Friday, May 22, 2015

Smells like a Safety Meeting

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've encountered to help me make the big choices in life because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - all these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important"
-Steve Jobs

Left Kirksville around 830AM, the earliest in the last 3 weeks cutting through Illinois passing by Chicago.  About 6 hours in, just a little over 3 hours away from Detroit Kellen found a brewery not to far off to stop at.  The street looked fucking deserted, and there was just the faintest Open sign in the window of Tapestry Brewery – barely 2 years old.  The beer was actually pretty good, and the sandwiches on point… but remember, it’s a van of starving animals, spiritually and physically.  Anyway, we discovered they weren’t shittin you when they call Chicago the windy city.   Honestly the whole fucking state was out of control, and while I had the windows down because the van was boiling hot near Lucas and Tyson in the back  - I felt like I was getting punched in the face.  It was a different kind of wind compared to the Teton Mountains where I was hanging my head out of.  I was holding onto my sunglasses flapping against my face, yelling to Tyson that I was getting punched in the eyes.  

Once the wind stopped bitch-slapping me, we arrived at Flint, Detroit (930PMish) all four of us sprawling onto the floor… til Lucas’ 7AM flight back to San Diego. 

The next day… or for Kellen, 5 hours later, we headed for Southfield to see our friend Chelsea at her and her boyfriends new house that they were renovating themselves.  She used to live in the city and never really thought she’d end up out in the suburbs, but as it’s gentrifying and real estate is so low, I could see how that may happen.

Had lunch at Mudgie’s, a rad lil artisan sandwich place with a handful of craft beers and a grip of wine selects.  Then Chelsea took us to The Heidelberg Projectfound on Detroit's East side, a community art installation containing "trash", recycled material, and found objects. 

Had only read an article on this art installation years ago, created amongst homes that have been burned down or abandoned... and I didn't know I was talking to the actual artist until... well, when I was talking to the actual artist, Tyree Guyton.  He was in the middle of a conversation with his family, all laughing around a small dining table on a sidewalk covered in dots and faces, and so he said to look around some more and come back in 5 minutes.  I did another lap around and came back with Chelsea, Kellen, and Tys, where he raised his arms and asked if there was an artist in the group.

"Ah, me", I said

"Well, I gotta pick your brain about somethin"


"WHAT IS ART", asked Tyree

... without hesitation I said


"what else"


"what else"

"well at this exact moment for me... pain" (ah yah, cliche artist adjective, eat your heart out, cause we all know it's true)

And with that, Tyree took a pen and wrote on a piece of scrap metal next to him


"Art. is. life. Art is life to me", he says, hitting his chest with a fist that I could feel vibrate through my own and everyone else's... continuing on with the neighborhood, the project; when he started the art installation, how he felt, and what he wanted to build out of the community, and most importantly the change of Detroit for the better.  Then he asks for any questions, and Kellen asks

"What's with all the clocks?"

"WHAT IS TIME?" whispers Tyree... I put it in all caps, cause even though it really wasn't that loud, it sure as hell felt like an exclamation of excitement.

"What do you want to do with yo time?" he continues...

We four think for a hot minute, and I blurt out, 

"Time is forever"


"And it is nothing"

"...and?"  And I can't for the life of me 4 days later remember the next couple minutes of that discussion.  All I know is that time speculated around us as I watched his arms wave in circles and reach up towards the sky as he made sure all four of us that time was there.  Next I asked,

"Why all the taxis?"

"WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO IN LIFE?" he whispers again

"Far away"

"Then you go girl" or something like that, as he points behind me, and conveniently there is a suitcase with a huge circle drawn around it on the sidewalk. 


So, he learns we have driven all the way from California, and he says 

"Document it all, take pictures, record your ventures"... something like that

"Oh yeah, that's what she's for!", said Tyson pointing at me

"OOOOH -enter relatives name- DIDN'T I TELL YOU GOD WAS A WOMAN?!" Tyree (for real Caps-lock this time) yelled behind him.  The table laughed, and said-relative goes "Naaw, God's a hermaphrodite" more laughter following... I don't reckon any of us knew what that was about, but it rang through the yards.

He thanked us all for stopping by and for spreading the words to our friends, and then again for stopping by and learning. 

Personally, I couldn't leave just yet, so I turned back around and asked him when he was born.  And then I asked him, What day is was he discovered why.  Did he feel it? Was he told it?  He looked down at me and thought he already said... but then simply said "Today".  And, I'm not sure what came over me... although, I had been feeling it for a couple days... but he took off his glasses and looked at me real hard and said

"Go do what you gotta do"  

Not a whisper, and not an explosion, but a straight demand... and some things that I've been holding back just let loose, and I cried all over him.  I'm an emotional person and I'm not embarrassed by it, because like I answered earlier, art is ... so many feelings... for me at least, divided, tasted, interrogated.  But, for once it was someone I didn't feel bad for spending tears on.  Because for the last couple years I have felt a worthlessness that no matter how much volunteer work I did, or how many extra hours I put in at work, or how many second chances I gave to people who have hurt me and back-up plans for the things that let me down - I still went to bed empty and unfulfilled... but that's what moments like this are for.  A nice healthy slap in the face, and then on the back.  He didn't slap me though, he hugged me and told me to write him. 

There was the simplest purpose in the art around me, and it was made by nothing and everything... to see fulfillment done on such a unique level was beautiful to me.  

I found all of Detroit beautiful.  

After all that, we explored more of downtown and it's sweet lil pubs inside of old train stations, and experienced Coney Island hot dogs - so good (Lafayette, duh).  Took a nice walk around, waved at Canada from across the way then went to Chelsea's friend Zak's place to drink in the company of boats.  

Grand Trunk Pub

Lafayette Coney Island Dogs

The rest of the night went on real long... probably cause we kept hopping from boat to boat checking out all the insides, and workin the crossword puzzles (Chels).  But it was all super rad; the abandoned buildings, the sketchy liquor stores, singing Outkast with random lady in said-liquor store, the art, the buildings, the people ... even with the horrible driving.  Oh, right, did we mention that for being Motor City, Detroit is pretty much a death trap on the roads? Or... maybe it's meant to be like that.  I dunno.

Just go do what you gotta do.

Total miles driven: 710
Total vanMeltdowns: 9ish
Total peopleMeltdowns: 1

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hot 'n Bothered

It was super foggy in the morning, and we set off towards Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore - which cost a ridiculous $11 to park and see... so we just pulled around and parked along the profile side.  It was cool for about 20 minutes with the parade that followed us and then there was nothingness the next 4 hours or so.

artsy Tyson

Pit stop at Wall Drug store

Your typical massive eclectic antique-esque art souvenir stuff shop... Tyson had to rip me away from the turquoise section... got to Badlands National Park for a hot minute following it all along endless curves.  Stopping for the occasional big horn sheep.

Camped a night at the edge of SD in Newton Hills just about 6 hours from Kirksville, Missouri.  Pitch black random state campgrounds in what felt like the middle of nowhere... but we weren't alone. Other than the skunk, there were a handful of RVs parking, and the neighbor Mitch and his son Lucias.  Tyson managed entertaining everyone until 2AM throwing gasoline into the campfire sending a huge rocket of flames near to the trees hanging down.  It seemed to be a pretty weird night, but overall nice area to stop.

Missouri was hot, humid, and raining off and on unfortunately for Lucas, making him go through maybe 3 shirts in a day.  The night before Kellen's brother's graduation, we watched him and his friends rip apart a white lab coat and threw it into the fire.  Not sure what could get more traditional than that... 

Fishing got a tiny bit more interesting when the clouds rolled in pouring buckets on top of us with lightning maybe 10 miles away... making us real ecstatic about the idea of electricity on our tiny boat made of metal.

Total miles driven: 841
Total Fish caught: 1
Toval vanMeltdowns: still 9

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And that's How Clouds are Made

Following Lucas' revival from the unraveling of his dirt-angel-spectacular we went to see Old Faithful with The Rabbi, and it started hailing even-though the sun was out.  It was pretty cool, even while people gathered with their eyes and brains attached to poles trying to get the best shot possible of something that was the equal distance from all the way around from all of us.  

Old Faithful

We continued on to find something not surrounded by benches and popcorn, to a less consistant but more interesting geyser recommended to Kellen and Tys by a ranger earlier the other day.  It was near the Kepler Cascades, past the parking lot behind some Road Closure signs, a mellow trail along a creek 2 miles each way.  This mystery geyser goes off every 3 hours, and lasts around 15 minutes, but there was no way of knowing if we were... on time so to speak.  We got lucky, and caught the last 5 minutes of it in the rain.

Lone Star Geyser

It wouldn't be a prime day without some sort of breakdown... The Rabbi left for the Fountain Paint Pots and when we were set to meet him there, the van wouldn't start.  It got to a point where we ended up calling a Tow truck from Old Faithful.  It was raining again, and at first it looked like there was some hope as Tim the tow guy got all excited that it was a carburetor issue (at a glance) so he unscrewed some stuff and ended up completely fucking it up.  Then he saw the choke was on, and suggested that was possibly the problem, as it there was just too much air coming through and making the van sound really weird.  The cherry on top was how he charged Kell $100 for doing absolute jackshit... we thought Kell was going to lose it... I mean he definitely did in some shape or form cause he put everything back the way it was. A serious bummer... but in the end we made back to Madison Campgrounds in time to see like 60 bison crossing across to the river and meadow.

Fountain Paint Pots


Next morning, headed out early out of Wyoming and getting to South Dakota round 8PM?... looked up some campgrounds and ended up in what felt like someone's backyard.  

Frog legs at Killian's Tavern

It was the most random high level campground we've woken up in... there was gardening and construction happening just outside the bubble window, and people walking their dogs, jogging over the bridge.  Then Lucas bumped his head under the bench-tent.

Total miles driven: 400
Total vanMeltdowns: 9
Total # of bison seen: 87362025