is pink and smells like watermelons due to some kind of fungus that grows inside of it. Rocks that turn red like blood under rushing water due to their iron content. The mountain is bleeding. At high altitudes things get a little weird.

In one of the local restaurants down the street from the hotel there’s a separate menu for hamburgers. The title of that menu is "Burgatory."

There's a college in town, which explains the influx of douche-bags. Hat slighted to 4 o'clock, checkered tie around his neck over a pink shirt, collar popped -- in daddy's beamer -- he lays tire at an intersection while his buddy yells something obscene at a couple of girls sitting at the local Cold Stone Creamery. I look back and the locals are rolling their eyes. You just can't have a small town anymore I guess. Maybe he’s popping his collar for Collarado. Okay, I’m done.

Everyday in Durango and the surrounding area, at 1:30 Mountain Standard Time, for about an hour, it rains. You can put your watch to it. Off in the distance there's an area of sky that looks gray and hazy, like a curtain falling from the clouds, isolated on all sides by sunshine. That's the rain and everyday it comes. If you’re unlucky enough to be in the mountains at the time, you get hail.

It's in Silverton that my mom declares she's just had the worst burger of her entire life. After the train ride to get here, I ordered the same thing but was almost too hungry to notice. We're sitting outside at a table under an umbrella when it starts to rain. It's a bit of a tourist trap here. A little town surrounded on all sides by mountains. An annual population of around 400. At the one gas station in town a gallon of regular will cost you $3.39. Next to the store that sells authentic Hopi and Navajo jewelry there’s a store that sells Yu-Gi-Oh cards. On the bus ride to the hotel the air conditioning is broken.

Durango Coffee Company pwns the local Starbucks!

On a river raft we meet a couple from Holland over here on a 5-week vacation. Let me say that again. 5 WEEKS! All. At. Once. That's unheard of for Americans. The wife takes her oar and starts to splash river water on the people in the raft in front of us and sooner than I know we are thrown into an all-out river grudge match. They're taking a tour of the entire continent they tell us. Sad, I've lived here my whole life and I can't say I've seen half of it. To them -- where they come from -- America might as well be deserted. There are no people here the husband keeps saying. Tell a New Yorker that, I say.

On the ride back to the hotel from Silverton -- after spending the whole day driving up a mountain -- I'm talking to our guide from the back seat of a Chevy Tahoe. He's telling me that people here are more in-tune with the environment, that since they are surrounded by nothing but nature, that's what they know best. I agree with him and add that in the city, people are more in tune with people. You can only know what your surrounded with I say, though part of me doesn't believe it.

Pointing to the landscape, my mom must have said at least once everyday:

"Imagine what the settlers thought when they came across this. Cresting a mountain in an oxen drawn wagon only to look off into the distance and see yet another larger mountain. The people who didn't give up and turn around, a lot of them died.

It's beautiful here isn't it?"

I make some joke about playing Oregon Trail in the Mac-Lab in high school, about how I'd always get Malaria and break a wagon wheel crossing a river. We laugh and go back to looking out the window.

After all, the earth doesn't grind and lurch it's way around the sun just so we get to have a chuckle.

In the desert of Monument Valley our tour guide was a Navajo man. He sang for us and told us old Navajo stories and folklore. Showing us the elephant, or dragon, or eagles, or yodas in the rock formations. He looked at rocks the way children look at clouds. He was in StarWars, he said, in the originals, in the background. He drove us 6 rotations around a tiny shrub, his speed increasing with each turn. He stopped for dust storms that crossed the path of our jeep, telling us that those were the ghosts of his ancestors and if he passed through them -- interrupting their journey -- he'd be doomed with forever bad luck. He was having fun with us, I'm sure. At the tour station his friends called him Marvelous Marv.

On the flight home there was an old couple sitting in front of me. I could see through the gap between the seats they were doing the crossword puzzle of some in-flight magazine. And there it was, 14 across on the top row. "Sperm." That was the answer to 14 across, but it wasn't the couple’s first answer. Underneath the hard-pressed, dark-penned indentation of the word SPERM something else was written.


Old people are funny sometimes.
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24 July 2006

Where the air makes you high.

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14 July 2006

Paul Petyo is on vacation.

I know, hard to believe right? So yeah, I'm in the mountain land of Colorado, doin' it up real big. Gonna be gone the 15th - 22nd. That's 7 days with no computer, no email, no blogger.

When I return I'll be changed. I'll have been lumberjacking, climbing steep hills, panning for gold, wearing flannel and running from bears. A new man -- a new bearded man -- with wisdom and artifacts (and hopefully gold) to share (not the gold) for the ages.

Ciao, space cowboy.

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05 July 2006

Oh noes! My electric mails!

Saturday night Dennis and I watched Disclosure on cable. Released in 1994 with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore playing the two leads, the real star of the film was "the internet."

Now keep in mind, my cohort and I were no where near sober. To say we were even on the same map would have been a gross geographical error. We had quaffed our share of expensive wine before sitting down and throwing ourselves into the proverbial feast of fire.

Funny how the best part of the movie was unintentional, unfettering -- to a nerd -- the rush of memories of how the internet was supposed to be, in the future. How people perceived it would look. How we'd be in it: walking around, looking here and there at the marble pillars and Grecian architectural style, picking things up, running. (Wouldn't it be nice if we could make the internet faster simply by running from place to place?) It's the same way we look back at the iconic images of talking ovens or "computers" with blinky lights from the 50's, even Darth Vader's chest piece for that matter.

The kind of innocence that can only be found in nostalgia.

Needless to say none of that innocent nostalgia kept us from making unmerciful fun of it. From the giant rotating 'e' that would manifest it's self in a hollow hole of a black window over the computer's desktop every time Michael Douglas had mail, to the ridiculous VR Douglas must go through just to retrieve some company data, helper angel and all -- this movie is a geek comedy goldmine. Replace the angel with the MS paperclip and you've got an idea of what we're talking about.

What can I say? We're nerds. Besides, everyone knows the internet is made up of a series of tubes.

This isn't the only movie we've done this with, you should have been there for my first viewing of Episode III, man, my face hurt from laughing.

Upon further inspection of our living situation -- with that giant screen in front of us -- there is no reason we couldn't mount a camcorder behind the couch and make our own episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 for airing on YouTube or something.

Yeah, I might do that, I might do that as soon as my camera comes out of the shop. Look out internets!
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