"I'll be with you in just a moment, ma'am." Ma'am?

I had just returned from the liquor store on the corner to get hand rolling tobacco for the twelve hour road trip to Albuquerque. Second to last item on the list. I was holding an icepack to my elbow, dripping blood.

I decided to just ride my skateboard to the store real quick like before ocelot showed up, and took a huge chunk out of the sidewalk with my elbow, and strangely my shin. Fuck. Not a good start to the weekend. Last thing I needed is a case of swell-bo to carry with me. That damn left elbow is going to be nothing but a scar someday, sooner than later. Haven't bit it like that in ages though.

"I was called a ma'am!" First thing ocelotbob says to me as I open the door, obviously amused. He was talking about visiting his local AAA office for maps and whatnot. "She said, 'I'll be with you in just a moment, ma'am' and I said, 'at the moment, I'm a male'"


I laugh, packing things away into the Plymouth.

Odd beginnings.

Stuff the car, then off to Trader Joe's for their usually fine selection of well priced liquors. A stout, stiff little bottle of British Navy Pusser's Rum for crowjane, a heavy square bottle of vodka for me. Triplesec for bob.

Hellish traffic most of the way to Interstate 15, a late start. Fuck fuck fuck. Smile. Clench teeth. Relax. Smile.

Yeah, dumb that. Even thinking of leaving Los Angeles. Towards Las Vegas. On a weekend. Uncountable trucks, RVs, trailers towing watercraft or dirt bikes and cars packed to the windows with kids, pillows and jackets swarm around us like a cloud of angry bees.

The 15 is the 15. Auspiciously mountainous beginnings in the El Cajon pass, only to ground out in Victorville and on into the straight flat scorched nothingness of the Mojave Desert.

Do not misunderstand me, I love and actively understand the desert, particularly the Mojave. I love it. I love the solitude, the scorching dry heat, the naked horizons, and the stars like powdered sugar on velvet. I love the creosote bush, bottlebrush cactus, yucca, barrel cactus, and Joshua tree. I love the rattlers, scorpions, and Solipsid vinagaroons and sun-spiders. The 15 is not the Mojave, it is a nearly endless procession of truck stops, gas stations and the fastest growing suburban blight in the known world. The Mojave lays behind all this filth, this plaque that would not even cling to its harsh existence without its precious artery of asphalt. The Mojave secretes itself in pockets behind heat blasted quorums of rock, sand, and creosote bush, at the end of a ribbed ribbon of sand winding through millennia of alluvial sediment, tectonic upheaval. The Mojave is a quiet buzz, a stasis, and a tension, an eternal waiting on geologic timescales. Waiting for water, for seasons, for a favorable wind. For the prey and preying. Waiting.

Needles gives way to the I-40, which dances a slow tango with Historic Route 66. Arizona is a blur of rest stops, truck stops, piss stops, smoke stops. Flagstaff brightens over the darkened edge of the world rolling towards us, unfolding into constellations of sodium-gas glare. Climbs into forests, a pause to conjure with unfamiliar stars. My star map is no help, oddly. It only shows high-magnitude stars whose names I don't recognize, save for Aldebaran and Altair, which are hidden behind trees. An astronomer I am not, save perhaps in longing. I doubt I could find Pleiades here and now in the pin and needle stipple-scatter of the creamery butter-smooth Milky Way. I learn later it is still below the horizon, my map calibrated for a distant latitude and longitude. I use a compass to find north, and find it nearly opposite of where I thought it would be.

The eastern border of Arizona passes meekly. Fatigue crumbles around us like indigo gauze, muffling thoughts, perceptions and reactions, road-weary to the point of goofiness and hallucinations. A road repair project uses this knowledge to actively fuck with us by removing the painted stripes and reflectors for ten miles. It is like driving into a blackened, starless sky. Velocity and vector almost become immeasurable with the lack of reference, an empty universe. Spooked, we tread cautiously.

Bleary-eyed at a Love's in Gallup, I browse the ingredient tables of various behind the counter philters. Truckers Love It. Double Stacks. Black Beauty. Magnum .357, Buzz Bombs, Stackers, Mini Naturals. A candy shop of alertness, mania, justification and eventual delusion. Mountain Dew and company gave up on me two hundred miles ago, waving a shredded white flag and running a screaming defeat, tails tucked quivering. 'I want something with real ephedrine in it.' 'You know ephedrine is bad for you, right?' Blink. I haven't used any in nearly half a decade. 'I know.' The young clerks are helpful, if not amused. Long ago I used to chew 25 milligram MiniThin tablets like cherry Pez, ridiculously disdaining true CNS stimulants that would arguably do more for less. I inspect every bottle. I'm offered a garishly colored plastic cylinder like a toy pepper-spray unit covered in prismatic foil bearing exclamations, promises and warnings. A spray device promising to deliver the equivalent of 7.5 milligrams of ephedrine in the form of liquid ephedra extracts, along with an encyclopedia of other herbal anti-fatigue tonics. I laugh, fingering the incongruous novelty, imagining some heavy-lidded trucker at the wheel of a doubled forty-footer loaded to the rafters with something hazardous or volatile, squirting this odd brew under his tongue feverishly. I select a bottle of tablets, which contains the least amount of superfluous ingredients, though this still has Kola nut extract for caffeine. Goddamned FDA.

How you doing?

I'm alright, you need to keep talking to me, though. SO we need to find something to talk about to keep me going.

You feel the ephedra?

Yeah, I feel the ephedra, I don't know if I like it much.

So what should we talk about?

I dunno, throw a topic at me, a conversation.

Sure. I'm writing right now, about the trip so far. Hey. Is that the continental divide? I thought that was in Texas?

No I think that's it. See, there's the marker. Seven thousand, one hundred and twenty five feet. I need to find a rest stop.

Please do.

New Mexico stretches out like a wrinkled sheet of dun-colored canvas under a brightening sky. The sheer blackness gives way to an eastern smoky wash of delicate gray-blue, limning the first visible traces of mesa and butte. Glimmer is replaced by an orange-pink incandescence. We pull off the interstate, and I point ocelot to a spot over a bridge just off the highway where I could watch the sunrise while we rested. We stand and stamp out accumulated miles, making small talk in the pleasant dawn coolness. I point out the true dawn, moments away, and the fire of the sun slivers over the end of the world exactly on cue. Bob exclaims in a stunned amazement. He explains he has never seen a sunrise before now, and I exlaim my disbelief. We simply couldn't ask for a better example of one. Being a dedicated insomniac I've seen countless, but this one easily ranks in my top ten, with it's grandeur and vastness. The desert suddenly has true color, sage, straw, slate and carbon, long shadows perceptibly shrinking with a surreal swiftness.

Well into the morning, we crest over the final rise into the valley where Albuquerque lays. Though I had no expectations it feels anticlimactic, but gentle. In an unnervingly unsudden way we find ourselves in a small city, as though we had been in it all along. Somewhere there was a nebulous transition, but it didn't come on in a crescendo of fragments, nor did it engulf us like a crashing wave of concrete and steel. Subtly, softly, it was just unassumingly there.

We find crowjane's place easily, and I call her with my cell to make sure she's awake. Three words and she is on her apartment porch waving. We stumble into her wonderfully comfortable home, so lived in and right-seeming. Bob grabs his sleeping bag and sprawls on the floor, but jane and I are already falling into an easy, tangential banter. Very enjoyable, comfortable and especially so when prefaced by online conversations to build upon and refine. Bob tosses and turns while our conversation grows energetic. After a time, ocelotbob decides sleep is futile, and crowjane recommends we go for breakfast at the local diner, named 'Route 66 - Albuquerque', just a minutes walk down the road right on old Route 66. The diner is a classic, and not just one of those reconstituted MRE tasting ones. I expect to find a brood of pomade-slicked greasers staking out a booth and shooting nickels into the jukebox, soft-shoeing across the checkered tile like rutting tomcats. Instead we find local oldsters drinking coffee and reading papers, and the hip young staff itching to get out to a proper bar, coffeehouse, or neo-pagan gathering of their choice.

A smoking section! An honest to god smoking section! Toto, I don't think we're in California anymore. I order coffee, and a glass of milk. Crowjane and ocelotbob choose the 'Pile Up', an aptly named accidental mess of potato, egg, cheese, green chili sauce. We talk and talk, like the geeks we are, easily bridging the gulf of the unknown and the new with the commonality of thought and interest, jumping topics like blacktop hopscotch. Gorgeous. Talk turns to computing, an issue unresolved. Jane pulls a laptop out of her bag, bob shows her the missing settings box in XP. I fiddle with my palm pilot while poking fun at jane for bringing her laptop to breakfast, but also vocally wishing that I had brought my own.

Back at janes, we loaf and talk, whiling away the morning. I break out the vodka, chain smoking, becoming energized by the good company and conversation despite the severe lack of sleep. Crowjane samples her rum. Things move oddly, slowly, rules of physics bending gently. Things have certainly been surreal from the go, but not overwhelming. Ocelot heads for the shower. My friend Lisa calls, saying she's called in sick to work, and wants to come over and say hello. I haven't seen her in almost a year. She moved out here to Albuquerque last September. We tell her to cruise over. I'm supposed to be done showering before she shows up, but crowjane and I are still talking when she does. A big hug, a warm hello, and a few words or so and I leave her with strangers to hit the shower so we can leave.

I guess at some point I should actually discuss the nodermeet, and that point will be now. Ocelotbob, crowjane, and I arrived late, sadly, but ocelot and I were too cracked out from 16+ hours on the road to move with any sort of vigor. Haze and his wife Katie are excellent hosts, and their children robust examples of the joyful delirium of early childhood. MacArthur Parker is funnier than a manic circus clown in a blender, sharp like a Gillette, yet still reassuringly human with his foibles. Starrynight fled for some wedding when we arrived. A wedding? Hi. Hello? There's noders to jive with, food to eat, and beer to drink! We later called him and 7ghent just in time to giddily harass them with non-sequitors and to voice our objections sight unseen. Engelbot and I swapped scary-silly mad science stories. Everyone told jokes, made lethal puns, and waxed elegant to serious as the topics and tangents phased to and fro with easy grace. Haze sat and smiled a lot, thoughtful, obviously enjoying the odd company, and speaking up only when most succinct, choosing his words with an uncanny precision. He and Katie plied us all with excellent food, of which I was only able to nibble at. I was so tired, that if I ate any decent amount I would immediately fall asleep. Luckily others tucked in with more appetite than I.

A turning point came as we discussed politics and the perils of activism, upon which MacArthur Parker said "We should fill the White House with bees!", which sent everyone giggling like Boones-drunken schoolgirls. A few conversations later, and Englebot was telling us about, if I recall correctly, 'The Los Alamos Black Hole'. Some ex-Los Alamos lab employee who has been buying and collecting bizarre surplus hardware and forming a sort of junkyard museum. I commented that it sounded a lot like someone I used to know who was a technology and information kleptomaniac. To illustrate, I had said something like "A trip through his backyard was like this; we'd be walking along, and he would pick up random items and announce what they were. 'Gieger counter. VT-100 terminal keyboard. Inflatable trauma pants.'" which was found highly worthy of amusement in our drunkeness. Inflatable trauma pants. Inflatable trauma pants, filled with bees.

The day wound on into evening, the stars coming out with kindly enthusiasm, gently piercing an indigo canopy with a million-billion affirmations. We moved to their wonderful stone and tiled front patio to take in the stars and the evening cool. Talk was slow and easy, beers were sipped, cigarettes smoked.

At some point, crowjane talked about a story that reminded me of the novel I'm attempting to write. What I said about my novel reminded Haze about a Greg Bear novel he had read called 'Blood Music', which he gave to me. What I've read of 'Blood Music' does remind me of a much darker biotech, and apparently more hopeless version of what I want to write. I should save such judgments for the end, though.

The gathering wound down slowly, and we said our goodbyes. Leaving felt like saying goodbye to family, with Haze and Katie and kids waving from the porch.

Back at crowjane's, I continued drinking and smoking, and we talked and geeked into the bright morning. She gave me a short, succinct, intuitive and extremely intense Reiki session, pinpointing several surprising things, even noting that my throat was thrashed from talking and smoking. She used rare earth hard disk magnets in her hands, though her energy required no such aid. There were revelations, for sure, as well as discoveries, secrets, and knowledge shared. I'm afraid that at least one point into the early, early morning, I behaved oddly and even boorishly. Partially fuelled by sleepless delirium, partially by drink, but inexcusable nevertheless. I thank her for kindness, and incredibly open demeanor. Any of us would be so lucky to have her nearby.

Much of the journey back was a complete fog. An extended derangement of sleeplessness for the entire weekend spilling into the dry desert like so little water, soaking into the sands to return to which it came so suddenly. I remember sleeping fitfully on crowjane's hardwood living room floor. A leisurely meal at the local diner. Sneaking upstairs to whisper goodbye to crowjane.

Ocelotbob and I took random turns out of town into the sunset, and stumbled on the touristy but gorgeous Old Albuquerque town center. I bought touristy postcards to fill out in the car and send to friends, one to grundoon currently rusticating in Canada.

The drive back was taken slower, easier. A two hour nap for bob in the Meteor Crater rest area off the 40. Another at some truck repair center tucked amidst the high mountain forests of Arizona.

We detoured from Kingsman, AZ to take a segment of old Route 66, winding through the fire kissed, toppling slag-heap hills of Oatman right on through to the California border. The 15 was the 15 again, as it always is, but we traversed Antelope Valley instead of immediately diving down the El Cajon pass into the ever-expanding smog-choked madness of Southern California. Ocelotbob tried to explain it away as trying to avoid afternoon traffic, but I knew he just wanted to drive Angeles Crest over the mountains and down into the foothills of Pasadena and Glendale, where I would be dropped off, thus ending my journey. For now.

I'm left with only images and impressions, and a strange mix of disquiet and peace, as though I left something out there in the open, but brought back something wind-polished and mineral-dense.

I can only look forward to next time.
apologies for the lateness of my account; i spent a week in stokes county, nc, with no access to reality.

Rum for Breakfast! (the story of a noder gathering gone weird)

Ok, let's start with the morning, as morning is an excellent place to begin this sort of thing. I woke up around 06:30 and made myself a bowl of grits, and started waiting for slide and ocelotbob to show up, and indeed an hour later they did show up at my door, sleep deprived and bearing alcohol. So, slide and I started our day with a good stiff drink, and we began talking about hardware and adventures in living, while poor ocelotbob made a shabby attempt at sleep on the livingroom floor. After he completely botched his sleep check, we three decided to have some breakfast at the 66 Diner, up the block from my apartment.

A brief digression into the nature of this diner: This place has been there as long as anywhere else on this strip of old Route 66, and great pains have been taken to stop time inside the restaurant and fix it somewhere around the mid-1950s. Turquoise and chrome fixtures abound, an old jukebox with neon trim sits in one corner, and all the waitresses are dressed in classic 50's soda shop waitress uniforms. All in all, a very strange place, but more authentic in its oddity than most things this town offers.

Return home, discuss physics and metaphysics, contemplate whether or not monitors will float in water...Starrynight calls to see if I need a ride to the meet, which I don't. We acquire a friend of slide's, and head out to the hoohah. Sadly, I arrive as Starrynight is trying to leave for his friend's wedding. (Congrats, Chris! You can't stand me, but congrats, just the same) We manage to bullshit for a few minutes before he runs off into the night, and he admits to having made some coffee ice cream.

I must again digress; Starrynight makes really badass ice cream. I mean, damn. Coffee flavoured with bits of chocolate, and really light and fluffy. This man knows his ass from his elbow, and it shows. A pity to lose him to Japan.

But back to the meet...MacArthurParker is fantastically funny. Engelbot entertains with insight into the local geek structure...well, local to Santa Fe and the labs, at least. At some point in the hilarities of the evening, we place a call to 7Ghent, who is at the above-mentioned wedding, and get the opportunity to further abuse (er, amuse...) Starrynight. I believe the final count on that call was eight minutes. Eight minutes of us laughing hysterically, admonishing them for not being at the party, and yelling about inflatable trauma pants. Straight up, hand in the air, this party was full of bees.

Special thanks to Mrs. haze for putting up with us rowdy louts when she's got two kids of her own. Extra special thanks to Mrs. haze for good cookies.

The rest of the evening proceeded much as slide describes above, except that he neglects to mention that we stopped at Lisa's place to pet the cat and listen to Shel Silverstien poems. He didn't behave nearly as badly as he thinks; conversely, perhaps he did, and it is merely my experience with trauma patients that leads me to believe he didn't. One can never be properly certain in these situations, involving, as they tend to, much alcohol and significant sleep deprivation.

There was significant hoohah on Sunday, as we four sleep deprived freaks cackled about Martha Stewart's inflatable trauma pants and whether or not they would be filled with bees. I managed to call my mother, and it went remarkably smoothly, considering that MacArthurParker was still yelling about things filled with bees, and I couldn't stop laughing. Next was the call from myrkabah (not yet a noder but soon to be!) verifying my flight number so he could pick me up at the airport when I got to North Carolina the next day. I made some crack about trauma pants, and handed the phone to slide so he could explain them to the poor confused kid on the other end.

I seem to recall having left slide passed out next to my rabbit, and ocelotbob and MacArthurParker watching Cecil B. Demented as I wandered off to lay claim to perhaps the most sleep I'd had in about five days. (I wasn't up for all five, I got four hours of sleep on the third night; but this was seven hours!) I'm sure at least slide came up to tell me they were off, but I sleep like the dead when I do go down.

You guys are full of bees. We should do this again!

Things that are full of bees:

Things that should be filled with bees:
  • The White House
  • George W. Bush
  • MacArthurParker's mother
  • Airport security

Hahahaha . . . CrowJane, you think you're late? I've got things I haven't even gotten around to procrastinating yet!

So I load up good ol' E2 for the first time in a cubic millennium shortly after I move to Santa Fe, and I look for stuff about my new home in New Mexico, and lo and behold, there's a noder meet coming up.

I make the haul down to the Duke City for the second time that weekend (I ended up making four such trips in three weeks--I-25 is my friend, yes it is) and after a short stop at the University of New Mexico Bookstore, headed to haze's place.

The gathering was wonderful--good food and lots of brand new interesting people, with whom we discussed the Great Issues of the Day . . . or at least, inflatable trauma pants, puns, and bees.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early to meet with some people in Santa Fe about a theatre production for which I ended up being a crew member (and which is currently depriving me of much-needed sleep). Indeed, it'll be a long time before all the fallout from this day settles out--which is good. yay!

If I ever hold a noder meet (which I hope to later this year), it will be called This Noder Meet Should be Filled with Bees. I will also make some remarkable brownies, perhaps even more remarkable than one might think as they contain no narcotics whatsoever. Odd, that.

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