after yesterday

It is difficult to begin.

Not being directly affected by the explosions, I found myself today shaken but not fractured, and overcome with a heightened sense of consideration.

Despite an inner voice imploring me to avoid crowded areas and public transit, I went to work like I would on any other Tuesday. I rode the train through a dark and lifeless Copley Station, still closed after yesterday’s events. The train seemed to slow as we passed, perhaps out of respect. With the platform empty and unlit, the windows became mirrors and we passengers saw only ourselves. For one reason or another it was discomforting and I wasn’t the only one to direct my eyes upward, as if we could see through the top of the train and picture the devastation above as we glided safely underneath it all. The ride felt quieter than ever before, but eerily similar to every other day.

I feigned smiles at the soldiers posted outside my final destination, both thankful and weary of their presence. I walked through the park, past the yellow tape and news vans, past the army tents and lines of police vehicles parked on the grass. I floated about my day noticing small occurrences, which on any other day may have seemed ordinary, even mundane – a man crying in the park, a woman shouting scripture from atop a staircase to an audience of no one. I listened as I shuffled by, disagreeing with her words but empathizing with her conviction.

I have watched the videos and read the stories and flipped through the pictures a thousand times. The crumpled faces of familiar shops and store fronts. The bent metal and broken glass. The litter. The sidewalks I recently frequented, now stained with violence. I wonder if I will ever see them in the same light or walk them again. I rarely use the word surreal to describe my experience, but I have never before been given such an awful occasion.

I want to speak about everything. I feel compelled to compose my thoughts, but I refuse to make assumptions, point blame, or comment on race, creed, or politics. I want to express compassion to those who have lost and are currently suffering, and gratitude to those who continue to give. It is so very easy to feel your faith in humanity slip in these moments. I beg you, please do not let it go. Take pause and notice the sheer number of people who have answered this crisis with kindness. After yesterday, there are heroes on the streets of Boston and their spirit is astounding.

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My Generation

The more I read about Generation Y, or as some call us, the Millennial Generation, the more I discover that we are regularly being defined by what we aren’t. We are not business savvy. We do not and have never struggled. We cannot advocate for ourselves unless there is an app for advocating. We are not organized, professional, or punctual. We certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about anything outside ourselves.  Essentially, we are nothing like the generations before us. We can’t cook. We can’t dress appropriately. We can’t buy anything without a co-signer unless it is the latest fashion or I-doodad. We can’t manage a house let alone a business. We can’t initiate social change. We can’t invest and we certainly can’t save. We are a generation defined by inability and exclusion. As a member of this generation I’d like to take a moment to define myself by explaining what I’m not.

I do not depend on my family or friends for financial support. I do not wear my pants below my waist. I have never hooted, hollered or whistled at a woman from a vehicle. I am not lazy. I do not wear T-shirts with cartoon characters on them. I do not care about the latest fashion trends and I certainly do not define friendship through the use of a button. I can not fix your computer. I am not unemployed and I haven’t been since I was fourteen years old. I don’t wear my baseball cap backwards nor do I leave the sticker on the flat bill. I do not break the law, nor have I ever received so much as a speeding ticket. I don’t text and drive because I am not that coordinated and because it is dangerous. I never bypass a person in need and I never post my needs online looking for sympathy. I have never sent my food back in a restaurant. I have never waited in line for a sale or the release of a new product. I do not expect the world to hand me a career or a comfortable life. I am not a racist or a bigot, and I do not hold any prejudices against any group of people. I am not a liar or a coward. I am not a scapegoat for the failings of previous generations. I am not disillusioned about the adversity my generation will face in the years to come. I am not misinformed or under-educated. I am not a product of any other time period and I am incapable of being such.

Worst case scenario insomniac

Eerie are the tendencies of a sleepless mind. I cannot focus beyond the length of my eyelashes but somehow I understand the placement of everything in my apartment. Every shadow tells a story about what I did earlier today. I seem regretfully decisive about my inability to sleep. Like, yeah, not going to happen tonight, so why bother. I roll over for the umpteenth time. Different shadows and more stories. Today was boring and routine. The predictability of today makes me crave chaos. I so often imagine tragedy while I lie pretending to sleep. I have imagined home invaders, meteors and earthquakes; flash floods, tornadoes and zombies; lightning strikes, volcano eruptions and structure fires. Played them all out in my mind. He would enter quietly unsure of the shadows I’ve studied every night for weeks. I would catch him off guard but never fast enough. They always get a shot off, I’m always injured but only enough to add to my heroism and my escape. I never die in these scenarios. But I’m always maimed, or forced to leave someone behind, hurt deeply so as to suffer but not perish. I jump out windows and hide in door frames, crawl into closets and turn household objects into weapons or tools. I stand in the street and stare at my possessions being destroyed along with the building. I never gasp or cry. I’m always ready somehow as if my inability to sleep has been preparing me for disaster. I’m almost expecting. Jumping before the lightning hits. Passing through a solid door frame the second the earthquake starts, already wearing my boots. This morning I woke up with a hammer in my hand. I don’t even know where I keep my toolbox.

First impressions of Boston

Like nearly all youngsters who grew up in a small rural community, I dreamed of one day living in a big city, if only for a short while.  Finally, that day has come and here I am sitting comfortably on my new apartment floor in Boston, Massachusetts. I say my new apartment floor because I haven’t yet been able to purchase a sofa. The logistics of getting a sofa up four flights of stairs in a building built during a time when people were significantly smaller, is daunting to say the least. Perhaps a bean bag would be nice. I would like to present to you now, the first impressions of Boston as seen through the eyes of a guy who grew up at the end of a dirt road in a town with less than a small handful of people.

Boston is a fantastic city on the whole and is a very easy place to assimilate into quickly. Unlike many other metropolitan areas I have visited and meandered through, Boston has a very relaxed and mellow feeling to it that is reminiscent of a much smaller town. I get the feeling that even though I am lost 85% of the time, I am not burdening anybody by being so, unlike New York City and Chicago. Boston seems welcoming to lost people. In fact, I think that most of the people who live here are lost.  This could be due to the huge influx of college students. Hardly anybody seems to actually be a native Bostonian. We are all lost and dependent on the person next to us to be only slightly less lost than we are. Just yesterday I discovered a whole new neighborhood only a short walk from my apartment. This ability to rediscover parts of my immediate surroundings on a regular basis is fascinating to me. I think that by the age of 14 I knew exactly where everything in my entire home County was located and how long it had been there. Discovering something new in your own backyard only happened when a building was demolished or a new lot developed, and this rarely happened. I can still remember the order in which our four stoplights were installed, and I still don’t understand why the fourth one is there. But in Boston I could discover something new and unique every fifteen minutes. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to visit Boston for an extended period of time, let me impart upon you some useful information I have learned in my first week.

 

1. Like anywhere else, don’t talk to someone if they are already involved in a full-fledged conversation with themselves or a sign post, and if they intently ask you if you are “keeping it real?”,  just say yes.

2. If you rent an apartment on the top floor of a walk up, choose your furniture wisely. That stand up gun-safe can stay home.

3. Never just jump on a train because it is about to depart and you are panicking. You would be surprised how long it can take you to realize what direction you are going.

4. Never reach into your pockets while riding on the subway during rush hour. You may accidentally reach into someone else’s pocket. Nine times out of ten this is an unpleasant and awkward experience.

5. Don’t tease a Bostonian about their accent. They are likely to hit you hard enough that you’ll start tahhking like them.

6. The food and drink scene in Boston is amazing. I can throw a rock from my fire escape and hit any style of cuisine, except Mexican, for that I’d have to throw a rock to Mexico.

7. If you visit Boston in the summer, prepare for a mix of heat and humidity that will cause your sweat to sweat.

8. Don’t bother driving. Public transit and your feet can get you anywhere you want to go (Buy comfy insoles). Plus, I have personally witnessed at least four accidents this week. (Anybody want to buy a Tacoma?)

9. Know that Allston looks and feels as if all control of the neighborhood was relinquished to the 21 year-olds of the world. Creative, fast-paced, friendly, diverse, and somebody didn’t pick up his room and smokes too much.

10. Come play with our apartment’s buzzer, it is awesome. I guarantee that I will call you Bosworth or Bitterman over the intercom and encourage you to pour my afternoon tea.

 

There are a thousand and one other things I could tell you about Boston, like how wonderful it is to stroll through The Commons at dusk or walk under the Green Monster during a Red Sox game, but I don’t want to sound like a tourist book. All-in-all, Katie and I are thoroughly enjoying our new lives in Boston and learning more about it every day. For all of you who are thinking about visiting us, I can comfortably say that we can show you a good time. For those of you already out here in Boston, you should either be my friend or offer me a job.

Cheers.

Matt

Home is

In finally reaching the destination our minds and hearts have been set on for months now, I can’t help but reflect on our journey and what it means to be sitting here now. I am currently twelve stories above Cambridge looking over the greater Boston area and struggling to convince myself that everything I can and cannot see below me somehow rests under the simple title of ‘home.’ I am more than three thousand miles away from anything that I have previously regarded as home. Tomorrow I will be given the key to an apartment I have never seen before with the intention of transforming that unknown place into Home. In our month long journey across the country we have been welcomed into countless homes and told to make ourselves ‘at home.’ On the occasion of staying with Katie’s family and relatives, we were told “Mi casa es su casa.” Countless family members have reminded us to come home and that they will visit once we make a home for ourselves. For a large portion of the previous few weeks, our home has been a 2004 Toyota Tacoma and we have been consistently referring to Highway-90 as home base. Never have I imagined a word with more fluid of a meaning than that of ‘home.’

Now, mere hours away from crossing the threshold into our new apartment and our new home, I would like to take a brief moment to thank everyone who has helped us along the way. To all the friends, family members, siblings, parents, loved ones, acquaintances, bumped-into strangers, fellow campers, and household pets that took us in, comforted us, sheltered us, entertained us and fed us, we would like to extend our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude. To the new found friends, co-workers and colleagues that we have met in the past few days in Boston, we would also like to extend our genuine thanks for accepting us into your great city and making us feel like we truly are at home.

Cheers.

Matt

Sincerely, The Great Lake States

Based on my experiences with the region, I have to imagine that all of the states that border the Great Lakes came together one sunny afternoon in order to draft the following letter to all passer-bys and visiting motorists.

 

Dear Tourists:

We, The Great Lake States, would like to sincerely welcome you to our juicy slice of American Dream pie. However, you, by definition, ain’t frum round here, so we feel obligated to warn you of the adversity you will face in the next thousand miles.

As you are an outsider traveling our roads, it is our god given right to tax your filthy foreign car into oblivion. First off, you will be required to pay obnoxiously small and insignificant sums of loose change to our unmanned collection machines. You will have to do so every time you exit or enter our ironically named ‘freeways’. If you don’t have exactly sixty-seven cents on you, well, you can suck it. You will face larger tolls, to be paid to our overly qualified collecting agents, every time you change lanes, stop at a red light, or think of the word ‘highway’. This is how we will fix our very pot-holed roads that you obviously screwed up. As an added bonus, we will charge you a minimum of $50 dollars a night if you park anywhere within city limits or on any type of pavement and some types of gravel.

Thank you for your patronage and your understanding. We appreciate your visiting, but would prefer that you walk here next time.

 

Sincerely,

Every state bordering The Great Lakes.

 

 

Despite all adversity, we pressed on in great anticipation of experiencing our first real city since Seattle. A million thanks to Katie’s parents for helping us with the hotel. It was amazing to sleep on a real bed again. Once we actually got to the hotel we found Chicago to be pretty enjoyable. We saw the giant shiny bean and Millennium Park. We had a delicious hot dog at a bar that was, with out a doubt, actually a front for the Russian mob. We enjoyed making fun of how painfully over dressed every single person is in the entire city.

Our last night in Chicago was great. We found an Irish pub that reminded us of our favorite place from back home and we kicked butt at their trivia night. The two following bonus questions earned us free drinks. (can you answer them?)

 

  1. Name this film:  “You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity.”
  2. What was the name of the volcano that buried the city of Pompeii in 79 AD?

 

Katie got the first one before the bartender could even finish reading it and I got the second one; a perfect team, indeed. We now sit comfortably in Pennsylvania, our last stop before Boston. Updates on the last leg of the trip will be up soon.

 

Cheers.

Matt

South Dakota to Minnesota

My last post was a tiny bit critical of Wyoming, and I feel a little bad about that because I have now seen South Dakota. I like to think of myself as a rather observant person. Whether I am or not is a completely different matter; nevertheless, let me share with you some observations I have made about certain parts of our wonderful country.  South Dakota is a state where the only things that cast shadows are the clouds and the telephone poles. Driving through South Dakota is like (as Katie aptly put) driving on a treadmill. If any of you can remember the chase scenes in any old cartoons or the opening credits of the Flintstones, where the characters pass by an endlessly recycling landscape of one house, one tree, and some shapeless blurry colors then you know what it is like to drive through South Dakota. At every slight rise in the road I found some small emotion growing inside of me. A sliver of anticipation, at first, then an ounce of hope that something on the other side of that rise would be just a weensy bit different than the last two hundred miles. But no. That ounce of hope was continually transformed into a bitter cup of disappointment. At more than one point in my drive I considered pulling off the highway because I thought we were going in circles.

What I found more disturbing about this state however, was the severe lack of a particular age group of people. I kid you not, I don’t believe I saw a single person between the ages of 16 and 35 during my three days in South Dakota. I don’t know what is going on there, but I think the government needs to look into it. There was nothing but old couples with what I am assuming were their grandchildren. An entire generation has been lost. Perhaps they flocked to a coast, or joined the military, or there is a Hunger Game’s type contest taking place. If there are any South Dakotans out there in the young adult age range, please respond to this post. We miss you.

On the other hand, some good things happened in South Dakota. We were able to shower after a week’s worth of camping and driving. The inside of the truck smells something like an old shoe soaked in a fruity sports drink. We are cleaner now and much happier. We drove about a half an hour south of Rapid City in order to visit yet another national treasure, MOUNT RUSHMORE!. I already regret those capital letters, it was okay. Mount Rushmore is one of those attractions where it always looks bigger on TV and once you get there, look at it for a while, and take a couple pictures where it looks like you are picking the presidents’ noses, you shrug to yourself and say, “now what?”.  This is exactly what we did. Then we read some plaques and watched an informational video that essentially read the plaques back to us. We did learn some interesting things. For instance, did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same Fourth of July? True patriots indeed.

Once we exhausted South Dakota of its attractions, (visited Rushmore) we continued on toward Minnesota. Minnesota was a lovely change of pace, and so far my favorite state line crossing. I swear that the fluffy white clouds manifested directly above the Minnesota state line. As we drove on the grass became greener and the sky became bluer. Everything in Minnesota vibrated with color and came to life. The whole state looked like a Midwest postcard and it seemed too good to be true. Then I realized, whenever you think something is too good to be true, it probably is. The second I realized this, Minnesota developed an indescribably eerie aura. It was beautiful and innocent, but that was after 600 miles of dark and dreary driving. Minnesota is like the innocent looking child standing at the end of a dark hallway. No matter how cute the kid looks, the context makes the cute kid look creepy and menacing. I’m sorry, Minnesota but Wyoming and South Dakota have surrounded you in a creepy hallway and now I don’t trust you. This lack of trust was complicated by the fact that we had to camp on a grassy patch with cornfields on three sides of us and the freeway on the fourth. Everyone knows that you don’t sleep near cornfields. Also, our only camping neighbor was an elderly woman with three too many dead teeth and a birth mark that made her look like Scar from the Lion King. She didn’t say anything no matter how pleasant we were, but always wore a smile plastered to her sagging face. Okay, listen up smile enthusiasts, if you hold an unflinching smile for more than ten seconds and you don’t talk, it is all sorts of discomforting to all onlookers. I won’t lie, I slept with my pocket knife in my hand in Minnesota and I didn’t even bother doing that when in Yellowstone when I knew a badger was sleeping five feet from my head.

South Dakota: You were a lovely state full of kindly old people. Dear woman at Walmart who cut my hair, one side burn is a good inch longer than the other. Superstore, my butt.

Minnesota: You are a beautiful and lovely state full of very kind and giving people but I don’t trust you.

Wisconsin: Sorry we didn’t stay. Thanks for the cheese.

Readers: Thanks for making it this far. Illinois, Indiana and Ohio to be up soon. Stay tuned.

Cheers,
Matt

 

Why?oming

Wyoming is a lovely place to live if you don’t like trees, water, or people and have a wild passion for dwarfish, mildly colored shrubs. For those readers unaware of our progress to the east coast, Katie and I have been spending our most recent nights in Yellowstone National Park, the bulk of which lies in the previously described state of Wyoming. Yellowstone is a gorgeous park with a variety of attractions, all of which smell like a week old egg-salad sandwich. Unfortunately for Wyoming, this odorous national treasure is the main spectacle on the state’s limited schedule of events. I feel as if the state thrives off its only golden attribute the way a truly ugly person brags about their perfect smile.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Wyoming or the people that live there, this is simply the very opinionated musings of a person who only explored the state as experienced on a single highway. Don’t hate me Wyoming. I don’t know what it is like to be born into ownership of a 7,000 acre plot of dry grass and grayish pebbles. I only imagine this is why you are all there, but back to your perfect smile, Yellowstone.

Even though we showed up in summer without reservations, we managed to land a very nice camping spot next to Indian Creek, which is on the north end of the park. We spent our two days there hitting all the big attractions. We saw buffalo and elk, watched mud pots boil and geysers spew, and we were even lucky enough to get drenched by Old Faithful. We also had the rare opportunity to watch the Beehive Geyser erupt (apparently a less faithful occasion), and find ourselves face to face with a badger.

I don’t know what the rest of you know about badgers, but Youtube has led me to believe that they are a force not to be reckoned with. Imagine my surprise when I am crouched down building a fire, only to raise my eyes and find my self looking one in the face a mere 5 feet away. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I shrieked and ran, but I believe my response to have been comparable to the dance one does after walking face first into an occupied spider web. Once I regained my composure, I backed away slowly and advised Katie to do the same. Naturally, I went for the camera, figuring I could at least bludgeon the creature to death if it got too close for a comfortable Kodak moment. It soon became apparent that the critter had no interest in us whatsoever and instead went about its business of nuzzling the dirt with its nose. I snapped some pictures, dressed my hotdog, and ate it in slight discomfort sitting cross-legged on top of the picnic table.

This morning we woke up, badger free, and drove out of the northeastern entrance of the park and into an increasingly drab landscape. But not before scaling the “Top of the World” in my loaded to capacity, four-cylinder banging Tacoma. At one point during today’s twelve hours in the car, we were at an elevation just shy of 11,000 feet. This impresses me in two ways; One, I am impressed that the truck didn’t explode into a huge fireball of doom, and Two, I’m more impressed because when I went skydiving a few years ago it was at an elevation of 12,000 feet. We were quite literally driving above the clouds and it was amazing. Then we sank down into 400 miles of yellowish colored country that resembled a state. (If you have ever flown from one coast to the other and looked down and wondered to yourself what that big yellow square is, it’s the eastern 90% of Wyoming). This lovely drive continued on for what seemed like eternity until all of a sudden it began to get interesting again. There were some eye-catching red plateaus covered in green grass and even a few clusters of trees sipping from a gentle stream. My spirit was once again resurrected with a sparkle of hope for Wyoming just in time to cross over the state line into South Dakota. Oh….why, hello Rapid Springs, South Dakota. Mind if we stop a while?

Cheers.

Matt

Where did you go, Idaho?

This post will be short and sweet as the barista at Starbucks is wearing a look on her face that suggests she does not believe our order of two small drinks to be worth the copious amount of electricity our computers, phones, and Ipad are sucking out of their few sockets.

In the past few days we have made our way over two states lines and intend to cross another this afternoon. Please be entertained in the following order.

Western Washington:  – Farewell, you were wonderful. We will miss Seattle as it will be our last city for some time.

Eastern Washington: I managed to snap some beautiful pictures of your heinous landscape. Plant a tree or something. Also, I don’t know if those little yellow butterflies are an endangered or an invasive species but I have about 27 of them plastered to my grill. So…. you are welcome, or… I’m sorry.

Idaho: Your panhandle is beautiful, but I’ve seen the rest of the state, so I suggest that the residents of the handle pick up the state and shake it like a dirty rug. Don’t worry, the potatoes will hold on better than the flat-tired trailers that riddle the southern half. We camped on the river and truly enjoyed ourselves. We couldn’t stay long but I can definitely see myself returning to Cour d’ Alene.  I apologize for Katie’s drinking from the Memorial fountain, she was careful not to disturb any of the corpses. I haven’t yet leaned how to handle a parched and grumpy Bertha.

Montana: You continue to impress me every time I come through. I know they say everything is bigger in Texas, but I am absolutely confident that Montana, The Big Sky state, could successfully Mess with Texas, despite the advice of countless Texan bumper stickers. We dined in an enormous back-wood hole-in-the-wall type eatery last night that solidified my impression of Montana being the true ‘don’t mess with’ state. The entire establishment was occupied by about five disagreeable looking gentlemen, two of whom I’m sure could have eaten me in a single sitting. Above the door, a hand carved sign with a pistol nailed  to it read “We don’t call 911.” The food was great; the beer, better. Stay big, Montana, stay big.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Bobbie Lee for putting us up for the night and entertaining us with some wonderful stories about living in Montana and traveling through the Rockies. We also appreciate you telling us about the hot springs up the road, we are feeling quite a big more relaxed after that dip.

On to Wyoming.

Cheers.

Matt

The Evergreen State

I have an affinity for approaching my destiny

from the southeast.

Take my hand

and we will turn in the wind,

spin with the needle,

meet our fate and move headlong

into the great northwest

I wrote this little snippet of poetic prose about five years ago in a black leather journal. I was on a train bound for Belgium. On that train I had realized that my travels through Europe seemed to revolve around a strange coincidence. Whenever I was lost, confused or bored with a place, I would move on. This happened often seeing that I was decidedly and gleefully lost throughout my European travels. I never knew where to go next and I loved it. Whenever I found myself in these situations I unwaveringly discovered, often after the fact, to be traveling in a northwestern direction. It was never a conscience decision but a mere happenstance of my unplanned travels. Somehow, being in a foreign land without direction instilled in me a subconscious drive to stubbornly attach myself to a set route of travel. Something unexplainable compelled me to gravitate northwest.

The entrance to the train station in Brugges is covered in murals that stretch all the way to its vaulted ceilings. The centerpiece of the mural that graces the front wall is a compass. The needle of this compass is pointing northwest. I smiled wide upon arriving in Brugges. In that moment I felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. I reflect on this experience now because I once again find myself in the great northwest. And again I feel as if I am exactly where I am meant to be. It is a supremely satisfying sensation and I hope you all are granted the opportunity to experience it in your lives.

Katie and I are currently in the state of Washington and are roughing it in ways we previously thought impossible. We sit here tonight, our bellies full of steak, king crab, and wine, in reflection of the recently past trials and tribulations of our mobile life. Mere hours ago we were trapped on a dreadfully comfortable island outside Seattle where we wasted away sipping beer at country clubs on the beach while Sarah hand fed us blueberries. We stressed over the anxiety caused by brisk afternoon hikes, naps in Steve’s condo, and strolls through Seattle’s farmer’s market. We even had to suffer the wrath of Katie’s painfully kind and hospitable family. Even today, after our grueling two and a half hour drive, we were met with aggressively jovial and pleasant conversation while being forced into taking cool and relaxing dips in the pool. Tomorrow we face torture and torment at a beautiful lakeside beach in the most agreeable weather god has ever bothered to muster. Life is hell and I blame Washington.

Washington; the name of our first president, our 42nd state, and a lesser-known generic brand of adult diapers. No matter when or how it is used, the name represents comfort, support and honesty. Today, as I occupy Washington State, I am feeling honest and I must say that The Evergreen State lives up to its name in ways California never could. Seriously though, fellow Californians, where do we get off calling ourselves The Golden State? We all know that the “Golden” Gate Bridge is a gross rusty orange color and that our “Golden” beaches are actually brownish-grey, covered in seaweed and smell a lot like a $3.99 seafood buffet. Nobody has made a living off of gold panning since 1873. Time to update your profile, California. Let me tell you something, the Evergreen State is super ultra green and looks to stay that way forEVER. Washington, I salute you.

Cheers

-Matt