Homer's Travels: August 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Travels, Day 9, On The Way To Guatemala

This series is becoming a test of what I can and can not remember. It's also becoming a study of what is and is not important to an eight year old boy. Nine days after leaving our families in Iowa we crossed the border - the first time I'd ever left the country. I remember little of the day. To me it could have been any other place along any other American road. I don't even remember the brownies which is very unlike me now.

Mom continues:
Date: 6-27-72
Place: Hermosillo, Mexico
We stayed in Tucson till about 3:00. [Dad] took the boys up town shopping, picked up the mail Gertrude had sent + got their small pox shot while I cleaned the trailer, washed clothes, baked some brownies + straightened up. While waiting for the guys I went swimming and lay in the Sun. An hour + a half in this Tucson sun really gave my face a burn. Sore all day.
We crossed the border quickly. Stopped for tourist visas - then 3 miles on for car permit. We had to stop 3 times on road for car check between border crossing at Nogales and Hermosillo. We drove till 8:00 - very hot out. Everyone wished for a fan. We are at a very nice new trailer park (Mazocoba). Cost half of what we have been paying in the U.S. $2 here - $4 to 5.00 U.S.

First miserable night - so hot."

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Isn't inflation wonderful? $5.00 a night to camp? Those were the days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Travels, Day 8, On The Way To Guatemala

Mom continues her travelogue:
Date: 6-26-72
Place: Tucson, Arizona
"We drove most of the day - saw lots of cactus - took pictures of [Homer-Dog] and me by our favorite cactus. We visited Casa Grande Indian ruins - Really not too good but not bad either. We drove to the trailer park, ate supper + went swimming in the pool. All enjoyed swimming, diving + playing tag. After dark we drove up to 'A' mountain and viewed the city lights. Tucson is a beautiful city - modern - relaxing. Was 98° today but dryness makes it feel not too bad."
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We remember the strangest things sometimes. I remember getting my picture taken in front of a large saguaro cactus. It's still one of my favorite cacti.

Like Mom, Casa Grande must not have impressed me much. When I visited it in 1998 with the Wife I didn't remember being there before. It didn't impress me that time either as I didn't even mention it in my write up of that vacation.

Tucson didn't rank in my memories. This is sad as I've always liked the glow of city lights.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Congratulations Just A Girl

I want to congratulate Just A Girl on her engagement. Even though all I know about "The Boy" is from Facebook, he seems like a great guy.

(For those who are wondering, JaG hasn't posted much on her blog lately but is quite a busy girl on Facebook.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Travels, Day 7

Mom continues:
Date: 6-25-72
Place: beside the road near Grand Canyon, Arizona
"Today we drove to Hoover Dam. Really a hugh thing - 17 turbines. Then we drove to the Grand Canyon (South Rim) where we viewed the big hole with the Sun setting + making shadows on the walls. As we walked out of the visitors center we met Jack + Betty S. from Wichita, Kansas. They were on vacation too - Small world! They were resort customers of ours.
Camp grounds were all full so we had to stop along the road. Other campers are here too."
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I don't remember much about Hoover dam. I've been there twice since then. It impresses me more as an adult than as a child. Brings out the engineer in me I guess.

I remember visiting the "big hole." I don't remember much of the scenery. What I do remember is the dinosaur book I got at the Grand Canyon gift shop. Like all eight year old boys, I liked dinosaurs. I could name them all. I had little colored plastic dinosaurs. The colors really didn't make since but I didn't care. Over the years the names have faded but dinosaurs are still cool.

My parents seemed to have had the Wife's superpower of meeting people in odd places. I didn't inherit it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book: Will Self's "The Book of Dave"

Will Self's "The Book of Dave" is a fascinating book with tons of potential. It's also a book that doesn't quite deliver on its promise while coming very close.

Two alternating stories intertwine throughout "The Book of Dave". One story takes place in the present and follows Dave Rudman, a London cabby. Dave, suffering through a contentious and sometimes violent divorce, fearing his son will grow up without the benefit of his knowledge, writes a book filled with all his cab driver knowledge as well as his mental illness induced distorted view of marriage, sexism, racism, and the world in general. Since a restraining order prohibits him from giving the book to his son, he sneaks in the dead of night and buries the book in his ex-wife's garden.

The other story takes place in some undisclosed future. A future 500 years after the rediscovery of Dave's book of rants. The book has become the post-apocalyptic Ing's (England's) religious book and the basis of Ing's society. Men and women are kept apart. Children are passed back and forth between the mummies and the daddies. Society is based on institutionalized divorce. All aspects of life are referred to in cab drivers terms. Priests are known as Drivers. Time is divided into tariffs. Believers in Dave are fares.

I liked seeing how Dave's twisted view of the world had manifested itself in the future society. I often read something in a future chapter and wondered where that came from just to have the light come on when I read the next Dave chapter. The sense of discovery made this book hold my interest.

This sense of discovery is often thwarted by the struggle to understand the dialog. A lot of the dialog is in Cockney or worse a bastardized future version of Cockney. Frankly, it's hard to read at times. You almost have to read parts out loud to understand them. The saving grace was, the more I read, the easier it was to understand but it was a little disconcerting in the beginning.

In the end, Dave's modern day story was more interesting than the future society story. This was unexpected. I usually like futuristic scenarios but the storyline failed to hold up its end of the deal. The future story has little jeopardy and seemed a little dull at times. This is disappointing as it could have been so much more. The narrative ended in an odd and rather understated way. In inconclusive conclusion.

Despite the short comings and the difficult dialog, I would somewhat recommended the book. The innovative ideas make the slog worth the effort.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Of Death

Is it just me or are a lot of famous people dieing this summer? We've seen so many the past few months that the Wife and I are starting to call this the Summer of Death.

I first took noticed after the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. I'd forgotten about the death of David Carradine and I wasn't even aware of the death of David Eddings, an author I'd once followed almost religiously. They were followed by Billy Mays and Fred Travalena ... all in the month of June. Oh, and let's not forget John Houghtaling, the inventor of the Magic Fingers coin-operated vibrating bed - how many of us wasted quarters in those noisy, violent, hokey motel beds.

July wasn't much better. Karl Malden. Robert McNamara. Walter Cronkite. Frank McCourt. Actor, politician, trusted man, and author.

August isn't over yet and it's already turning into a deadly month. John Hughes. Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Les Paul. Robert Novac. Don Hewitt.

I'm always surprised at the end of the year when the media says goodbye to all those who left us during the year. This year the list will include a lot of people I've heard of. Dom DeLuise. Bea Arthur. Paul Harvey. Philip Jose Farmer. Ricardo Montalban. There's a whole list of dead people here.

I suppose it all depends on your age and who you grew up watching, listening to, reading, and voting for. I imagine every generation hits that point when all their childhood celebrities, authors, politicians, and other influential people reach their expiration date. It just feels like there have been a lot more lately.

Note: All this death and dieing finally got us to make a call we'd been putting off for way too long. We called a lawyer to work on our estate planning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Travels, Day 6

Mom's account continues:
Date: 6-24-72
Place: Las Vegas, Nevada
"We drove to the Las Vegas today - arrived about 2:30 to a KOA camp. We all swam in the pool and lay in the Sun, The temperature was about 95° with a brisk wind. Tonight we drove uptown to see the lights - Quite a sight! Like to be the neon sign maker. We went to 'Caesars Castle' Casino and watched the gambling - one table had $100.00 bids - Money flows free. We tried the slot machines - broke about even.
Never been in such a place - Really felt out of place - What a waste of money!!!"
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Las Vegas is not an exciting place when you're eight. Sure the lights are dazzling and all but when it was time to go into the casino, my brother and I were stuck outside. We were both too young to enter the casino so we spent the time standing around. I remember not being very happy and a little bored as well.

I've never been much of a gambler. I think I get some of that from my parents. Mom wasn't much impressed with the free flow of cash. $100.00 bids are pretty small now a days. It also sounds like her luck at slot machines hasn't changed much in thirty-seven years as, when she does go to a local casino, she often breaks even. I seem to have inherited her luck as I often break even as well when I play the penny slots.

I've been there several times since then. Five or six times. The draw for me today are the shows. I rarely gamble more than $20 while there making the days a little dull waiting for the evening to arrive so I can go to another show.

One question that this entry begs: When did Caesar's Castle become Caesar's Palace?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Travels, Day 5

There isn't much about this day that I remember. As with many eight year old boys, by day five I was probably bored and I didn't spend too much time looking out the car window. The back of the Carryall was packed with our stuff and I remember looking in boxes for my stuff, which was infinitely more interesting than the wide open expanses and multi-hued landscapes of Utah.

My Mom continues:
Date: 6-23-72
Place: Cedar City, Utah
"We drove all day - stopped at a KOA camp for the night. We passed some beautiful scenery. Utah has colorful rock bluffs and gullies. We stopped at one rest area with a deep canyon.
Tonight after supper we walked up town - seemed like miles but probably about one mile up and another back. [Dad] bought himself a Timex watch like he has been wanting. It was about 11 o'clock by the time we got back to the trailer."
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Music: Green Day With Franz Ferdinand At The Qwest Center

The original plan for Thursday was to take the GodSon and his girlfriend with us to the Green Day concert. Unfortunately his girlfriend couldn't make it so after some minor thrashing about we invited the Loon Whisper's Nephew to come with us. We met him in front of the Qwest Center and headed to the Will Call window.

Okay, this probably isn't a weird experience for many people but frankly I felt really weird (my hands were shaking) when I walked up to the window and told the lady behind the counter we were on the bands's list. After an ID check she handed over an envelope labeled "Green Day 2009 Guests" with four tickets and four aftershow passes. I'm such a schmo about these kinds of things.

After stopping by the club lounge, where the aftershow was to be held later, and getting some drinks we headed for our seats. Awesome seats I might add. Stage right, row 5.

The warm up was the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. While I'd heard of them I really didn't know much about their music. We were all impressed. Good stuff. I haven't seen many good warm up bands lately and Franz Ferdinand was a nice change for the better.

The intermission between bands seemed exceptionally short. Maybe 30 minutes. Enough time for drinks and WC breaks before the next show started. Before Green Day came on stage someone in a pink bunny suit came on stage , danced to YMCA, and drank a couple beers. I'm guessing it was the Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong (BJA). The Wife noticed they were wearing the same shoes. I wonder if this has to do with drinking on stage. BJA, during the Foxboro Hot Tubs show was constantly drinking, spraying, and spitting beer. During the show this time there was no obvious drinking ... except by the bunny.
After the bunny, Green Day took the stage and for the next two hours and twenty minutes gave a non-stop incredible performance. There were two encores but the pauses between encores were a minute, two at most. They started with their new stuff (21st Century Breakdown) and then moved backward in time with stuff from American Idiot, Dookie,and other stuff. BJA got everyone standing on the first song and we didn't sit down till the end of the second encore.

Green Day loves audience participation and the crowd was singing along with enthusiasm. Several times BJA pulled people on stage and had them sing. Of the four the first wasn't that bad. The other three sounded like American Idol rejects but, hey, they were having their moment in the spot light and they were having fun. Everyone was having fun. One nine or ten year old boy got on stage to sing. He was a little flat but enthusiastically belted out the explicit lyrics. When BJA asked him where he was from he said "Sioux F***ing City!!" The audience roared.

By the end we were all sweating (the Qwest center needs to upgrade their cooling, it was hot in there). The show was filled with pyrotechnics, flamethrowers (We could feel the heat from our seats - the Wife thought her eyebrows would be singed), water guns, t-shirt guns (that thing was lethal shooting a t-shirt across the entire length of the auditorium), and the obligatory confetti canons. It was a near perfect, entertaining show.

Cameras were not permitted and they were pretty strict in the Qwest. Big burly men were wandering around warning people with cell phones and threatening to confiscate their phones. At one point BJA is up in the audience when some dork stuck his iPhone in his face. You could tell Billie Joe wasn't very happy. He kept blocking the shot with his guitar. The only way to fix this problem would be to either allow photography (I think all the flashes would distract from the show) or forbid cell phones completely. This would have been hard to do since, ironically, the concert was sponsored by Verizon. The GodSon did manage to get a couple of shots - Franz Ferdinand and Green Day.

After the show we went back to the lounge for the aftershow party which ... didn't happen. After getting some drinks and waiting a bit it became obvious that the band wasn't going to show. After seeing the intensity of the show (BJA has more energy than I have ever witnessed - guy's an energizer bunny) I don't blame them wanting to just go back to their hotel. BJA was also traveling with his in-laws and I can't fault him for wanting to spend time with them instead of a bunch of unknowns at the aftershow. It's probably a good thing that they didn't show up. Before the show I had been talking about Green Day with the Wife and by some slip of the brain I called BJA Billie Joe Osbourne. Not sure where that came from. That became the running joke through the evening. When they started playing the first few riffs of Ironman, we all laughed and said he sounded just like his dad (Ozzy Osbourne). I was afraid that if BJA had shown up one of us would have slipped and called him Mr. Osbourne. Well, not really but we joked about it happening.

One great thing about staying after the show was that we ran into the "J"'s brother. The Wife said hi to him and after a little disorientation on his part (Who are these strange people in Omaha and why do they know me?) we said our hellos and our thanks for getting us the tickets.

After finishing our drinks we headed home. We all had a rather restless night. You know it was good when you are exhausted the next day. The Wife was too pumped from the concert and didn't sleep until 3:00AM. I kept having weird dreams that involved either the band or their music. This morning we drug ourselves out of bed so that we could take the GodSon to Louis M's Burger Lust before he headed home. The burgers were, of course, yummy.

We all agreed that, despite the aftershow fizzle, this was one of the best large venue concerts we've ever been too. The aftershow really didn't matter. The show was so good I will remember it for a long, long time and they will be happy, satisfying memories. Thank you "J".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Travels, Day 4

The migration to Guatemala continues. Back in 1995 during my big roadtrip I took about the same route from Estes Park on my way to Durango. It was raining most of that day too.

My Mom writes:
Date: 6-22-72
Place: Delta, Colorado
"We drove to the Royal Gorge this morning. It is a big ditch! We drove across + then we walked halfway over and back.
Rest of the day we drove - went through Monarch pass and over the Continental Divide. It rained on us coming down the mountains.
This evening it is drizzling rain - we are parked beside the river at a camp called Scotty's. We had fish for supper from Lake of the Ozarks. Effie's Son gave them to us before we left. We played miniature golf after supper - [Brother] was winner so played a free game. I washed some clothes."
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I have to say that my Mom has a way with words. I remember her describing the Royal Gorge as a big ditch and frankly I would have to agree. While it might be a better description of the place, I doubt they will be changing its name to Royal Ditch any time soon. Pity. I remember looking over the edge of the bridge with weak knees and this was before my minor fear of heights began to take form.

This day was also my first of many crossings of the continental divide. I vaguely remember being excited about it. I have since crossed it many times both in the air and on the road.

One thing I do remember clearly was the miniature golf. This was the first, and I believe the last, time I have played miniature golf. Every time an opportunity to play arose this game at Scotty's came to mind. None of these opportunities have ever materialized though.

Effie, for those who may be wondering, was a elderly lady who lived in a small house up the road from our resort. She would walk to our place to chat. Talk your arm off is probably more like it. Her timing wasn't always the best and I remember one time Mom asking me to hide and be quiet so that Effie would think we weren't home. This only happened once and I remember my Mom feeling guilty. At the time I thought it was all a big game.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Music: The Breeders With Times New Vikings At The Slowdown

Since we moved to Omaha we've wanted to check out the Slowdown, a local music venue and bar. Most of the acts are either unknown locals or unknown non-locals. When we finally recognized someone, Jenny Lewis, it turned out to be during our vacation so we couldn't go. Fortunately another opportunity presented itself on Sunday with The Breeders.

The venue is small and intimate comparable in size with the Whiskey Pit and the Roxy. If fact the Slowdown is a better venue in ways. It is quieter than the casino-bound Whiskey Pit and the stage area is arranged better than the Roxy allowing more people to be closer to the stage. The only downside I could see was the lack of places to sit meaning you had to stand for all the performance. Next time we go earlier to get one of the few tables near the stage.

The first act was Times New Viking. This three person band has been described as a lo-fi indie rock band. Not being a music expert I would have to agree with that assessment. A guy on guitar (reminded the Wife of her high school geometry teacher), a drummer on an old and cheap looking drum set, and a girl on a tiny, decrepit, and out of tune keyboard (I'm assuming she's girlfriend of one of the guys). There style of music was a little chaotic though some of the riffs held some potential. The biggest thing that got in the way of me liking them is that I suffer from ... OLD. If I were younger I might appreciate their type of music but at my age all I got out of it is an exacerbation of the ringing in my ear. One thing though, they seemed to enjoy themselves which is always a good thing.

The main act was The Breeders. The Breeders are trying to come back after breaking up back in '95, a consequence of drug use.

I went into this with rather low expectations. I liked some of their stuff but I fully expected them to play mostly new stuff that I was not familiar with. I was pleasantly surprised. They did play some new stuff but they also played a lot of the older stuff that go me and the crowd excited. Their voices and style haven't changed. I enjoyed the performance.

Another thing I like about this venue is that photography is permitted. Some pictures of the bands can be found here.

Near the end of the Breeders I looked over where the Wife had been standing and found that she was not there. I thought she was taking a bathroom break but it turned out she had felt somewhere between faint and nauseous and had to find someplace to sit down. During a break in the music she called me over to where she was sitting. Not eating supper before the concert had punched her in the gut and the guy next to her reeking of B.O. and cigarettes delivered the knock out blow - Not me, I don't smoke and I shower, the other guy next to her. Despite this, the Wife enjoyed the show and she likes the venue as well. Next time I will be asking her if she'd eaten enough. I don't want her to pass out in Billie Joe Armstrong's arms.

Next concert, this coming Thursday, Green Day at the Qwest Center.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Travels, Day 3

The way we took to Guatemala was not a direct shot. The path meanders south and west, stopping at points of interest along the way. Day three was one of those vacation days along the way.
Date: 6-21-72
Place: Colorado Springs near Manitou, Colorado
"We visited the Air Force Academy - were unable to go in any buildings - Chapel is a hugh modern structure. We parked trailer at Golden Valley Ranch then up Pike's Peak. All agreed it was great - there was snow on the mountains + it snowed while we were at the peak. High Altitude made us all dizzy. Quite a view.
We visited North Pole + most fun was feeding the goats and petting the deer. Santa was there.
We visited Cliff Dwellers Museum - It was pretty good except parts of it looked sort of fake.
We looked up Chip + Nancy [McD] but they were not home. They used to live in Camdenton.
We came back to campground where [brother] rode his cycle + the rest of us relaxed."
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I remember this day. I don't remember it all happening on the same day but that is the smearing of memories we are all familiar with ... or is it just me? One of the biggest memory holes I'm encountering while reading this journal is my brother's motorcycle. We had a motorcycle with us? Really? I have no recollection of having a motorcycle with us. (I probably rode the motorcycle to the James Taylor concert that I can't remember)

I remember Pikes Peak. I remember looking out the window of the Carryall over the edge of the road (no guard rail if I remember right) into the abyss. I thought it was cool in a sphincter puckering way.

I remember the North Pole - how many North Poles does Santa have anyway? I remember trying to ride the bumper cars alone for the first time and failing miserably. I couldn't get my car to do anything. When people realized I wasn't moving I became the target of their pent up frustrations and violent rage. I wasn't very happy. I vaguely remember a tantrum of some sort. I think I pissed off my Dad too, if I remember right, as my my behavior was surely a tad embarrassing. Feeding the goats was much less traumatic.

I remember the Air Force Academy and the Cliff Dweller's Museum with less clarity. I do remember the Chapel and I vaguely remember the Cliff Dwellings but there are few details.

I don't remember the Camdenton People (I went to three years of grade school in Camdenton, MO) at all but that would be an adult thing and of no concern to an eight year old.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Old Friends ... Good Times

Friends from Oxnard passed through here last night on their way back home from the U.P. It was nice to show off our house and to catch up on the old gossip.

Now if I could only get a few others out here to visit.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Travels, Day 2

After I posted my first day of my Mom's travel log, I received a couple of questions/requests. The main themes were why did you go to Guatemala and could you post more about Guatemala. The first would be relatively easy to answer. The other would be more difficult as my time in Guatemala was between 28 and 37 years ago and frankly my memories of that time are a little foggy. I will answer the first question later on in this series. The other, well, I'll have to think about it and see what I can recall.

In the mean time, our journey to Guatemala continues.
Date: 6-20-72
Place: Colorado Springs, Colorado
"Drove all day - left Kearney about 10:30. Arrived in Colorado Springs about 6:00. Mountains are hazy with low clouds and rain, though it never rained on us.
We stayed at Monument Lake Resort tonight. [Dad] + [Homer-Dog] went out on small lake in paddle boat. [Brother] watched TV. Weather is cool.
Had to find a dentist - I broke my false tooth - [Dr. C] had it fixed in an hour so not much of a delay."
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I remember the part about the tooth but I remember it as part of another vacation. My roadtrips are blurring in my head which is to be expected after thirty-seven plus years. The paddle boat seems familiar as well but it's all hazy. I was closer to my Dad back then.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Travels, Day 1

In June of 1972 my family picked up their lives and moved. Not across town. Not to another state. We moved to a different country entirely, Guatemala. To me it could have been a whole different world.

My parents sold their business, a resort on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks, and, after a brief stop with our families, loaded our most precious stuff into the back of a Chevy Carryall Suburban (think a prehistoric ancestor of today's SUV), hooked up the camper trailer, and hit the road. As we left my grandparents home in western Iowa, Grandma R. handed my mom a small orange travel record book. The cover simply says "TRAVELS" and my Mom wrote in the book for twenty-seven days chronicling our drive through parts of the south-west, Mexico, and Guatemala until we moved into our first home in Guatemala.

I'm going to start posting the entries, probably one or two a week, to preserve this little piece of family history. I'm not sure if they will be interesting or not but they do bring back a lot of memories for me. The only changes will be the names, which I will be removing to protect the innocent.

Date: 6-19-72
Place: Kearney, Nebraska
"Left Iowa - arrived at Minden, Nebraska about 6 pm. Visited Pioneer Village - lots of antique cars and machinery - we all enjoyed it. We stayed all night at a new 'Safari' campground in Kearney, Nebraska. Weather turned cold."

I don't remember the first day. You'd think it would have been an important day for me. I was eight years old and I was leaving everything that I knew. I suppose I was too young to grasp the significance of it all.

Note: Route on map is approximate a guess.