Friday, July 21, 2006

Did You Know?

The only creatures that can live in the water of the Great Salt Lake are brine shrimp, bacteria, and some algae. Oh, and Aquaman.

Utah: Lake Breathes Salty

Your body may be gone, I'm gonna carry you in.
In my head, in my heart, in my soul.
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both live again.
Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't think so.


And the ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul.
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old.
Well I don't know. I don't know. I hope so.

(Modest Mouse, "Ocean Breathes Salty")

As performed by Sun Kil Moon on their CD Tiny Cities, this is one of the best songs about loss and mourning.

The Great Salt Lake also breathes salty, or, to put it less nicely, smells unpleasantly brackish. It is also extremely shallow--I had to wade about 250 yards into it to get the water to mid-shin.

I entered the lake from a beach at Antelope Island, which is basically the summit of a mountain that is surrounded by the lake. Swimming in the lake is pretty nifty, if you can get over the smell. Because of the salt content, you float much more easily than you do in fresh water. Also, the views are magnificent--you are surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

However... getting into the lake is the ordeal. The ground between the road and the water was designed in HELL, especially for someone like Fosco who is used to smooth, sandy, clean beaches. Foolishly, Fosco left his sandals in the car and decided to try to walk to the water barefoot. This is what he encountered, in order:

  • A band of soft golden sand, long enough to lull him into complacency (and to make going back to the car for shoes seem like too much of a hike).
  • An area of golf-ball-sized stones buried in sand. A bit awkward to walk through, but not too bad yet.
  • A ring of shards of those golf-ball-sized stones buried in the sand. These were sharp and quite painful.
  • Wet, hard-packed sand--enough to make Fosco think the pain is over.
  • A hard, salty crust on top of sand. With each step, the crust breaks into pointy fragments to attack the feet. Incidentally, in this zone, there are numerous footprints in sandals--Fosco now begins to feel stupid.
  • A thick brown carpet of decaying brine shrip. At this point, even something this disgusting is a welcome relief from the foot pain..
  • A swirling haze of brine flies. They circle Fosco in a cyclone about three feet in diameter. The sound is unnerving (have you ever been swarmed by anything?).
  • An ankle-deep pool of water--a relief once again.
  • A breakwater, before the lake gets deeper. Composed of softball-sized rocks, many of them sharp, some of them slippery. This part was the most unpleasant of all.

Once you make it into the water, you don't want to leave--primarily because you know all of the tortures that await between you and the car.

Fosco's Advice: BE-SHOE YOURSELF!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Did You Know?

Facts About Mormons:

  • They worship a god named Mormo.
  • A female Mormon is called a "Mormoness."
  • You can read the Mormon scriptures only with a set of X-Ray Specs. These can be ordered from the back page of many comic books.
  • They wear Holy Underwear or, in the case of Mormonesses, Holy Lingerie.

Utah: Salt Lake City, Punk!

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Wyoming: Under a Chemical Sky

The Western part of Wyoming on I-80 is dismal. There are refineries, mines, and mineral processing plants, as you can maybe see from this low-quality picture (I would have taken a better pic, but I was otherwise engaged. You see, I had picked up a sweaty oil worker as a hitch-hiker and, well, you know how those things go... No one rides for free in Fosco's car).

But anyway... Very large, very rich companies are stripping the natural resources out of the state. The air is actually quite polluted, no doubt with uranium dust and even nastier things. Enjoy the irony: one section of the road has been "adopted" (to be cleaned) by Halliburton.

From the interstate, there are few visible mountains--most of the major ranges are located to the north. What you see are mostly ridges and buttes (pronounced: butts).

I did see several antelope in the scrub. It turns out that antelope are easily identifiable from behind by their snowy-white hindquarters. Incidentally, so was my hitch-hiker.

My Laramie Project

"Perhaps the first thing to know about Laramie, Wyoming, is that it is beautiful."

This is the first sentence of the first chapter of Losing Matt Shepard by University of Wyoming English Professor Beth Loffreda. And perhaps the first thing you should know about Loffreda's book is that it, too, is beautiful. The book is a remarkable achievement--Loffreda manages to complicate all of the simple assumptions that people (including myself) made about Laramie and Wyoming in the wake of Matt Shepard's death (since most people know the story of Matt Shepard's murder, I won't describe it here). I return to this book every year or so, despite the emotional pain that it revives in me. Whether you are queer or not-queer, this is a necessary book to read--it demonstrates the ways in which a critically-trained mind can come to terms with something that is truly horrible.

So naturally, when I realized that my drive would take me through Laramie, I wanted to find a way to act on my feelings of anger, fear, and loss. In the absence of any real memorial to Matt, there is really only one place that makes sense to visit. I mean, of course, "The Fence"--the one to which Matt was tied overnight, left to die.

It turns out that the location of the fence is not very well-publicized. Luckily, blogger David Lohman recently made a similar pilgrimage and was able to provide directions to the site. In case his site disappears at some point in the future, I have reproduced his directions here:

All I would add to David's directions is that, as you head onto the open prairie, you should walk toward the large, expensive-looking brown wood house with the numerous picture windows. The fence is on a straight line between that house and Quarter Horse Drive (N.B.: it appears that they are adding another street or two perpendicular to Quarter Horse Drive--this will shorten the distance you will need to walk onto the prairie). Also: wear hiking boots.

This is the fence. As many commentators have suggested, it is not really as far from civilization as the pictures make it seem. However, it's still far enough.

There is a small gathering of stones in the shape of an arrow, pointing from the fence toward Laramie. Although this makes for an extremely understated memorial, I think it is perfect for several reasons:

  • It is not a cross; a cross would be too easy, and in light of Christian condemnations of homosexuality, a tasteless joke.
  • One way of reading the arrow is as an accusation: it points toward Laramie, the town that, at least in some ways, shares in the blame for his death.
  • A second way of reading the arrow is as a command to the visitor: go back into the world and try to change it. Try to stop this from happening again.

I added a rock to the arrow and another "ghost" joined me on my journey

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did You Know?

During the Callipygian Age, much of present-day Wyoming was actually covered by a delicious crust of carmelized sugar.

Wyoming: Cheney Country

You may think that Wyoming is a beautiful state. Not the Eastern part--bleak windswept plains dotted with dreary trailers and manufactured housing. This is not the mountains that you find in the North and West. This, mein freunden, is Cheney Country. No wonder his soul is black. This land is cruel and bitter--not much love here.

I see dead people.

Nebraska: Father Flanagan's Sodomy Camp

How could I write about Nebraska without mentioning Boys Town? Famous for the motto: "He ain't heavy, Father, he's my bottom."

I had wanted to drop in to ask if I could open a branch in Santa Cruz (to be named: "Count Fosco's Home for Wayward, Smooth, (and Legal) Youths"). Unfortunately, the organization requires girls to be admitted and, well, that seems a bit too complicated for me.

Not that I'm accusing Boys Town of running a network of Lord of the Flies-esque juvenile fight clubs in which the strongest and handsomest boys are recruited and funneled into the seedy underworld of gay porn and paid companionship. I've certainly never been told about this secret process by a high-ranking former employee of the organization. Keep up the good work, Boys Town.

Nebraska: Husker? I don't even know her.

What's your favorite song about Nebraska?

Here's a verse from mine:
"From the town of Lincoln Nebraska
With a sawed-off .410 on my lap
Through to the badlands of Wyoming
I killed everything in my path."
(Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska")

I'm pretty sure that they adopted this as the the Nebraska state song.

Would you be worried if I told you that I listened to this song over and over through the whole 400+ miles of the state? Well, I didn't. I also listened to High School Musical, which is more than sufficient to calm the mad.

As I looked over the massive commercial farms of Nebraska, I kept thinking what the state would have looked like 300 years ago. The vast prairie has been entirely replaced with cows, corn, and beans. Thanks to Elizabeth Kolbert and President-in-Exile Al Gore, I wonder how soon this farmland will become desert. Probably not in my lifetime, but possibly within the lifetimes of my four illegitimate children. Unless, of course, they die of childhood diseases. Fingers crossed!

Iowa: Kum Here

Scattered across the state of Iowa are gas stations/convenience stores named Kum & Go. This name is so close to dirty that it might as well be--let's just be immature about it and giggle.

Kum & Go joins my list of convenience stores with (apparently) dirty names:

  • The "Sac Shop" chain of Central Pennsylvania
  • The Hardee's "Skat Thru" restaurant near Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Have one of your own? Hit me up.

Did you know?

Resolving a longstanding dispute, extensive scientific research has determined that the corn side of the Crispix kernel is exactly as crispy as the rice side.

Iowa: Oh, there's nothing halfway...

about the Iowa way to treat you--
when we treat you
which we may not do at all.

The most important thing to know about Iowans is that they can be cold as a falling thermometer in December if you ask about their weather in July. Just warning you.

I want to provide you with a representative picture for each of the states I traverse. This is what Iowa looks like. Surprisingly, Iowa is not ugly--especially since it is sandwiched between Illinois and Nebraska. These two states are Iowa's ugly friends, which allow Iowa to look even hotter when she's out cruising the bars...

I stayed at a hotel in Metro Des Moines (has that phrase ever been written?). I got the proverbial Iowa cold shoulder from the greasy-haired twink at the front desk. I chalked it up to a combination of the proverbial Iowa reserve and the frustrations of being a sissy in farm country. He was a bit less standoffish later, however, when he dropped by my room after his shift to see if I "needed anything." It turns out that I did: I needed him to moan my name. And yes, his hair was as greasy as it looked.

The ghost of Humbert hovers near and compels me to explain: "it was he who seduced me."

The next morning, I drove through famous Madison County, but did not stop--the last thing I need is some sensitive poet-farmer mooning after me. If I'm going to live out a work of fiction, I would prefer something along the lines of American Psycho or Teddy the Terrier. Will I ever meet Miss Clarissa Wags?

Did You Know?

Truckers are hot.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Illinois: Now with a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack!

Until I left for college, I lived within two hours drive of Chicago. Consequently, the Second City has been the site of many of my most treasured memories:

  • One of the best dinners of my life: TRU
  • Walking along Frank Gehry's Bridge to Nowhere at Millenium Park.
  • A Cubs playoff run (the last one that will occur in my lifetime).
  • Making out with my girlfriend Sloane (a total ringer for Mia Sara) in front of the Chagall windows at the Art Institute.
  • The complete Wagner Ring cycle at the Lyric Opera.
  • A night of debauchery at Crobar.
  • And that time that I was soaked with Dave Matthews's feces. It still beats his music!

Oh, City of Broad Shoulders! Hog Butcher for the World!

But, at the most basic level, my most trenchant memories of Chicago will probably involve what we see in the picture above: road construction and traffic.

Go to hell, Illinois. I'm sick of you and I'm sick of your crap.

Did You Know?

Indiana Governor and "Combover King" Mitch Daniels has named every rest stop in the state after John Mellencamp.

Indiana: Is There More Than Corn?

Yes: Casinos and Tank Farms.

Interstate 80/90 was recently sold by the governor ("Myman" Mitch Daniels) to a group of foreign investors, an innovation in privatizing public infrastructure. How will this change your driving experience? Faster speed limits, higher tolls, and a two drink minimum.

Oh yeah, and ladies drive free after 10 pm.

In case the Indiana Bureau of Tourism is looking for a new slogan, I have a suggestion: The Best Part of Indiana Is Leaving It.

Queer Kid and Slug Take Road Trip

On Sunday morning (July 16), Fosco began his One-way Transcontinental Road Trip Extravaganza. From Michigan to California--all on Interstate 80 (which shadows the Union Pacific Railroad).


Fosco's carriage is crowded with entities (although none of them actually currently living), including:

  • A UC Santa Cruz banana slug named Wlad (see above picture). While Fosco provides witty observations about the countryside, Wlad will mostly provide secretions.
  • The immense geologic knowledge of essayist John McPhee, contained in his four books collected as Annals of the Former World. In these books, McPhee explores the geology of America along Interstate 80. Much of this drive will pass as a conversation between Fosco and McPhee.
  • The fictional shades of Humbert Humbert and his Lolita. As the ur-chronicler of the American Road Trip, Humbert will be present with Fosco at each outpost of Americana. And although Fosco has neither access to a sexually precocious pre-teen nor the inclination to fondle one, Lo will still haunt the drive as a reminder of the erotic energies that the open road can foment.
  • And, of course, the final phantom guest in the carriage is... you. And, as a reader separated from Fosco by distance and time, this blog becomes the record of our trip together...

"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita."

So please check back here for Fosco's progress. You might also read some informative facts about our American Nation!

The Adventure Begins

"I want to have the same last dream again
The one where I wake up and I'm alive."

On Saturday afternoon, I finished packing and prepared to load all of my belongings into the moving truck. This was no small task, as my library numbers almost 2000 volumes. Naturally, I needed some big strong mens. This message is a shout-out of appreciation to the following moving helpers:

A-Bomb, Master of the Hand Truck
Dr. T(eeth), Loader Extraordinaire
Tattoo Phillip, Grand Champion of Moving Van Tetris
Uncle Workhorse, Consultant for All Recent Moves
Aunt Reclusia, Stronger Than She Looks

Thanks to these people, the truck was loaded and gone within an hour and a half. Of course, the loading would have gone faster with help from someone like Crystl Bustos, American softball player, but she was busy with the World Cup (of Softball). Call me, Crystl. Fosco needs a formidable woman like yourself.

In gratitude, I remain