July 2016 Archives

travels with gnarley

My last night in the Puget Sound area, Fredo and I stayed at a hotel near Metamuville. Friends took me out to dinner and popped a bottle of Dom Perignon, toasting my new future.

This would be my last moment of happiness until, well, I'll let you know.

I returned to the hotel and walked Fredo to the grassy area. While he did his dirty sinful business, I reflected on my soon-to-be-murdered-in-cold-blood happiness. I felt a strange sensation on my foot. It was warm. Now it was wet, too. Yes, in the inky darkness, Fredo had peed on my foot.

"Jesus Christ, you moron," I laughed, not really realizing the gravity of what had just happened. Everything I owned was in a truck somewhere. I had two pairs of socks for my cross-country trip and exactly one pair of urine-logged shoes. In the morning, the room reeked of pee. He'd gotten me good. I needed a replacement fast, so I drove to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest, ugliest pair of shoes I've ever seen. But of course, I'd had to wear pee-soaked shoes to the store, so it was a pee-marinated sock and foot that I shoved into the new shoe. I would smell pee the whole way to Spokane, where I immediately bought new shoes and socks and carefully kept them from cross-contamination.

Several days later, Dirt Glazowski showed me his guest room. There was a mattress on the floor for Fredo and a slightly larger one on the floor for me.

"Surely you jest," I said, smelling pee in my beard in advance. I do not sleep with dogs, let alone this dog.

"Or there's a hotel 15 miles away," Dirt replied.

Thus did Fredo and I sleep on the same floor. In the black of night, I smelled something unpleasant. His breath smelled very much like weaponized deer feces—humidified, aerated, and directed at my nostrils. I fumbled for my phone. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the dumbest dog alive.



"Are you excited to be in Pittsburgh?" asks one well-meaning person after another.

I usually just say yes, but the answer is really "I never leave my house." It's been a nonstop procession of appointments with contractors and repair dudes, some of whom even deign to show up as promised.

Why so many, you ask? Because this house is a mess. Each time I reach for a light switch or spigot or closet door for the first time, I cringe like a beaten dog. As often as not, something horrible results. I knew I'd bought a fixer-upper, but I'd underestimated the comprehensiveness of my new hobby.

Example: The previous owner took her washer and dryer with her. Okay, fine. I bought new ones. Home Depot could not connect either, due to a combination of electrical problems, plumbing problems, and gas line problems. Oh, is that all? Now imagine that of the three repair guys, only one showed. Now imagine that the new washing machine, once connected, needed to be replaced. Now imagine that it took two weeks for delivery each time. Now imagine that literally every facet of my life is a similarly cascading series of fuckups not of my own making.

Now imagine if I'm excited.

the slog and minnesota

The drive was 2600 miles in total, and I did 960 of that in a single day. Spokane to Bismarck. Three time zones. Don't applaud; just throw flowers.

It was relief when I arrived in Minnesota, and soon I was reunited with Dirt Glazowski, smoking his cigars and eating the first good tomatoes and corn that I've had in over 20 years. I'd forgotten that tomatoes were supposed to be red. I'd grown accustomed to flicking flavorless pink and white turds off my hamburger.

Autistic child Ava is now 11 and far better able to express herself. We all long for the days where all she could say was "blueberries" and "Nemo." She pitched a screaming, kicking, biting fit about my arrival, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately. Each of those demands incorporated screaming and violence and destruction. The fit must have lasted four hours. So yeah. I'm getting a hotel next time—not out of capitulation or thoughtfulness but out of an intense desire not to be stabbed in my sleep.

Next up: Pittsburgh


Custer Station's sinewy change wasn't the only Montana highlight:

  • Honorable mention: a billboard for the Testicle Festival ("the featured activity is the consumption of animal testicles, usually battered and fried")
  • Honorable mention: a herd of unsupervised cows walking across the freeway overpass above me
  • Bronze: A crop duster flying so close to the freeway, I waved from my car and he waved back.
  • Silver: sinew
  • Gold: the road side rest station where my discomfort overcame my snobbery. I sat on the airline-style toilet. A courtesy flush was in order, so flush I did. The resulting violent torrents of icy water penetrated every possible location, and even a few I'd have thought impossible. A geyser shot through my legs and splatted the stall door. The sensation was a unique waxing/enema/racking hybrid.
Men, learn from my mistake. Just crap your pants.

no services

If Eastern Montana ever decides to break off and form a state of its own, here's my name suggestion: "No Services." That's what every lonely sign already reads. It will save money.

Driving a Jeep through bumfuck raised the very real prospect of running out of gas. Its range is only 250 miles, and the gas stations there are small moons apart. At one point, I shot past a gas station with a third of a tank left, and my stomach gnawed at me. I grudgingly doubled back 10 miles and topped off my tank. That's what I met Mrs. Custer.

Welcome to Custer Station, The Gas Station Google Maps Forgot, in remotest Custer, MT. There, I witnessed the following. I was inside buying water and the owner was yakking on the phone. She was one-handing everyone's transactions with a skill suggesting she one-handed them as often as not. When it came my turn, someone behind us said "The cat puked." Without missing a beat and continuing to talk on the phone, the owner one-handed a paper towel, wiped up what looked like foamy, partially digested rat entrails, disposed of it, walked back to the counter, and used the same hand to take my $20 bill and hand me a fistful of foamy change.

"Keep the change."

goodbyes and hellos

I spent much of my last month in Washington saying goodbyes. There were a few people in there, sure, but mostly it was restaurants. I think I'll miss you most of all, Paseo.

I didn't really get sentimental until, on my way east, I stayed in Spokane for two days. Odd, that. I lived there only two years, half a lifetime ago, but they were two good years. It's where my life peaked, I now know, and it's where my life's second act both began and ended. I got weepy in a way Seattle simply could not inspire. I will forever miss the only place in the Northwest that ever truly felt like home.

Tonight I went to a free concert in a Pittsburgh park. I was invited to a tailgate, where we munched on brats while the Ohio Players sang their two hits and about 12 other songs no one present knew. I met a woman with a ponytail, sadly bleached blond, a crime against nature. I enjoyed chatting with her anyway. There was an unfamiliar ease to it. She told me all about her fears and hopes, and as often as not I was thinking "This happened to me maybe ten times in 22 years in Seattle, and it happened to me the very first time I poked my head out of my house here."

This isn't the reason for the move, but it's definitely symptomatic of it.

• • •

During that conversation, my phone buzzed. I glanced down. The text was from my friend Risa, 10 feet away.

"Ponytail," it said.

I showed it to Allie.

"She already knows all there is to know about you."


I am in Metamuville no more. Two weeks ago, I pulled up stakes and moved to Pittsburgh.

"I want to be near my loved ones," I explained to Pittsburgh friends Steph and Andy.

"Awww!" she cooed.

Andy leaned in and spoke softly. "He means the Steelers, honey."

"UGGGH!" she didn't coo.

The 2300 mile drive seems a lot longer in a Jeep, made to seem even longer by two weeks in hotels with Fredo. I have much to say about it, but I won't have reliable Internet until Monday. On the upside, the coffee shop near my new house puts Nutella on their English muffins, so I am incentivized to post. You people deserve it.

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