The Dogs

Bali: photo essay 1

Just a little appetizer of things to come. once I get a connection faster than DIAL UP. Yeah, remember that shit? That's right you don't because that was 100 years ago.

Travel tips

Travel Tip 1: When traveling in Indonesia, all hotels and rental properties you contact will tell you they have wifi Internet. However, once on location, when you want to publish regular blog posts, the Internet will be invariably "temporarily unavailable." And "temporarily" means anywhere between 8 minutes and 9 years.

My remedy for this I think will be to post photo snippets of my hand written journal from time to time and compose posts in word then try to upload to blogger when the Internet is temporarily available.

Travel Tip 2: If you plan to travel abroad, you should plan to go to Bali. Because it freaking rocks in Bali. The only thing more beautiful and serene than the surroundings are the people. The Balinese people have a special warmth that can't be captured with mere words. They are open, humble and unbelievably genuine. At first you may be put off by there open faces, because generally, in the US if someone is talking to you with such intent happiness they want something. Not here.

As I drove the hillside village of Les, I was stopped constantly by locals, young and old who wanted nothing more than to say "Hallo!" and chat for a bit. Since 90% of tourists stick closely to the Kuta area (Home of the obligatory planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe), and we are currently about 4 hours North, most villagers assumed I was lost, asking "Where you try go?" When I replied "HERE" They broke into huge grins and shook my hand "Welcome my village! You enjoy Bali!" And went on their way with a wave. Most people speak very little broken English, but are none the less very excited to practice what they know.

Travel Tip 3: Forget Kuta. It's bullshit. It's not the real Bali. It's like Cancun, Tijuana, Datona Beach or any other dirty, crowded stretch of tourist traps, lined with shops, operated by harassing barkers hawking cheap knock offs of true Balinese culture.

This is the Bali created by international frat boys, pasty families and paranoid Europeans looking for a Balinese ocean view with all the plastic manufactured surroundings of home. It's loud, crowded and dirty. It's little LA but they speak Indonesian instead of Spanish. If you spend a week in Kuta or Nusa Dua and then go home, you might tell your friends to never visit Bali, it's just like every other tourist destination. But the truth is, it's a small microcosm of subculture that takes up only about 3% of the whole Island. I urge you, take a driver, see Kuta for a day, but only spend enough time that you can appreciate the real Bali that lies outside Kuta's borders. It's really a different world.

Travel Tip 4: Try to learn the language! Learning just 2 or 3 words like "thank you" Suksma, "How are you?" Apokabar(sp?), and "excuse me" Permisi, will open a whole new world as a traveler. Show the Balinese that you are interested in their culture, and not just the 2 dollar t shirts and they will think you're awesome. I've never traveled anywhere else where the people were so excited and passionate to teach the language and culture to outsiders. They take great pride in both the Indonesian and Balinese language and speak them both interchangably, so learn a pick up words in both languages as you travel and it will take you far with making new friends, not to mention getting much lower prices when bargaining.

Travel Tip 5: Buy booze at the airport. If you go to Bali you'll inevitably have a lay over in Taiwan or Hong Kong etc. If you like a cocktail now and then, but liquor at the lay over. Make sure that it's the right shop because some duty free shops sell things you can only claim on your return flight home. Absolut Vodka in Taiwan cost us about $20 USD, Bacardi is $30. But once in Bali, the import tax is so high on liquor that you'll easily pay $50-60 for a 750ml bottle of Smirnoff vodka.

Travel Tip 6: Come to Bali. Did I say that yet? Well it doesn't hurt to make drive a thesis home. It is magical here. Come to Bali. If you plan ahead, book in advance, the plane ticket may only be about $700. And you can't imagine how far your money will go here. Most importantly, plan to arrive in late may or early April, at the end of the rainy season, before May 31st it's still the "off season" tourist wise. which means you'll pay literally half the price for a hotel room in a resort you can have all to yourself. And I mean that. We're paying $50 a night at an empty resort right now with a private staff of 20 waiting on only us, hand and foot. It's like being Jay-Z for a week.

I'll be uploading some photos soon, and giving more in depth reviews and musings on specific areas soon.

For now, I'm going to go have another $12 deep tissue massage, do some scuba diving outside my front door, and then watch the sunset and have a delicious clove cigar (suck it Obama) for $1 a pack.

Lost Angels

After three days driving South on I5 we arrived, March 5th in “sunny” San Diego. It was hot in LA when we arrived. Hot and sticky and wreaking of people and cars all slurping up everything in sight and spewing out an infinite cloud of bile. Like the armpit on a fat guy after a long night of drinking tequila and eating at taco trucks. Every time I return to Los Angeles (even just in passing) I remember with more clarity why I hate the very bones of the place.

If I had a tumor, I’d name it Los Angeles.

We drove 1,500 miles between our little cabin in the woods to my in-laws’ house. The first 1,200 miles without a lick of traffic worth mentioning. A couple times we were forced drive less than 75mph. But then, some of those residential streets in Northern California can get a little curvy. The last 300 miles? That god forsaken stretch of land that begins in North Hollywood and ends in San Juan Capistrano. That was a stench filled, crawling death march of cars. Bumper to bumper nearly every mile. With most people doing their best to prove that the Los Angeles freeways are home to some of the worst humanity has to offer.

1,200 miles of people smiling and waving you into the turn lane. Slowing down to let you slide in without impeding the flow of traffic. Then, without warning you’re thrust headlong into the undeniable awareness that we have entered Los Angeles. The hemroid of the West Coast.

The first sign? Our welcome back? This guy’s riding my bumper so hard I can’t even see the hood ornament on his canary yellow penile compensation mobile. His car costs more than the mortgage people are being thrown out of their homes for, but it sure convinced me of his manly awesomeness. So I guess it was worth every penny.

He’s on his phone, gesturing at me. Telling his douchebuddy all about this yokel with Washington state license plates. His gestures indicate that he would prefer I drive faster (or just die), so that he may drive faster. He feels that my inability to drive faster is undeniable proof that I’m a complete moron who wouldn’t know a gas pedal from the dent he’d like to bash into my skull.

I assume that somehow he can’t see past my compact Toyota. He’s so close to my bumper the only thing in his field of vision is my license plate, In n’ Out and dog adoption propaganda stickers. I assume there is no way he could be calling down such fire and brimstone on me if he was able to see for himself that the reason I’m driving this innocuous speed is because there are 439,857 cars directly fucking in front of me.

He swerves out, down shifts the compensation mobile and blasts past me. Wanting to make sure I’ve received his thesis, he then swerves in front, cutting me off by a few feet. Congratulations sir, you have just gained 12 feet on me in our respective destinations. He slams on his brakes. Maybe for added flare, maybe because we are all stop-start-stopping on this giant, slithering monster of concrete bones and metal scales.

I decide I should get out from behind this psycho. There’s a good two or three car lengths of open space on my right, so I check my mirrors and hit the turn signal. Bad idea. A forest green mini-van 30 feet back gets wind of my intended usage of this empty space. One more car in this lane is unacceptable. The mini-van puts pedal to floor and shoots forward to plug the hole I intended to slip into. I’ve already started my lane change when the mini-van is on us. It swerves toward me, aggressively letting me know I should perhaps find a different lane to drive my car. I jerk the wheel back into my original lane and make a mental note to remember that using turn signals in LA only gives those behind you more time to thwart your intentions.

As the minivan comes up beside us and stays parallel, lest I get any ideas about changing lanes for the rest of my life, I look over at the driver. Scowling at me like some nameless enemy crouched in the trenches of Vietnam, praying only for my misfortune, is a Hollywood-skinny soccer mom in a pink tennis visor with kids in the backseat.

Hope and love and peace die within me. I resign myself to the cesspool. Embrace the darkness, the horror, the plague that is Los Angeles. I feel my soul turn cold as the light goes out. I tell myself it’ll be alright, we just have to make it to San Diego. My left hand slips down, kills the turn signal. I ease off the gas so that my brake lights won’t draw attention. I drift back until I’m lined up with a space about 3 inches bigger than my car. Then I jerk the wheel to the right. I join the assholes.

The risks of the open road

Dear Crazy Guy in room 127,

We checked in to the Day's Inn off Exit 278 In Lost Hills California along the grape vine on March 4th 2011. It was just about 1am and we had been driving for two thousand hours through the pitch black nothingness of North California.

You were staying in room 127. In order to deliver our dogs, luggage and booze to our room on the second floor we had to walk past your room several times.

The first thing I saw was the glow of the TV screen. I remember thinking that it was odd for someone to watch TV with the blinds completely drawn wide open. At 1:09am. Perhaps the person had fallen asleep and forgotten to pull the curtains. Everyone always pulls the curtains when they are in a hotel room which faces the parking lot. I usually pull the curtains before I even set my stuff down.

No one wants pill popping truck drivers and migrant workers looking in on them while they sleep, right? Except you.

For unexplained reasons that still burn in my mind, you had chosen to leave your curtains open. There you lay, propped up on your elbows looking right at me, presumably naked. You were covered barely to the waist by a sheet. Your pasty, pale skin bathed in the blue flicker of infomercials you were not really paying any attention to. No, your focus was riveted on my face, soaking up every ounce of awkward disbelief I could offer.

At first, I felt like the violator, the pervert, the voyeur. But then I saw the satisfaction twinkle in your eye as you tried to act caught off guard, maybe even offended. I thought perhaps after I had dropped the suitcases and grocery bags in our room and returned down the only available staircase that I would find your curtains closed. Alas, such was not the case. It turned out I would be forced to walk by your little theatre of weirdness at least 5 more times that night. Each time I hoped, prayed that you would have shut the curtains, or shut off your TV, turning your window into a forgiving void of darkness, thereby saving me from the inevitable knee jerk reaction of glancing over at the room 127 train wreck.

Each time I was confronted by the same sparse, dark chest hair. Those thick bottle cap glasses blinking impossibly bulging eyes at me. Your droopy man boob nipples. The look on your face was enigmatic. Each time you reached down for the sheet as if to cover yourself up in a moment of modesty. Each time you fumbled with the sheet, but ultimately left it in the same spot, perhaps a bit lower.

Who are you, room 127? What's your name? Is this ritual common for you? Do you travel the grapevine, renting cheap motel rooms in high traffic areas? Subjecting unsuspecting lat night lodgers to the sight of your partially naked figure? Does it arouse you, or does this play to some ancient childhood wound of humiliation?

Do you imagine yourself as the victim and me as the tormentor? Do you curse my name, or think of me fondly, appreciating my sacrifice of mental tranquility for your own personal gratification? I hope you do. I hope that at least one of us thoroughly enjoyed our little encounter. It sure as hell wasn't me.

Also, a few of our first road pictures.

Mt. Shasta. A really high mountain in Weed California.

Black Butt Coffee Roasters in Weed California.
Road Trip dogs.

Random rambling: The end of a trauma, the beginning of a journey.

It's 1:52 am. I suppose you could call it Wednesday morning, but really it's Thursday night.

Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, cheaptickets, and a few more obscure sites have all refused to sell me plane tickets for the hundredth time tonight. I decide to let it go for now. My brain refuses to embrace the sweet land of counterpane. Outside the snow or rain or slush is drip dropping on the frozen yard.

Some kind of woodland animal snaps twigs as it passes by in the dark. I think of big foot. Through the stucco, insulation, floorboards and carpet comes a low rumble. Bubba and The Beast in their crate, joined in a chorus of snores that could make a drunken lumberjack sound like the wings of a humming bird. To me, it's the sound of waves on the beach, the wind in the trees, the ambient rhythmic tone that slowly rumbles "all is well."

My parents are finally back in the US. Thanks to a few hardworking people. No thanks to many others. The real story is always more dramatic than  the official story. For now we bide our time and decide what to say and to whom. I feel like burning something down. But I'm also very tired.  The older you get, the less point you see in making a point.

For now, I try and peel my mind off the maddening, unavoidable injustice and incompetence which thrives in this world. I allow myself a frivolous daydream. For just a second or two I'm standing with a gas powered Armalite AR50 semi automatic, surrounded by endless oceans of customer service call banks. Rows upon rows of operators chuckle at youtube, paint finger nails, gossip together. While helpless victims sit on hold and watch the minute counter hit - 14:06 - 28:53 - 1:36:58. Praying that some day someone anyone might pick up the line and fix their computer, confirm their purchase, refund their money, find their lost family members.

Before I chamber a round and draw a bead I remind myself that we are all part of this horrific and beautiful humanity. Take a breath. Forgive the crushing incompetence. Remember that their only crime is not giving a shit. I held a world record in that event for the first two years of my collegiate career.

I let the vision go. It's uncomfortably enjoyable and at the same time packed with the gritty, unpleasant reality of my own dark nuggety filling. Like a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich that got just a little bit of sand on it.

My mind wanders when i haven't slept a full night in days or weeks. I should try and sleep again. I'm full of much happier thoughts when I'm rested. Hopefully tomorrow Korea Airlines will feel like completing a transaction and actually selling me some tickets so that my parents won't miss their vacation.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Now that it's 2:45am I suppose it's officially the day on which The Wife and I will begin our long awaited journey. After packing dogs and provisions, we'll start the first leg of our trip

Leg 1: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011: Washington to Oregon.

We plan to  have dinner with some pregnant cousins, buy a sawed off shotgun (on sale in the interest of diaperfunds) spend the night in Portland and then start early on Thursday morning. Hit Interstate 5 hard and fast and long till it doesn't know which way is up and ride till the wheels come off.

If by some insane stroke of providence, our recent run of misfortune has ended and we find that all goes according to plan, we should be in Hollyweird by Saturday.

I guess this means Triton Cove is officially a travel blog.
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