North Korea WikiLeaks Ricky Gervais Egypt It’s been a while! Certainly beyond time to start honoring stray New Years resolutions. Did you know that “Restore Lifting Fog to its former glory” has been featured on my list (of course there’s a list) a record three consecutive times?
Just over four months ago I drove an orange handbag on wheels 4000+ miles from Southern New Jersey to Los Angeles, CA. After touching down, I began to recount my adventures: the urban, the automotive, the follicular…then I stopped, as is Lifting Fog’s wont. (What, you’ve got a problem or someth-) Left unexplored in that blogging vacation? A vast array of stories as big as the American territory and/or spirit (whichever is bigger, Pulitzer committee) that, whether you want to read them or not, are about to be revived. For me, for you, for all of us, let’s tesseract back to October and do America ONE MORE TIME.
Like a cake-eater, I spent my first non-friend-aided night of the trip in a hotel. Or a Best Western to be precise, but still — personal shower, complimentary breakfast, and a wall safe. Very not rock ‘n roll (in Nashville, of all places) and sort of defeating the point of the trip, too, which in many ways was about making myself uncomfortable. Not “take this unmarked substance!” uncomfortable, but a conscious effort to try new things. If I could go six long days without watching television (…interpretations of “uncomfortableness” vary), then I could also spend my next solitary night in a place that didn’t have a parking attendant. Or hell, heat.
I was able to not get both those things when I checked into the Santa Fe International Hostel!
Two older guys were playing a game of chess in the back when I crossed the mystic portal above. “If you actually read the files,” the bald one says, “you’d notice there’s a huge fluctuation in American Airlines stock activity before Tuesday morning. What’s going on there?” The other man throws up his hands — he doesn’t know. By the time Amanda, the night manager, welcomed me at the front desk, I had already heard four minutes of 9/11 conspiracy theories and one about coyote attacks. And it turns out Amanda is ALSO quotable. “You can eat the strawberries we keep in the fridge, but not the ones that have gone bad — they’ll make you sick.” Wha- “Over there is our chore chart, which you’ll need to pick from as a sort of trade for the food. Quid pro quo. Everything is taken but toilet cleaning.”
There was other stuff I needed to know that she made damn sure I knew:
– Hot water was being worked on, likely by 9am the following morning. If I could skip a shower until then, it was “probably for the best.”
– It “shouldn’t smell that way.”
– My personal favorite? Internet access cost $2, which got you get the network security code written on a scrap of looseleaf. That code, for a network called “SFHostel”…is “SFHostel.” Too trusting, hippies!
My roommate that night was a man named Jay Dancing Bear. Without his birth certificate it’s hard to say if he had that one from the start or it’s something he picked up along the way, but he definitely felt like a Jay Dancing Bear. We talked about music (he had been busking a little in downtown Santa Fe earlier), art for art’s sake, the burdens of luggage. He’d been a university intellectual for a while (a history guy if I remember) then slowly found himself turning to guitar-playing and poetry and funky hats. He was a man of the road, and offered me the kind of honest-to-god MEN OF THE ROAD exchange I’d never had at Starbucks (even the ratty one in Lubbock) and a major bucket list strikethrough. However up its own ass our conversation was — and Lord knows I can get pretty far up there — you don’t do America and not commune with her most devoted children. RULE NUMBER ONE, WANDERING SPIRITS.
I had a similar encounter the following leg when I stayed at the Grand Canyon International Hostel in Flagstaff, AZ, and got to know a guy named David Axmaker. Besides the fact that I want to marry David when this country gets its shit together and take his last name, Axmaker, his traveling stories were great. Like how he made his way from Portland all the way to Flagstaff entirely through hitchhiking, and something like 25 separate rides. Or the night he spent with a homeless guy in some abandoned warehouse, clutching a gun (WHY NOT AN AX) for safety? He also knew a ton about movies, which for a six foot four dreadlocked white guy about to go WWOOFing seemed a little incongruous but definitely encouraging. David Axmaker did not drink the Inception Kool-Aid, I can tell you that!
Later that night David and I were in our room trying to sleep when someone else came in and turned on the sink. I casually freaked out. “Excuse me, what the hell are you doing?” “Umm, brushing my teeth,” he answered. A SMART-ass. “Yeah, but don’t you have a sink in your room?” “…This is my room, dude.” Oh. Four beds…four bunkmates. And you realize that as much as the hostel life is about cross-cultural exchange and conversations digging at those deep, important life questions, it’s just as much about finding a cheap place to crash and maybe a free pre-wrapped muffin in the morning, if you’re lucky. Different interpretations! And that’s what’s so GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL about the whole thing.
Unless, you know, this. Dodged a bullet, Mom!