Category: Michigan (page 1 of 2)

Our Last Retro Post (For Now): 10 Years Ago Today, 30-Aug

For the last few weeks, we’ve been observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ve reposted articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they were, bittersweet. We’ll be back to our regular irregular posting after this last retro entry.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Well, no more Retro Posts, folks … we made it successfully past the one-year mark and what a year it’s been. I’ve forgotten lots of things that happened, but I do remember one thing: The trees were still green this time last year!

‘Yesterday:

PosingInFlowersFallColorsDeadAshTree

‘« Our Life in Michigan – Another Sunday in Frisinger Park » More Autumn Colors

‘and one week ago:

HowlingToGoOutKnapweedFallColors

‘« Our Life in Michigan – Lazy Sunday in Frisinger Park » Fall colors already??!!!

‘I suppose that it will be snowing by the middle of October …

‘—Posted by Steve at 12:20:01 | 30-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 29-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘The first squirrel encounter … and it’s been a year of lots and lots of squirrel encounters!

‘[Yes, it has — I thought I’d had my exposure to the spectrum of squirrels at Stanford. But they’ve got nothing on Midwestern squirrels. Damn. – Frank.]

Poor Bayley

‘Oh, yeah: the beagle had a run-in with a squirrel today. He started howling at something when we were taking a nap this afternoon that we assumed must be the mailperson or a delivery man. Steve went down to investigate and found a squirrel chattering and gesticulating wildly at the poor dog from the other side of the back-patio glass. The rodent was royally pissed that this big, yowling creature was in its territory, and I’m sure the feeling was mutual. Poor Bayley.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:00:01 | 29-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 29-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Settling in …

Ann Arbor: Days Seven and Eight

‘After orientation yesterday, I walked home from central campus, all the way down State past the underpass of East Stadium. It’s about a mile and a half, roughly the same distance from Keller and Mountain to my house in Oakland. It was a muggy, hot evening, undergrads were still moving into their dorms and their houses on State, and the atmosphere was carnival-like. I can’t say I loved the walk, but I’m glad I did it and got a physical, visceral feel for my surroundings for maybe the first time.

‘Finally having gotten a few minutes to breathe and catch up on sleep, I went out late today (the first part of the day having been spent fighting a massive headache) with Steve, not to do anything in particular, but to explore. We got cards at the Ann Arbor District Library, which seemed pretty well-stocked and nicely appointed and had a huge-assed translation of Tyndale’s Old Testament on the shelves. (It turned out I’d been maybe two blocks south of the library when I got lost on Wednesday, which for me is just par for the course.)

‘We drove around the north edge of town and Steve showed me some of the other houses and complexes he had looked at when he was here in July. The town is incredibly green, as I have mentioned, and the green seemed lush and spellbinding today. There is litter, occasionally, but when you see it, it is a shock rather than business as usual. The town is also what you would call sprawling, not necessarily in the business and university district, although those are sizeable, but in the environs. We drove over the Huron River and it looked incredibly beautiful. I feel fortunate to be here.

‘This is not Pollyanna talking. I don’t like the way some of the locals drive. And I’m still trying to develop a thick skin about the occasional glares we get when we’re out and about. But I could find things to complain about anywhere we would have moved: South Hadley, Chapel Hill, wherever. So far, Ann Arbor has exceeded my expectations.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:00:00 | 29-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 29-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Rethinking things …

Developments

‘Our blog (specifically, my entry about the library-lessness of orientation yesterday) has been linked by librarian.net (which I found out after getting a couple of e-mails from alums of the SI program indicating that my experience with orientation was, shall we say, not unique). I don’t know whether to laugh or pack my bags. No, seriously: thank you, Jessamyn West. I have always loved and respected librarian.net and consider it a privilege to have been linked (and quoted to boot) by you.

‘My remarks yesterday were written at the end of a very hot and exhausting day. I want to say a few things in my own defense, and to make some necessary amendments to what I said yesterday, and then I will shut up on this subject (for now).

‘Number one, the students I have met have been friendly, unpretentious, motivated, highly intelligent, and excited about the project in front of us, which is always good news. Every single one of the students I met in my scavenger hunt yesterday was a pleasure to talk to and to interact with, and like I said, I had a great time with them discovering some of the i er sanctums of central campus. I look forward to working with the students I have met and to meeting many more of them. I also have to admit that I haven’t met as many people as I “should” have. I am what you call an INFP, and that personality profile doesn’t definitionally align itself with a number of the behaviors that social events like orientation are designed to encourage. But I definitely look forward to meeting other students and my professors in less intimidating settings.

‘And, despite my comments yesterday, I absolutely look forward to the work ahead. I know that Michigan is a great school, I know that SI is a great program, and although there are aspects of what I saw in orientation that bothered me, it’s only been two days, for God’s sake, and I could undoubtedly benefit from being less of a critic. There was part of me that would have been more comfortable staying in the Bay Area, sticking with my City of SF job, moving to some leafy quiet neighborhood in San Mateo (maybe in the hills behind Alameda de Las Pulgas), and commuting to San Jose State, where everything would perhaps have been a lot clearer and a lot more straightforward.

‘But where would the fun have been in that? I have no regrets about my decision to move to Ann Arbor, other than, of course, the natural regrets that come with nostalgia and sorely missing friends, loved ones, and loved pets (yes, I’m talking to you, Gracie, Rudy, and Suki!!!).

‘—Posted by Frank at 19:57:24 | 29-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 28-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Does he feel the same way?

Orientation: Day Two

‘The second day was quite an experience. The highlight of the day was being put into a group with four other students and being sent on a scavenger hunt across the center of campus to find various clues and answers to questions. It seemed weird at first, but it was actually a good opportunity to get to chat with the others in the group and get to know them a little bit. It was much better than the typical HR exercise of matching people “duck duck goose”-style and expecting them to sit around asking each other contrived questions as a form of barrier-lowering.

‘The rest of the day: went to an activities fair and got to talk to the folks at the LGBT table; had a couple of presentations from the career center and the folks at the “directed field experience” (where you get credits toward graduation for being involved in practical work experience) office; and wandered around for a few minutes at a not-so-hot faculty/student reception.

‘The LGBT table was a big deal. When I went through my undergraduate orientation, my goal was to keep that part of myself as hidden as possible. I succeeded (or so I thought), perhaps too well. That isn’t the case now. I’m not going to trumpet it from the rooftops. I’m not going to hide it either.

‘I guess that’s it. Classes start on Tuesday. I’m enrolled in all but one, which has a waiting list. I have a few days in which to finalize details and in which to get myself steeled for the semester to come. Yikes. If there are a few things I’ve taken away from the past two days, I guess the biggest one is that it is going to be intriguing to try to make it through the first-year Foundations courses, in which all of the students are thrown together and expected to work in groups.

‘My impression, one which may be corrected as time goes on, is that the two categories of School of Information student—the human-computer interaction side and the library/archive side—are very divergent not only in interests but in personality and expectations. The whole library/archive side, to my dismay, does indeed seem to be something that the school is determined to keep in the background. That bothers me. I didn’t hear a word about libraries or archives the whole two days, or why I should be excited about wanting to work in them, except during the almost-obligatory specialization meetings we were corraled into yesterday. Maybe that’s part of the point—the specialization stuff is supposed to come around after you’ve absorbed all of the meta-informational training—but it seemed almost wistful during the scavenger hunt to be wandering around in rare book collections and reading halls, as though these obsolescing arenas, not to mention books, had only the barest and most distant relevance to the School of Information, and then only as amusing clues in an academic parlor game.

‘—Posted by Frank at 21:39:47 | 28-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 27-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Immersion …

Orientation: Day One

‘Well, Orientation Day One is over and I can report that ….. it’s gonna be a busy two years. They had us all in one big room in Michigan Union to give us the obligatory introductory remarks from gathered faculty and administrators, after we we dispersed to West Hall to have “specialization meetings” tailored to our particular interests.

‘The way the School of Information is divided is that there are the traditional library school specializations, library and information services and archives and record management, alongside more future-tech specializations like HCI (human-computer interaction) and IEMP (information economics, management, and policy).

‘In the large room where we all began, the occupants were about evenly divided among genders. Once we dispersed, though, the disparity was glaring: in the library science group I attended, I counted about 7 men (including myself) in a room of 30.

‘I went over to the room across from this to stop in on the archives session and the number of men was similarly low. The other thing that was glaring (at least to me) was how young everybody was. I saw five or six other people who seemed to be my age or older. Most everyone else I saw was in their early or mid-twenties.

‘I was also apparently overdressed. I wore khaki slacks and one of my short-sleeved shirts, which would have been a perfect combination for my SF office job. Here, I looked out of place. Everyone else was dressed in jeans, if not T-shirts, and shorts were not uncommon. I don’t know what to wear. Shorts and T-shirts make me feel as though I’m trying to look younger than I am. What I wore today made me feel older. So it goes.

‘The curriculum sounds great, though I can’t say I’m too thrilled about the first part of it, which is a series of four “Foundations” courses that all students are required to take (an odd similarity there to the first-year courses that all law students are required to take). Nobody is really giving much detail on what these courses will entail, which concerns me, but they seem to involve a lot of time-intensive group projects. I suppose the purpose of all of this will become clear to me eventually, as promised.

‘The faculty seem energetic and committed, at least the ones who spoke at our pep rally and in our sessions this morning. One of them came in a shawl and draped it over her head to imitate a stern librarian stereotype inculcating the students in the real purpose of information school: to train you to run a quiet library where everyone behaves. This inspired general hilarity (I laughed too, especially after remembering the Archie McPhee Librarian Action Figure “with amazing push-button shushing action” that Steve showed me online the other night). These are the kinds of jokes that make roomsful of librarians laugh, which is a good sign, I think.

‘Most of the students also seemed refreshingly shy and somewhat geeky, which comports with what Scott predicted I would find, and although there seem to be a couple of stuck-up snots among the crop, that would be true in any group. I didn’t have my appointed faculty advisor session until 5.15, which gave me roughly 25 minutes to run down a flight of stairs and get registered for fall term. All of my classes are available, though not on the days or at the times I had hoped they would be. I’ll be taking 13 units, which is a full load, and I’ll probably have to look for a part-time work-study job as well.

‘Like I said, it’s gonna be a busy two years.

‘Still, the whole process is exciting. It’s exhausting, it’s overwhelming, and I have no idea how I’m going to make it through two years of this. But it’s still oddly encouraging (or validating, or something) to hear words like those spoken this morning by the dean of the school, who said that in most professional schools, you have a clear idea of what you’re there for and where you’re going when you get your degree. Here, that won’t be the case, necessarily, because the information profession (if such a phrase can be used) is by definition a malleable and changeable concept; what is a valid career today may be an entirely invalid career tomorrow, there may be entirely new job descriptions two years from now for skills that you are learning now, and that ambiguity is part of what learning about information—and what information itself, along with all of the permutations of what constitutes information and its dissemination—is all about.

‘I’ll write more after tomorrow’s session.

‘—Posted by Frank at 21:36:46 | 27-Aug-03

And here are the photos from Day Fourteen:

SleepingOnTheCouchBackRubHookingUp

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Fourteen » All Moved In‘

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 27-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Bear with me as I indulge in some sentimentality …

‘What’s interesting to me about glancing back at the retro posts from last year at this time is how new this all was to me: not just Ann Arbor, although that was certainly a big part of it, but the whole adventure, from going back to grad school at a time in life when most of my undergraduate cohorts have all had two or three kids and become partners at their law firms or vice-presidents of marketing or seat-of-the-pants entrepreneurs (not a life I envy); to leaving and severing all my connections to a region where I’d felt comfortable, if increasingly insecure and simultaneously predictable, for much of the previous 20 years; to driving through, seeing, and sleeping in towns and states I’d never dreamed I’d encounter except in movies or books; to adjusting to life and people in a very different part of the nation. I feel proud of myself, and us, for having gone through this incredible ride and come through it wiser and better (and, I think, happier), and I am forever grateful to Steve and Bayley for putting up with me through the journey (and for agreeing to uproot their lives to start to put together the building blocks to start an entire new life of our own).

‘There’s something to be said for risk and leaping into the unknown. There’s also something to be said for the familiarity of having lived someplace for 365+ days.’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 26-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘The calm before the grad school storm …

Ann Arbor: day five

‘Today was a bumpy one. We went out to get some supplies and victuals. I bought a few new short-sleeved shirts but I don’t know how much longer they’ll be wearable here. The traffic around Ann Arbor right now is not much better than traffic during a typical weekday rush hour in the Bay Area, and the drivers are aggressive and careless. We went to Target and Meijer, right next door, which is a huge shopping center that is sort of a combination of a supermarket and a department store. Today it is was like a combination of the busiest Safeway and the busiest Macy’s rolled up in one. The crowds were incredible, and it was not even 4.00 yet.

‘We dealt with it for about 45 minutes and then (having found most of what we needed) gave up when some voice started annoyingly announcing, over and over again, insistently, a contest for some useless merchandise over the PA system and egging shoppers to race to the other end of the store as quickly as possible to get a prize, hardly a wise thing to be doing in what was already a zoo. We drove back to the house and cleaned up some more, unpacked a few things, but mostly rested.

‘On the positive side, we walked the dog again around the complex around 10.00 and I saw what I think must have been Mars up in the heavens, looking bright and beautiful in its approach to the closest it has been to Earth in 60,000 years. The horizon is so flat here that you can see the heavenly bodies quite clearly, a definite plus.

‘Tomorrow is going to be a busy day for me. Have to be at Michigan Union around 8.30, then it will be a full day of welcome-wagon stuff and, later in the afternoon, evidently, registration. It is scheduled to last until 6.00, though I doubt it will last straight through to that.

‘More tomorrow.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 26-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 25-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘More of our first days in AA …

Ann Arbor: day four

‘We went out to dinner with Scott tonight at Gourmet Garden, a Chinese restaurant on the west side of town. Other than that, the day was mostly recovering from the long weekend. I was still stiff and sore all day long, but not nearly as immobile as I was yesterday. The repair man from the complex came and fixed our air conditioning, a greatly welcome development on a day that saw the humidity hit 100%. I got in the bathtub to soak and was wetter when I got out than when I was in the tub. The beagle got re-acquainted with his couch.

‘We met Scott in front of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library and it was impossible to escape the fact that students were back on campus and in town in force. Steve pointed out that I was old enough to be the dad of many of these kids, which was something I had been thinking myself but did not necessarily love having pointed out.

‘We walked the beagle around the immediate vicinity of the complex and he got to poop and pee and sniff around and explore without running into a single other dog, let alone a leashless one.

‘We will most likely be traveling up to the Traverse City area this weekend to visit Linda, who lives up there with her husband and two excitable Lab mixes, so that we can have a respite from the high jinks that are likely to ensue Saturday morning when the first Wolverine game gets played at the Stadium against the Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant) Chippewas (and which the Wolverines, which are currently ranked number four in the nation, will probably win handily).

‘Things are slowly coming into focus. I will feel a lot more grounded once I have a greater familiarity with the town and its layout—knowing where everything is geographically is very important to me. I will also feel more secure once orientation is done with. A thunderstorm just erupted out of, literally, nowhere. This is going to take some getting used to, that’s for sure.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:45:51 | 25-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 24-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Oh, those heady first days … and now it seems like we’ve been here forever instead of just a year.

Ann Arbor: Day Three

‘It’s a puzzling place.

‘The lush greenery is almost headache-inducing in its vastness and omnipresence. The traffic, alas, is not much better than the traffic in the Bay Area was. You see lots of cars with militaristic stickers like “AIR ASSAULT” nestled next to University of Michigan logos. Everyone seems to be in sort of a hurry, though it is unclear why.

‘The home improvement stores are a smash hit, with lots of big-muscled, tightly-wound Michigan dads and husbands taking self-important walks into the hugeness of the outlets with their wives and kids, almost as though to demonstrate how all-American they are.

‘The churches are not prominent and those who frequent them seem to be enraged that this is the case, judging from the perversity and intensity with which one of the patrons of one of the said churches tailgated us on our way home from Lowe’s today.

‘The Borders bookstore I went into while Steve bought beagle food at Petco was a strange and conflicting melange of not-quite-identifiable styles and feels, with the store music system playing Warren Zevon’s “Sacrificial Lambs” (“Krishnamurti said,/’I’ll set you free/Write a check/and make it out to me’”) while a line of customers waited patiently to make their buys.

‘Everything seems a little too well-appointed, a little too eager to please, a little too perfect. It reminds me some of Palo Alto, though shorn of that town’s always-aggressive yuppie ethos.

‘Every four blocks in Ann Arbor has a neighborhood name, which, even by the standards of name-crazy San Freancisco, is a bit on the obnoxious side. Our little housing subdivision, in a neighborhood helpfully called Bryant/Pattengill (most of the neighborhoods are named after the K-12 schools in their midst), seems very quiet, almost oddly so, and yet also very much each one to his own, with not much in the way of demonstrable neighborliness either from the current residents to newcomers or between the denizens already ensconced.

‘I saw and apologized to our next-door neighbor today for our trailer being parked in front of her door while we unloaded and she nodded and grimaced a tight, grimacing smile at me, as though I had just boasted to her that Bayley had taken a dump in her yard.

‘There is a real and pleasurable beauty about the surroundings, a large-ish park next door, a gym with a bunch of new equipment, a modest showiness about the houses and apartments, yet something does not quite fall together.

‘I think that the reality is that I still feel unsettled, and not just because things have not quite fallen together yet for me and for us, and the clash between this still, tranquil place and the memory I have of commuting every day to work and strolling through the urine-soaked passageways of MUNI up to the homeless-draped sidewalks of Van Ness and Market, with the same pathetic old woman sitting on her stoop every morning and squeaking an emphysematic “Morning” to the changing cast of harried and exhausted and studiously indifferent passersby, and the painfully buzzingly hectic pace of life in the Bay Area, and the rush of the packing and the semi-goodbyes and the cross-country voyage, and the urban sounds of sirens and car horns and yells and squawks, have yet to leave me. It’s all just very strange.

‘There are tons and tons of boisterous, chattering, fearless squirrels everywhere here, another reminder of Palo Alto, except the ones in California are brown and these are squirrels with patches of fiery orange and yellow on their breasts and legs. There are also insects that make strange rising and falling whirring sounds all day long in the bushes, like a cross between the hiss of an angry cat and the sound of a rattlesnake rattling. Steve tells me these are cicadas. The squirrels and cicadas own Ann Arbor, no matter what the people who allegedly live here think.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 24-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 24-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Some memories are better left blotted from the mind …

All moved in (mirabile dictu)

‘What a weekend. We basically just unloaded an entire trailer full of our stuff in two days by ourselves, with no help from hired movers and our only assists an invaluable $70 handcart Steve bought this afternoon at Lowe’s and a great deal of brainstorming on Steve’s part on how to use the jacks that had held up the bulkheads in the trailer most of the journey across the continent as impromptu ramps to guide down the big-screen TV and the beagle’s sofa.

‘It’s all in the house now, thanks mostly to Steve. My lower back feels like it’s been through the wringer, but surprisingly, I am not much the worse for wear, although there were moments when I first got up and around this morning when I worried if I’d be able to walk or even sit through my orientation Wednesday. I knew I saved that bottle of ibuprofen 600mg from my last dental surgery for a reason. I also stand in awe of Kit, who would always go right back out there and get back to work on the house even when his back was obviously killing him. I have never sweated so much in my entire life. Have I mentioned that Ann Arbor is way humid?

‘—Posted by Frank at 21:28:41 |24-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 24-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I do remember the exhaustion here …

Day Eleven

‘Sorry there haven’t been any posts this weekend, but we’ve moved 7,500 pounds of household goods, from the trailer into the townhouse. Just the two of us. It took two days and about 10 hours of work to get it done. We won’t go into the nightmare of the bigscreen TV, except to say that it’s in the living room and working and unscratched/no worse for wear. Even with the collapse of the bulkhead, we lost just one thing: a glass globe on a lamp. Pretty amazing. But right now, Frank’s back is out and I’m just at the end of my rope physically. We’re very happy with the townhouse, but ready to have everything unpacked/done with.

‘Bayley is insecure again today with all the unloading. He’s been ignoring his couch/throne. We left him alone for the first time today and he was an extremely happy dog to see us come back. He’ll get into the swing of things as we go along.

‘That’s all for tonight, sorry, folks; more tomorrow, when I’ve had more rest. Hope things are going very well for all of you … we’ll still be posting here, so keep reading. Frank has lots to add to the ‘blog on his trip experiences, as well as his first days as a graduate student, which happen this coming Wednesday and Thursday. So it’s not the end … merely, shall we say, the end of the beginning …

‘Good night, y’all!

‘—Posted by Steve at 19:19:47 | 24-Aug-03

And here are the photos from Day Eleven:

MovingInMovingInTwoReunitedWithTheCouch

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Eleven » Moving In’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 23-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ouch. Moving in is almost as bad as moving out …

Ann Arbor: Day Two

‘We signed the lease documents and started moving things into the townhouse. This is when it really hits you that you are somewhere: when you stop living out of hotel rooms and cars and start moving your possessions into a physical house with a permanent address.

‘We grabbed food at Wendy’s (or was it Arby’s? the fast food blurs together after a week and a half) and drove to the complex and opened the door of the house and then opened the door of the trailer. And boy, did the sight of all that stuff waiting to be unloaded (with boxes falling over each other and chairs helter skelter) depress me. But we had to start eventually.

‘The first thing we did was unload the Jeep. The first thing from the trailer that went into the house was the first box that Steve saw, one containing his Venetian glass and some pottery. Then it was all a blur of lifting and sweating (the day was a very hot and humid one, and our air conditioning does not work) and grunting and, in my case, throwing my lower back out again, after three weeks or so in which it seemed the soreness had dissipated. We got a lot of work done: the dining table and chairs, the bed, a lot of the kitchen ware, the reclining chair, my stereos. We left the big game for tomorrow.

‘We drove to the Kroger on Industrial and Stadium and bought our first cleaning supplies ($72). Later we returned and bought our first groceries and had our first di er: pasta and corn on the cob. With that, as Samuel Pepys would have written, abed.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 23-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 22-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Has it really been a year already?!

Ann Arbor: Day One

‘Steve was out and about today making sure the trailer was in place to unload at the new digs and seeing the inside of the house for the first time. I stuck around at the Red Roof Inn to watch over the nervous beagle and to soak in the enormity of actually being here in Ann Arbor, momentum transformed into a weird inertial state that I didn’t know quite what to do with.

‘After last night’s intense thunderstorms (and tornado touchdowns in Ingham County), the sky today was picture-postcard blue and the weather mild. I walked the beagle a couple of times around the hotel grounds on Victors Way and marveled at the greenery below and the blueness above.

‘Steve brought me over to the house, which looked great: not stuffy or hypersterile, lots of room, and situated on the corner of a kind of cul-de-sac next to a big sheltering tree and an expanse of grass that looked very beagle-friendly. It looks like a good place to spend a year or two.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 22-Aug-03

And here are the pictures from Day Nine:

TrailerIsDeliveredJumbledMessReadyToMoveIn

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Nine » Ready to Move In’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 21-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ahhhhh … home at last. A year ago today, we arrived in Ann Arbor. Whatta year, whatta year …

Day Eight

‘Day Eight — Lexington, KY, to Ann Arbor, MI

‘We’re here!! It’s all over. And, as Miss Celie says in The Color Purple, ‘I may be poor … I may even be ugly, but I’m here! Thank God, I’m here!’ [cue swelling emotional music]

‘And as I write this, they’ve declared a tornado warning in Livingston County, the county right to our north, with tornadoes reported to the north and west of Ann Arbor, moving southeast. Frank, therefore, is being welcomed to Michigan with his first encounter with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Welcome to the Midwest, Frank!

‘First of all, however, some housekeeping: I was completely remiss in something last night: I neglected to herein congratulate and wish a very, very happy birthday to … Bayley Murphy Beagle, born Aug. 20, 1994, in Kemp, TX, to Laddie Lattie and No-No Emmett. I’m afraid his ninth birthday wasn’t that exciting; he had to sit in the Jeep all day and didn’t even have a cake or any candles. But he did get some pizza crusts as a special treat for his birthday. And this morning, he had a couple of bites of Krispy Kreme and parts of the bread from a sub sandwich.

‘Yeah, yeah, I know that’s the last thing he needed. But it’s his birthday, for cryin’ out loud, and he’s been cooped up in a Jeep for 3,252 miles … so sue me.

‘Anyway, he had a very nice birthday and is ready to begin his tenth year on earth with a whole new place in the world. On Saturday, he’ll be moving into his new townhouse, and probably will be waiting extremely impatiently for the couch (his throne) to be unloaded and put in place.

‘Anyway, happy birthday, Bayley Murphy Beagle. And many, many more may you have.

‘Here’s today’s post:

‘—US 23N, approaching Ann Arbor, MI, 17:00 CDT

‘Well, oh my goodness, we’re almost home. It seems like just yesterday we were starting out and already we’re crossing the Saline River (that’s pronounced suh-LEEN, to you non-Michiganders). We’re also just crossing the Washtenaw County line, and it all means that it’s all almost over. We can’t believe it.

‘What a trip it’s been. I have very mixed feelings at the moment. I’m primarily too tired and road weary at this point, to be perfectly honest, to feel much esle but numbness. It still seems unreal, like it’s just a vacation trip that we’re still on. After all, we have two nights left in a hotel room before our townhouse is ready and the trailer with our stuff is here. But I suppose it will sink in when we unload and I see Bayley’s couch sitting in our new living room.

‘Speaking of the beagle, he was quite alert as we crossed the state line, but is now back to sleeping. He’s very worn out by it all, and the two days in the hotel will do him good. Then a couple of days of chaos as things get unloaded and boxes get unpacked and things get arranged. It looks like we’ll be able to afford to pay someone to unload the truck, which was the biggest thing I was dreading on the whole journey. So it’s all good.

‘I’m very ready to get to the hotel room and rest. Our last few stops have come later at night; by the time you eat dinner and go to bed, it’s late, then you get up late, etc. We’ll be in our room by 18:00 and have the rest of the evening to chill out. I’m very, very, very happy we didn’t elect to spend the night in Nashville, and went on to Lexington. It made the trip much better and being more rested will help out tremendously with the unpacking over the weekend.

‘I guess I’ll sign off now until later this evening. I need to help Frank negotiate the route to the hotel.

‘—Red Roof Inn, Room 106, Ann Arbor, MI, 21:30 CDT

‘We’re here! And so is one big ol’ thunderstorm with tornadoes and everything.

‘For those of you who are Californians, a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the formation of storms which could spawn tornadoes. A tornado warning means something nasty is on the ground and it’s coming for you. We don’t just gots the former, folks, we gots the latter. And I’m not going to remain online too long while something wicked this way comes.

‘Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 339 miles from Lexington, KY, to Ann Arbor, MI. Spent $31 on gas, $17.97 on food, and $5.25 on miscellaneous expenses. And that concludes our trip, thank you for flying AirBeagle.

‘Yes, the trip is over. We were on the road 60 hours and 45 minutes over eight days, during which we drove 3,252 miles and used 208.165 gallons of gasoline for an average of 15.622 miles-per-gallon.

‘11 states. 4 state capitals. 3 Best Westerns, 2 LaQuintas, a Red Roof Inn, and, of course, Casa Manor Chez Don-n-Jean. An oil change. And Bayley left … DNA, shall we say … in all 11 states.

‘We saw cars registered in WA, OR, CA, ID, UT, AZ, NM, CO, KS, OK, TX, LA, MS, TN, AL, GA, FL, SC, NC, VA, KY, OH, MI, WI, ND, SD, NE, MN, IA, MD, NJ, NY, MA, ME, CT, VT, PA, WV, IL … and Ontario and British Columbia. We saw 1.5 billion trucks, 6 million RVs/camping trailers and one tricycle motorcycle pulling a trailer.

‘We successfully concluded the trip without being stopped by the polizei and getting any tickets. No injuries, not even any really close calls, once you erase the memory of Tennessee drivers.

‘But we had fantastic fortune: After we went through Yosemite, a tree fell down and crushed a Jeep. After we went through Las Vegas, flash floods swept through town and left feet of mud all over.

‘And then we hit Ann Arbor; we’ll see if our luck holds and the tornadoes skip around us.

‘Now for today’s miscellany:

‘—What, exactly, was the person thinking who named a state park in Kentucky, and I quote, ‘Big Bone Lick State Park’? I am not making this up. Exit 175, Richwood, KY.

‘—There is a water tower in northern Kentucky which states, ‘Florence … Y’all!’ It’s not Florence, KY, it’s Florence, Y’all.

‘—There are many, many Ohio drivers, but they’re still not as bad as Tennessee. Show me a Tennessee driver and I’ll show you the subject of a future roadside memorial featuring flowers, crosses and bottles of bourbon.

‘—Krispy Kreme is oversaturating the market and at risk of becoming a turnoff.

‘—Cincinnati is a pretty city in a beautiful natural setting, but ya don’t wanna drive there or live there.

‘—AM radio offers two things: Screaming fascists haranguing listeners with rightwing agitprop which is stomach-turningly racist and idiotic or oldies radio featuring Karen Carpenter singing ‘Superstar.’

‘—Hotels which don’t tell you upfront, on phone or their websites, that they will charge you a $75 non-refundable pet fee should be spanked. hard.

‘—The most entertaining reading along the way (besides billboards advertising everything from the Ohio Pork Producers Council to North America’s largest stainless steel cross) has been local newspapers. And as a former smalltown local newspaper reporter, I’m entitled to talk about this. Let’s take a look at the Conway (AR) Log Cabin Democrat from Tues. Aug. 19, shall we?

‘—Item 1: ‘A Twin Groves man was found dead … after being run over by a vehicle driven by his cousin’ who saw something in the road as he crested a hill, hit the object after being unable to stop, finally pulled into a driveaway and drove back to find his own cousin lying in the road mortally wounded.

‘—’Police were called to the … home of former Conway attorney … on a domestic call. …. claimed his wife … hit him, knocking out three of his teeth. She said she pushed him after he hit her and that she did not cause his teeth to fall out.’ ‘Two pipes for drug use’ were found and confiscated.

‘And so on. And don’t think I’m picking on Arkansas … this is smalltown journalism everywhere … it’s infinitely more entertaining than the San Francisco Chronicle, let me tell you.

‘Here’s today’s trip statistics:

‘• 12:04 — Leave Lexington, KY — 0 miles | 2913 total
• 13:30 — Ohio State Line/Cincinnati — 81 miles | 2994 total
• 14:15 — Dayton — 141 miles | 3054 total
• 14:45 — Piqua — 162 miles | 3075 total
• 15:32 — Lima — 207 miles | 3120 total
• 16:00 — Findlay — 239 miles | 3152 total
• 16:21 — Bowling Green — 262 miles | 3175 total
• 16:39 — Toledo — 282 miles | 3195 total
• 16:47 — Michigan State Line — 291 miles | 3204 total
• 17:35 — Ann Arbor, MI — 339 miles | 3252 total

‘I’m off to keep an eye on the storms. But don’t go ‘way! Just because the beagle has landed doesn’t mean aSquared is finished. Posts will continue, at least until we’re settled in the house.

‘Besides, don’t you want to tune in tomorrow to see if we got blown away by a tornado or not? Sure ya do! Let’s see … if I remember what to do when a tornado comes. Oh, yes. The Oklahoma Drill. Bathtub, mattress, curl over the beagle and hope for the best. Right.

‘Good night, y’all.

‘—Posted by Steve at 22:03 | 21-Aug-03

‘And here are the photos from Day Eight:

FightForTheKrispyKremeWelcomeToOhioTornadoComing

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Eight » Lexington, KY, to Ann Arbor, MI’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 21-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘My second visit to Lexington, which I think is rather a pretty place …

Lexington, KY

‘Population 260,512 (2000 census). Seat of Fayette County. Second-largest city in Kentucky. Home to the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University.

‘Lexington was named in 1775 for the battle in the same name in Massachusetts (19 April 1775). In 1817, Lexington staged the first Beethoven symphony heard in the United States. Lexington’s public library is billed as the oldest library west of the Alleghenies and may be older than the city itself. The library became a “free” library in 1898, and Andrew Carnegie financed the building of a larger “free” library in 1902.

‘Horse racing in Kentucky began as a pastime of the frontiersmen who settled the area that became the state of Kentucky. Daniel Boone brought pack horses on a hunting trip to Kentucky in 1769. William Whitley developed the first circular race track in Lincoln County in 1780. In 1793, Lexington forbade horse-racing through the streets and confined it to the West Water Street part of town.

‘We didn’t see much of Lexington last night, and we left today before we could see much more of it. We were, frankly, in a hurry to get the last leg of the trip under way. What my main impressions of Lexington were: (a) It’s huge. It sprawls all over the place. The trip from one end of town to the other (where our La Quinta was) seemed to take forever. (b) It’s beautiful. © You’d need more than a day to do it justice.

‘—Posted by Frank at 13:40:00 | 21-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 21-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Memphis. Ugh. Tennessee drivers. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have embarked on this journey down memory lane …

Day Seven

‘Day Seven — Memphis, TN, to Lexington, KY

‘Surprise! We were supposed to spend the night in Nashville, but instead changed our plans and elected to get to Ann Arbor a day early and take Friday as a rest day. So, we drove from Memphis to Nashville and looked at some sights, then drove up I-65 to Elizabethtown, KY, then over the BlueGrass Parkway to Lexington. From Lexington, it’s about 347 miles … to our new home. [gulp] Gosh, it’s getting close, and the last week has flown by. This time one week ago, I was having a panic fit trying to fit all of our stuff on a trailer. Right now, we’re approaching Bonnieville, Kentucky, at Exit 71 on I-65N.

‘Let’s get right to it, shall we? Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 430 miles from Memphis, TN (including driving around to Graceland and Beale Street). Spent $46.00 on gas, $24.68 on food, $11.94 on miscellaneous expenses (okay, on Elvis souvenirs), and $138.53 on hotels (both in Memphis and Lexington). And we crossed our final time zone; we’re now forced to permanently adjust to the Eastern zone. Oh my.

‘First, some miscellany:

‘—Arnold Schwarzenegger’s candidacy for Governor of California is just as nutty when viewed 3,000 miles away.

‘— Speaking of politics, a woman named Janis Feelilove is running for city council in Memphis. I am not making this up.

‘— Speaking of Drag Queen names, the state of Arkansas has radio broadcasts along I-40 that you can listen to for construction updates (the entire state highway system is one large construction zone). On this channel, you can hear two people give you tips for dealing with the Cone Zones. One is named ‘Highway Guy.’ And the other? Anita Buckleup.

‘— There is an actual city park in Conway, AR, called Toad Suck Park. I am not making this up.

‘— On Memphis public radio, volunteers actually come in and read articles out of magazines on the air. We were treated to a man reading to us an article about Annette Bening out of the Ladies Home Journal. Who knew that she really loves Warren Beatty?

‘—There is a Gayoso Street in Memphis.

‘—Beagles like Kentucky bluegrass.

‘—There is a very chagrined woman in the Lexington, KY, LaQuinta who left her diesel-powered pickup truck running … and locked her keys inside. Locksmiths do apparently visit hotels at 11 p.m., however, so she’s just fine.

‘And here once again: All the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:

‘—I-65N, Approaching Elizabethtown, KY, 20:00 CDT | 21-Aug-04

‘Well, Frank is driving now, so I can update what’s happened in the last 24 hours.

‘The alarm rang at 09:00, and was followed shortly by a call from the front desk, inquiring how/when I wished to pay for the room. Since I handed them $65.73 in cash the night before, this question was a might puzzling. But given the … … … … … ability (I was searching for the right word) of the clerk last night, I wasn’t surprised. He told me he’d figure it out and let me know.

‘We got up and took and hour-and-a-half to get it together. As we get further east, we get more sluggish. Seven days and 2,800 miles on the road is a very long time/distance. Unloading the Jeep every night and dealing with the beagle (poor puppy) is very exhausting. And the heat this morning in Memphis was beyond oppressive. It was 103 when we left the hotel at noon; humidity must have been 150 percent. At least.

‘When I checked out, the manager had finished an audit and discovered my payment.

‘‘She’s new,’ he said, ‘and didn’t post it. She didn’t know what she was doing.’ Thusly went the biggest understatement of our journey.

‘The room itself was scary. There was a deadbolt, but the device (a metal bracket which is supposed to be better than a chain) was missing and the doorframe and door looked as if this metal bracket had been forcibly ripped apart. I won’t go into the rest of it, but let’s just say the whole thing needed a renovation. And leave it at that. If that’s the worst hotel experience we’ve had (and it has been), then, actually, we’ve been pretty lucky.

‘Before leaving, we made the decision to forego a night in Nashville and head on up the road to Lexington. This accomplishes two things: We’re closer to home, and we don’t have to do any traveling on Friday, the day before we have to start unloading the trailer. Frank felt that just a quick ride through Nashville was enough for him. So, I redid our hotel reservations.

‘After check out, we drove over to Graceland. First, it was obvious I wasn’t taking any tours. A beagle cannot stand the heat just walking around a park or something (and of course not the car – even with the air conditioner running, the Jeep engine gets too hot and the inside isn’t that cool) and we had checked out of the room.

‘We drove down Elvis Presley Boulevard.

‘Now folks, I know that EPB is a LOT different in 2003 than it was whenever the King built the thing. But this is a bad neighborhood now. And when I mean bad, I mean seriously skanky. We’re talking derelict buildings and trash. A strip of truly ugly strip malls and places where you just KNOW you’d get e.Coli if you ate in them. Tacky little Elvis souvenir shops. And an air of being worn-out and well past its shelf life and general seediness. But suddenly, on the east side of the road, is this pristine manse with trees and across the street is an aging DC-8. And then we’re back to seediness.

‘This is a neighborhood in which you not only should keep your doors locked and your windows rolled up tight, you should probably wear body armor and have all your shots up-to-date.

‘We paid $2 just to park, since parking on the street is not only dangerous, it apparently mobilizes an entire security force, none of whom seem to understand that Graceland is a tourist attraction of which people wish to take photos.

‘We were given a security warning, which stated that taking digital photos of any kind while on the tour was strictly verboten and then we parked in a vast parking lot, baking in the sun. Frank went into the visitor’s center while beagle and I idled in the parking lot and took a short nap.

‘On Frank’s return, he reported that this was, in his opinion, a ‘sacrilege,’ and, quoting, ‘It’s an obvious way for Priscilla and Lisa Marie to make lots of money.’ He said that people were standing in line to … have their photos taken in front of a mural, yes, that’s right, just a mural, of Graceland. Perhaps the tackiest place on earth, is, I suppose, our opinion of it.

‘But two things. Graceland is frozen in time, circa 1977. One can’t judge fat Elvis’ taste by the standards of 2003. I mean, I’m sure that by now, the Fab Five from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would have been all over Graceland like white on rice and that what you pay good money to see now would have been relegated to the dump long ago.

‘Still, as I’ve said before, I’m not a very good Amurrican citizen/tourist. Even if we weren’t under the time/budget constraints we’re under, I still would have probably foregone a tour of Hoover Dam, a night in Paris Las Vegas or Venice Las Vegas (c’mon! I’ve been too the real cities!). We just flew by Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, which one of our tour books reports is probably not the actual cabin where he was born at all. And so forth.

‘I don’t get very excited about where Abe Lincoln had his diapers changed. Where fat Elvis sat in a drugged-out stupor and listened to his old recordings does nothing much for me.

‘But what does excite me is listening to him sing and reading about the influences, from gospel, from African-Americans, from the south, from his mother, etc., on his music and how that music influenced and changed the very world and culture we live in.

‘And what does excite me is the simple and eloquent speech Abe gave at Gettysburg, that he had the chutzpah to free the slaves and send the nation to bloody war to preserve the union and that the man knew what was what. So he was born in log cabin, so what? What the man DID is what’s important.

‘[Steps off soap box]

‘The most important part of the visit to Graceland, even though we didn’t take the tours, was this: Frank accomplished something his mother always wanted to do and never had the opportunity. He’s glad he did it for Mom and I’m proud to have been there when he did. And that made it all worthwhile.

‘We drove up Third Street into downtown and took a short walk on Beale Street. I bought some postcards and a keychain for Frank, we took some pictures, the beagle transacted some business, and we popped back in the car to hit the road.

‘We stopped on the north edge of Memphis for gas and some Dairy Queen food, then headed out on I-40 to Nashville.

‘And it is here that I must say this: On this trip, we’ve been wondering if any one state has the worst drivers, or if it’s an individual thing or just what. A certain someone I know in Washington, DC, swears that Maryland drivers are the worst; after several visits there, I always tended to agree with him. I’ve always thought Oklahoma drivers were fairly decent, just slow. Texans used to be friendly and wave at you out on the lonely roads in West Texas. New Mexicans were middling, Coloradans tended to be aggressive and dangerous and REALLY don’t like seeing California-tagged cars in ‘their’ state. Around San Francisco, Arizona drivers I encountered tended to be cow-ish, Nevadans tended to be decent and Californians, well, Californians around San Francisco are just … basically a herd of deer. Always bunched in packs, sometimes skittish, sometimes mulish, always clueless. They do have, however, the ability to multi-task on the road: They can shave, read, watch a DVD, eat breakfast, poor coffee and smack the kids in the back seat while doing 80 mph on I-80. Arkansans were cool.

‘However, I’m ready to declare that we have an undisputed winner in the America’s Worst Drivers sweepstakes: Tennesseeans, the award is ALL very much yours. Tennessee drivers stand out head and shoulders above the crowd as champions of rudeness, aggressiveness, stupidity, cluelessness and just plain horrible, uncontrolled and anarchic ‘drivers’ and I use the term loosely.

‘I lost track at 12 the number of times we almost shuffled off this mortal coil. My mantra became, ‘Please, God, don’t let me die in Tennessee!’ I was almost run off the road, tailgated innumerable times, almost run over and then honked at while I was making a legal right turn having signaled well in advance; I was almost sideswiped by cellphone-gabbing women twirling their hair; I witnessed a girl cross five lines of interstate traffic during rush hour at 65 miles an hour in front of oncoming semis … in order to make her exit. I was waved at, laughed at and had not one, not two, not three, but four, count ‘em, four people run a red light while I was trying to cross an intersection on a green.

‘We’re now pretty deep in Kentucky, on the Blue Grass Parkway about 50 miles outside of Lexington. And the change between the states has been obvious. Perhaps Kentucky has better driver education programs. Perhaps It’s later at night and most people are home. Or perhaps Kentuckians know how to treat both horses and cars. But our experience in Tennessee over the last 24 hours was one of … I won’t say sheer terror, but complete amazement and sometimes a pounding heart.

‘Kentucky seems so peaceful, let me tell you.

‘Tennessee is pretty. It’s rolling hills and lots of trees. But I’m sorry, ‘them people is crazy!’

‘Still, we’ve had a good time. Seeing things for real that you’ve seen only in photos and books is always an interesting and fun experience. A carefully arranged photo in a glossy book can never do justice to the real deal. Photos of the Ryman Auditorium, for example, never show the neighborhood around it for context, and you can get its feel and sense of scale only by going there.

‘So, other than some road insanity, we’ve enjoyed most of the trip. Last night and this morning weren’t fun, but what’s a journey without a little adversity? Builds character, as they say. It’s been tiring, but a great trip. We’re now 30 miles outside of Lexington, which means we just have to do the final 350 or so to Ann Arbor tomorrow. This is good news and makes us quite happy.

‘I’m sure after this that the beagle will be quite displeased if he’s ever asked to ride in the Jeep ever again. He’s doing very, very well. Now that there are no steep and twisty mountain roads to negotiate, he’s pretty much able to lie down and sleep most of the time. He does not eat anything for breakfast; he’s even been refusing french fries during the day. He does eat dinner at the hotel rooms, though, as long as you do some coaxing and start him off with a beagle bagel. He’s currently even steadfastly ignoring my chocolate chip cookies. Obviously, this is a beagle who has decided on a hunger strike strategy to punish me for doing this to him. Even telling him that his couch will be in Ann Arbor all fixed up for him by Saturday night isn’t mollifying him. Oh well. Three more nights in motel rooms, then he can began to put his life and routine back together. And so can we all.

‘We’ve been hearing not nice things about the Gracie dog from home; she’s losing quite a bit of fur and wondering where Unca Frank has gone. We miss her and the Rudy dog and the Suki cat and the Artemis dog lots and lots and send them plenty of hugs and love and best wishes.

‘And, of course, even more so, we miss all the humans too, and send them the same hugs and love and best wishes.

‘It finally hit me last night, a little later than expected, the panicky sense that, once we rolled east of Oklahoma City, we have truly left behind the familiar, the loved ones, the home and routine and everything else we’ve always known. I’ve never lived east of Dallas/Duncan and Frank has never lived east of Oakland. We both have never lived north of San Francisco (which is roughly along the line of Kansas City). And we’ve now pushed those boundaries. The anxiety went on for awhile, but we talked through it and had a very good night’s sleep. It’s all a part of the experience and it’s all a good thing. We can’t wait to get home and get going. This time next week, Frank will have finished his first day of orientation; two weeks from now, he will have finished his first day of classes. It’s all fun and exciting. Even the first cold front and snowfall will be fun and exciting. But we’re not going to spoil the moment and talk about what happens in January/February, okay?

‘I’m sure some more anxiety will follow. Probably when we open the rear door of the trailer and are confronted with 80 boxes and a couch and a bigscreen TV and various and sundry other things, which, hopefully, are about to arrive in Ann Arbor themselves, and, again hopefully, intact. Not sure about Ann Arbor; they were part of the big blackout, so I have no idea what to expect when we get there.

‘I’m itching to unpack boxes and arrange furniture and hang pictures. These two chile ristras hanging in the back of the Jeep are going to look fabulous in our new kitchen, as will the ‘Elvis’ Favorite Recipes’ postcards I just bought on Beale Street when I put them up on the refrigerator.

‘Here’s today’s trip statistics:

‘• 11:00 — Left the hotel and saw some frightening things at Graceland; went to Beale Street and bought postcards; left Memphis — 0 miles | 2453 total
• 14:40 — East Memphis (gas) — 30 | 2483
• 15:28 — Jackson — 71 | 2554
• 15:45 — Nashville touring — 213 | 2696
• 16:23 — Kentucky State Line/Franklin — 250 | 2733
• 16:56 — Bowling Green — 272 | 2755
• 17:00 — Elizabethtown — 345 | 2828
• 18:04 — Lexington (hotel) — 430 | 2913

‘And now, we’ve arrived at room 247 at the LaQuinta Inn in Lexington, KY, and let me tell you, it’s fabulous. Just like a hotel should be. It’s wonderful. And I’m off to bed. I’ve had enough for today.

‘We’ll probably be talking to you tomorrow night from … Ann Arbor … MICHIGAN!

‘Oh, lord. Now I’ve scared myself.

‘Good night, y’all.

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:30 | 21-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 20-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Thank god for this music … it distracted us from the homicidal/suicidal Tennessee drivers on I-40 …

Soundtrack, Day Seven

‘Between Memphis and Nashville, Emmylou Harris’s The Ballad of Sally Rose. Later, through Kentucky, True Love Waits: Christopher O’Riley Plays Radiohead. I tried Joni Mitchell’s first record, which is one of my favorite albums, but it just wasn’t working for me as driving music today for some reason. Sorry, Joni. You still kick everyone’s ass.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 20-Aug-03

And here are the photos from Day Seven:

FrankOnBealeStreetTheRymanNashvilleBeagleInKentucky

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Seven » Memphis, TN; Nashville; Lexington, KY’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 20-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ugh. Maybe on another visit it will seem okay; last year, it was the pits to me …

‘Memphis, TN

‘Population 650,100 (2000 census). The first European to set eyes on the site of what is now Memphis was probably Hernando de Soto in 1541.

‘The site where Memphis now sits was first occupied by a French military post, Fort Prudhomme, in 1682, followed by Fort Assumption in 1739, followed by a briefly-held Spanish post, Fort San Fernando de Las Barrancas, in 1795 (the British held most control of the area following the French and Indian War in 1763, but skirmishes for control continued for years among Britain, Spain, France, the United States, and Indian tribes). After getting rid of the inconvenient Chickasaw tribe, Andrew Jackson, John Overton, and James Winchester founded the city in 1819.

‘The first settlers of Memphis were primarily German and Irish workers. Memphis was incorporated in 1826. Memphis was a key Confederate post until 6 June 1862, when Ulysses S. Grant took the city and turned it into the chief Union headquarters for operations in that theater. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, led a daring raid against Union forces in Memphis in August 1864. A three-day riot occurred in April-May 1866, triggered by animosities between black freedmen and Irish workers. A series of cholera and yellow fever epidemics killed over 8000 Memphians in the 1870s and devastated the city. The city went bankrupt and the State of Tennessee revoked its charter in 1879. With the help of investments by millionaires like William Goodlett and Robert Church, the South’s first African-American millionaire, the city charter was reinstated in 1893. In 1892, after three black Memphis grocers were lynched, Ida B. Wells, a journalist, began a crusade against the atrocities.

‘Beale Street became a hotbed of culture and it was here that W.C. Handy, originally a faculty member at Teachers Agricultural and Mechancial College in Huntsville, AL, and later a bandleader and touring member of minstrel groups, wrote “Mr. Crump,” which eventually became “Memphis Blues,” one of the first popular compositions to use the 12-bar structure and flattened third/fifth/seventh-note melody that later became characteristic of the blues. Handy first came across music resembling the blues one night in 1903 in Tutwiler, MS, when a black man sat next to him and started pressing a knife against the strings of a guitar while singing the words, “Goin’ to where the Southern cross the Dog.” Handy asked the man what the words meant, and the man said that they referred to the town of Moorhead, MS, where the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad (commonly known as The Yellow Dog) crossed the Southern Railroad. Handy later said that the sound was “the weirdest music I’d ever heard.”

‘One of the most explosively popular and perennial blues compositions, “St. Louis Blues,” was penned by Handy in his Beale Street bar, PWee’s, and although Handy was forced to publish the tune himself in September 1914 after being turned down by every publisher he approached, the tune took on a life of its own, especially after Sophie Tucker recorded it and it became the first blues to sell a million copies.

‘Elvis Presley’s parents sold their furniture, loaded up their truck, and moved with Elvis to Memphis from Tupelo on 6 November 1948. In the middle or late summer of 1953, Presley cut his first record at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios on 706 Union Avenue. (Phillips’ studio was not yet famous, but it had already cut what many scholars consider the first rock song, Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88,” in 1951.) The rest is history.

‘Memphis was (until the company’s bankruptcy in 1975) also the home of Stax Records, one of the most influential labels in the burgeoning soul music movement of the sixties. Among the artists who recorded for Stax were Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Joh ie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Booker T & The MG’s, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, and Carla Thomas. Given all the rich history above and the fact that I had wanted to see Memphis as long as I could remember, I wish I had had the fortitude to meet Memphis on its own terms and to give it a chance. I didn’t.

‘We arrived late Tuesday night, a sweltering, dark night on which the bridge across the mighty Mississippi was a blur, and we nearly got lost trying to find the right exit to take to get to our hotel near the airport and Graceland. I got out of the Jeep and my legs promptly got barraged by a battalion of mosquitoes. The hotel was not the worst place on earth, but it wasn’t the best, either. We were both exhausted and cranky after a long day of driving through one and a half states with barely a stop in Conway, AR, for gas and reinforcements, and we weren’t thinking clearly or rationally. We tried to find Elvis Presley Boulevard, and we failed. We tried to find a neighborhood with a restaurant, and we didn’t find anything but a Wendy’s, where we got our bag of fast food, struggled to understand the checkout woman’s drawl, and drove quickly back to the hotel, in the process being nearly cut in front of twice by reckless drivers.

‘We went to sleep, got out of bed this afternoon, and drove to Graceland, which was a tourist attraction that I somehow stupidly expected to be something it wasn’t. I walked around a little bit, briefly stopped in the tourist center to see if there were any maps or brochures, and seeing none, walked back out, where I saw a line of people waiting to take a photo in front of a mural with a mock-up of Graceland’s gates on it and a giant fan in front of the mural to, I guess, cool off the line of people. I walked back to the parking lot past a brook with a wooden bridge over it, which I thought was the nicest part of the whole place. I asked Steve to snap me in front of one of the signs advertising the 30th a iversary of Elvis’s Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite concert, made a snide comment I shouldn’t have made about the function of the site as a money-generating mechanism for Elvis’ ex-wife and daughter, and we left Graceland without further ado.

‘We stopped downtown and shot a few photos on Beale Street, Steve stopped in an Elvis memorabilia store while I sat on the sidewalk with Bayley and watched a big man leaning against a wooden construction barrier across the intersection of Beale and Second trying to steer what few tourists were on the street into the Blues City Cafe, and that, unfortunately, was the extent of our Memphis experience.

‘I can’t say why it was the experience it was; Memphis is an intense, almost seething city, and that’s not casting aspersions on it, but it is what it is, or it is how we experienced it, and we weren’t in the mood or the inclination to be patient with the city. That’s about all I can put it down to. Maybe someday we will go back and have a different experience there. I hope so.

‘—Posted by Frank at 19:03:04 | 20-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 20-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Day Six started out wonderfully and with lots of fun in Don’s airplane flying above Sundance Airport northwest of Oklahoma City. We then drove around Norman and around Thunderbird Lake to rejoin I-40. Then things got ugly as we hit Arkansas and Tennessee. Let’s reminisce, shall we?

Day Six

‘Day Six — Oklahoma City, OK, to Memphis, TN

‘Oh dear lord, what have we done coming to Memphis, Tennessee? This is NOT a good neighborhood, Elvis Presley lived in a slum, our hotel is located between the two active runways at Memphis International, which would normally thrill me, but after 548 miles from Oklahoma City and encountering some VERY scary neighborhoods near Graceland, I’m sorry, I’m just not in the mood.

‘More on all this at the end of this post. I was unable to post the adventures from day 5, so look below this post for that one first.

‘Here we go then. Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 548 miles from Oklahoma City, OK (making aroundabout trip through Norman and Shawnee before rejoining I-40). Spent $40 on gas, $18.75 on food, $7.53 on miscellaneous expenses, and $0 on a hotel (bill comes due tomorrow).

‘And here yet again: All the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:

‘—I-40E, Approaching Russellville, AR, 18:00 CDT | 20-Aug-04d

‘Boy, did we have fun today … after we were roused by Don playing Elvis singing ‘In the Ghetto’ on the stereo, we got up and had some breakfast, and played with the Artie-pooch, we loaded the Jeepy and the Beagle. And the thermometer on Don’s back porch really did say 116, I swear it; I just forgot to get a picture of it, as promised earlier. At any rate, it was hot. Very, very hot. We said goodbye to Jean, the consummate hostess, and followed Don out to Sundance Airport, where AirDonpy has its base of operations.

‘AirDonpy (which to the uninitiated is the shortened name for the pilot/owner of the airline, Don P. B——-, get it?) had a reserved ticket aboard its flight 1, service from Sundance International to Sundance International with a stop at Sundance International, aboard a beautiful Cessna 150, for Frank. Yes, it was to be Frank’s very first ride in a small private plane, which, as Chief Pilot Don P. pointed out, has HALF the horsepower of the engine in Jeepy.

‘Okay.

‘It was very hot and windy when we arrived at the hangar where AirDonpy has its base of operations, which means that the ride was going to be slow, hot and bumpy. But after the usual preflight briefing, conducted by moi and a preflight check and briefing from the Chief Pilot, Frank boarded AirDonpy Flight One for his maiden Wafting On Silvered Wings Through the Skies of Oklahoma.

‘[Insert standard verbiage about the very mad, very hot, very whiney, very uncooperative, very concerned beagle here. Beagles simply do NOT do hot airport hangars while the people who slave for them vanish mysteriously in very loud, noisy vehicles. Beagles also do not appear to enjoy grass by the side of truck stops in Texas and Oklahoma, but that’s another story.]

‘After a pushback (performed also by the Chief Pilot), the flight was ready for departure. There being no traffic at the moment, clearance to taxi was granted and AirDonpy Flight 1 taxied out to runway 17 for an immediate departure. After seatbelts fastened and tray tables stowed, the flight did a circle on the apron to check for traffic and prepared for takeoff. Departure was quick, with the stiff prevailing wind providing much-needed lift in the hot conditions, departed slightly to the southwest, then turned back to the north for an approach back to Sundance International and completion of the first leg.

‘Frank, apparently deciding that he did, indeed, enjoy the flight, elected to continue on the second leg of the journey, which was completed with perfect on-time performance and a smooth landing. A short taxi off the runway and flight 1 was completed.

‘Frank is happy to report that he thoroughly enjoyed the service provided by AirDonpy and would certainly fly with the line again. ‘It wasn’t as bumpy as I expected,’ he said.

‘It was noted that the hot conditions had produced a hot engine, so AirDonpy’s Cessna was allowed to cool off while we took a rest and … then the beagle spit up. He also spit up while flight 1 was in the air, but he did again, this time within the AirDonpy hangar headquarters. He was a very hot dog who had just drunk water the wrong way, I suppose. The concrete floor of the hangar was cooler, so he took a rest and quickly recovered and gave his nervous consent for me to board Flight 2.

‘The Chief Pilot once again made his checks, started the engine and we taxied back out to runway 17. Since AirDonpy’s airconditioning is provided by opening the windows, and since said windows must be closed during flight, said windows were closed and sweat began to build, as did our airspeed as we pushed down the hot, dense air along the runway.

‘We gathered speed and parted with the earth; as always, it is a glorious feeling to slip the surly bonds, even if it is accompanied by questions about just what would happen if an engine half the size of my Jeep’s engine suddenly quit at altitude and we were forced to … oh, nevermind.

‘The flight was a bit bumpy, but considering the conditions, it really wasn’t that bad.

‘I’ll go ahead and bore with the following aside: My personal measure for how bad turbulence is remains a flight on the dearly-departed and bankrupt MarkAir 737 flight David and I once took from Denver to Dallas, on a 1995 afternoon when hailstorms pounded Aurora south of DIA and tornadoes hit Amarillo, TX, and Ardmore, OK. It was on this MarkAir flight that we were packed into with a very large contingent of pink-clad Mary Kay ladies, on their way from Los Angeles to Dallas for a convention. The flight departed in the rain and flew south over Colorado Springs, then turned left and headed towards Kansas. Since Dallas is located far to the south of Kansas, I wondered what was up, but the captain told us that a tornado had just hit Amarillo, consuming some tornado food in a trailer park. Being that Amarillo is roughly on the air route to Dallas, it was probably wise to go around the storm.

‘Yet, going around the storm meant flying to Wichita and hanging a right, following I-35 down through Oklahoma to Dallas. Which was great, except for one thing; storms were pounding Oklahoma, and a tornado was in the process of tearing up Ardmore as we made our right turn at Wichita at 33,000 feet.

‘Once we entered Oklahoma airspace, things began to get rather ugly. When it began, a man who was in the lavatory up front emerged with a sheepish grin and blue hands (let’s just say from some lav-related splashing we won’t go into here). It started rough, but as we went further south, it got rougher. Soon, the flight attendants were strapped in tight, praying to Jesus and urging the passengers to do the same or we were on our own; bins opened up and we began to get a bit worried.

‘At first, everyone was quiet, just hanging on for dear life. But as it got worse, the Mary Kay ladies finally couldn’t take it anymore and it commenced to get noisy. With every stop, drop and roll of this 737, there was a pink chorus of ‘Oh, lordy! He’p us Jesus!’ from the ladies, which, of course, didn’t serve to make the rest of us passengers any more comfortable.

‘Finally, we landed intact at DFW, and I must confess that I have never before or since seen a Mary Kay lady, not to mention a whole herd of them, emerge as disheveled and bedraggled as those ladies did that evening. Their cute, pert, peppy … pinkness … was replaced by shades of green not commonly seen among the Mary Kay set. Afterwards, we got the news that, unbeknownst to us at the time, our captain had, indeed, flown us through the remains of a tornadic storm system.

‘Now, I’m not a white-knuckled flyer usually. On today’s AirDonpy flight 2, it didn’t really bother me to be tossed around a bit. But that MarkAir flight was one for the record books. Oh, and one last thing, a short lesson: Commercial airliners DO break up in flight due to turbulence; a BOAC flight over Mt. Fuji, Japan, in the 60’s, Braniff International’s flight 250, a BAC 1-11 broke up south of Omaha in 1965 due to an encounter with a gust front which stressed the airframe beyond design tolerances and Northwest Orient flight 714 over the Everglades in 1963 also broke up when design limits were exceeded in extreme turbulence.

‘But most turbulence that passengers experience and live to tell about is not extreme. The MarkAir flight experience was probably classified as ‘moderate’ turbulence; there was no damage or injuries. ‘Severe’ is very rare and sometimes catastrophic; what most people encounter is ‘light’ or ‘light to moderate.’ Flight attendants and passengers who happen to be up and walking around often sustain broken bones and other injuries in moderate to severe. Today’s AirDonpy experience was pretty light.

‘But I digress. I can go on for hours about commercial aviation. But back to AirDonpy flight 2, which was a short hop from Sundance International to Sundance International. Takeoff was smooth and climbout was not bad; we were swatted around a bit as we turned to the west. As we turned to the north on the downwind leg, we were crabbing a bit and a little bumpy, but as we turned on base, things got interesting.

‘I’m under a confidentiality agreement where it comes to discussing what happened on AirDonpy flight 2 on approach and final, as well as touchdown. But I must just say that it was the most fun I’ve had flying AirDonpy lo these many years. And we’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say that we’re on the ground safe and sound, AirDonpy will fly another day and we’re now approaching Russellville, AR, some hours later. The day has been uneventful since this morning’s flight.

‘After bidding a fond adieu with many thanks to the AirDonpy operation, we drove south to see Jay’s house and the University of Oklahoma at Norman. It was a pretty quick trip. We then drove east on Hwy 9 and north on 102 and met up with I-40, our old friend, at Shawnee. We stopped at Shawnee for gas, a car wash, a Braum’s hamburger and shake … and some beagle business. Frank has been driving ever since.

‘The much dreaded construction zones on I-40 in Arkansas have indeed materialized and are slowing us down considerably. Mile after mile of one-lane interstate this late in the evening, with Memphis still 200 miles away is rather irritating. We debated whether to avoid Arkansas and Memphis entirely, but ultimately decided that ‘going to Graceland, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee’ is an important opportunity that Frank really shouldn’t pass up. Hence, we find ourselves behind a long line of trucks at 50 miles per hour, nearing Russellville, AR. Frank says he’s driving until Little Rock, where we’ll change over and I’ll do the final two hours to Memphis. Gonna be a late arrival this time. And we’re discussing whether to stay an extra night in Memphis and possibly skip Nashville entirely. We’re both pretty tired and there’s lots to see in the City of the King.

‘We just saw the first California-tagged vehicle in the last 500 miles, east of VanBuren, AR. How strange to be the only California vehicle on the freeway …

‘—LaQuinta Inn, Room 117, Memphis, TN, 12:20 CDT

‘Okay, back to the Memphis part of the day.

‘Yes, I took a wrong freeway. I was so mentally tired that I was following my mental picture to Graceland instead of the hotel. It was dark and we had gone almost 550 miles, on top of everything else this morning.

‘But we landed in bad neighborhoods in a bad hotel between two very busy runways. That’s the bad news.

‘The better news: Not all Memphis is bad. I think. The hotel is fine, and we’ll only be here one night. And I like airplanes and the room is sound-proofed enough that you don’t hear much. Not anywhere near as bad as the BNSF trains roaring through Flagstaff every 20 minutes all night long.

‘Still. The security apparatus on the door looks like it was forcibly ripped open (By police? Jealous husband? Marauding drug dealers? Who knows?) and has not been replaced. The bathtub is … only good for showers. The carpet needs cleaning. The bathroom door won’t close and the handle is loose. I’m NOT thinking about the sheets. And don’t get me started on the hotel clerk. Sorry, don’t mean to be snooty, but the girl is right out of Appalachia and I’m not sure she was wearing shoes. Okay, okay, that IS snooty. But she really didn’t understand anything that was going on. It just added to the off-putting time that we’ve had in Memphis … and haven’t even been here three hours yet.

‘I’ll spare you the rest of the details (including the trip back through the neighborhoods to visit the Wendy’s Drive-Through From Hell, because it’s very late and I’m very tired and I had a panic/anxiety attack when we got here. Frank’s not in much better shape himself. But the Xanax is kicking in and we’re ready for bed.

‘Things will be rosier tomorrow, I’m sure.

‘For now, let me thank everyone who has posted comments and sent e-mails. We do appreciate them, especially now that we’re nearing the end and about to come up against the reality of what we’ve done. It hit me tonight in Memphis; after we left Oklahoma and our friends, I’m feeling especially … discombobulated and freaked.

‘But tomorrow is another day, as they say here in the south and things will be rosier come morning. It’ll all be okay, don’t worry about us. We’ll handle it. Just 746 more miles to go and we’re home.

‘The beagle sends very tired and wornout greetings and hugs to everyone, as do Frank and I. More tomorrow!

‘Today’s trip stats. The Arkansas part after Little Rock is missing, because it was dark and I was driving. And you shouldn’t write down trip stats in the dark, while driving in Arkansas. There was construction and state trooper speed traps everywhere.

11:00 — Left Don and Jean’s House in Oklahoma City; went to Sundance Airport for a couple of plane rides with Don; drove to Norman to take a quick peek at the University of Oklahoma and vandalize the house of a friend who is in Venice and Verona, Italy today. (Just kidding, Jay. We just let Bayley poop in your yard. Oh, no. Just kidding again. But I thought about it …)

• 0 miles | 1906 total.
• 14:40 — Shawnee — 85 | 1991
• 15:28 — Okemah — 122 | 2028
• 15:45 — Henryetta — 143 | 2049
• 16:23 — Webbers Falls Bridge That Fell Down — 193 | 2099
• 16:56 — Arkansas State Line — 234 | 2140
• 17:00 — Van Buren — 239 | 2144
• 18:04 — Russellville — 313 | 2218
• 18:28 — Morrilton — 342 | 2247
• 18:46 — Conway — 362 | 2267
• 19:30 — Little Rock — 395 | 2300
• 21:30 — Memphis, TN — 548 | 2453

‘Good night from Memphis, TN … y’all!

‘Oh, and thank you. Thank you very much.

‘[AirBeagle has left the building …]

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:40 | 20-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 20-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ah, Day Five … Santa Fe and Oklahoma City … my old stomping grounds. Some great things happened, some nasty things happened, but at least we survived the Texas Panhandle and got outta there in one piece …

Day Five

‘Day Five — Santa Fe, NM, to Oklahoma City, OK

‘[Note: Due to our late arrival in Oklahoma City, I was unable to post this entry last night … here ya go … sorry for the delay:]

‘Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 569 miles from Santa Fe to Oklahoma City. Spent $51 on gas, $45.63 on food, $70.40 on an oil change and lube and other things for Jeepy, and $219.88 on a hotel (for two nights). We’re now staying with our friends Don and Jean and cousin Artie-Moose, who are being gracious hosts and putting up with us for a night.

‘Here yet again: All the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:

‘—I-40E, New Mexico/Texas, 12:11 MDT | 18-Aug-04

‘Well, I’m very sad today, as I usually am when I have to leave my native New Mexico and go to Oklahoma. Invariably, this is a distressing and depressing event, and has been for the last 32 years that we’ve been going back and forth between the two.

‘First up, notes about our day off yesterday in Santa Fe.

‘The day began just dandy. We had a quick meal at Sonic (it was good to have that again, even if it is the last thing I need), then headed downtown. We found parking next to St. Francis Cathedral and then did some exploring and picture taking. Nothing really changes around the plaza, just the names of the stores. For a summer Sunday afternoon, the tourists were really not that numerous and it was an enjoyable experience. There is a book store on Palace Street where I could spend the rest of my life; it’s just perfect. I’d try to describe it, but I couldn’t do it justice. You just have to see it for yourself. It’s a good thing that we’re on a budget and that there is no more room in the Jeep, or I might have gotten myself in trouble there. A great edition of ‘The Lincoln County War,’ a fine recounting of the events involving Billy the Kid not far from my birthplace, was especially tempting. But, at $75, I’m afraid it was left behind in Santa Fe.

‘We walked along in front of the Plaza and Palace of the Governors and took turns popping into La Fonda. Which. Is. Santa. Fe. Speaking of Billy the Kid, he reputedly did dishes and odd jobs in the kitchen at La Fonda for a period of time. La Fonda is the original hotel in Santa Fe and served travellers arriving on the Santa Fe Trail. It advertises itself still as ‘The Inn At The End of The Trail.’ It is a wonderful place; I stayed there in 1992, but this time, we had a beagle with us, and La Fonda, which once hosted Billy the Kid, doesn’t permit beagles on the premises.

‘The beagle wasn’t a very happy dog; crowds, noises and hot pavement are definitely not his cup of tea. He was pretty antsy during the experience. He was, however, a very good dog considering what we asked of him; he had plenty of rest periods and cold water from his canteen. He was happy when we returned to the car.

‘My main purchase of the trip (aside from the necessities) had been planned well in advance, and I was very pleased to find very good and affordable chile ristras, strands of hot New Mexico chile peppers, which, if they survive the next 1,700 miles, will look great hanging in the kitchen in Ann Arbor. They’re now hanging and drying in the rear window of the Jeep as we go along.

‘I also looked for another piece of Adakai pottery, but couldn’t find any. I didn’t look very hard, though.

‘In front of St. Francis Cathedral stands the old statue of Archbishop Lamy, one of New Mexico’s most famous denizens. Willa Cather helped make him famous with her novel ‘Death Comes for the Archbishop.’ He stands in front of the cathedral, looking west down San Francisco Street, over ‘his’ city and people. He’s stood there for years alone, but now he has company. For the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, a new statue has been erected, actually closer to the doors of the Cathedral than the Archbishop. This new statue was dedicated just last Saturday, the day we arrived in SF.

‘The statue is of the ‘Blessed Kateri,’ and as you can see from the Day Four photo gallery, she is a native American woman. It’s a very pretty statue. The Blessed Kateri was born Tekakwitha Kateri, part of the Mohawk people, in 1656. According to Sunday’s New Mexican, she suffered much in a short life. She lost her parents and baby brother to smallpox, which also left her scarred and frail. She was baptized a Catholic in spite of ‘the disapproval of her community.’ She refused to follow Mohawk customs, dedicated herself to Christ and died in 1680. Supposedly the scars of her illness vanished upon her death. She was declared Venerable in 1943 and Blessed in 1980. The church must certify a third miracle before she can be canonized. People at the dedication of the statue reported healings and visions, including one member of the Jemez Pueblo who saw Kateri herself during a drum ceremony.

‘Not sure what all that means. What makes the inclusion of a native American woman in the pantheon of the cathedral acceptable? Is the only statue Santa Fe can erect of a Native American acceptable because she is pre-approved by the Catholic Church? As a book I’m reading points out, when anglo New Mexicans erected a statue to Juan Onate a few years back, someone cut off the foot of the statue. Anglos reacted with outrage … how dare they desecrate art in the city where art is the Holy of Holies?! But if you dig a little deeper into Onate’s history, this is the Spanish governor of the territory who wiped out most of the Acoma people, enslaved the survivors for 20 years … and cut off the right foot of every male over the age of 25. Hence, the poetic justice of the statue foot amputation 500 years later.

‘The history of New Mexico is complex, difficult … bloody and contentious. Most of us New Mexicans, of whatever background/ethnicity, have never, and may never, come to terms with our bloody, bloody past. An article in the same book I’m reading points out that even the names of the Native American tribes are not actually correct; they’re usually derogatory names applied by either invading anglos or enemy tribes. Most tribes called themselves ‘The People’ in words from their own languages. But Apache means ‘Enemy’ and wasn’t the name they called themselves. Sometimes, the tribes me the white man, who asked them what they called themselves. Most said variations of ‘we don’t know.’ And then adopted whatever name the white man called them.

‘Very complex stuff and to me, New Mexico is one of the very few places in the country where culture/race questions are so thorny and difficult. New Mexico represents a collision of the Native, the Hispanic and the Anglo … the collision continues and its effects are still very real after over 500 years. As an Anglo New Mexican, my heritage, culture, life experience, opportunities and other sensibilities are very different (more fortunate in some ways, poorer in others) than the other two, which have major variances between them as well.

‘They’re not kidding when the call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment. Not only is the landscape dramatic and awe-inspiring, but the peoples, cultures and different towns and cities are fascinating as well.

‘But back to Santa Fe. After walking around the Plaza, we drove up Canyon Road, with its very foofy art galleries and the most concentrated amount of pretension in a small area in perhaps the U.S. And I say that as someone who has been to Aspen and Palm Springs and LA and San Francisco and Marin County and Highland Park, TX.

‘After the galleries petered out, we drove Upper Canyon Road and meandered around through the real Santa Fe with its dirt roads and adobe houses of all kinds. We passed a house for sale which had brochures out front. Here’s a Santa Fe real estate update for you: The house we stopped at is ‘Casa Colina’ at 1430 Upper Canyon Road. Quoting from the brochure now: ‘One of a kind beautifully landscaped restored classic adobe creatively landscaped with drip irrigation on 1.4 +/- acres bordering National Forest. Historic feel and finishes that cannot be duplicated. Hand adzed vigas, nichos, brick, tile and flagstone floors. Matching guest house with unique rock waterfall incorporating part of the natural rock hillside. Exterior hot tub. Jacuzzi in master bath, minutes from town.’ Isn’t that a hand thing to have? A Jacuzzi just minutes from town? (That was an English Major joke …) But if you can get past the atrocious writing of the ad copy, you will see the Casa has three bedrooms, two baths, two living areas and a chunk of Santa Fe canyon all for the low, low price of $925,000. Now to some of my dear readers, that sounds outrageous. But I think my California friends will find it … somewhat cheap. Anyhow, call Town and Ranch Realty of Santa Fe if you’re interested. The beagle has dibs on coming and visiting you and staying in the guest house …

‘But then we ended up almost getting wiped out by a crazy woman in an SUV, who was yacking on her cell phone and following me so close I thought she would shove us off the road. As we came to a four-way stop sign, she gunned her Explorer and passed us on the left speeding through the intersection without stopping. I saw her wave her left silver-braceletted wrist at us as she continued to yack on her cell phone with her right hand and blazed through the intersection. So, I suppose that means she was driving with her knees. We know she was not driving with her brains.

‘It put a bit of a damper on things. Perhaps at the point, we got tired. Perhaps at the point, the closeness of Mars put our universe out of whack. But the rest of the evening was a series of … distasteful events that kinda dampened our spirits.

‘First, I realized I stupidly didn’t take any pics of Frank downtown. So we went and took some in front of the cathedral. I felt bad. Then, the restaurant we picked for dinner was closed and dark; we missed it and had to turn around and backtrack twice to find it. We ended up having dinner at Tortilla Flats for the second night in a row, which was fine, because the enchiladas are superb. But after we began eating, a rather … macho-looking guy and his girlfriend sat down at a table next to us and we began to get bad vibes and be stared at. Not sure why, and not sure if there was anything behind it, but the feeling was rather odd. Fortunately, they ate quickly and left, but it served to remind us that we are no longer in our bubble of comfort and protection in San Francisco. The middle of the country is populated with some rather weird characters; unlike San Francisco, where weird characters are merely weird and eccentric, weird characters here are often quite menacing. As we approach Texas (now just 30 miles away as I type this), I’m beginning to wonder if I need to cover up the ‘California’ on the Jeeps tags. I looked for a ‘Native New Mexican’ bumper sticker in Santa Fe, but no such luck.

‘At any rate, we went back to the hotel, where I spent the next hour-plus having a conversation with … someone … which I won’t bore you with, but was rather intense, very uncomfortable and extremely upsetting. Let’s just say it involved tonight’s stopover, which will now NOT include a previously planned meeting, which is probably all for the best. Enough of that.

‘I did some laundry, then discovered that the hotel dryer didn’t work. Fortunately, the night clerk let me use the hotel’s commercial dryer and the job was done. Then I discovered that the gas station where I filled up before going to the hotel has placed a $100 hold on debit card … to cover a $27.60 fill up. Wells Fargo tells me the hold won’t be released until tomorrow morning between 5 and 8 a.m. MST. Needless to say, we’ll be paying cash for gas from now on.

‘Didn’t get to bed and asleep until 2, then the alarm rang at 7:30. Plus, at 5:30 this morning, Bayley got lost in the covers of the bed and spent what seemed like a long time walking around the bed trying to find his way out.

‘This morning, we loaded the Jeep and had the oil changed, then grabbed a bit of breakfast at Sonic and hit the road. Today has been a much better day, in spite of the fact that we’re about to leave New Mexico and enter Texas and Oklahoma. I drove us out of Santa Fe down US-285.

‘Frank took over driving at historic Clines Corners, on historic Route 66. CC is a historically large rubber tomahawk shop with just about any kind of … stuff … you could think of to buy. There are rattlesnake eggs. Indian headdresses (the fake dyed stuff for kids). Moccasins. Cedar plaques with ‘Mom’s Rules’ on them. Turquoise out the wazoo. T-shirts. Cactus jelly. Shot glasses. Anything that will sit still long enough to have a New Mexico logo/landscape painted on it is right there.

‘I make fun of Clines Corners, but I don’t remember one single time in the 40 years of my life that we haven’t stopped there. It’s on the route from Roswell to Albuquerque, and Santa Fe to I-40 and is a pretty convenient and fun place to visit. It remains, in my opinion, one of the purest and most successful relics of Route 66. At an elevation of 7.200 feet, CC had a reputation when I was a kid of being a nasty place to navigate in the winter.

‘We’re now tooling down a pretty quiet and calm I-40. Not too many trucks; there is a crosswind again, but it’s not as bad as Friday and Saturday. We passed Santa Rosa, the Scuba Diving Capital of the southwest, or so it claims. There is a deep lake called the Blue Hole which gets its fair share of divers, plus Santa Rosa Lake, Sumner Lake and Conchas Lake are nearby.

‘I remember Santa Rosa as the place where my vacationing aunt and uncle and cousins were pulling a camping trailer during the early 1970s and ran into a fierce crosswind which overturned and destroyed their camper. We came up from Clovis to check on them and I remember seeing the pictures later; trailer looked like a tornado had hit it.

‘I’ve been noticing that Tucumcari’s signs have been updated. In the olden days, they used to say ‘Tucumcari Tonight: 2000 Motel Rooms.’ The new ones now say: ‘Tucumcari Tonight: 1200 Rooms.’ I guess there’s been some attrition since the hey day of Route 66.

‘Just what are the ‘Billy the Kid Tombstone Races’ in Ft. Sumner? Hmmmm.

‘Just passed another interesting road sign: Very large square, black background … smallish white letters state ‘Stop driving without a seatbelt on or’ and in big red letters: ‘We’ll stop you!’ In the lower right corner: ‘New Mexico State Police.’ I think they mean bidness.

‘Frank will be driving to the west side of Amarillo, some 220 miles. I’ll then take over and have the … pleasure? Honor? Duty? Misfortune? to drive us through Amarillo and across the Oklahoma state line. That’s another 240 miles. Something tells me we won’t be getting to Okie City until 8 or 8:30 or so.

‘We just passed an actual, real-life, functioning Stuckey’s, once an American institution on highways and byways and mostly disappeared. Whaddya know.

‘Okay, the Tucumcari Tonight signs now read ‘1500 rooms.’ The number of hotel rooms increased as we approached Tucumcari.

‘I’ll give this thing a rest right now. We’re about to leave the great state of New Mexico and that always makes me cry, so I probably can’t see the keyboard anyway. More later …

‘—I-40E, approaching Vega, TX, 15:07 CDT

‘Well. It’s flat. Yellow. Ugly. Windblown. Full of signs proclaiming supremacy of Empire and inerrancy of Bush. We must be in Texas. We’ve already seen our first car decked out in OU paraphernalia and a couple from Utah in an old green Ford Taurus in front of us have a Just Married sign taped to the back window. When we first saw them, just the man was visible. We just passed them again and now she’s sitting up and they’re both smiling quite a bit. I think they’re having a fabulous honeymoon.

‘Frank says he now believes that I was telling the truth when I warned him that the Texas Panhandle is (mostly) flat. The wind is up and he’s fighting it. The wind always blows here; there’s nothing to stop it. I’m not used to so much … flatness and wind. I’m gettin’ a little freaked out … but we still have about 285 miles to go. Sigh. More later …

‘—Don and Jean’s House, Oklahoma City, OK, 20:07 CDT

‘[Note: I am writing this entry while enroute to Memphis, so this is from memory]

‘I took over driving at a Phillips 66 station in Wolflin Square in west Amarillo. Frank says he wasn’t too scared to leave the car, but I have my own opinion on that [grin]. Actually, I was kinda scared to leave the car. Amarillo is a truly ugly place; I’ve always thought so. It’s flat, dusty, windblown and ugly. Did I mention it’s ugly? We didn’t pause long. We drove through to the far east side and stopped at a truck stop to let the beagle walk and have some water. It was kinda scary inside there too, with a trucker staring at me when I went in (we take turns going in places; one stays outside with the beagle, while the other conducts business). We got back on I-40 (Frank is still trying to break himself of the southern California habit of calling it ‘The 40’) and sped towards Oklahoma. Texas has crappy roads (remember, it’s a low tax, low services state, a Republican dream) and we got tossed around quite a bit, but before the Oklahoma line, they have built the Mothers of all Roadside Rest Stops. Basically, these are some picnic tables and a little building and some rest rooms, but Texas has turned them into fancy roadside art projects, with variations in bronze, fabric and stone of the great and worshipped ‘Lone Star.’ Therefore, when your car simply falls apart from the bad roads, you have some truly beautiful roadside rest stops to be stranded in.

‘Ah, Texas.

‘We hit the Oklahoma line at 17:34 and, while marginally better and being worked on constantly, there are sections of Oklahoma road that almost made me wish we were back in Texas.

‘It was strange to be back in the Sooner State, as it always is. I can’t describe the feeling. Something somewhere between panic, depression and … oddly, happiness that I can see friends and be back in a familiar place with some elbow room and not much pretension.

‘There’s not a great deal to report about the rest of the day’s road trip; we stopped for gas at El Reno, then arrived at Don and Jean’s house at about 20:04. Bayley and Artemis, who hadn’t seen each other in almost five years, greeted each other a little skittishly at first, but soon settled into a routine of rear-end sniffing, followed by studiously ignoring each other (with the exception of the occasional ‘sneak sniff’ when the other one wasn’t looking). After a short stretch, the four of us decided to expose Frank to some more southern culture and took him to eat dinner at the Cracker Barrel, which is always an … interesting experience. After some good chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baby sweet carrots, cornbread and macaroni and cheese (Frank had black-eyed peas and okra instead of carrots and mac-and-cheese), we bought some postcards and left for downtown.

‘I hadn’t seen the new dome on top of the Oklahoma State Capitol. It’s quite impressive at night. Until its completion, Oklahoma was the only state capitol without a dome (although it seems that the Roundhouse in Santa Fe is pretty domeless itself – in the traditional sense). It does seem very strange to see; I’m used to a rather dour, classical building with a flat roof, and suddenly there’s this thing there. Still, it’s a beautiful and much-needed addition to Oklahoma’s skyline and image and is magnificent at night.

‘But the highlight of the evening was a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, site of the 1995 Murrah building bombing. I was never too enamored of the design of the memorial when I read descriptions and saw drawings of it before its construction. The empty chairs especially seemed a bit … well, hokey, to me. But that night (the grounds are open 24 hours and we were there around 23:00), the whole thing is truly awesome and amazing. They’ve done a magnificent job with the site and the memorial.

‘I remember a May day in 1995 when I stood at a fence in front of the blasted ruins of the Murrah, two days before explosives experts demolished its remnants. The memorial cannot erase the sight and smell and sound of that 1995 day. The memorial is emotional and intense and all that, but the sight of what was left of the Murrah that day in May ‘95 almost prevented me from seeing the memorial and taking it in. I remember only ugliness, grief, tears. I remember panic and fear as I found out that my mother was nearby and that a good friend of mine was walking around downtown OKC immediately after the explosion and not knowing for several hours where they were. The memorial is necessary and cathartic, but for anyone who was there or saw the immediate aftermath, I doubt if the memorial does much to erase the memory.

‘As we walked along the reflecting pool, a security guard came and asked if we had any questions. We asked one (I forgot what it was), but that was all he needed. he launched into a 30-minute history of the bombing and its aftermath and gave us a good guide to what was where and when and what happened to who. Some things I hadn’t heard before. His take: Timothy McVeigh, operating in concert with Terry Nichols, in retaliation for the Waco/Branch Davidian mess (which was directed out of the Oklahoma City field office in the Murrah Building, put some fertilizer and a stick of dynamite in a Ryder truck, tried to park it in the parking garage, but it was too tall and wouldn’t fit, parked it in front of the building, which nobody thought much about because that’s where all sorts of deliveries were made everyday, ran over to his car parked behind a church and ‘hightailed’ it out of town, only to be picked up later and, well, you know the rest. Whether that’s the official line or his version or anywhere near the truth is anyone’s guess. I suppose I think it’s about as plausible an explanation as any.

‘Following this, we went back home and watched some video of the wedding and honeymoon from last fall, then went exhausted to bed. I didn’t have any time to post or make changes to the ‘blog, so sorry for the lateness of this one.

‘To those of you posting comments, we appreciate hearing from you. It’s great to hear from the home folks. Just remember: when you post a comment, it is immediately public and only Frank or I can erase it. As one of you who shall remain nameless discovered. But thanks for the comments. It really helps to hear from you while we’re on the road.

‘Today’s trip stats:

‘• 10:00 — Left Santa Fe, NM — 0 miles | 1337 total
• 11:00 — Clines Corners — 58 | 1395
• 12.21 — Santa Rosa — 115 | 1452
• 13:07 — Tucumcari — 174 | 1511
• 13:26 — San Jon — 197 | 1534
• 14:38 — Texas State Line (Time zone change!) — 216 | 1553
• 14:40 — Glenrio, TX — 218 | 1555
• 14:56 — Adrian — 238 | 1575
• 15:07 — Vega — 251 | 1588
• 15:21 — Wilderado — 265 | 1602
• 15:26 — Bushland — 273 | 1610
• 15:40 — Amarillo (Gas Stop) — 286 | 1623
• 16:00 — Amarillo East (Rest Stop) — 298 | 1635
• 16:27 — Conway — 314 | 1651
• 16:39 — Groom — 327 | 1664
• 16:59 — Alanreed — 353 | 1690
• 17:05 — McLean — 360 | 1697
• 17:21 — Shamrock — 380 | 1717
• 17:32 — Texola — 394 | 1731
• 17:34 — Oklahoma State Line — 396 | 1733
• 17:39 — Erick — 403 | 1740
• 17:52 — Sayre — 417 | 1754
• 18:00 — Elk City — 428 | 1765
• 18:25 — Clinton — 461 | 1798
• 18:36 — Weatherford — 496 | 1813
• 19:20 — El Reno — 524 | 1861
• 20:04 — Oklahoma City (Don & Jean’s) — 569 | 1906

‘Good night from Okie City … y’all!

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:09 | 20-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 19-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Frank speaks more eloquently than I can. I have too much history and other stuff mixed up in my 20 years in Okiehoma to be objective …

Oklahoma City, OK

‘Population 506,132 (2000 census). Capital city of Oklahoma. One of the nation’s largest cities in land area (more than 600 square miles), it covers all or part of three counties (Oklahoma, Cleveland, and Canadian). Seat of Oklahoma County. Home to Tinker Air Force Base, Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, Myriad Botanical Gardens, and the Oklahoma State Museum of History.

‘Oklahoma City sprung up when Benjamin Harrison signed a declaration on 2 March 1889 opening up what had been the only “Unassigned Lands” in the Oklahoma Territory (i.e., lands not already “assigned” as Indian reservations) to white settlement. At noon on 22 April 1889, almost 10,000 settlers poured into the area and staked claims at the Oklahoma Station, a stop along the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. The town that became Oklahoma City was incoporated on 2 May 1890. Oklahoma City was designated the new state’s capital in 1910. Oklahoma City rapidly became a center of crop and cattle distribution, meatpacking, and wholesale distribution, and oil was struck on 4 December 1928.

‘I don’t know what I thought I was going to find in Oklahoma, but I was pleasantly surprised. Oklahoma City is huge and sprawling, but I took exception to the characterization of it in my handy Lonely Planet USA guide as “like a four-door 1976 Coupe de Ville with a broken bumper and bullhorns on the front: It’s big and ugly but oozes with a style all its own.” I’ll agree with the last part: it has a style all its own. It’s not big and ugly though, or at least not what I saw of it. What I saw was a city with a vibrant, bustling downtown and entertainment district (Bricktown); a city with the sense and the commitment to memorialize, and to memorialize movingly, one of the most horrific events to occur on American soil (the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building); a city with a lot of attractive neighborhoods with big backyards and green lawns and brick houses that looked like comfortable places to live; and a city with a solid identity and a definite culture and sensibility—one that I couldn’t put my finger on, but one which I liked. I regretted not being able to spend more time here.

‘I know that might make Steve cringe, because he has a lot of emotions and experiences wrapped up with living in Oklahoma that I as a visitor (and a brief one at that) don’t have (although I couldn’t help but notice a certain pride in place in him when he was showing me around), and I’m sure it would make the likes of James Inhofe and Ernest Istook cringe, but there it is.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 19-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 19-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘A short one … Oklahoma City was burning hell that day … ironically, this summer has been much cooler. The high there on 9-Aug-04 was just 76 degrees. Well shut my mouth!

Greetings from Hell

‘Howdy everyone and greetings from Oklahoma City, where the current temperature on the back porch reads a rather balmy 116 degrees. And I think the humidity is appoximately 150%. Now, if you don’t believe me on the 116 degrees, I have a picture to show you which I will post later this evening.

‘But for now, I must run. Frank is about to get his first ride in a small two-seater Cessna 152, courtesy of Pilot Don of Air Donpy. I will report later tonight, after we arrive in Memphis, on yesterday and today. No time left today to post the trip journals from yesterday. Tune in later tonight after we get to Memphis.

‘Thanks to everyone for tuning in and following us! It’s great to hear from you.

‘So, after a short flight around Sundance Airport, it’s on to Memphis, by God, Tennessee!

‘Hugs from the beagle, who has had a fine time with his cousin Artemis. And hugs from Frank and I both.

‘—Posted by Steve at 10:43 | 19-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 18-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

Sixteen Horsepower kicks ass … and that album will forever remind me of that cross-country excursion.

Soundtrack, Day Five

‘Sixteen Horsepower’s Hoarse, one of my favorite albums. A very fitting album for the wilds of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. When we got deeper into Oklahoma, Steve found a station broadcasting NPR, something we hadn’t been able to find in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. Thank you, KGOU-FM 106.3 Norman, for making several hours of driving through Oklahoma much more comfortable.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 18-Aug-03

‘And here are the photos from Day Five:

ClinesCornersWestTexasPantingDog

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Five » Santa Fe, NM; Clines Corners; West Texas; Oklahoma City, OK.

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 18-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ah, yes. Day Four. Fabulous getting to spend time in my favorite US city and fantasizing about returning (next year?!) to live there. But then we had a couple of incidents (a phone call to the parentals that went horribly awry and an incident in a restaurant) that spoiled an otherwise highly enjoyable day. There’s much that’s left unsaid in this entry …

Day Four

‘Day Four around Santa Fe, NM

‘Not much to report right now. The first part of the day was fabulous, the second was not-so-hot. More on all of this tomorrow night when we reach Oklahoma City. I’m very tired, kinda discouraged and need to get in bed.

‘Hope all is well with everyone else. Have a great night, y’all!

‘P.S., The beagle is doing just great and had another sopaipilla tonight.

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:00 | 18-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 17-Aug

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. God, how I love Sante Fe!

Santa Fe, NM

‘Population 62,203 (2000 census). Full proper name: La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asis. Capital of New Mexico and seat of Santa Fe County. Founded by Don Pedro de Peralta in 1609-1610, and thus the oldest state capital, the oldest capital city in North America, and the oldest European-founded city west of the Mississippi. Also (at 6996 feet), Steve points out, the highest-altitude state capital.

‘Steve has a lot more worth saying about Santa Fe than I do, but I will say that the place is genuinely enchanting, and in a way I never expected it to be. I expected picturesqueness, but I never expected picturesqueness in quite the way I encountered it: in the bewitching way the light looks in Santa Fe when the sun sets and the dusk takes over; in the way the old town manages to look resolutely ancient, resolutely everlasting, and resolutely itself even with a thousand trend-seeking tourists coursing through its alleyways; in the way the hills and canyons around the county defy you to leave; in the way the whole area, street corners and bookstores and the extravagance of adobe, exude history and livedness like so few other places in the US can.

‘Our hotel was comfortable. The weather was mild. Steve thought I would dislike Cerrillos Road because I had gotten antsy about Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, which was a little too rowdy-looking for my comfort. But Cerrillos didn’t bother me. The only hint of anything nasty was the restaurant incident that Steve mentioned, but as I told Steve, if that was the worst thing that will happen to us on this trip, we should consider ourselves lucky. I admit that the incident rattled me, probably more than it should have. But that does not take away from the perfection of Santa Fe.

‘—Posted by Frank at 22:00:43 | 17-Aug-03

‘Also, here are the photos from Day Four of the trip: Views of Santa Fe:

SaintFrancisCathedralSantaFePlazaRainySangreDeCristo

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Four »

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 16-Aug, Part 4

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Boppin’ through New Mexico with some tunes …

Soundtrack, day three

Ella Fitzgerald: The Best of the Song Books and Windham Hill Sampler ‘84. And Sixteen Horsepower’s Olden. Also Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. And more in-and-out radio stations. Lots of evangelical programming.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:01 | 16-Aug-03

Also, here is the photo gallery of Day Three of the trip:

YellowhorseI40NMSunsetInSantaFe

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Three »

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 16-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I think that Day Three was my favorite part of our trip. The weather was gorgeous with curtains of rain over I-40; the temperatures were great for August and I was able to step foot back on the soil of my native New Mexico for the first time in over two years. Plus, we were able to spend two nights in Santa Fe. It was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (at least in my memory) …

Day Three

‘Day Three — Flagstaff, AZ, to Santa Fe, NM

‘Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 391 miles from Flagstaff, AZ, to Santa Fe, NM.. Spent $16 on gas, $52.25 on food, and $0 on a hotel (the bill comes due Monday morning), the Best Western Inn Santa Fe on Cerrillos Road, not far from Beautiful Downtown Santa Fe.

‘Here once again: All the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:

‘—I-40E, Exit 89 east of Grants, NM, 15:33 MST | 16-Aug-03

‘New Mexico at last … I’m finally home. It feels wonderful to return to my native state, as it always does. We’re about 60 miles from Albuquerque, and Frank is driving. I’ll take over in ABQ and drive us to Santa Fe and I can hardly wait to get there. The day began as usual with an alarm clock at 8:30, followed by the discovery by Frank that there was no hot water for the shower. He took a cold one anyway. He’s far braver than I. I called the front desk and they said it would be back in an hour, so we went to eat and managed to find the Galaxy Diner, a ‘50’s/Route 66 place with an Elvis Wurlitzer in the corner and about the best breakfast we’ve had in a long time. We returned to find some hot water running, so I showered and packed everything, including a rather hacked-off beagle back in the Jeep. Was not a happy camper to discover that we’re doing this a third day in a row. Haven’t the heart to tell him that there are basically six more days of it all that he has to endure.

‘Arizona and New Mexico are beautiful, with the obvious exception of what the damage that humans can inflict on them … junked cars and houses, trash blowing around, etc. But for mid August, the landscape is breathtaking and the off-and-on rainy weather is an added bonus that I wasn’t expecting out here in the desert.

‘We’ve seen some old Route 66 icons, such as Twin Arrows, JackRabbit and Meteor City. They’re all in various phases of dereliction; Twin Arrows is boarded up and the other two are mere shadows of their former glory. Ever since we hit the Mother Road at Kingman, I’ve been wondering just exactly what the fascination with Route 66 is for many people. There was a reason I-40 was built folks; Route 66 was narrow, curvy, and as dangerous as Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California. Route 66 killed probably uncountable thousands of people and I-40 wasn’t built quick enough. Yes, yes, yes, I know, it represents a slice of mid-20th-century America that is lost forever and that we all miss. And yaddah-yaddah-yaddah. But right now, I’m sorry, I miss the 40’s and enjoy the nostalgia and the mystique of the Mother Road as much as the next guy, and I hate the blandness and sameness that Corporate Amurrica has wrought on the culture, but I’m also extremely thankful for a wide, four-lane highway with adequate shoulders, reasonably straight and far safer. The speed limits in Arizona and New Mexico are 75 mph; this is a major improvement over what it would have been like on Route 66.

‘I drove from Flagstaff to the New Mexico state line, where we had the unfortunate opportunity to visit Navajoland, Mother of All Skanky Rubber Tomahawk Shops. Let’s not dwell on it here; Just avoid Exit 359 on I-40 just across the state line of Arizona. The beagle did share an interesting moment with a Jack Russell Terrier, who was behind the glass door of a concrete house next door. They stared at each other and did some posturing and heavy breathing, but I think that both of them were glad there was a door between them and they didn’t have to back up the charade with action. Frank took over and drove us to Gallup, where we had the opportunity to gas up and get a snack at a Love’s Country Store; this one was the Mother of All Skanky Love’s Country Stores.

‘Frank, being the wise man he is, passed on both ‘opportunities’ and can’t share any insights to corroborate that what I saw in the vanilla ice cream bin at ‘Grandpa’s Ice Cream Store’ within the Navajoland store was, indeed, a very much alive, and very frustrated fly of some sort of large variety.

‘Moving right along. We’ve now entered the Laguna Indian Reservation just east of Acoma Sky City. The mesas are gorgeous, particularly with this storm system overhead providing a light show of high white thunderheads with deep blue bases dumping rain on the desert. We’re 40 miles from Albuquerque. The crosswinds are high, and there are spots of very heavy downpours. There is a big spot of deep blue to the east over Albuquerque [Motto: ‘Home of Ethel Mae Potter, We Never Forgot Her’—and if you don’t know what that refers to, just watch a certain episode of Lucy Goes to California].

‘We’ve seen a USMail truck with the routing GSOLAX on it. I usually know my three-letter airport codes, but I really can’t think of what GSO is … Greenville/Spartanburg? Gotta look it up tonight …

‘Beagle is doing well. curled up and very asleep. I think I’ve finally got the loading-the-Jeep thing down to a science; he has more room and is pretty cushy, lying on a bed consisting of layers of blankets, a goose-down comforter and his own beagle bed. I wish we could trade places and he could drive the 3,053 miles to Ann Arbor while I slept on cushy padding. Ah, well. Such is the life of a human. Dogs have it so great. Dogs rule.

‘More later … time for me to drive us through ABQ to Santa Fe!! Woo-hoo!!!!!!

‘—Best Western Inn, room 321, Santa Fe, NM, 23:15 MDT

‘Let me just say that it is so good to be back home that I cannot express my feelings here. Santa Fe and the weather are perfect and we just ate at Tortilla Flats, an authentic New Mexican cuisine restaurant frequented by locals, not turistas, and which featured the New Mexico Official State Question: ‘Red or green?’ Meaning, do you want red chile sauce or green chile sauce? I took red on my blue corn chicken enchiladas and it was truly, truly wonderful. Steam shot out of my ears, as it should. Frank took green and I’ve never seen his eyes get so big as they did when he took his first bite of real New Mexican chile sauce. I wish I had my camera handy. Alas, I did not.

‘I took over driving at a Dairy Queen in Laguna, just 9 miles from Albuquerque. I had a Dilly Bar, another throwback to my New Mexico childhood. We drove through ABQ briefly, [and, special note just for Kit: We found the House of Ho-Ho on Central Avenue near Old Town! Dude! Ho-Ho lives!] We then made Bugs Bunny’s famous left turn at Albuquerque and headed up I-25. The mountains are gorgeous, everyone was driving 90 and we hit town in good time. Our hotel is very nice and comfortable, as well as affordable (for Santa Fe). After a brief rest, we went out to eat, then returned and gave Bayley his first authentic New Mexican sopaipilla, which he loved (see links to photos below).

‘But now it’s time for a bath and bed; I’m worn out, and there’s so much to see and do around town tomorrow, when I play tour guide for Frank’s maiden exposure to The City Different, the oldest and highest state capital in the U.S. We needed to take a day off the road; the beagle is very road-weary, as are we. But he’s being a very good, if slightly confused, dog and hasn’t caused any problems at all. He’ll be very glad this time next week, when he should be finally relaxing on his own couch on Wisteria Drive in beautiful Ann Arbor, MI.

‘Today’s trip stats:

‘• 11:33 — Left Flagstaff, AZ — 0 miles | 0902 total
• 11:49 — (Don’t Forget) Winona — 14 | 0915
• 11:56 — Twin Arrows — 22 | 0923
• 12:10 — Meteor City — 43 | 0944
• 12:20 — Winslow — 55 | 0956
• 12:34 — JackRabbit — 73 | 0974
• 12:37 — Joseph City — 85 | 0979
• 12:47 — Holbrook — 97 | 0991
• 12:53 — Sun Valley — 106 | 1000
• 13:15 — Navajo — 135 | 1029
• 13:40 — Lupton — 169 | 1063
• 14:58 — New Mexico State Line (Time Change) — 171 | 1065
• 15:14 — Gallup, NM — 189 | 1083
• 15:46 — McGaffey — 207 | 1101
• 15:58 — Continental Divide — 221 | 1115
• 16:24 — Grants — 253 | 1147
• 17:02 — State Highway 6 — 303 | 1197
• 17:13 — Laguna Dairy Queen — 315 | 1209
• 19:11 — Albuquerque/Central Avenue — 325 | 1219
• 19:16 — Bernalillo — 351 | 1245
• 19:47 — Santa Fe — 391 | 1285

‘Good night from La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis … y’all!

‘—Posted by Steve at 23:35 | 16-Aug-03

And here are the Bayley-Meets-Sopaipilla shots as noted above:

WantASopaipillaReadyToGoYumYumYum

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Bayley and the Santa Fe Sopaipilla »

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 16-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Fabulous New Mexico …

Laguna, NM

‘A hamlet about 45 miles due west of Albuquerque on Interstate 40, Laguna was the next place we stopped before hitting the bigger cities of northern New Mexico tonight.

‘According to the 2000 census, the total population of Laguna and the other five villages of the Laguna Pueblo (Encinal, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje, and Seama) is about 3,815. The entire pueblo has a total population of 7,700. The Laguna Pueblo was recognized by Spain as early as 1699, and historians believe that the ancestors of the Laguna have occupied the land they are on since at least 1300. A Pueblo warrior, Popé, was the organizer (between 1680 and 1692) of by far the most successful revolt against Spanish control of indigenous lands.

‘The place was not much to speak of—at least what we saw of it, which was a gas station and a Dairy Queen—but it was an interesting stop. I ordered a pineapple milk shake and the counter woman bellowed with laughter when she called out that the order was ready and I was standing right in front of her.

‘While waiting for my order, I noticed there was a whole shelf full of Pull the President’s Finger dolls for sale. I don’t know why they were there, and they weren’t flying off the shelves, but it was still amusing to see these GWB figurines in the middle of a Dairy Queen in northwestern New Mexico, primed to parrot stupid catchphrases if you pulled their fingers.

‘—Posted by Frank at 15:45:14 | 16-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 16-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Gallup is quite the town …

Gallup, NM

‘Population 20,209 (2000 census). Founded 1881 as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad by David L. Gallup. Home to the Gallup Cultural Center and University of New Mexico-Gallup.

‘Damning it with faint praise, Jamie Jensen’s Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways observes, “Despite the obvious poverty and other signs of genuine despair, Gallup is a fascinating town.”

‘This was the scariest place we stopped (in my opinion; I think Steve thought the scariest place was 25 miles before this, which was the skanky Navajo trading post in Lupton, at the AZ-NM border). To be fair, we pulled off at the west end of town and only stopped to get gas and stretch, so I didn’t really get a flavor for the place as a whole. But the look I got at the neighborhood around the gas station we pulled off at was enough to make me want to get out of there as soon as possible.

‘—Posted by Frank at 15:30:00 | 16-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 6

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘One of my favorite spots in the southwest … our next destination, post-grad school?

Flagstaff, AZ

‘Population 52,894 (2000 census). Seat of Coconino County. Elevation about 7000 feet. Home to Lowell Observatory and Northern Arizona University. Incorporated as a town in June 1894.

‘The first permanent white settlement in the area (apart from an expedition of Mormons and a group of Bostonians) was by Tennessean sheep rancher Thomas McMillan in July 1876. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad came in 1881 and Flagstaff became a major railway stop.

‘The beauty of the Coconino National Forest and the San Francisco Mountains and the ponderosas, not to mention the low-key charm of the town of Flagstaff itself, was nothing short of spectacular. We arrived late yesterday evening on the tail end of a rowdy thunderstorm, and it took almost a half-hour to find our Best Western, which was located across the street from the main railroad running through the center of town. The hotel itself was quiet, though, and the occasional train noises were not that much of an impediment to sleep.

‘We didn’t stick around long enough to see a heck of a lot of the town—by the time we got ready for the next leg of our journey today, it was too late to do much of anything but get breakfast and do a little driving around the center of town. But what I saw, I liked a lot. I can imagine living here.

‘The stretch of country between Boulder City and Flagstaff is some of the most splendorous scenery I have ever seen. We had hoped to go out to a restaurant the night we got in, but because of the beagle’s presence and because it got too late by the time we finally got around to making a decision about where we wanted to go, we eventually ordered catered hotel take-out.

‘This morning we had breakfast at the Galaxy Diner on West Route 66. It was a fifties diner that looked like it had actually been around in the fifties—not one of those faux-fifties diners. The waitress seemed a little standoffish at first, but she gradually came around and was actually chatty by the end of the meal. She reminded me of a younger version of Polly Holliday’s Flo on the seventies sitcom “Alice.” The meal itself was fantastic—I had eggs and toast and potatoes with onions. I don’t remember what Steve had, but he was happy that this was the first place that we’d stopped where hot sauce was waiting on the table.

‘The town was pretty quiet when we were there. The main thing we noticed was how prominently NAU figured in the local newscasts. I also noticed that the Weather Channel frequently plays a snippet from Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” during its “Local on the 8s” breaks, which I thought was somewhat spacey, and thus somewhat appropriate, but also somewhat jarring mixed in with the Windham Hill and other MUZAK that usually gets played. One great part about being in Flagstaff was actually landing and walking around in a town that my Arizonan father had mentioned many times by name.

‘Mesa, my dad’s hometown, is 165 miles south of Flagstaff, in a completely different meterological and cultural zone of the state, but it still felt good to set foot on ground which it wasn’t that hard to imagine that he may have stepped on or ridden over at one time or another in the thirties or forties.

‘—Posted by Frank at 13:09:24 | 15-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 5

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Day Two of our trip, as I remember it, was really pretty nice, with the possible exception of traffic and crowds in Las Vegas. The weather was beautiful and rainstorms swept across the Mother Road after we joined it at Kingman. It was glorious scenery and weather and is why the desert southwest is still my spiritual home …

Day Two

‘Day Two — Tonopah, NV, to Flagstaff, AZ

‘Today’s statistics:

‘We travelled 478.3 miles from Tonopah, NV, to Flagstaff, AZ. Spent $58.00 on gas, $45.49 on food, and $84.24 on a hotel, the Best Western King’s House Inn on Historic Route 66 near Beautiful Downtown Flagstaff.

‘Here’s the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:

‘—US 95, between Goldfield and Scotty’s Junction, NV, 11:35 PDT | 15-Aug-04

‘Our day began with a blaring alarm clock at 8:30 a.m. I slept like a log, but a certain beagle who shall remain nameless kept kicking Frank awake all night. I still think he managed to get some sleep. He’s taking the first half of today’s journey; the 208 miles from Tonopah to Las Vegas. I’ll take over there, we’ll do a brief run down the Strip so he can see the … interesting place that Las Vegas is, then it’s over Hoover Dam and 250 miles to Flagstaff. No, we will not be stopping at the Liberace Museum or Wayne Newton house or well, anything else. One stop for gas. That’s all we can stand.

‘The beagle is starting to get in the routine of sleeping some while we’re going. He didn’t sleep at all yesterday on all the twisty, turny, curvy, up and down roads of the Sierra. But today’s route is on roads with barely any curves and he’s lying down and snoozing now. He’s a very, very tired beagle.

‘It’s hot out here in the desert; not unbearable, but probably in the low 90’s. It’s not great weather for dogs, especially pampered, fat beagles who are used to sea breezes and fogs cooling them while they lie in comfort on their couches. Speaking of couches, I hope the beagle’s couch is now on its way to Ann Arbor. After Yellow Truck took so long to deliver and then pick up the trailer, I’m wondering if it will actually be there by Friday the 22nd. We shall see. ValueMoves already took the payment, so fingers are crossed.

‘In the meantime, while it’s quite barren, Nevada is still, I think, quite beautiful, with the exception of the places where human habitation has been dumped on it. Not to mention all those nukes. We’re approaching Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test Site and the Yucca Mountain site, which the Bush Cabal wishes to turn into a toxic waste trash heap over the objections of … well, pretty much everyone except for his corporate cronies.

‘Also, there’s a site on the map near Las Vegas which is simply marked, ‘Danger Area.’ No explanation or anything, just bordered in red on the map and ‘Danger Area.’ And in Nevada, that could mean just about anything.

‘A few miles back, we passed the Cottontail Ranch. No, they don’t raise bunnies. They provide a service which is [ahem] only legal in the state of Nevada. We’re counting the bunny ranches … that was number two.

‘No sign of any aliens …

‘—US 95, Bailey’s Hot Springs, NV, 12:10 PDT

‘The beagle owns a hot springs RV park in central Nevada!

‘Oh, and we just passed the third brothel, just north of Beatty; this one is named ‘Angels Ladies.’ Hmmmm.

‘—US 95, Beatty, NV, 12:16 PDT

‘Saw our first wreck of the trip, here in Beatty. A Jeep Cherokee broadsided and lying on its side in the street. A Jeep tipover is not exactly what I wanted to see on this trip. Well, that’s ugly …

‘—US 95, Amargosa Valley, NV, 12:43 PDT

‘Just passed big huge signs for Area 51 and the Yucca Mountain Visitor’s Center … Hmmmm. I don’t see no aliens … or black helicopters.

‘—US 95, Indian Springs, NV, 13:16 PDT

‘Indian Springs Air Force Base—sign that says ‘Military Exercise in Progress.’ On the side of the highway, an unattended ambulance with its lights going, no one around. Hmmmm. On the base is a military barracks-looking structure that says ‘IS Hilton.’ Some soldiers or airmen standing around in cammies with very large guns. IS doesn’t look like a fun place to be at the moment.

‘—US 95, Just North of Las Vegas, NV, 13:25 PDT

‘Getting rained on as we pass a ‘correctional facility.’ And we just saw our first double-trailer Wal-Mart truck. Unlike the brothels in Nevada, Wal-Mart trucks between here and Ann Arbor will be far to numerous to count.

‘Well, my computer battery is running dead, I’ve been doing lots of work with it. So that’ll be the end of the periodic updates for today. Need to find an adapter to fit this thing. More later …

‘—Best Western King’s House Inn, room 111, Flagstaff, AZ, 23:00 MST

‘478 miles today and I’m pretty pooped. I’m finishing up a veggie lasagna meal from a delivery service; it’s been pouring in Flagstaff and we elected to stay in and let someone else make the effort to feed us.

‘I took over driving from Frank in front of some casino in downtown Las Vegas, then promptly made two wrong turns, almost got us broadsided by a very large van, and made another wrong turn. Finally, we hit the Strip in front of the Stratosphere and were promptly overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, which always brings up the phrase, ‘Wretched Excess’ in my head whenever I hear that name.

‘While downtown is awash in a huge amount of money, there were some not-so-nice sights in other parts of town. On the side of a boarded-up Payless Cashways big box store in North Las Vegas, someone had spray painted graffiti which read, ‘Broke.’ A few old studio-type apartments stood seedy, neglected and leaning drunkenly just three blocks from the massive Stratosphere, where tourists were paying big bucks to ride to the top in order to pay more big bucks to ride a rollercoaster and a thrill ride which bounces you up and down a very tall spire on top of the Stratosphere itself. On the Strip, illegal immigrants stood on street corners making what is probably a pittance to hand out flyers to tourists advertising strip clubs and $1.99 prime rib dinners. If there is any spot in America where wretched excess co-exists side-by-side with extreme poverty and desperation, it is Las Vegas Boulevard.

‘After driving down the Strip and taking some pics, cashing a check at Wells Fargo and sitting through 1.5-million of what are surely the longest red traffic lights in the entire world, we made our way to Boulder City, where we gassed up and then stopped at a Jack-in-the-Box. While Frank went inside to eat, I watered and fed the beagle, who enjoyed stretching his legs. We walked out in the desert, then returned to a grassy strip in front of the Jeep. He laid in the grass and panted and drank some water. After I got some food, we headed out and drove through downtown Boulder City, which is surprisingly nice. Cresting a hill, we spied Lake Mead spread out in the valley below.

‘A few miles later, we hit the security checkpoint for Hoover Dam. Anyone with an RV or rental moving truck was being searched. We wondered if we would be, what with the Jeep being so packed full, but we were just waved through. Crossing the dam is … an exercise in dodging tourists and drivers who are driving without realizing that they are driving and aren’t paying attention to the driving. But the dam and the area around it are truly spectacular. Today’s photo gallery has some very nice pics of it all.

‘South of the dam, US 93 follows some curvy hills, then straightens out and heads towards towards Kingman. The wind that Frank had fought all morning in Nevada now whipped up good, and I had to fight it myself. A fully loaded Jeep isn’t exactly streamlined, and we did some wandering over the road. But it was a good trip and we reached Kingman in no time, finally joining the Mother Road.

‘As we approached Kingman, we could see in the east a solid wall of dark blue cloud. Thunderstorms were causing flash floods all over northern Arizona. I’ll be the Grand Canyon was spectacular. As it was, I-40’s route was a grand spectacle of dark cloud, green sagebrush and trees, and brown, rocky mountains, hills and mesas. The weather was perfect for me; thunderboomers (a word Frank had never heard) and wild western scenery. Lightning struck all around us and the booms were occasionally so loud that they could be heard over the wind and engine noise in the Jeep.

‘Bayley slept through all of this; a straight road is good for beagles to have a nap on. No tossing side to side.

‘The 150 miles to Flagstaff seemed to go by rather quickly; there were bursts of heavy rain, followed by completely dry zones and for awhile there, it just rained steadily. We hit one construction zone that slowed things down, but it was only three miles and not too bad.

‘We hit Flagstaff at 19:49 and I promptly made yet another wrong turn, driving a few miles east on Route 66 instead of just half-a-block west. Okay, in my defense, it was dark, raining and I was tired. Sue me.

‘But we did safely arrive and the hotel was ready for us, the card already charged, the room waiting. Bayley cost me an extra $11.01. We ordered in and now we’re decompressing and I’m catching up on two days of lost internet access. I had 168 spam e-mails waiting and uploading my photo galleries is taking forever.

‘It was raining hard the last time I was in Flagstaff, 16-Sep-96. I seem to have come full circle. It’s a beautiful night, there are wailing Santa Fe trains outside, and we’re snug in a little room on Route 66. All is well. And the best thing of all: I go home tomorrow, my home state beckons and La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis—The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi—is our very next destination, where we’ll spend two nights, is a mere 385 miles away. Can’t wait!! My heart is already vibrating with the anticipation and excitement of the reunion with my spiritual home.

‘Today’s trip stats:

‘• 11:00 — Left Tonopah, NV — 0 miles | 0415 total
• 11:20 — Goldfield — 27 | 0442
• 11:48 — Scotty’s Junction — 61 | 0476
• 12:16 — Beatty — 95 | 0510
• 12:43 — Amargosa Valley — 125 | 0540
• 13:14 — Cactus Springs — 166 | 0581
• 13:16 — Indian Springs — 169 | 0584
• 13:51 — Las Vegas — 211 | 0626
• 15:37 — Boulder City — 244 | 0659
• 16:32 — Hoover Dam/Arizona State Line — 252 | 0667
• 17:43 — Kingman, AZ — 325 | 0740
• 18:38 — Seligman — 397 | 0812
• 18:56 — Ash Fork — 421 | 0836
• 19:11 — Williams — 439 | 0854
• 19:49 — Flagstaff — 478 | 0893

‘Good night from Flagstaff, AZ, y’all!

‘—Posted by Steve at 23:55 | 15-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 4

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘This is where you need XM satellite radio …

Soundtrack, Day Two

‘Lots of jazz and fading-in-and-out talk radio on poor-reception stations. Popped in John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things and Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. Somewhere along the line I also popped in Elvis 56.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:43:09 | 15-Aug-03

‘And here’s the photo gallery for Day Two:

StardustVegasSleepyDogRouteSign

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day Two »

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I still haven’t quite figured out how to pronounce ‘Tonopah’ … is it ‘TOEnuh-pah’? or ‘tuh-NO-puh’? or ‘toe-noePAH’? Whatever it is, I’m sure it means ‘Middle of Bum-F—- Egypt’ … And thus begins our cross-country trip. A note on these entries: the times may get all weird; we wrote some of these entries while on the road and posted them later. I remember the Yosemite portion of this trip, crossing the Nevada border and arriving in Tonopah, but the rest tends to be a blur. I remember that the beagle was very worn out that first night.

Day One

A Note: Sorry folks, I had no dial-up number for internet access last night in Tonopah, NV, which is, after all, WAY out in the desert. One of the next nearest towns is Coaldale Junction (which is really no more than a gas station and an FAA VOR navigational aid, used by commercial airliners on their way to San Francisco). There’s another nearby town we passed through which featured a sign declaring the population was ‘13 and a half.’ We didn’t slow down long enough to find out what the half-a-person was. Nonetheless, tonight we’re in Flagstaff, AZ, back in civilization with real dialup numbers. Lordy, I miss that DSL and cable modem broadband! Anyway, here’s the first post, which was supposed to be online last night. Apologies for the delay.


Best Western Hi-Desert Inn, room 124, Tonopah, NV, 23:00 PDT | 15-Aug-03

‘Day one of the road trip is finally over. On two-and-a-half hours of sleep, we travelled 415.4 miles from San Francisco to Tonopah, NV. Spent $82.51 on gas, $29.20 on food, a $20 entrance fee to Yosemite and $75.21 on a hotel .. .the fabulous Best Western Hi-Desert Inn in Beautiful Downtown Tonopah, NV. Total Day One expenses: $206.92.

‘The day began with a wake-up call at 6:30 a.m. I was barely able to rise after yesterday’s big moving day and because I was sleeping in my sleeping bag on the floor. I went to bed very late because I had to do laundry (you really don’t want to ride 3,000 miles with a smelly dog bed) and pack for the trip. I probably couldn’t have slept much anyway.

‘After a soak in the tub and loading the car, Bayley and I said our goodbyes to David and then left the apartment for the last time. Yes, I’m a big wussy; I pretty much bawled all the way over the Bay Bridge. After Yellow Truck finally picked up our trailer (a day late), we said more goodbyes to Kit and Gracie and Rudy and Suki cat. These were very hard like all the rest, but they were the last ones. Gracie whined and pawed and moaned and groaned. It was very, very sad to be leaving behind so many wonderful people and puppy dogs. But Gracie and Rudy will be heading south themselves in a couple of months, so they get to share the grand moving adventure too.

‘We stopped off at a drug store in Livermore so that I could get a prescription filled, then headed for Yosemite, which, while hot and touristy and dusty and dry, still manages to be beautiful and serene in spite of man’s best attempts to despoil it. Still haven’t figured out what those large brush piles by the side of the road every few feet for miles were for; each pile had a layer of cardboard in the middle. Very strange looking. Some tree groves are dead and you can see the ravages of past fires. Bridal Veil Fall and Yosemite Falls were both down to mere trickles … it is August, after all. The first time I saw them was in late March of ‘97, and they were roaring and simply the most beautiful things on the planet. Half Dome and El Capitan remain reassuring in their forever-feel and the Tioga Pass road, which I had never driven, was magnificent as well. Still, if you wish to see Yosemite in all her glory, be sure and do a mid-Spring visit … less tourists and crowds, more freedom to move about, and the falls and newly greened trees, as well as the remaining snowpack, are truly breathtaking.

‘I’m writing this as we finish up the last 40 miles of the trip; it’s 19:11 and we’re exhausted and should be in our hotel and getting dinner in about an hour or so, thank goodness. We’re just east of Coaldale, NV, on US6/95. The countryside is typical Nevada; harsh and mountainous, yet still beautiful. It’s been a grand trip so far; no problems, we’ve made good time, etc. The beagle has been a bit uncomfortable perched on his bed through the very twisty roads and traffic jams in the Bay Area, but now that we’re on a more straight, even road here in the Nevada desert, he’s able to finally lie down and get some sleep.

‘He was a very tired and hot beagle after his little visit to Bridal Veil Fall, where he attracted the attention of everyone on the trail. One little girl asked to pet him; we demurred, because his typical reaction to a stranger is to howl loudly in their face (just like with Kit this morning) and scare them half to death. But the walk down the trail was good for him, since we’ve already started burning off calories and fat in preparation for a more adventurous life in Ann Arbor. Our goal is to get his weight down by the winter so that he can play in the snow without having a heart attack. He turns nine years old on Aug. 20, which means we’ll probably be touring Memphis and driving to Nashville. I guess I can start calling him Grandpa now that he’ll be 63 in human years. But considering how beagles very much demand a routine and don’t like things upset, he’s handled this pretty well so far, much like he did moving from Dallas to San Francisco, San Francisco to Denver and Denver back to San Francisco in 1996 and 1998, respectively. He’ll be fine, and he’ll love his new home.

‘The setting sun is turning Boundary Peak (at 13,140 feet, the highest point in Nevada) and Emigrant Peak (6,790 feet) truly gorgeous shades of orange and yellow, with wedges of purple and dark blue in the shadows behind outcroppings. There is some cloud cover and the sagebrush adds some vibrant green, It’s a very pleasant evening, the loading-of-the-truck and Day One of the trip are over, and we’re well-launched on the brand-new life. The pain of goodbyes is over, although much sadness lingers. Parting is not sweet sorrow; it’s not sweet anything. I hate it. But what’s happening is best for everyone; life is all about change, after all. You don’t change, you’re dead.

‘And now I can’t wait to get to Santa Fe. We can have a day of complete rest and see what is surely one of my favorite cities in my home state, my spiritual home. But first comes a 200-mile journey to Las Vegas, with a little side trip down the Strip for some ogling, followed by a trip over Hoover Dam and 250 miles to Flagstaff, AZ.

‘Today’s trip stats:

‘‘• 08:51 — Left the apartment — 0 miles

‘‘• 08:58 — Gassed up at Twin Peaks Auto — 0004

‘‘• 09:20 — Bay Bridge — ?

‘‘• 10:17 — Leave Kit & Erin’s in Oakland — 0031

‘‘• 10:45 — Livermore, Long’s Drugs — ?

‘‘• 11:52 — Manteca — 0094

‘‘• 14:00 — Gassed up at Crane Flats, Yosemite National Park — 0191

‘‘• 14:47 — Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite Valley — 0215

‘‘• 17:47 — US 385/CA-120 Junction (Frank starts driving) — 0292

‘‘• 19:45 — Tonopah, NV — 0415

‘Good night from Tonopah, NV, y’all!

‘—Posted by Steve at 22:32 | 15-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I know that that’s one big-ass dam, lemme tell ya!

Hoover Dam National Historic Landmark (NV/AZ)

‘Built at a total cost of $165 million between 1931 and 1936, the Hoover Dam is 726 feet high. Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the dam, covers 247 square miles and holds 46 trillion cubic yards of water.

‘The dam, at its inception the largest public works project in US history, was the brainchild of many: Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran and geologist who undertook a huge project to topographically map the Grand Canyon and Colorado River region in 1869-1871; his nephew, Arthur Powell Davis, who spent over twenty years exploring the Colorado River and authored the main engineering report on the dam project, only to be forced to resign his Bureau of Reclamation post and go to Turkestan for work; Harry Morrison, Charlie Shea, Harry Kaiser, and Warren Bechtel, who organized the various financing and bids on the proposed project; Frank Crowe, who supervised the building of the dam in the face of punishing heat and harsh conditions and broke a workers’ strike in August 1931; Walker “Brig” Young, who surveyed Boulder Canyon in 1921 to find the best spot for the dam; and Gordon Kaufma , who planned the imposing Art Deco architecture of the dam.

‘The project was first named the Boulder Dam, but in September 1930, Secretary of the Interior Ray Wilbur a ounced that the dam would henceforth be named the Hoover Dam, an apparent attempt to gather much-needed credit to the administration for drumming up jobs in what was an otherwise dismal record. When Franklin Roosevelt took over in 1932, his Interior Secretary, Harold Ickes, changed the name back to Boulder. In April 1947, Harry Truman signed a Congressional resolution restoring the name Hoover to the dam.

‘The dam, which we had to pass on our way between the states of Nevada and Arizona, was an incredible thing. All you had to do was stop at one of the vista points, get out of the car, and take a look at the sweep of the dam to get a sense of its grandeur, a perception of the sweat and pain and money and time that went into the construction of this behemoth of human engineering. “Standing on the edge of the Hoover Dam,/I’m on the centerline between two states of mind,” go the lyrics to the Sugar song.

‘Now I know how true that expression is: the dam doesn’t just hold back water, it is a border between the Left Coast (if you include Clark County in that definition) and the rest of the country. The guards stationed at the checkpoint along the highway leading up to the dam are not just guarding the dam; they’re guarding a state of mind, a marvel of machinery, a massive expression of human labor that defies you not to bow before it and feel humbled.

‘—Posted by Frank at 16:30:00 | 15-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 15-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Wild, woolly Las Vegas. Whatta complete hoot. So very unreal and otherworldly …

Las Vegas, NV

‘Population 478,868 (2000 census). Seat of Clark County.

‘The first settlement at what is now Las Vegas was, ironically, a Mormon outpost, founded in 1855 and abandoned two years later after repeated raids by the Paiutes. Las Vegas itself was incorporated in 1905. In 1931, gambling and quickie divorces were legalized in Nevada, and construction was started on the Hoover Dam. The rest is history.

‘The first casino on what the world knows today as The Strip, the Hotel El Rancho Vegas, was opened in April 1941 by Tom Hull (no, not Bugsy Siegel) across the street from what is now the Sahara. The event that prompted Hull to open the Rancho was, the tale goes (is this a recurring theme or what?), a flat tire. He had a flat on Highway 91, his traveling companion hitched back into town to get help, and Hull stood on the shoulder, started counting cars, and became convinced that this was a great spot to start a place for exhausted motorists to rest along the highway to his properties in Los Angeles. (He had already started other Ranchos in Sacramento and Fresno and owned the Mayfair in Los Angeles and the Roosevelt in Hollywood.) The El Rancho burned down in a fire in July 1960.

‘Coming into Vegas was a breeze until about 5 miles from town. It’s somewhat amusing that the stretch of Highway 95 just north of Vegas is occupied by a bunch of upstanding little towns like Indian Springs with sturdy churches and signs warning darkly of the consequences of sin, as though they were the last bulwark against the inevitable descent into hell. Where do I suspect that the folks stationed at Nellis Air Force Base spend their free time? Indian Springs? Yeah, that’s it.

‘The traffic coming into town was not unmanageable, but it was rough for a non-local to negotiate the zooming cars and trucks and the exits and byways (not to mention the tangled Spaghetti Bowl), so I got out off an exit near the Convention Center and let Steve take the wheel while I snapped shots and gawked at the overstimulating panorama of the Strip. The Sahara, Circus Circus, the Stardust, the Frontier, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Harrah’s, Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, Paris, Bellagio, MGM Grand, New York New York, the Tropicana, Luxor, Mandalay Bay—all you can do is gawk, gawk, and gawk some more, or close your eyes once you get a headache from all the neon and flashing and excess. Driving in a car along the Strip for half an hour obviously doesn’t do it justice. If I had wanted to do Vegas justice, we would have stayed for a night or two and wandered the Strip and gone in and out of all the big casinos.

‘But even as a passenger in a car down Las Vegas Boulevard, you get a quick sense of the city, its rhythm, its flavor, its style. The Strip itself is ostentation at its most marvelous and unabashed. I noticed a huge billboard advertising Gladys Knight at the Flamingo and marveled at the fact that a once semi-gritty Atlanta/Motown soul singer like Gladys was now a glitzy headliner at a Vegas casino. Then again, ZZ Top is at Mandalay Bay, so ….. Once you get off the Strip you see the real Vegas, if such a thing exists, because what is Vegas without the Strip?

‘Along and around Charleston Boulevard, you see boarded-up storefronts, gritty boulevards, hot, angry-looking drivers, car salesmen in too-tight shirts and strangling ties, homeless men pushing shopping carts full of their belongings down the street, lots of other evidence that the city’s commitment to its infrastructure outside of the Strip is inattentive at best.

‘We stopped at a bank branch off Sunset Road, not far from McCarran Airport, a part of town which was somewhat more business-park-like, and a group of homeless men were taking a breather on the bank lawn near the sidewalk. A pissed-off-looking man hopped into his white Porsche and gunned it for all it was worth to make it to the stop sign at the other end of the adjoining mall parking lot, as though the Prince of Darkness himself were riding his bumper.

‘Vegas is an amazing place, but I don’t know that I’d want to live in the shadow of the Strip on a permanent basis.

‘—Posted by Frank at 14:00:00 | 15-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 8

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Hitting the road with some tunes and enjoying the countryside. I love it …

Soundtrack, Day One

‘John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow. Obviously out-of-date yet somehow appropriate. Then a Columbia compilation called The Golden Age Voume 1, with old-time forties music by likes of Gene Autry, Bob Willis, The Chuck Wagon Gang, and Patsy Montana, which was a lot of fun. Followed by an album of Ella Fitzgerald sides with the Chick Webb Orchestra. And on the way down Highway 6 into Nevada, Neko Case’s Black Listed, a pretty damn good CD by a great alt-country songwriter from Vancouver by way of Alexandria, VA.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:01 | 14-Aug-03

‘Also, here is the photo gallery of Day One of the trip:

GoodbyeDavidBridalVeilFallsSleepyDog

‘« Our Move to Michigan – Day One »’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 7

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Tonopah (I still don’t how to pronounce it properly) is the very definition of ‘Middle of Nowhere’ …

Tonopah, NV

‘Population 2627 (2000 census). Seat of Nye County, the third-largest county in area in the United States.

‘Founded in 1900 by Jim Butler (whom one Nevada historical site describes as the “laziest mining tycoon of all time”). Folklore has it that Butler, while prospecting, lost his burro in a windstorm. The burro cowered beneath a rock outcropping. When Butler found the cowering beast, he noticed something unusual about the rock, chipped at it, struck paydirt, and started the last silver rush in Nevada.

‘Tonopah grew within two years from a rock outcropping to a bustling mining town of 3000. Wyatt Earp ran a saloon here from 1902 to 1905. The big news in town the day before we arrived (according to the Pahrump Valley Times) was that a defendant company planned to appeal after a jury had awarded $136 million, the largest judgment in Nye County history, to Equatorial Tonopah Inc., a US subsidiary of the Sydney, Australia-based Equatorial Mining Ltd, in a judgment against Kvaerner Inc., a US subsidiary of a Lysaker, Norway-based engineering construction firm. Equatorial Tonopah’s lawsuit alleged that Kvaerner had made faulty projections on the feasibility of a copper mine 17 miles north of Tonopah that Equatorial Tonopah had bought for $15 million plus $32 million in equity from Cyprus Amax Metals in 1997 (and, after the yield proved far less than what Kvaerner had projected, closed in July 2001).

‘I drove us into town around 8.00. As we came in off Highway 95, from twenty and ten miles off the town looked like something out of a mirage, there one minute and not quite there the next. The town and its surroundings were undoubtedly awe-inspiring physically. The San Antonio Mountains, which turn pink and amethyst in the sunset, are stark, lonely, and majestic. The town itself is like something out of a John Ford Western. The Mizpah Hotel, the town’s main landmark, founded in 1907, sits in the middle of Main Street with a huge ghost-town sign announcing its presence.

‘Among the people illegitimately claimed to have connections with the Mizpah: Jack Dempsey, who allegedly worked as a bouncer there (although, according to the Nevada State Library and Archives, he “only” fought a match against Johnny Sudenberg in Tonopah in June 1915 and didn’t actually work at the Mizpah in any capacity), and Howard Hughes, who allegedly married Jean Peters there (although, according to the same source, Hughes actually married Peters in January 1957 in his apartment at the L&L Motel, not at the Mizpah).

‘As we came to our hotel, the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn, we were greeted by ominous glares from a bench full of well-wishers on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. The sound of yowling children sailed in the window when I rolled it down to get a breath of fresh air. The bellboy cart we dragged out to the Jeep to load our overpacked possessions nearly collapsed under their admittedly copious weight. A bunch of kids who apparently lived in the neighborhood behind the hotel favored using the parking lot as a skate park.

‘After we settled in, we decided to go try to find something for dinner. No restaurants looked open, so we stopped at Scolari’s, a supermarket at the south edge of town (which, essentially, was about a quarter mile down Main Street from the hotel). The supermarket had a big parking lot, but like the lot, the market was almost deserted, except for a few shoppers and the handful of employees staffing the place. It was 9.00 on a Thursday night but it felt like Sunday around 11.00. We grabbed a few frozen comestibles and went to the checkout counters, where a strapping brunet clerk asked Steve whether he was “ailing” because he grabbed at his belly while trying not to drop the pizza package in his hand. The clerk was almost painfully polite, in a sickly kind of way that would have seemed sarcastic if it had not been so seemingly ingenuous (and if it had not been almost anywhere but California).

‘At the other end of the spectrum, the main drag seemed to be a public meeting space for the area’s bored teenagers, who screeched up and down it in their souped-up cars and noisily marked their territory with testosterone-laden skid marks. The absinthe-green Silver Queen Hotel sign and the lit-up neon cross from a generic Protestant chapel behind it added a final bizarre touch to the evening.

‘I was content to spend the rest of the night in the hotel room watching the Weather Channel. I guess it was the xenophobic and suspicious California Blanche DuBois in me realizing that I was 355 miles from Oakland and that Tonopah marked the point at which there really was, barring some unforeseen emergency the nature of which it would be impossible to conceive, no turning back.

‘Tonopah reminded me of nothing more clearly than the eerie, vaguely hostile tiny towns along the highway that Inger Stevens encountered in the 1960 “Twilight Zone” episode in which she is traveling cross-country, has a blown tire outside Pittsburgh, and begins getting tailed by a silent porkpie-hat-wearing hitchhiker wherever she goes, eventually realizing somewhere in Arizona that she actually died in the blowout and that the hitchhiker is the Grim Reaper.

‘—Posted by Frank at 23:59:00 | 14-Aug-03

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 6

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Yosemite is grand, but go when the crowds aren’t there: fall and spring. Spring is best, because the waterfalls are full and gorgeous …

Yosemite National Park, CA

‘Population: a bunch of park rangers and a variable transient population of tourists. Area: 1200 square miles in Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties.

‘California Senator John Conness introduced a bill, which Abraham Lincoln signed into law in June 1864, setting aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias for the State of California as an inalienable public trust, although logging, mining, and grazing continued in the Valley until John Muir stepped into the picture. (Conness later died in an insane asylum, but that’s another story.) Here is what Muir, whose name adorns the high school I attended in Pasadena, had to say about Yosemite in 1911:

‘“Apart from the human interest of my visit to-day, I greatly enjoyed Yosemite, which I had visited only once before, having spent eight days last spring in rambling amid its rocks and waters. Wherever we go in the mountains, or indeed in any of God’s wild fields, we find more than we seek. Descending four thousand feet in a few hours, we enter a new world; climate, plants, sounds, inhabitants, and scenery all new or changed.”

‘The place is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on God’s increasingly greenless earth, and I should have my California citizenship revoked for not having visited before now. But I hazard a guess that Muir would rip his heart out and wear sackcloth and ash if he were able to see what Yosemite has become: a Back to Nature theme park, a marketer’s gimmick, a mockery of God, a naturalist’s nightmare.

‘You pay $20 at a checkpoint and get handed a ticket and a map by a nice ranger. You drive down narrow, groaning, car-filled roads to get your look at the Valley’s main attractions: Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Bridalveil Meadow. You get out of your car and walk with lines of tourists up paved trails to designated areas where you can pose for photos against backdrops and pretend that a thousand other people aren’t doing exactly the same thing. You can ignore, or get prissy and stop to pick up and get the back pocket of your jeans gummed up with the contents of, a littering Jolly Rancher wrapper some jerk has dropped along the path. You hear parents tell their kids things like: “We drove four hours to see this, so shut up!”

‘Yosemite is glorious and a testament to the universe’s abundance in spite of the desecrations wrought upon it by humankind (and maybe I should just shut up and let the photographs speak for themselves, and maybe I should just stop being critical every moment and enjoy the scenery). But it is also a perfect diorama of George W. Bush’s America: a Grizzly Adams version of the Great America Mall, complete with its own official concessioner website. It makes you wonder what the valley must have looked like in 1911, through the eyes of John Muir and his traveling party.

—Posted by Frank at 16:00:00 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 5

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I remember very little about even going through this town …

Oakdale, CA

‘Population 15,503 (2000 census); founded 1871 by the Stockton & Visalia Railroad Company; main attractions Hershey Foods Corporation and Oakdale Cowboy Museum.

‘We came in along Highway 120 and passed through town in less than five minutes—it’s a small town. But this Stanislaus County town 90 miles from Yosemite was the first place I knew that I was out of the Bay Area for good. There were American flags everywhere, big and small. (In the Bay Area, American flags made a surge right after 9/11/01 and disappeared just as quickly two or three months later.) There was a huge “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” sign painted on the door of a hardware store. There was an abundance of hand-lettered signs. People on the street stared at the Jeep. I felt like a fish out of the liberal pond. I was a fish out of the liberal pond.

‘Keep in mind, those of you who don’t know me, that I am a Californian through and through—not in the stereotypical “hey dude, whassup” sense, which you can already ascertain because of my tortured, vaguely pre-Raphaelite writing style, but in the sense that other than a period of nine months in which I lived in Great Britain during my junior year, and other than a few trips in recent years with Steve to Colorado and Michigan and Oregon, and a few odd forays during my highly random childhood to places like Mexicali and Yuma, AZ, I have never been outside the borders of the Golden State.

‘Everything you read henceforth in my hand bears the imprint of that condition. That means good and bad. If I stereotype a place, if I make an unwarranted assumption, if I fall flat on my face in characterizing a region or a state of mind or a point of history, I will beg your forgiveness and your forbearance, because this Californian, you must realize, hasn’t gotten around a hell of a lot.

—Posted by Frank at 12:00:00 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 4

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I remember very little about even going through this town …

Oakdale, CA

‘Population 15,503 (2000 census); founded 1871 by the Stockton & Visalia Railroad Company; main attractions Hershey Foods Corporation and Oakdale Cowboy Museum.

‘We came in along Highway 120 and passed through town in less than five minutes—it’s a small town. But this Stanislaus County town 90 miles from Yosemite was the first place I knew that I was out of the Bay Area for good. There were American flags everywhere, big and small. (In the Bay Area, American flags made a surge right after 9/11/01 and disappeared just as quickly two or three months later.) There was a huge “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” sign painted on the door of a hardware store. There was an abundance of hand-lettered signs. People on the street stared at the Jeep. I felt like a fish out of the liberal pond. I was a fish out of the liberal pond.

‘Keep in mind, those of you who don’t know me, that I am a Californian through and through—not in the stereotypical “hey dude, whassup” sense, which you can already ascertain because of my tortured, vaguely pre-Raphaelite writing style, but in the sense that other than a period of nine months in which I lived in Great Britain during my junior year, and other than a few trips in recent years with Steve to Colorado and Michigan and Oregon, and a few odd forays during my highly random childhood to places like Mexicali and Yuma, AZ, I have never been outside the borders of the Golden State.

‘Everything you read henceforth in my hand bears the imprint of that condition. That means good and bad. If I stereotype a place, if I make an unwarranted assumption, if I fall flat on my face in characterizing a region or a state of mind or a point of history, I will beg your forgiveness and your forbearance, because this Californian, you must realize, hasn’t gotten around a hell of a lot.

—Posted by Frank at 12:00:00 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Frank’s last day in California/first day on the road …

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

‘My morning began at 7.45. I took care of whatever last minute things I could think of. This included imposing on the patience of Kit to dispose of some things I just hadn’t gotten my act together to pack, including some rolls of wrapping paper that had been sitting around my room for months if not years. How do you pack wrapping paper? You don’t. I should’ve gotten rid of it weeks ago. That and all the other crap I left behind for my poor housemates to dispose of. My apologies, Erin and Kit.

‘I sat and watched a little morning TV while waiting for Steve to arrive from the other side of the Bay. It was an act of anxiety—I was tired of pacing around. The house seemed so weird. The energy was horrible. The sun was out, it was a beautiful Bay Area morning, yet the place felt like a mortuary. The downstairs echoed and rattled with the emptiness of my cleaned-out room. Even the kitchen felt hollowed out. Kit was upstairs in bed with the dogs. They all seemed bummed out and stuck to themselves while I paced and fretted and sweated.

‘I watched KTVU. The show had this bouncy featurey piece about undiscovered great SF restaurants. The restaurant on tap was Dottie’s, a diner in the Geary/Jones area that I had not heard of (let alone patronized). The reporter was a perky brassy blonde who wandered around asking obnoxious questions of the clientele (and the harried owner/chef, whom she’d obviously interrupted in the middle of the morning rush) and taking showy on-camera bites of their omelets and pancakes to demonstrate how awesome the joint was. The camera panned around to the door once or twice to catch shots of the bleary-eyed yet lively line of waiting customers at the doorway. There were the usual SF assortment of bike messenger types, suit-wearing government employees, platinum blonde lesbians with piercings, queer fashion plates, you name it.

‘That short three minutes of bubbly morning TV seemed to sum up everything I love (and hate) about SF in one swoop: the parochial banality disguised as urbane sophistication, the relentless and almost heedless California optimism blended with the yawning pretend-New York City display of “we’ve all seen and done this before” (I say this because, for example, when Candace Bushnell is interviewed by a New York newspaper it’s a “whatever” event, but when she’s interviewed by the Chronicle it’s not only a front-page arts section spread, it’s a bizarre display of “Look at our coup! Only in San Francisco would Candace Bushnell agreed to have been interviewed by a newspaper!”), the public (and public-relations) show of inclusiveness not ever quite obliterated by the reality of SF’s unending history of exclusionary attitudes and politics, the strange and unshakable sense you get that SF really truly and honestly believes that it’s the one place that’s at the cutting edge of everything in American culture, politics, and zeitgeist.

‘—Posted by Frank at 09:00:00 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘I still haven’t quite figured out how to pronounce ‘Tonopah’ … is it ‘TOEnuh-pah’? or ‘tuh-NO-puh’? or ‘toe-noePAH’? Whatever it is, I’m sure it means ‘Middle of Bum-F*** Egypt’ …

Happy Trails ‘Til We Meet Again

‘San Francisco:

‘The Beagle has left the building.

‘Thank you. Thank you very much.

‘See ya tonight in Tonopah! (How DOES one pronounce that?)

‘—Posted by Steve at 06:43 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 14-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Moving Day. Yegods. Whatta day that was. Exhausting. Near tears. Panic attacks. Loading that big truck. My last night in San Francisco. Facing the wrenching goodbye where Bayley and I had to say goodbye to David after nine years of him putting up with us. Makes me all tired just remembering it. This entry is surprisingly upbeat for me. I hid all the anxiety and exhaustion and frustration pretty well …

Moving Day

‘Moving day came and went … at the time, it seemed as if it would never end. But, all in all, it was a pretty good day.

‘The 15-foot Budget rental truck was ready as promised. After we came back home, a couple of workers from the Two Irish Guys moving firm showed up five minutes early to load the truck. They were smooth, professional and pleasant and it was a very trouble-free experience. They didn’t even complain when they had to move the couch down five flights of stairs because it wouldn’t fit in the elevator. I tipped them nicely and so, if anyone is looking for someone to load/move things for you, I highly recommend them You can usually find a listing for them on Craig’s List.

‘After the truck was loaded, we hit the road, David driving the Jeep behind me. Two unnerving incidents when two people cut in front of me, leaving slamming on the brakes and hoping the thing would stop in time. But fortunately, nothing happened … I haven’t had a wreck in 22 years and I’m certainly not about to notch one up now, especially not on my final full day in San Francisco.

‘Once in Oakland, Frank called me to say that the rental trailer for the cross-country phase had been delivered. Promised between 9 a.m. and noon, it actually arrived around 1:30. But ValueMoves handled things well and have been a pleasure to do business with … so far. We’ll see what happens when we unload it in Ann Arbor.

‘Then the fun began. I feel as if I’ve climbed, oh, what’s the third-highest mountain in the world? And now I’m on the summit … the trailer, from Yellow Lines, is loaded successfully. Now comes the second-highest summit (isn’t that K-2?), which is the road trip, although that will be easier and much more fun. The highest is unloading our stuff in Ann Arbor and distributing it among three floors of townhouse. Ouch.

‘Yet, from the summit of having all of my things loaded for the move, things feel pretty good. I’m very tired, very achy, very exhausted and … not quite as emotional as I usually am. Which is a bit strange. Towards the end of the seemingly endless loading-of-the-trailer, I did have a panic/anxiety attack. Primarily, this was due to a couple of contradictory factors: Seeing the end in sight for having things loaded, yet seeing more stuff that still needed to be loaded. Strange, I know.

‘I inherited, somewhat, the packing gene from my father, who was always a whiz at it. I managed to get all of our stuff into a space 8X9X9. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be 8X9X6, so we’re going to encounter some additional charges. This was not good and an additional source of anxiety.

‘Between us, Frank and I have over 100 boxes of … stuff. Books. CDs. DVDs. Glassware. More books. Stereo and home theatre equipment, including a 46-inch TV. Couch. Dining room table. Four chairs. Another TV. And so on. While regretting that I had to go over the space limit, I am sorta proud of the packing job. But we’ll revisit that issue the morning of Aug. 23rd, and see how I did.

‘The loading took from 2 p.m. until just after 8. Long, grinding hours, punctuated by playing pookie and ball with Rudy Doogle and Gracie Punkin. We’ll miss them terribly.

‘We then went to dinner at Crogan’s in Montclair one last time (best onion rings, ever) and I said final goodbyes to George and Deb, who were gracious enough to come over to the restaurant to give goodbye hugs.

‘After we dropped the Budget truck off, David left me in the Castro to get some prescription refills made. I forgot to bring my script for Xanax, so I’ll have to get it filled later. The Castro, on my final visit, was a bit different. I almost never go there at night, and things were kinda hopping. Gone was its daytime persona of tourista/errands/medical doctors/pharmacy/bookstores and greeting and dining with friends. In its place is the night life, which is decidedly … different. Different crowd, more intense, very interesting.

‘Joel and Scott were then gracious enough to pick me up and drive me home (I sent David on ahead to check in on the beagle, who had been alone for about 10 hours, and in the dark, at this point). And we had a nice final chat and goodbye hugs.

‘Followed by laundry and final packing for the road warrior part and here we are, approaching 4 a.m. and I’ll have about three hours sleep. So it’s off to bed I go, in my sleeping bag on the floor. My last sleep in San Francisco.

‘It’s been a wild, strange seven years, it certainly has.

‘Tomorrow night, we’ll be coming to you from good ol’ Tonopah, NV, which I still haven’t figured out how to pronounce yet. I’ll ask the good people at the Hi Desert Inn to set me straight. But we’re very excited to visit Yosemite on the way. YNP is grand, glorious and wonderful. I love the Sierra.

‘In the meantime, everyone take care. I’m getting some shuteye; I have another mountain (or two or 30) to climb tomorrow.

‘Good night, y’all.

‘—Posted by Steve at 03:51 | 14-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 13-Aug, Part 4

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘No comment here. We DO miss them all …

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu!

FoursomePicGeorgePicFarewellToSFPic

‘‘Don’t say goodbye, say see ya soon!’ Goodbyes are hard … Kit, Erin, Me and Frank and the girls, Rudy Doogle on the left and Gracie Punkin on the right; George and I say farewell at Union Square; Frank and I bid the city adieu. [sniff]

‘—Posted by Steve at 03:00 | 13-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 13-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Well, I do miss BART when I have to deal with the drivers around here … but I don’t miss its expense, dirt, filth and crazy, weird people. And there are better pizza joints around here than Milano’s (lord knows Bayley isn’t discriminating when it comes to leftover pizza crust treats), so I guess that’s a wash too … I don’t have a pic of it, but I do occasionally miss the Raintree Cafe at Eighth and Irving, where we used to go quite a bit.

Last Calls

BARTFarewellPicBARTFarewellPic2MilanosPizzaFarewellPic

‘Some scenes from the final moments in San Francisco: The last BART train I’ll ride gets ready to leave 12th Street/Oakland City Center; the same train leaves me behind at Glen Park station in San Francisco. And the last one, well, that’s the beagle getting his final pizza crust treat from Milano’s Pizzeria at Ninth and Irving, our favorite neighborhood pizza place.

‘—Posted by Steve at 02:56 | 13-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 13-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Ah! The anxieties of the final hours before a major move! God! I’m glad we’re not going through this right now!!!

30 Hours and Counting

‘This is just going to be short update tonight. So much going on.

‘Today was full of final packing, praying that my dishes will make it unscathed, much uncertainty about the big loading the truck thing tomorrow, giving the beagle his bath so he’ll smell halfway decent in the confines of the car, ironing out final wrinkles and nailing down final details.

‘Between my last post and this one, there has been a lot of heavy lifting and running around, burned fingers, scraped knuckles and punctured thumbs, some angst and anxiety and realization that we’re not going to be able to do everything we wanted to before departure (i.e., touristy things around San Francisco-although we did do quite a bit of them). There’s been beagle angst (a very uncharacteristic and unnerving potty incident in the living room floor); I witnessed a woman run a red light and plow into two cars at one of the city’s notorious intersections that has always scared the heck out of me for four-and-a-half years; a final trip to Andronico’s to get a box of Krispy Kremes; last beagle walks in Golden Gate Park; final dinners with friends; and not a whole lot of sleep.

‘The farewell with friends have tended to be more ‘see ya laters!’ than tearful goodbyes, which is a good thing. Friends are, of course, the number one thing we’ll miss, with the fog/climate a close second. The weather has been beautiful the last two days and the fog is just beginning to make an appearance. I’m hoping it’s there to say goodbye to me as I leave Thursday morning.

‘The itinerary is set, the hotel reservations are made, the utilities in Ann Arbor are reserved, the check is ready to give to the landlord, affairs are wrapped up here and tomorrow (or rather today as I write this) begins the final big physical push of bringing my stuff down from the fifth floor to the rental truck on the street, followed by a trip to Oakland, where we will load all of our stuff on the cross-country trailer.

‘A sense of relief will come when the trailer is loaded and the rental truck is returned at 17:00 PST. Then I can relax and load the Jeep and be outta here bright and early at 6 a.m. Thursday.

‘I entered San Francisco for the first time at 2 a.m. one fine morning in late April of 1994, having just driven 30 hours non-stop from Dallas with David. My what the last nine-and-a-half years, seven of them here in the Bay Area, have brought many wild changes. I’ll be reflecting on them over the next nine days right here.

‘Meanwhile, I drew up a budget; it calls for the move to cost $3,112, which includes transporting goods and food, hotels, gas, etc., for the trip. There is an additional $2,561.44 for move-in expenses for the townhouse, meaning the whole grand cross-country adventure comes with about a $5,700 price tag. We’ll follow along with expenses in this ‘blog as we come to them each day.

‘But for now, no new pics (althought I have tons to post), it’s off to bed for a few hours. Awake time is 07:30 PST, so I better get to snoozing; that’s only 5 hours from now, yikes.

‘More later …

‘—Posted by Steve at 02:23 | 13-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 13-Aug, Part 1

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘Tunes on the road …

Soundtrack, Departure

‘Heard Art Pepper’s “Summertime,” one of the sublimest West Coast tunes you could ever listen to, on a jazz station when Steve was driving me home tonight [12-Aug-03] after a goodbye dinner with George at the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square and I was seeing the Bay Bridge and the downtown area for the last time. I haven’t lost it this whole time, but this was one moment I came close.

‘—Posted by Frank at 00:59:02 | 13-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 9-Aug, Part 3

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘A year later, these seem pretty inconsequential things to be missing … I had mostly forgotten all about them.

San Francisco Scenes I Will Miss

PumpkinPatchPicFunstonViewPicKrispyKremesPic

‘Things I will miss about living in this San Francisco neighborhood: The patch where they start growing pumpkins every July to sell in the pumpkin patch a block from my apartment; the view north up Funston as you drive to Andronico’s; and getting Krispy Kremes at Andronico’s (this is a picture of my last box from there, by the way [sigh]).

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:42 | 09-Aug-03’

Retro Post: 10 Years Ago Today, 9-Aug, Part 2

For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.

‘[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

‘A year later, I STILL definitely do not miss these things …

San Francisco Scenes I Won’t Miss

SeventhNLawtonPicThe36BusPicApartmentElevatorPic

‘Things I won’t miss about living in this San Francisco neighborhood: The higgledy-piggledy and dangerous intersection of Seventh Avenue and Lawton; the 36 Teresita Muni bus which I used to catch every morning at 6:20 a.m. at that spot; and the old, creaky, breaks-down-often, nasty elevator in my apartment building.

‘—Posted by Steve at 00:34 | 09-Aug-03’