bout what
Tombstone Part II
posted: December 10, 2010
That night John took me around to a bunch of the local bars (and believe me, for a town with a population of only 1500, they've got a hell of a lot of bars.) I met a good amount of people, including a retired nuclear physisict. I began to gather that Tombstone was a town that catered to your ultimate fantasy. As children we might say “I want to be a cowboy when I grow up.” These people did it. A lot of them are highly educated, highly successful people who just want to dress in chaps and boots and not be looked at funny for doing so. Tombstone allows this. I had a conversation with a couple who was vacationing there. The woman said they came at least twice a year, it was their favorite place in America. She said, “You can be anyone you want to be here.” And the more time I spent there the more obvious this became. Hardly anyone had a real “job.” There were no briefcases, double breasted suits or cubicles. Half the town's job was to get shot at fifty times a day and roll around in the dirt. Tombstone is a town where you never really have to grow up.

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die and to the revival of Six Gun City
posted: December 9, 2010
I need to do something a bit out of the ordinary for todays blog post. Bare with me. As some of you know, Tombstone, AZ was a major stop on my trip. I haven't quite caught up far enough to write about it in the blog yet but today I need to skip ahead. The town suffered a terrible loss yesterday morning. One of the bars in town, Six Gun City, burned to the ground. I found out about it through a facebook post my friend Carey Granger, who runs the Goodenough Mine Tour, posted last night. The news broke my heart because I spent a great deal of time at Six Gun. It was the only place in town where you could drink a beer, smoke a cigarette, order lunch and watch a gun show. I met some fantastic people at this bar. Donna the bartender, as well as the rest of the staff were always very kind to me.

Tombstone was important to me because in the short story I based this trip off of, Huckleberry, it is where the story reaches it's finish. I visited the town twice. I stayed a night there before Annie and I continued on to California. And on my way back, after Annie and I had seperated, I returned to the little town for three days. I cannot tell you how much I loved it there.

Before I get sentimental about Six Gun City I will try and paint you a picture so that perhaps you will fall in love with the town the same way that I did.

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

I drove to Tombstone from Tuscon, which is about an hour and a half at most. The road in to town is long and dusty with desert sprawling out on both sides of you. Border Patrol trucks cruise up and down the stretch making sure no one is smuggling anything in, or out. The first thing you see before hitting town is a billboard displaying the Ok Corral Gunfight Show and a Holiday Inn Express up on the hill. Keep going. Within moments you'll of traveled back in time to the Wild West. Tombstone, which at one point was the greatest city in the west, has kept it's flair. It's a town preserved for tourists in most ways. Family's come to see gun shows and drink giant mugs of frothy beer, buy Stetsons and shoot exact replicas of Wyatt Earps pistols. This is what I knew I would find. I had done extensive research online while writing the short story two years ago. But I had come to the town for a different reason. I had come to meet the people who ran it.

As I said before, the first time I visited Tombstone was with Annie. Cowboys roamed up and down the streets calling out to us to come see their gunshow, “Two O'clock at Helldorado!” So at two o'clock we payed our five dollars and went to see the show. It was pretty funny. It was a comedy show , good guys against bad guys. The bad guys, as they did in real life, were represented by wearing red sashes around their waist. The show was full of bad but funny jokes like, “Hey let me borrow some bullets, I'll give them right back to you!” and “Tombstone has had the same population for one hundred years, everytime a baby is born a man is shot.” The show ends with one of the actors getting a bag of dirt thrown in his face. We laughed, we clapped, we booed the bad and cheered for the good. At the end of the show one of the actors made a comment to us, “We'll be at the Dragoon Saloon later girlies, come see us.”
I won't get too detailed about the personal problems Annie and I were having at this time but I will mention it because it caused us to split up for the day. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. The town was so bizarre and the “townspeople” were all “working,” meaning they were “acting” like “townspeople”. A strange web to try and untangle. But I remembered what the cowboy had said about the Dragoon Saloon and went in search of it. I meekly asked a carriage driver where the Saloon was, praying that it was a real place and had not simply been a line in the script the cowboy had been trained to say. Happily I discovered it was real and I was able to get directions. Directions in Tombstone usually sound like this, “Down there at the bottom of the street.” Easy enough.

I was delighted to find that the Dragoon Saloon ran rampant with locals. I am not going to lie... I was suddenly very nervous. I had driven all the way from North Carolina, I was in Tombstone and all I wanted to do was talk to a gunfighter and here they were... sipping Budweisers and smoking Marlboros. The fictional world I had invented in my mind had come to life and here I was in the middle of it. Dragoon Saloon was an outdoor bar, basically a chunk of wood with a tarp over it and tables set up all over. I ordered a beer. Literally, just a beer, as in I said, “Can I have a beer?” Nothing specefic... oh yes, I was nervous. The bartender was surprisingly young, probably not much older than I was and she was very nice in asking me which type of “beer” I wanted. The words Miller Light came out of my mouth, though I'm not sure why because I have never been a Miller drinker. But by saying this I had, without meaning to, sealed my fate in Tombstone as the girl who drinks Miller Light. I didn't mind, it's not a bad beer as far as being a cheap light one. Anyways, I took my Miller Light and eyed the customers. I recognized one as the guy who had caught the bag of dirt with his face in the show. The dirt was still caked on. I approached him, asking if he minded if I sat down. Of course he didn't. I began to speak really quickly, spilling out my whole story of why I was there, where I was from, what I wanted to know, why I wanted to talk to him. He stared at me with a lazy, confused and somewhat hestitant expression. I caught my breath finally, taking a sip of beer and eyeing him from behind the bottle. Talk to me! I prayed.

So you're writing a story about gunfighters?”

Well... this was not exactly true. But because it seemed like this might excite him and get him to talk to me I said, “Yep!” And that is how I met Lincoln.

Lincoln was of the younger generation of gunfighters, I think he was in his early thirties. He had that rugged handsome cowboy thing going for him which, in my book, didn't go too far considering how sure he was of this fact.

I got him talking about how he started in gunfighting, he'd been doing it since he was just a kid. We finished our drinks and went over to Six Gun City where his mother was working the ticket booth and his roomate was running a different gunshow. His roomate was a hulking military man with bleach blonde hair named Stacy. We sat at the bar and watched, it wasn't as funny as the Helldorado one, it was more historic and informational. (Both were a far cry from anything I'd call “good” but hell, they were gunshows!) Very loud. I was in to it.

I talked to Lincoln for quite a while and even ended up staying the night on his couch, but the more I talked to him the less interested I became. He wanted to talk about Hollywood more than Tombstone. He bragged about movies he'd been in with Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner. His wall was covered in autographed black and white photographs, including Cyndi Lauper. I quickly realized that somehow I had chosen to talk to Tombstone's most narcisistic gunfighter. Oh well, it wasn't all for nothing. Just because Lincoln didn't exactly fit my ideal description of a Tombstone gunfighter doesn't mean he wasn't a reality. I learned a lot from Lincoln and I even promised to name a character after him, which wasn't too big of a sacrafice because I really do like the name.
I returned to Tombstone a week later. I patrolled the streets again and though I saw a couple familiar faces I was feeling shy. I decided to get back in the car and drive twenty miles east of Tombstone to Bisbee. I bought some boots and gained a bit of courage and headed back.
 I decided to go straight back to the Dragoon Saloon and hope for the best. A new bartender was working, a tall slender good looking woman with a warm smile. I sat right down inbetween three old men and ordered a Miller Light. It was slower at the Dragoon that day than it had been the week before and it was easy to strike up a conversation with the men at the bar. When I mentioned I was a writer the man to my right immediatly took interest. He had salt and pepper hair, a face deeply lined with wrinkles and tired but kind eyes. He introduced himself as John Ludwig, a painter. The man to my left, a white haired man with a long beard asked me, “What's a pretty young thing like you doin? You're either running from the law or running from a man.”

John pointed at my ring finger. I had recently lost the ring I usually wear on it and he mentioned the tan line, as if to point out that the latter of the white haired man's speculations was true. I smiled but kept my mouth shut, hoping the air of mystery would provoke interest and get these guys to talk.

I learned that John was the man responsible for most of the old western style artwork in town. When he asked if I'd like him to give me a tour of the town I was thrilled to accept the offer. He took me around to a couple of the local shops to see his portraits, most of them were of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. He also had a couple of some people around town. He had done a lot of the interior decor of many of the local saloons and resturaunts. Painting the walls with flowers or distressing the walls to look like they had originally. His work was obviously very niche oriented but impressive none the less. He had lived in Tombstone for almost twenty years and had a great deal of stories to tell me. He invited me to stay in his guest room if I needed a place to stay and I accepted the offer

John drank Budweiser and smoked Merit 100s. Never in my life have I seen a person smoke as much as this man did. I think within the first two hours of my time with him he'd already choked down an entire pack and was off to the general store to buy more. He bought two packs at a time and he didn't have to specify what because the whole town new his brand. He planned his whole day around where he could smoke and where he couldn't. He invited me to dinner at a place that had outdoor seating where he assured me we could smoke in peace. I didn't much mind where we went, I was just the guest. We went out for mexican food and he told me about going to art school, his ex-wife, his love of the Arizona landscape and his devotion to oil painting. After dinner we unloaded my bags at his house. He described his place as “older” but when we got there I discovered that he'd been quite kind in his description. It was the way one would assume an older bachelor might live with no one around to tell him otherwise. It smelled like turpentine and cigarettes. The guest room had a lot to be desired but I was not about to be picky. I managed to dig out a little single bed under an enormous amount of old VHS tapes, piles of dirty clothes and porno magazines. I don't want to sound like I am complaining, I was more than happy to have a bed for the night. Plus John seemed geniunely excited to play any part in helping me with my research. We went back in to town for a bit of bar hoping and tracking down some regulars he was desperate for me to meet. “I can't wait for you to meet Shoe Shine Johnny!” he said.

This is where I am going to end chapter one of the Tombstone Blog. There is so much to say that I don't want any reader to get bogged down. So here is your first slice. Tomorrow I hope you'll come for seconds.

But most importantly I just wanted to send my thoughts out to the town of Tombstone and Six Gun City. Thirty Eight people are temporarily out of work. But from the little I know about the people in that town, everyone will be there to pitch in and build it back. If I had the resources I'd send them. But because I don't I thought I'd write a little something for this strange and wonderful place that won my heart. Never have I ever met as many good people in one place. I look forward to writing about them tomorrow. Tombstone...

Santa Fe
posted: December 3, 2010
Santa Fe was a happy surprise and a lap of luxury for us. We stayed with an old friend of my dad's, Dana, and her husband Doug. They have this fantastic authentic Santa Fe mud hut that they had renovated to be super suave inside. We were given the keys to their guest house and permission to use their fabulous waterfall shower. Ah.. this was living. Dana poured the "mandatory" welcome shots of tequila and we relaxed outside for a bit, chatting about the trip and old times.
She was booked to shoot an art show in town that night (Dana is a photographer). Check her out at She invited us to come down for a bit, check out the opening then walk around downtown Santa Fe. Considering we had nothing else to do this sounded like a good bet. So after cleaning ourselves up a bit we headed down. The gallery opening was nice and afterwards Dana walked us around downtown before running off to meet Doug at a big dinner of sorts. We were left on our lonesome.
We decided to start with a margarita at a quiet spot we were told was a gay bar. The experience was slightly uncomfortable, not because it was a gay bar of course, but because the bar tenders were real sticklers about our IDs. I mean for petes sake we were only trying to split one tiny cocktails AND we were both of age. After a lot of questions and explanations we were served.

A well dressed older man who had been sitting at the bar beside us and had been listening in to the whole ordeal took pitty on us and told the bartender that he'd like to buy our next round. We started in to conversation with him and he turned out to be a very interesting character. Turns out he worked for the White House and had the most peculiar job. He was the appologizer. This wasn't his official title but as he explained, his job was to go around explaining and appologizing for certain administrative decisions that had been made that perhaps hadn't gone over too well with the general public. I wasn't able to get a fully fleshed idea of what it was he did but that was what I was able to construct in my mind. What a bizarre job! To go around and say sorry? Holy hell. We thanked him for the drinks and went off to aid our rumbling stomachs.

Santa Fe is not exactly a town for the young and certainly not a town that caters to people on a budget, it was not easy to find an affordable meal. But after some asking around we found a bar that served greasy fried food and tacos. They were having a "indie" night with a string of pretty miserable performances but we bared our teeth and sat through it.

Now it turns out... and I am not attempting to brag by any means, but as I said Santa Fe is not a town for the young. And certainly not a town for the young and good looking. Annie and I attracted the most ridiculous amount of attention. A hilarious looking older man with a long beard and sun glasses sidles up next to Annie at the bar. He had a raspy voice and an even raspier laugh and boy did he LAUGH! Everything was hysterical to him. Which in turn was hysterical to us. It was like a garden gnome came to life, smoked a joint and went out to the bars. Someone came up to me and said, "You know that guy played in ZZ Top right?" We googled it the next morning and it was true! Annie even got his phone number. Who would have thunk?

I spotted a guy by the bathrooms that I recognized as the doorman from the art show. He was a towering long haired latin man. I approached him and introduced myself. I was surpised by his boyish voice in comparison to his intimidating stature. He said he had fallen in to the ”bouncer/doorman” job based on his size and on account of he had had to have a bone in his hand replaced by a metal plate. Yikes. But besides this we discovered he was quite the teddy bear at heart. He took us under his two large arms and informed us we were to see Santa Fe the only way there was to see it, with him. A long night of bar hopping and dancing followed. Yes... I danced once again. Strange strange place Santa Fe. We made it home late and collapsed in to bed, smiling and exhausted.
The next day was for the most part a day of recovery. Unable to do very much at all we lounged in front of the TV watching Iron Chef America and uploading pictures. Late in the day we managed to venture out to a Whole Foods and serve ourselves heaping portions from the salad bar then went to satisfy Annie's endless appetite for “Fro-yo.” Frozen yogurt. Boys... if you plan on attempting to take Annie out for a date I would suggest you end it with fro-yo cause the girl cannot get enough. She's crazy for fro-yo. If I learned anything about Annie on this trip this would be it. Not really... but it's true! Froo yooo. That's all I have to say about fro- yo.
The next day I woke up next to a gigantic black fuzzy caterpillar in a terror for I was certain it could have, if it wanted to, devoured me whole in the night. But luckily it had not even taken a nibble and I was alive. Dana had told us about a beautiful scenic chairlift in the area and we decided to go see what it was all about. We got a bit lost on the way there due to not so trustworthy GPS but after abandoning technology and going about it the old fashion way of simply asking for directions we were told to drive up a mountain until we got to the top. And so we did. Santa Fe is absolutely gorgeous. It was cold at the top of the mountain, we weren't as bundled as maybe we should have been but we got some hot coffee and pushed on. It was actually quite a brilliant thing that this ski lodge did. When it wasn't ski season they would charge 5 bucks a person to ride the ski lift up and down and look out onto the beautiful fall colors of the Santa Fe mountains. I have never thought of myself as someone who had a fear of heights but this was not exactly a pleasure ride. Annie and I held on to each other for dear life up the mountain, crying out in fear at every jolt of our lift chair then laughing at how ridiculous we were compared to all the other riders who were leaning back in their seats without a bit of reluctance. But all in all the ride was breathtaking. We had arrived at the peak of New Mexican leaf season and boy was I glad to see it! I had missed the fall colors of North Carolina the past three years I'd been in New York so it was nice to see them here.
That night Dana and Doug offered to take us out for Mexican food and margaritas. The place was right down the street so we walked over but while we were eating it began to rain, so the walk back wasn't half as nice. Dana went to bed early but Doug stayed up with Annie and I drinking wine and talking about success. Doug owns quite a few turqoise mines in the area and apart from selling the stone he also designs jewelry. Doug was a kind and humble man it was a comfort to listen to him talk about beauty, life and perseverance. I went to sleep that night feeling inspired and ready to be back on the road. Our next stop would be Prescott, Arizona which was I excited about because it was the home of my dear friend Evan who I hadn't seen in a number of years.

The White Sands
posted: November 17, 2010
The White Sands desert in Alamogordo, New Mexico is something everyone should add to their bucket list. It is incredible.
We woke up early that morning, considering we had gained another hour after traveling in to mountain time and we were ahead of everyone. We fueled ourselves with coffee and payed our respects to Ham, the first chimp in space, who is buried in Alamogordo. And off to the White Sands we went.
Annie and I split up in the White Sands. I could see her running off in to the desert, looking so tiny in the grand scope of things, a little black pin prick climbing up and down the dunes. I sat on the top of one of the mounds, my feet dangling off a drop. I spied a woman in a red dress off in the distance, walking along a particuarly high peak. She was alone. I couldn't help but wonder what she was doing there, all by herself dressed in such regal attire. It wasn't hard to imagine she was some kind of temptress, a siren without song, luring people in to the desert. Each time you thought you'd caught up she'd be gone and appear again past the next five dunes. You'd follow her until civilization was long gone and the desert replaced it's beauty with an unbelievable sense of forboding. And you'd discover she'd never been there at all.
The desert can do many things. If you have never been to the desert you'll not be able to grasp the feeling of being surrounded by nothing. A friend of mine asked me how I could ever live in a city, he said, how do you ever feel alone? I told him I had a room, I could be alone there. He said, a room? I have the desert. My alone is much different than yours isn't it?
Another friend said it was hard to trust anyone in the desert. Or if you could trust someone in the desert that person was worthy of complete trust. You never know what someone can do when there is no chance of anyone watching or coming to find you.
I was so fueled with the thrill of being alive after leaving the White Sands Desert that I got my first speeding ticket. The guy was a total asshole. I cried. He treated me like an idiot. It wasn't pretty. I survived... we drove to Albequerque.
I had called an old friend of mine asking for a place to stay. I had gone to the Outdoor Academy with Alex and it had been years since we'd seen each other. The fit, chatty Alex that greeted us outside his small adobe house was nothing like the chubby quiet kid I'd known in the tenth grade, but friendly and hospitable still. We drank some beers and poked through his over grown garden for a bit. He had a couple friends over and I fell asleep in the car. I had grown to like it I suppose.
Next stop was Santa Fe, just an hour or so north of Albequerque. We ate an enormous traditional New Mexican green chili covered breakfast at The Frontier and hit the road.

Waiting for the Bats
posted: November 2, 2010

It was freezing when we woke up. The ground was alive with these strange bugs that made loud clicking noises and turned red in flight. We washed Annie's hair in the sinks and folded up the tent. My dad texted me that morning saying we should go to Carlsbad, New Mexico. We had no plans for the day so that sounded good to us! We had already started driving through a bit of desert-ish landscape but the drive we took that day was really where it all began to change. We started driving in to Mesa Country and everything was different. The only way I seem to be able to explain it is to use words like "naked" or "bald." Imagine the mountains of North Carolina, stripped of all their trees and just left as big bald mounds. That's the only way my mind could really process what I was seeing. I took a small stretch of highway 54 heading north. It was like being on a roller coaster. This tiny highway just curved through giant expanses of desert, steep hills up and straight down the other side. You could fly on these roads, no one else was out there and no speed limits were even posted. Thank god I had a full tank of gas beforehand because there was no where to stop. The whole day went a lot like this. Driving... and driving... and looking and not knowing what to think or how to fully appreciate the alien landscape around me. 


It only took us about 4 or so hours to get to Carlsbad. And honestly, once we got there we weren't sure what to do. We kept driving through state parks and signs pointed to caverns and canyons but we weren't sure which ones to stop at and so forth. Right before we got to the town of Carlsbad we saw a State Park Visitor Center. Bingo! A very helpful lady ranger at the desk recommended we rush over to  Carlsbad Caverns before they closed for the day and to make sure and stay around till 6 o'clock so we could see the bats. Whatever that meant. Ok!


Now it turns out that the Carlsbad Caverns are super famous. I think maybe they said they were the largest caverns visitors could still go down in to. Anyways, we took an elevator down in to the depth of the earth and were let out in to... well, a cave. A giant cave. I had been caving when I was around 14 with an outdoor school I was going to at the time so I had a bit of an idea what to expect down there.  But this cave was different in that it had been chosen out of all the others to be a national monument. It was a a cave at it's finest perfection. "The Big Room" which was the main part of the walking tour was enormous. I felt this very odd sense of... humanity down there. Even though I knew that no human society had ever lived down in the cave it seemed to create it's own sense of human history. The formations made by the water and by time took on shapes that resembled totems or statues made for worship. Little formations around the large ones looked like humans bent in prayer and solidified by time, similar to what I would assume a body covered in magma would look like. It gave me the creeps. I don't know if it is me or if it is in our instincts to personify inhuman material, but it is certainly where my brain went. 


After the cave tour we hung around the gift shop waiting for "the bats." We still weren't really sure what that meant but we were damn sure curious to find out. Around 5:45ish the loitering tourists began to migrate down a dirt trail. We followed. We found ourselves in an outdoor ampitheather of sorts which was built just above the mouth of the cave we had been in earlier. There were hundreds of what we discovered were called Cave Swallows diving in and out of the cave. The ranger who was answering questions from the crowd made a joke about the swallows being "the day shift." When they all returned to the cave is when the bats would come out. They took their time I tell you, I think even the park ranger was getting a little nervous that they'd decided not to show tonight. But... around seven o'clock... out they came. And I tell you I've never seen anything like it. There were THOUSANDS. They filled the sky. Tiny little bats swarming out and they made this high pitched chirping noise that became a sort of constant hum as more and more of them came out. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the bats because of some special "sonar" they had that would be effected by electronic waves. (we had been asked to turn off all cellphones, cameras, etc. before they showed up). But I have taken a picture from there online website so that you folk can get a better idea of what it was we were looking at. 


After the bats we considered trying to find a place to stay in Carlsbad but decided to keep going to Alamogordo. It was about two or three hours west. I was up for the drive and we were all about keeping momentum so off in to the night we went.... again...


I am actually struggling to remember this drive. I remember I wasn't very happy on it. It was very dark and I couldn't hardly see the road ahead of me. I guess perhaps I regretted leaving Carlsbad. I was tired and sick of driving not too long after we started out. The desert had disappeared as we'd started climbing in to higher altitude. It was cold out all of a sudden. We hadn't felt any trace of fall until that night. We were winding up a mountain, tall evergreens on either side. I needed gas, and coffee and a snack. We came up on a gas station and a small little town. We got out of the car, cold! It was the strangest thing, it was like a little ski town. There was a little strip of buildings that looked like the front of a movie set, as if there was nothing beyond the front doors. There was a motel, a bar, a closed coffee shop and a gas station. I got a big cup of coffee and a reeses to up my blood sugar. Then... as we wound back down the mountain we approached the biggest town we'd seen in forever. Lights of the city flickered bellow us as we drove down towards it. Alamogordo! And what a beautiful site it was. It's funny how fantastic civilization can look after a day of only natural beauty. We found a Walmart and even after my giant coffee I was sleepy enough to lean back my seat and fall in to a suprisingly restful slumber.

Marfa, TX
posted: October 29, 2010

The drive from San Antonio was a long one. We had booked a campsite at a place called "El Cosmico: Gourmet Camping." It sounded much more up our alley than the National Forest in Alabama, i.e. they had restrooms and it wasn't in the middle of nowhere. Plus we had our new big L.L.Bean tent from Lynn and John, we had gained back our courage and were ready to give camping another try, especially if it was gourmet.

Along the way I ran in to my first minor car trouble issues. My "change oil" light came on. Ah! This is of course is not a terrible thing and a car will give you a fair amount of warning before any desperate means for action need to be taken. But I pulled over anyways and walked up to a man in a jumpsuit who I figured was a mechanic. I said, "Excuse me sir, I'm not exactly sure how to check my oil could you help?"

Turns out the man was a TV Repairmen but... he was nice enough to help me anyways. We put a little oil in the car and he recommended next chance I got to stop for an oil change. Thank you helpful stranger!


We rolled in to town just before seven. 


The camp ground was pretty hysterical. They had yurts, teepees and fixed up airstreams available for renting but on our budget we had to settle for the "primitive campsite." The office was a house in the middle of a field that was decorated inside like some swank sixties bachelor pad with oddly shaped furniture that was neither a pleasure to look at or sit on. A broad shouldered woman in a floor length dress took our twenty dollars and showed us where to set up. On our way across the field a man appeared and asked the woman if it was okay for him to fire up the hot tub. She said yes and he vanished as quickly as he had come. This place was odd. She handed us a map of the town and pointed to a star that said "bar." 

"That's the bar. You can meet locals there if that's what your in to. They've got burgers."

We thanked her and off she went. We wrestled with the tent for a while before we finally got it standing and were able to step back and admire our work. Compared to the shitty Walmart tent this thing was a palace. Thanks Lynn and John! We ate some food we had left over from lunch and talked about how cool we were. We did this a lot. "God we're cool. Look at us. Could we GET any cooler?" 

Not really. But kind of. ;-) But believe me this narcissism, as narcissism often does, would bite us in the ass later.


Anyways we decided to try and check out the town a bit, see what kind of a nightlife Marfa had to offer. We climbed back in the car and set off. Now this next part I don't really have a good explanation for. I don't know what I was thinking! For some reason I concluded from the map that the town was to the right of the campsite. Even though you could clearly SEE a town to the left. I thought that the map must mean that the real town of Marfa was to the right. Anyways, Annie fought me on the logic but not hard enough because to the right we went and in to the dark dark night of West Texas. But in some ways I am glad for the mistake because I learned something very important about the way the mind works. Or rather what the mind can do.


Now in West Texas there is nothing. There is nothing for miles and miles. It's just this giant empty space of nothing. And when the sun goes down it is DARK. So not only is there nothing but you can't even see the nothing that is there. It's just this long road going in to nowhere and all you can see is what your headlights illuminate. So we are driving, I am still convinced that the town will appear somewhere down this road. We start listening to the XX. Which you can listen to here for a full sensory experience of the mindset we were in during this time spent driving in to nowhere. 


"Do you think 'firing up the hot tub' really meant firing up the spaceship?"

"Where did that guy even go? He just disappeared."

"There is no one around to hear us scream."


Things started getting pretty weird. Like... really weird. A vast expanse of nothingness gives room for the mind to create stories to fill that void. In the total darkness of a never ending road, aliens exist, the boogie man, crooked cops, serial killers, monsters, you name it. The mind, when given nothing to work with can create a world you thought you'd stopped believing in when you turned eleven. I am embarrassed to admit it but I think I drove about twenty miles down this road, my stubborness willing the town of Marfa to appear after every curve. Finally, we saw some buildings. No lights were on but we could make out the forms in the darkness and then, like something out of a bad horror film our headlights shown on a road sign: GHOST TOWN. We screamed, I am not joking. Annie grabbed my arm and I stomped on the breaks, spinning the car around as fast as I could and booked it the twenty miles back to the real Marfa with my tail between my legs. 


Oh and by the way, on the way back we hit our first Border Patrol Station. These things are all over Texas, whether you are cruising the border or not. Giant German Shepards sniff your car and crank policemen ask you where you've been and where you're going, etc. But because this was our first and we were already unnerved by our misadventure I had no idea what to expect. 


"Do I need my passport?!"


No.. you do not need a passport if you are in Texas and you are planning to stay in Texas. Come on Lila. Get it together! Anyways... that could have gone smoother but we got out alive thank god. We then decided we better go ahead and continue the night as we had originally planned. We went BACK to the real Marfa. Which was... of course, the town to the left of the campsite. 


We went to the town bar the woman at El Cosmico had told us about which I believe was called Padre's. A woman working at a gas station told us that it used to be an old funeral parlor. Great, we thought, more ghosts. But we went anyways. It was quiet inside, and huge. A giant room with wooden floors, walls and ceilings. It looked like they had a stage area for live music but nothing was going on that night. A juke box was playing but when no one was there to add their quarters, no music was played at all. They had Shiner on tap, the cheap Texan beer of choice next to Lonestar, which to me tastes like stale popcorn. Annie got a whiskey and diet and we sat observing our surroundings. There were a couple people at the end of the bar, some young hip looking women and an older man in a cowboy hat. They didn't seem to have much interest in us at all. Like I said before, in most every where we went we got a bit of attention just for being unfamiliar faces in a very familiar place. But not in Marfa. We decided to check out the back patio in hopes of finding some friendlier locals. There was a woman in roller skates talking to the man in the cowboy hat who had been at the bar. We had to kind of aggressively bully our way in to their conversation but even when we had managed that it was hard to stay afloat. So instead of forcing our way in to this small town pretention we simply asked, "so what is there to do in Marfa?"


The Marfa Lights. The Marfa Lights are supposed to be this glowing orbs that roll across the desert. Some unexplainable phenomenon. There was an observation tower off the highway they told us about so we figured... mind as well. Not like the people in the town were anything to rave about. Maybe these mysterious glowing orbs would suit us better. So off we went...


We sat at the observation tower for hours, staring off across the desert... Needless to say we did not see any orbs that night. But who cares because the stars in Marfa were well worth the overnight. They sky was unbelievable. If you think you've seen stars you are wrong. I mean I grew up in North Carolina, we got stars. Nothing like this. We fell in to an in depth conversation about "what else is out there." We couldn't be the only living creatures in this universe and if we were... why? We drove back to the campsite that night exhausted and filled with questions. Cuddled down in our palace of a tent and fell asleep to the sound of West Texas wildlife. 

Austin, REvisited
posted: October 27, 2010


In retrospect I feel I have left out some key points of Austin and perhaps should have not of skipped over it so readily. I forgot to relate the stories of going to Kathleen's parents house. Kathleen's mother is a doctor of chinese acupuncture, a medical practice my mother swears by. She offered Annie and I each a free treatment. The morning I woke up for our appointments I was attacked by one of the fiercest migraines of my life. The pain was unbelievable and caused me to miss my scheduled appointment with Mrs. Jackson. Which caused her to worry about us and coming looking for us. By the time she had arrived the pain had subsided and I was able to make it to her home office. I told her migraines were not a constant occurrence in my life, perhaps once or twice every six months. She concluded that I had most likely been putting too much stress on myself and the small break of being in Austin has allowed my body chance for attack. She gave me some de-stressing points along with some for immediate relief of my headache. I left feeling rejuvenated. I have grown up with acupuncture treatments but for Annie this was a first. She was impressed with her experience. 


We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Austin. The most interesting thing to both of us was the wildly popular food cart culinary culture that had exploded all over the city, which was cultivated in California. They had whole little "trailer park food courts." And these were not your average taco/hotdog/falafel stands. You could get sushi, southern food, veggie wraps, gourmet chocolate, anything! It was cheap too! Of course this phenomenon would not catch on as quickly in a places of less desirable climates. Outdoor food wouldn't hold up well through icy winters. But in Austin, it works. I ate a fried avocado taco from Torchy's taco cart. It was fantastic. I wasn't hungry enough to sample as many of the food carts as I would have liked to but I plan to return and try more! Plus we were invited to spaghetti night at the Jackson's.


I don't know what it is about dad's and spaghetti but they sure know what they are doing. I can't quite describe what a pleasure it was to spend the evening with the Jackson family. They had such an inherent family bond, yet were also so warm and welcoming to us. They couple had this youthful love and attraction to each other, one that most assume dies over a certain number of years together. It was comforting and gave me hope. Plus the spaghetti hit the spot.

San Antonio
posted: October 27, 2010

Once again I extend a gesture of apology. The truth is my trip has ended, I am home in North Carolina, tired but in one piece. I will not however use this as an excuse to give up on the blog. Because you all, my dear friends, do not know the whole story! And what a journey it was. I will keep going from where I left off and fill you in on the great south west, the west coast, and the trip home. The next stop on the trip was one of great emotional turmoil for me. An important speed bump which caused me to slow down and reevaluate the way I was going about my travels.


We left from Austin fairly early. Saying goodbyes and our deepest gratitude for the friends who had allowed us a break from the road. Our next stop was San Antonio, Texas. It was out of our way a bit but after we had done some research and seen pictures we really couldn't resist. Plus words like "out of our way" were rapidly becoming irrelevant. Because really, what was our way? And who or what was to say what was out of it or not? 


My mom had an old college friend who lived there and who had offered us a place to stay for the night. She and my mother had gone on a European trip when they were around the age of Annie and I, so in a serendipitous way it made since to meet her. Lynn and John had moved to San Antonio from Chapel Hill over twenty years ago. They were both well versed on the culture of the city and ended up being full of great recommendations for things to see, do and eat during our visit. 


We helped Lynn make a delicious shrimp risotto upon arrival. Her daughter Adrian was in town, on break from working helping cleaning up the oil spill in New Orleans. I got to hear some stories about my mom's European trip which excited me cause I'd never heard much about it from her. The phrase, "you think you know someone..." flickered in my mind. 


Lynn and John didn't have much room at their house for us so they recommended we stay with their good friends around the corner. They had two empty bedrooms which was quite luxurious compared to what Annie and I had been used to. However, the quiet solitude of an empty foreign bedroom allowed my mind to wonder freely for the first time in weeks.  I have a tendency to beat myself up if I don't go above and beyond my own expectations. I began to critique myself, annoyed my blogging was behind, wondering if I was getting anything done the way I had wanted it to be done. Was I absorbing enough? Was I just going through the steps? Had I taken enough notes? Would I remember? Would I write? Would I do anything I had promised I would do? It wasn't until I made a phone call to the one person who I knew would lovingly kick my ass and tell me to keep going and to stop being so dramatic. She calmed me down and sent me in to one of the most restful nights of sleep I had had on the trip so far. I was out there in the world, if I was scared I should be scared. If I wasn't scared I wasn't doing my job. Somehow the fear was a comfort. 



The next day we went out to see the Missions of San Antonio: San Juan, San Jose, Concepcion, Espada. San Jose was the best, if you're definition of best is biggest and well intact. It's an unusual feeling standing somewhere once used and populated and now empty and useless other than to be seen and appreciated. History runs rich in the south west, a bloody history which is somehow magnified by the sprawling desert it is surrounded by. The great Alamo, most likely the most famous mission of them all was located in the middle of downtown San Antonio, across the street from a Hard Rock Cafe and a Starbucks. I don't know if it is necessary to explain why this was hard for me to appreciate. We didn't even go in. 


That night Lynn had plans with her friends so John and Adrian decided to join us for dinner. San Antonio, of course, is well known for it's fabulous "tex-mex cuisine." Though our two locals had been to many places around town and had lots to recommend we decided on a place new to us all. Now I feel guilty for waiting too long for this blog because now I cannot remember the name of the place. But perhaps Annie does and I will be able to comment on it later. Anyways, if I ever do recover the name of it I would highly recommend it. It was actually much more authentic mexican rather than tex-mex. I had a dish with Nopalitos which is a pickled cactus. Delicious! After dinner we went down to the river walk. This was my favorite part of San Antonio. It felt like being in Europe. The walk was along the river, below the city. Gondolas riding up and down, people out drinking and eating along the banks. It was gorgeous. I stood on a bridge with Annie, feeling a kinship with her over being lost in a strange land. Feeling constantly ungrounded yet a comfort in her company. We sat with John and Adrian at a bar listening to a local jazz band and drinking a cocktail. John was quite knowledgeable about the music scene in San Antonio and he knew the group playing. We went back to the neighbors house that night, ready to head out the next morning. John and Lynn were kind enough to dig up their old tent of the garage so that Annie and I wouldn't have to use our junior size orange Walmart contraption again. Our next stop would be Marfa, TX. It came highly recommended.

Austin, Tejas
posted: October 14, 2010
I drove almost clear across the state before I had to pull over and sleep. Our second favorite place to sleep in the car is in hotel parking lots. We think it is ironic and clever. Maybe? Anyways we stay in a Hampton Inn, in who-knows-where Louisianna, for most of the night. I wake up at sunrise and drive to Lake Charles. It seems to have become tradition to greet each morning after sleeping in the car with staring out across a lake. (if you remember, i did the same in Tupelo) Austin is next. This is good news for us, familiar faces and a little R&R.
We stayed at my friend Kathleens for two nights, it was nice to see her. It had been a long time. Annie was very excited about being able to eat fresh vegetables again.
Then there was... Jaqi Alie. Jaqi is my friend from Chicago, though I have never actually seen her in Chicago, she comes to New York a lot. She had just moved to Austin and turned out she had moved right around the corner from Kathleens. Jaqi Alie is always up for a good time. This should be her patented phrase. This is why I love her. Now I will explain to you all... that if you have never been in a car driven by Jaqi Alie you should keep it that way. Unless you are a person who enjoys feeling like at any moment your precious life could end. Austin will probably soon have signs on the roads warning drivers against her. She had a really cool neighbor named Clay, artist photographer... red head... nice guy. And then of course there was Kyle Walker, future skateboard legend. He was there as well... I really don't want to spend too much time on Austin because as far as the road trip goes, it was a rest from the road. Though not for our livers... sorry family, it's a honest blog. These pictures sum it up pretty well.
Though we did "float the river." Which simply means sitting in an intertube, with a beer if you're in the mood, and floating down a river. This sounds relaxing and easy right? It should be.. unless your me and you leap out of your intertube, discover the water is only a couple inches deep and watch your tube float far away... along with your friends who are laughing too hard to help you. Then... if this is the case, as it was mine, "floating the river" can be a whole 'nother animal. Luckily Clay was not as useless and Jaqi and Annie and he retrieved my tube and returned it to me. Thanks dude.

New Orleans Part Two and my Deepest Apologies.
posted: October 14, 2010
Hello friends, family and others. If you were ever a fan of boutwhat I'm sure I have totally lost you. I did lose my computer charger but that is no excuse for having the last blog post be from New Orleans. I am so embarrassed. Let's see, it's going to take some backtracking to catch up. Well... a lot of back tracking. But perhaps it will go quickly. Let's give it a whirl.
So apparently it is tradition, if not of everyone, but of my fathers, to have oysters and a pimms cup in new orleans. Annie was back at the great and helpful droid phone and we found a place that had half priced oysters and cocktails called Luke. The restuarant ended up being owned by celebrity chef, John Besh. We were not exactly dressed for the occasion but we sideled up to the bar anyways. Our bartender turned out to be the best thing to happen to us in New Orleans.
 He took pity on us two straglers and decided to help our cause by boozing us up. I had complained to him about the overly sweet daquari I had consumed on Bourbon street the night before so he made me a REAL daquari. Which, for those of you that do not know is simply rum, lime juice and simple syrup. TAsty. He then took it upon himself to give me a little history in the literary world and made me Hemingway's twist on a daquari, which added a hint of grapefruit and maraschino. Even better. Annie made a friend at the bar named Matt who was on a bit of a trip himself via airplane. But he was from Chicago and loved food so that kept Annie in happy conversation while I continued to drink... Yes. This whole scene.. if you would like to imagine was quite hysterical. First of all we are both in jeans and t-shirts in a restuarant where the dinner entrees go for forty dollars a plate, second of all we are slurping down two dozen oysters and various cocktails and third of all... it totally kicks ass. Why not? A man named Roy sits down next to me, he is from Lafayette and writes nonfiction books about dealing with difficult youth. He is trying to determine what one component of his meal is and I inform him it has something to do with watermelon
Roy is incredibly excited about our trip. Roy likes Crown Royal and coke. Our bartender friend, I think his name was Thomas but I cannot be too sure, decides to get really decadent at this point. "Can I offer you ladies some absinthe?"
             "Indeed you can!" we say.

He tells us the story behind the absinthe and runs us through the whole tradition of absinthe drinking. He says NEVER to let anyone burn sugar in to your absinthe. It burns away the alcohol and does nothing for the taste. So... for anyone who was ever melted sugar cubes in to their absinthe... you've been doing it wrong all along.
After a healthy amount of free top shelf booze we leave the bar happy and... surprisingly... hungry. We were told to go to Mother's, authentic creole style food. It's right around the corner. It's a small counter service style place where you are intended to eat gigantic poboys but we spring for the gumbo and et tu fe. Our portions are tiny for the price and though tasty... I am sorry to say we leave disapointed. And to top this off, I'm sure from a mixture of various cocktails and perhaps a bad oyster, Annie gets sick. It's time to leave New Orleans... I grab a coffee, run to get the car and off we go in to the night. Another car camping night follows.


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