Wednesday, May 17, 2006

OUT HERE THE ONLY WINDBREAK IS THE NORTH STAR

A brief update on Dave and Becca’s adventures in the last several days:

1. Iowa City, Iowa, with Dave’s friends Grant and Aly. Deliiiicious dinner courtesy of Aly (chicken with mushrooms, prosciutto, and marsala sauce plus polenta and red wine), and then some QT spent laughing and talking and discussing fantasy baseball. (Er, that was just Grant and Dave.) Saturday we slept in and grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local diner and then split for parts west, sad we couldn’t stay longer. Grant is apparently hosting an enormous party in June with a friend named “Anton,” which appropriately will be dubbed “Granton.” Sigh.

2. Kansas City, MO, with Zach Walker and Zach’s friend Kevin. It’s a solid 8 hours from Iowa City to KC, but let’s be honest—once you’ve spent 15 hours in the cold cold belly of I-80, 8 hours in the car seems pretty easy. The cold grey raininess had followed us from Chicago to Iowa, and followed us again as we drove southwest to KC, finally giving way to some sunlight in Missouri.

We hung out with old friend Zach and new friend Kevin, went for a run, were the recipients of awesome hour-long massages from Zach (well, only Becca), and most importantly, took in some INCREDIBLE barbecue with Zach. (Zach was really excited by the glass wall between the barbecue restaurant and the liquor store next door, which provided an exciting view of, you guessed it, dudes buying liquor.) Then he gave us a first-class tour of downtown KC, c0mplete with a tour of the city’s 1,000,000 fountains, 88% of which Zach has illegally bathed in. Dave and Zach also spent some QT with Ben Franklin.



3. KC to Denver, CO. Another solid 8 hour drive: 650 miles. Dave had breakfast at McDonalds, an annual indulgence that initially made him feel very happy but also listless and cranky for the rest of the morning as Egg McMuffin wended its way through his body. Kansas City’s location straddling the border between Kansas and Missouri provided lots of entertaining opportunities to play the punch-your-partner-when-you-see-an-out-of-state-license-plate game. Geographic ignorance also reared its ugly head again, with Becca seemingly uncertain if we’d already driven through Indiana, or if we had yet to do so. Sigh.

We’ll be honest: we’ve driven through more interesting states than Kansas. While we were in Chicago, we had the following conversation with Dave’s friend Dale, a Kansas native:

Us: so, is there anything interesting to do when you’re driving through Kansas on I-70?
Dale: Umm….
Us: …?
Dale: …um, no.
Us: Really?
Dale: Yeah. Once you get west of Salina, it’s just flat.
Us: (disappointed) Oh.
Dale: possibly the world’s largest ball of twine.

Even “Prairie Dog Town,” home of the world’s largest prairie dog, which Becca had been excited about since KC, disappointed her by being closed.



But we made it to Denver pretty quickly, delighted by the sudden arrival of serious mountains on the horizon. The great plains don’t end naturally when they hit the Rockies, they just kind of abruptly end, like your little cousin Lester interrupted in mid-sentence by an enormous belch. To our delight, we had time to run over to the amaaaaazing Red Rocks and run around and gawk at the natural beauty. Dave, raised in the Midwest, was brought up believing that mountains were mythical creatures like dragons and the abominable snowman. Actually seeing them made him very happy.



4. Denver to Salt Lake City. “Out here the only windbreak is the north star,” wrote poet Carl Sandburg about the Midwest. He might as well have been writing about Wyoming, an extremely unattractive state we’ve been stuck in since—well, since about 11 this morning. Here’s what you see if you look out the window in Wyoming; rock formations, covered with ugly green-brown grass and little tufts of vegetation, wooden fences, power lines, and dudes driving pick-ups. We stopped in at a UPS store in Laramie and a dude there was really mad because he couldn’t ship a RIFLE. “You’ll have to go to the main UPS office downtown,” they told him, and he stalked off, muttering angrily—which was a little frightening, considering he was shipping a rifle.

In short, an exciting and fun couple of days. Many more gaaawjus photos available HERE, and more stories to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF OUR TWO HEROES’ VEHICULAR ADVENTURES ACROSS FIVE STATES (or, the pros and cons of Ohio)

Ohio Farmland

So, hopefully, by the time you read this, Becca and I will be safely ensconced in the Bruner family residence in Oak Park, IL, just west of Chicago. We got there (we really hope we got there) after leaving Princeton at 9.15 AM and enduring a grueling at-least-14-hour-day spent almost entirely on I-80.

Our schedule went something like this:
9.15: leave Princeton
10.15: get on I-80
11.15: still on I-80
12.15: still on I-80.
1.30: I-80 merges with I-90. Continue to follow I-80.
3.30: begin secretly to resent I-80
5.30: begin to plan to secretly leave I-80 for a more fulfilling relationship with another expressway.
…9.14 PM: Still on I-80.

At this point, we’re somewhere in western Ohio (on what is euphemistically known as the “James B. Shockney Turnpike,” perhaps the most bombastic name for an expressway EVER) treading down the miles between us and Indiana.


Behind us there are numerous fearsome obstacles: New Jersey; New Jersey’s drivers; the state of Pennsylvania (sorry, Gary and Abby, it’s a BEAST to drive through); geographical ignorance (Becca: we’re driving through Ohio?); the Rutherford B. Hays presidential museum (I didn’t get to stop….AGAIN); and not least, Ohio state troopers.

Do you know why I pulled you over today?

Yes, folks, we got our inaugural ticket tonight in Ohio: Becca got nabbed doing 79 in a 65. I’m not going to disclose how much this unfortunate occurance will cost young Ms. Sanders, but let’s just say it rhymes with ‘ninety-one dollars.’ But “Manhattan” Sanders took it with her usual unflappable personality (she did pop a few Sour Patch Kids, but that’s it). She didn’t even break down and cry for her Grammy, like the last time I did when I got a ticket.

Right now the betting pool has us arriving at Mom and Dad’s place between midnight and one and then collapsing into a gelatinous heap on the floor. No, wait. We’ll collapse into our beds, where we (meaning “I”) will presumably sleep until 10 or 11 tomorrow. Tomorrow, thank heaven, hold nothing more formidable than farting around all day and then going out to dinner with the assembled Bruners. God willing, we’ll wind down tomorrow watching a goofy movie in the basement and drinking beers (she says “Son in Law,” I say “Dodgeball”).

Highlights: playing Tetris with our possessions and successfully squeezing it into my Civic; our first (and overly-delayed) 20-oz. cup of coffee at 9 AM; crossing the Delaware Water Gap; rocking out to both “Great Adventure” by Stephen Curtis Chapman and “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper (both part of a sublime mix Becca made); gorgeous farm country in Pennsylvania and Ohio, illuminated by a setting sun and clouds; a pick-up pulling a trailer holding an enormous sign that said “PALM READING, $5”; being done with school.

Prayers: No more allergies/migraines for Becca; plenty of sleep & relaxation in Chicago. Thanksgiving for getting us home safe.

Question for Readers: If an Ohio State Trooper pulls you over and says (as he did to Becca), “Do you know why I pulled you over?”, what would be the WORST answer you could give?

Want to see more pictures? Go here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

GEORGE HUNSINGER SERMON ON TORTURE

I commend to you the excellent words of my teacher, Prof. George Hunsinger.