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.


momster said...

Here are my mental notes from the trip:

Ancient Pueblo Indians who one day decided it was better to live in a crack in the side of a cliff, climbing up and down the face of the sheer rock walls using nothing but hand and footholds cut into the rock. They used to live on top of the mesa where they grew their food but decided it was easier to climb up and down the cliffs like Spiderman. They threw their trash, human waste and the bodies of dead family members over the cliff edge because, honestly, what else would you do with them?

Almost all college girls are vain, self-absorbed and can't pass a mirror without checking themselves out. Yet they will hook up with any boy who shows them the least bit of attention.

College boys are badly dressed, poorly groomed,immature jerks.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory rules.

Native Americans are funny (haha) people and they know we don't have the vaguest idea that they are laughing at us not with us.

I will never drive through a dust cloud again.

Chipmunks are crazier than squirrels and a lot faster.

People shouldn't subject small children to all-day tours that involve long bus rides with no air conditioning. They also shouldn't take them on a vacation across country by car, arriving at their hotel at 11:00 PM only to have the kids screaming and jumping on the beds until 1:00AM.

The majority of tourists are fat, many boarding on obesity. And I now don't feel so bad about MY 20 extra pounds.

Never order a pizza from a "restaurant" restaurant and have it delivered to your hotel room. You are guaranteed of 3 things, it will be outrageously expensive, it will take at least an hour and 30 minutes to arrive, and when it does it will be cold and taste like the cardboard box it came in.

I loved Colorado and will go back someday and try "real" white water rafting.

Paul said...

Yeah, I left some of that stuff out for nostalgia's sake. :)

That pizza, that pizza was just a travesty. I've never eaten anything that horrid in my entire life.

And those brats next door, oh how I wanted to murder them all.

Thanks for adding, mom. I knew there was some stuff I left out. A lot of that cliff shit, well, I was too busy taking pictures to listen to history class.

Some things never change.

Momster said...

I'm a Mom. It's my job.

Jon said...

I hope you're ready to be cast into Burgatory when we hit Otakon next week.


(seriously, how did we not come up with that ourselves?)

Glad you had fun out west. Let's hit up Wyoming sometime. It's even nicer.

Paul said...

I know man, reading it, I said the same thing.


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