sordid family history!

er. i realized after posting this that i didn't give any sort of lead-in at all.

so, yeah. i've been meaning to write down my family history -- AS I HEARD IT, i stress, from a multitude of different relatives -- for a while now. this is by no means the complete, detailed account, but it's a beginning. there are tons of stories still left to be told, but... well, another time.

anyway. best place to start is with my maternal grandmother, because that's the story i know best. my grandmother's full german -- it's where i get my quarter from. her family was aristocracy by blood. my grandmother's father's father (my ... great great grandfather) was a penniless younger son of a destitute noble family, and he married a very, very resourceful woman, also a destitute noble. with her business instinct and his family connections, the young couple struck out in trade&industry and ended up making it big in the industrial boom. their son was my grandmother's father, who was technically merchant class considering how his parents made his money, but noble by blood. nouveau riche, old blood. his family was filthy rich at that point, so he had the assets to bag a noblewoman as his wife -- my greatgrandmother, from whom the good looks of the family come from.

i didn't say that, my mother did. and actually that's not true, because my destitute-younger-son greatgreatgrandfather was also rumored to have been a good looking lad. anyway, who knows where the family "look" comes from, but if you look back through the pictures, we all resemble each other to some degree. well, by the time you get down to me, we've been corrupted by my dad's family's big bones and gruff tanned-farmboy-sitting-on-the-tractor looks, but if you look at my mom's side of the family, everyone tends to be thin and tall and narrow-framed. the girls tend to be elegant and slender with graceful shoulders, and the men are whip-lean. shirtless, they're almost all racks of bones (though one of my more distant uncles is a notable, broadshouldered exception), for which my dad never stops teasing my mom, but put them in a suit and they look pretty damn good. and if you go up to my grandmother's generation, everyone also tends to have an aquiline nose (my maternal grandfather spoiled that for my mom) and a lean angular jaw, deepset eyes.

anyway. so, greatgrandpa and greatgrandma (both on my maternal grandmother's side) had ten (i think) kids, of which my grandmother was #3. i think a few of them died in childhood, but most survived. the ones i know semi-well are my grandmother (of course), her youngest sister, her oldest brother (though i think he was actually #2, but #1 died young), and the #4 greataunt in the family, her immediate-younger sister.

moving on. the family took a hit in the first world war, but through their industrial connections (and this is why it's better to be in industry than simply relying on inheritance and title), managed to get back on their feet admirably in the '20s. so my grandmother had a very privileged childhood at the family manor. i think i visited once when i was little -- all i remember are the hexagonal tiles on the great balcony. but my mom, who visited for months at a time in her girlhood, says it was a grouping of four manors around a central courtyard. eventually when my greatgrandmother died, her kids sold the estate and split the money up between themselves. a pity.

back on track. so my grandmother's father was very liberal, probably cuz he was the son of an aristocrat who had fallen from grace and then climbed back to the top tooth and nail. he didn't see his kids much (they were left in the care of a nanny or a governess or whatever you call it), but he always made sure they had a good education, the boys and the girls. as a result my grandmother was very well educated, etc etc, spoke a lot of foreign languages and played the piano. my mom always says that's where i get my musical talent from.

my grandmother actually majored in English in college. so when, in the 30s, the family fortune went down the drain (partly b/c of great depression, partly b/c of generally shit state germany was in, partly b/c they had to split the money amongst 10 offspring, not all of which made wise decisions), she ended up marrying an american intellectual studying in germany, and followed him back to america.

there she settled into a middle-classed life, to which she adapted admirably. i mean, not many people can grow up with private tutors, nannies and chauffeurs, and end up happy to raise two kids and pack them school lunches and teach at the local college. or university, or something. you know, i actually don't even know where they lived at first, i just know it was east coast. and they moved a few times while my mom was growing up.

anyway, they had two kids, my mom and my uncle. then when my mom was a teenager (and i'm not clear on the dates or the reasons, because no one in the family ever talks about this -- but i know it was in the 50's, and i suspect some connection to the Red Scare, seeing as how my grandfather was an intellectual who studied in EVIL germany, and had a german wife, and -- yeah.) my grandfather fell into a deep depression. from what i've heard, he seems like one of those guys who spent their whole lives writing poetry and philosophizing, and as soon as things got tough he caved in like a house of cards.

so he committed suicide, and that was that.

of course, this traumatized my mom deeply. i mean, she seems a very balanced, well-adjusted, bright, friendly woman, but if you knew her the way me and my sister do, you can still sense the scars. or well, i could after i got a little older. she has a bit of an instinctive distrust of the dependability of men, i think, and tends to doubt that the men in her life will always be there -- because her father literally jumped out the window when the going got rough. anyway, i just remember there was a period, around when i was about to leave for college and my dad was on a bunch of business trips and also thinking of going overseas on some venture capital shit, during which my mom seemed really convinced he was going to cheat on her. i remember my sister mandy enduring all these conversations disguised as "advice talks", during which my mom was really just railing against my dad and men in general, and how they only want the young and the beautiful and what they can't have, etc etc. she got over it, but that was the first (maybe only?) time i realized my grandfather's suicide probably left some serious emotional scars there.

anyway, back to the story. after my grandfather took a flying leap, my grandmother, a single woman in her early 40s, an immigrant, a post-WW2 german in america and the daughter of aristocrats at that, proceeded to work her hands to the bone to raise her two kids herself. she never remarried (and, btw, my grandmother was, like her mother, stunningly beautiful in her youth. it's where i get my good looks from. heh! though, alas, every generation seems to be a little uglier/less classy than the last. i don't remember my greatgrandmother well, but my grandmother's a real lady. it's in everything she does. it's not arrogance, either. quite the opposite. it's more this grace and dignity with which she holds herself, and also -- more importantly -- with which she treats other people. i've never seen my grandmother rude, ever. on the other hand, my mom's classy for her upbringing, always still a cut above -- but by the time you get to mandy? heh. my sister's a fucking hoyden.), never asked for help, and never gave up.

it was a tough time, y'know? but she pulled through all on her own. she's hands-down the most resourceful, intelligent and diligent woman i know. and SO talented. i mean, you think i'm multitalented? she can cook, sew, embroider, play piano, draw, paint, garden, write prose & poetry, and raise her kids right. and when push comes to shove she'll do whatever it takes to get through it.

so my mom got her selflessness from my grandmother. my mom's devastatingly intelligent. i mean, she's really, really smart. and she has charisma and people skills out the wazoo. but she never went to college because she got a job instead, and saved up money so my uncle, her younger brother, could go. then the wastrel went and blew his opportunity on girlfriends and drugs in the '60s, and ended up going to trade school. but then by some stroke of sheer luck he ended up making a living off his innate artistic nature (which he got off my grandma, i think), and became an architect, and then started up his own company (or jumped aboard a start-up and rode it for all it was worth, whatever). he married his teenage girlfriend, too, when he was a little older -- that's the stunningly sexy aunt i talk about. they got married the year i was born, i think. i can't remember.

anyway, not the point. so my mom got a job. and eventually, she met my dad, who was going to university at the time. and the way my mom tells it (my dad's mum on the subject), she despised my dad at first glance, and almost stood him up at their first date. in fact, she was lazing about moaning she didn't wanna see him until my grandma dragged her up and gave her a tonguelashing (something about keeping promises), and then she went, 30 minutes late and surly. and she made herself a promise that if my dad said ONE word about it, she'd dump him then and there. miraculously, my dad, usually hot-tempered, held his tongue that time, and the rest is history.

so that's my mom's side of the family. after my mom got married and moved to seattle where i was born, my grandmother moved back to germany to be with her siblings. so, that's where she is today.


i know a lot less about my dad's side of the family because my dad's a lot less interested in family history and stories. but i know my family's doctors and soldiers. from like, heartland america, i think. i think there might've been a few accomplished doctors somewhere back there, but most were country doctors.

both my grandparents were in the military (and before you start thinking i think all my ancestors were handsome, i'll say right now that my paternal grandmother is and was not a beautiful woman. she's squat, dumpy, loud, and coarse. my grandfather isn't ugly, but he isn't handsome either. he was passable when he was younger, but love's blind, and he wooed and won my grandmother, from which the loudness of the family thereafter stems. my god, when my dad and i get in a shouting match, the walls shake. my paternal grandmother's also the reason the ladylike-ness of the women of my mother's line stopped short at mandy, and she ended up a goddamn shrieking banshee.), and my grandfather's father was definitely a country doctor. i think his father was a soldier, but the one before that was another doctor, etc. so since it was skipping generations, i think i was supposed to be a soldier. but my dad wasn't a doctor (he's a PhD, not an MD), so i guess i had to take over.

there's a coupla cool stories in my dad's side too. i think one of my ancestors was caught in the civil war (i'm not even sure which side, but i'm inclined to guess the south because of the nature of the story -- fleeing and refugees, and whatnot). he wasn't actually a soldier, but he lived in the path of an army. so when they burned the plantation or whatever down he carried his stepmother, who'd always treated him like shit, on his back for three days on foot while he fled the soldiers. or so the legend goes.

oh, and on my mom's side, there's the story about how my grandmother's father's father, when he got married, had to borrow the sheets he slept on for his wedding night because he was too poor to afford nice sheets.

and also, the great stories of bloody jealousy in my family. they're all on my mother's side, ironically -- or maybe my dad doesn't talk about it. but this is where i get my jealous/violent streak from, obviously.


so, one of my german great-great uncles (i.e. my greatgrandparents' generation) was a notorious womanizer. supposedly he was a very dashing guy, a strapping 6'5" and coal black hair.

i think he was the spoiled youngest son of the family, and this was back when the family had money. so in the roarin' 20s he was all over the gambling scene, wine women and song and all. and his wife had to stay home with the kids, over in their wing of the manor, and she had a bit of a wild streak of her own before she got married. so one day she decided fuck this married shit -- and started having parties of her own. so my great great uncle would be out running about cheating on her with a parade of women, and meanwhile she was at home cheating on him with a parade of men. so for a while the ancestral manor was quite the bawdhouse.

then finally my great-grandfather, the head of the household, put his foot down, marched into his little brother's clubs, and said 'control your woman or i'll throw her out myself.' so my greatgreatuncle came home to control his woman, but of course, he barged in on his wife shagging another man (...or two or three, depending who you hear the story from) and flew into a jealous rage.

details get all blurry here, but he either knifed her, or else pushed her down the stairs. either way, she ended up dead, and then he hacked her body up and stuffed it in a trunk. obviously, then the trunk started to stink, and he was caught. this is actually another reason the family fortune went down the drain -- his big brother spent INORDINATE amounts of money hiring lawyers and bribing people to try to get him out. but it didn't work, and he ended up facing the firing squad anyway.

so that was my notorious, violent, womanizing great great uncle. like a fucking movie char. in fact i think there was a made-for-TV miniseries in germany about him, or something -- or that's what my mom says. but then when you have a family as huge as mine, and with stories passed back and forth across the generations, they always get so embellished they end up indistinguishable from fiction.


actually, my grandmother's big brother (this is one generation down from the notorious womanizer/murderer) ended up in a similar situation.

my greatuncle, my grandmother's eldest brother, stayed in europe after my grandmother moved to america. he went abroad -- either france or switzerland, i can't remember which -- and fell in love with a frenchwoman (this, obviously, is where i get my genetic disposition for frenchwomen from). so he had a torrid affair with her for like a year... and then she got sick of him. my mother, who's a romantic at heart and a storyteller, always says it's because she was a wild soul and my greatuncle was very dour (which he is), and she got bored. anyway, he went mad with jealousy, hurt and rage, and went out and bought a knife to kill her with.

i think they were actually married, now that i think about it. yeah, that was his first wife.

so as story has THIS one, he went and hid in the shadows at her doorstep for hours and hours, waiting for her to come home so he could kill her. but, by some stroke of luck (or probably just cuz she was out getting schtupped by her new bf), she never came home. so eventually he got miserably cold, and he left. the next morning he threw the knife into a suitcase, locked it, and never looked at it again, and ended up divorcing her. a few years later he married an opera singer.

oh. interesting appendix on this one. my mother actually keeps in touch with my first great-aunt, oddly enough. she likes my mother and i think my mother likes her, too. she lives in switzerland these days with her second husband, who owns vineyards. every christmas me, my sister and my parents would get swiss chocolates from her. when i was applying for college, she had apparently made some generous, though vague, offer to put me through one of those combined BA/MD programs in germany -- which my mother turned down, because 1) i don't speak a word of german and 2) who knows when my eccentric greataunt would lose interest in being a fairy godmother and leave me penniless?


and finally, one generation down from that, my uncle -- mentioned earlier -- had his wild days in the late '60s, when he met a stunningly beautiful young girl. they got married the year i was born (i think), and i think they were both in their early/mid 20's. they had a kid when i was 5, my cousin, and soon after that my uncle, who had always lived by the seat of his pants, somehow hit it pretty big in architecture.

see, it's kinda weird -- my mom's side of the family is marked by either total destitution or filthy rich-ness, and it's always in things that seem to hinge halfway on luck. they swoop from one end of the spectrum to the other in a single generation, and even when they work for something, it's still got elements of luck in it. like entrepreneurial...ism, which is what took the family through its renaissance after the (way way way) ancestral funds dried up. on the other hand, my dad's family is slow and steady, hard work and brains over luck and wits, and while they're strictly middle class with every generation a bit better off than the last, they won't ever be filthy rich, and they probably won't ever be totally penniless either (barring major disasters like civil wars).

anyway, digression.

point is: my uncle hit it big, either started his own company or joined a startup that boomed suddenly, vaulting him up in the saddle. so he started livin' the good life, which meant, of course, he went out and started wining and dining and womanizing. and his wife, who was a celebrated beauty of her time (i.e., had quite a few men chasing after her before she picked my uncle), started renewing old acquaintances.

i don't know when it started, but i do remember when we had a family reunion back east, my uncle and aunt were barely EVER home. and they kept being away until like 2am, and when they'd come home, they give the usual excuses of working late. so i was amazed at how hardworking my relatives were! and of course, the rest of the family hemmed and hawed when i expressed amazement, and quickly changed the subject. YEARS later, i looked back and realized it was cuz they were running off having assignations all-but-publically, and everyone knew about it, and no one said anything. god, my family is so full of skeletons in closets.

i should probably add my own little bit of sordidity to the tale. my aunt was, as mentioned several times now, STUNNINGLY beautiful. i mean, i had the first real crush of my life on her, i think.


...just to make that clear. anyway: she had long dark hair, very sleek, and high cheekbones, the arched and graceful face of a dancer. at least that's the way i remember her. she had these incredible eyes, too, hazel-brown, but when the light hit them right they'd glow a resonant amber-gold. i remember being UTTERLY smitten with her, to the point of having a bizarre dream where i was being executed, and she and some other family members were standing there bearing solemn witness. i was marched past them and i pulled away from the guard to kiss her passionately (i had also grown like a foot in my dream, so i was bending down to kiss her, my hands shackled so i couldn't put my arms around her), and i didn't care who saw. then at the moment of my death (which was amazingly painless and beautiful -- i was dying on the electric chair for some crime and all i saw was bluewhite electricity expanding across my vision until the world was FULL of it), i declared my everlasting love to her. heh. oh man, freud, eat your heart out. even i can see so many damn symbols in there.

god, digressions. point is, i was so smitten with her. but that's not even the main point. the main point is: she was cheating on my uncle who was cheating on her (and this sucked for my cousin, obviously, who was totally neglected in his parents' cheatwar), and then suddenly one day someone snapped -- again, details grow vague -- and either my uncle or my uncle's girlfriend, or the wife of one of the men my aunt was seeing, grew insanely jealous and attacked my aunt with a razor. she ended up with a scar on her face which she covered with makeup, but she, always having been beautiful, was very sensitive about her face thereafter.

so i remember, in my bumbling adolescent attempts to woo her, telling her as earnestly as i could that i thought she was beautiful without or without the scar, which you could barely see anyway, and oh by the way, she had the eyes of a tiger.

(OH GOD. the SHAME.)

i think i had vague concepts of stealing her from my uncle, who obviously didn't deserve her (even though i was unaware of their mutual infidelity at the time), and protecting her from the world. etc etc. but, as these things go, the reunion ended, i went home, my uncle and aunt divorced, and she barely ever comes around anymore. she still keeps in touch with her son, i hear, but she just comes by to pick him up and she doesn't ever go into the house. i haven't seen her since i was fourteen. i heard after she got divorced she didn't do very well, though. she was beautiful, but didn't have many talents of her own, so when that began to fade, it was pretty rough on her.

anyway. heh. so that's the latest generation in my mother's line. i guess now it's my generation, so we'll see which one of us -- me or my cousin -- turns out to be the unfaithful, violently jealous womanizer of the family. i think it'll be him, though. i'm pretty damn faithful, and i'm more focused on career, stable life, yadda. he's about to graduate college now, i think, and he's a goodlooking kid. kinda the lanky, supercool kind with a burgeoning rep as a ladykiller. parties all the time, doesn't work hard. like father like son, though these days his dad is wigging out because he's such a slacker.

hmm. okay. out of stories for now. more later, maybe.

chess and the summer of stress.

ok. finally getting around to setting this down: the saga of the SUMMER OF STRESS.

so. basic background story you need to know: i work as a resident doctor with UCSF. now, i've always been happy with the prospect of practicing for the rest of my working life, but lately i thought that might just grow a little bit repetitive - patient after patient, case after case.

thus, i decided to look for some research opportunities. a lot of MDs do research, particularly at reputable university hospitals, and really, it's kind of ideal: science that has a real-life (clinical) application.

summer rolls around, and that's when my schedule frees up a tad bit. i start looking for a lab to join as a fellow. i home in on a lab in UCSF, which does stroke research. awesome doctor, very famous, one of the leading neurosurgeons of the world. so i'm thinking, how awesome would it be to work for him? he's got clout, he's got money, he's got great research going.

so, i approach him. ask him if he would like to take me on, and he says he'll have to test me out first for a month or two. i'm thinking, well, that's one or two months i'll have to essentially work overtime to cover for the time i spend in his lab, since he's not funding me yet, but i figure i have a pretty good shot at getting in.

i say yes. i join the lab on a temporary basis, and start cranking away. and i work HARD. i'm putting in like 10 hours a day at his lab, and that's on top of my other duties. i more or less LIVED at work for two months.

about a month into it, i talk to him about joining the lab permanently. he hems and haws and says, i can't make a decision yet. so i figure, all right. i gotta work harder. so i work HARDER. and now i'm churning out the data of three people, and he needs this data, btw, for a grant proposal.

fast forward a month. now he's got all the data he needs for his grant proposal. he's still not saying anything one way or another, and i'm starting to get antsy -- because if i don't find one this summer, i'll be too busy til next summer, and i only have so many years left in residency. after that, it might get a bit tougher to find a research fellowship at a place as good as UCSF.

so i finally ask him straight-out. he's like, let's talk next week. so i give him ANOTHER week of hard work --

-- and then his ass is like, i'm too busy for an MD research fellow. i'd have to mentor you from scratch, and it wouldn't be fair to you.


what's not fair to me is keeping me on the line for 2 months, getting me to do all his crap work for free, and then telling me no at the end. oh man, i was FURIOUS. i think about it now and i'm steaming out my ears. i've worked with a LOT of famous doctors and professors, and some have been a little more -- er, brusque than others. but this takes the cake, man. i've never worked with anyone who was so utterly disrespectful of his underlings. i just hope i don't end up like him in 20 years.

so anyway. at this point, i'm in a mild panic, because it's now like mid-July and i'm starting from scratch. so i start looking into labs again, and this time i cast a wider net and look at labs down in Stanford too.

i get two possibilities: one very well-funded, youngish lab in UCSF, and another very established lab down at stanford. i weigh my options and i decide the latter lab's the one i wanna go to. better research going on, more interesting to me, more medically relevant, and the people seemed friendlier.

problem was, it's down in stanford. and money's the big problem. if it's in UCSF, i can talk to my program director, wheedle my way into some funding. if it's down in Stanford, there's all sortsa issues with funding and grants and applicable/nonapplicable yaddayadda... bottom line is, funding was VERY much in question.

so at this point, my life became a fucking chess game.

the pieces were:

1) Young PI (principle investigator, i.e. research professor) at UCSF, my backup plan.

2) Program Director, who's not at all obligated to pay for me to run off to Stanford and do research there -- however, he wrote an email in the course of the summer saying he'd be willing to offer a year's funding under the PI of the lab took over.

3) PI at Stanford, the one I wanna get in with.

4) Me.

So what I basically had to do was ascertain that that year's funding was still coming from the PD until the PI at Stanford can take over. Meanwhile, I had to avoid blowing my chances with the backup plan, and thus had to avoid showing him i was essentially looking for another lab. And at the same time, I couldn't make it look like I was going behind his back when all was said and done.

ERGO. Balancing act. Had to maintain enough interesting with #1 to avoid his backing out, while not locking in with him -- which would cause bad feelings if i then backed out. At the same time, had to remind #2 gently of the 1 year of funding WITHOUT asking him (because if I ask, it'd be much easier to say no), while making it clear to #3 that funding was the ONLY thing keeping me from going there so he didn't think I was waffling.

For about a week, it was the most delicate game of emails, phone calls and office visits I have EVER played. In the end, I visited #1 several times with made-up questions to make it seem like I was still trying to decide. Then, fortunately, he took a vacation, and I made my move! (hah)

I wanted to do it in person, because I'm pretty good in person -- but #2's busy as hell, and I figured if I interrupted something important, he'd be annoyed. And if I went away and let him contact me, he might ask about funding first, thus forcing me into a backhanded position where I'd have to admit that the professor didn't have funding -- which then gives him the opening to say "well sorry, we can't fund you either."


So, in the end, I dropped #2 an email essentially telling him I've settled on the Stanford lab, and *thanking* him for the funding. At the same time, I made it clear that without funding, I'd be unable to join that lab, thus backing him into a corner of guilt. Finally, to polish it off, I expressed my extreme gratitude at all his support, yadda, to top the guilt-cake with gratitude-icing.

Then I waited.


Oh no! Oh man! I almost LOST MY MIND when the autoresponder bounced back. I went to his old buddy, this lady who's very senior and powerful in the department, and basically pleaded my case there. With #2, I couldn't really give the full story -- or rather, couldn't play up the "if I don't get money I don't go" angle, because my angle there was "thanks for giving me the money". But with #2's buddy, I was completely hamming up the pity schtick, while simultaneously giving my best impression of bushy-tailed bright-eyed eager young doctor. The old and embittered docs love that.

So #2's friend sounded pretty positive about the whole thing, and said she'd make sure #2 got back to me soon. Annnnd then I went home, fretful but hopeful.

Not four hours later, I get an email back. Two lines.

"We will fund you for another year. Congratulations on finding a good fit."

...oh man.

Went home that night? Slept 13 hours. I hadn't even realized I was so exhausted. Slept like a BABY.

I swear, this summer has taught me so much. I think my parents have been trying to teach me this all my life, but I finally figured it out for myself:


it's so fucking disillusioning, sorta. heh. i mean, it's not about brilliance and hard work at all. or it is? but in a place like ucsf or stanford, everyone's brilliant. everyone works hard. so you get ahead by under-the-table shoo-ins and connections and that extra smile in the hallway, that extra office visit when it counts.

ah well. welcome to life, eh?

dna replication and touching the face of god.

heh -- one of those late night rants of mine. katya was the victim of this one. once in a while i just remember what it was that made me go into biology and medicine in the first place. it's not that i want to understand and take apart and know everything about the human body, really. it's not even that i want to fix all the wrongs. i mean, i know my profession is to fix wrongs, but what REALLY took me into biology in the first place, the real reason behind all this, is because i can't possibly understand everything. i can't possibly fix everything. it's so complex, so intricate, and yet so elegant and so perfect that all i can do, sometimes, is be awed by what little i do see and understand.

so, yeah, this rant is about just a FRACTION of the 31847698769 amazing things going on in your body right this moment.

Damon: actually, heh.

Damon: that's one thing about medicine?

Damon: i mean, you see so much UGLY because people come when they're sick?

Damon: but you also get SUCH an appreciation for how beautiful human bodies are.

Damon: not just -- on the superficial level, either

Damon: in how everything just FITS

Damon: it's like...dude, seriously.

Damon: there is NOTHING like the human body and its mechanisms

Damon: i could name so many things that are just mindblowing.

Katya: yeah well. ayup.

Damon: like -- okay. in metabolism?

Damon: you have the kreb cycle and the urea cycle

Katya: oh. you ARE going to name them.

Katya: ...

Damon: one's for producing energy

Katya: and in words i don't know too.

Damon: one's for getting rid of wastes

Damon: but they just INTERTWINE

Katya: urea!

Katya: i picked it!

Damon: like the "waste" products of one?

Damon: shunts into the other and becomes useful.

Katya: hmm.

Damon: and it's just this incredibly intricate, yet simple and elegant, cycling system that's miraculously evolved by PURE CHANCE

Katya: ....

Damon: it's like MUCH more intricate than any machine we can possibly build.

Katya: people would dispute that.

Damon: yeah, i know.

Katya: see .. thats when pure chance doesn't seem so.. right.

Damon: heh. sometimes i wonder too.

Damon: it's SO complex.

Damon: and SO perfect.

Damon: there's just no waste to it.

Katya: well. you don't have to believe in.. *muse* any religion's god. it sufficient just to believe in something, methinks.

Damon: i mean... the best engine we have, manmade?

Damon: is like... i think about 20-30% efficient

Damon: meaning of all the potential energy you put in, in the form of fuel

Damon: only 20% of that comes out as useable energy

Katya: maybe aliens landed on earth and designed us.

Damon: the body? is like 50-60% efficient.

Damon: and more than that, it's organic.

Damon: it adapts.

Katya: but we churn it all?

Damon: it self-tunes.

Damon: *amazed*

Damon: okay, here's another thing:

Damon: DNA replication

Katya: 50-60% doesn't sound so good.

Katya: ooh ooh!

Damon: at any given moment, i'd guess about 10% of your cells are actively dividing.

Damon: there are TRILLIONS of cells in your body

Damon: so at any INSTANT

Katya: its... C and T and N and..... dammit i forget the letters. :( i'm totally wrong. i remember nothing of biology.

Damon: there are BILLIONS of dividing cells.

Damon: (CGAT)

Katya: ..... how many trillians?

Katya: ooh thanks

Damon: i can't remember *LOL8

Katya: but i can spell it!

Damon: but -- you know the basics, right?

Katya: deoxyribonucleic acid!

Katya: ... i think.

Katya: maybe i spelled wrong.

Katya: yeah.

Damon: DNA is a chain molecule, with a sugar-phosphate backbone and bases (the CGATs) that are attached?

Katya: i remember.. i think.

Damon: so -- the polymerase that goes through and replicates DNA

Damon: has an error rate on the range of 10^-7 or something like that.

Damon: 0.0000001% error

Damon: ...god, i can't even remember the numbers

Damon: *goes look it up*

Katya: *peer*

Katya: i think i'm in awe of you when you go on about things well beyond my understanding.

Katya: *muse* of course, it makes me feel dumb too? but.. I think thats because i'm incapable of retaining information.

Damon: okay

Damon: i'm back

Damon: *LOL*

Damon: looked it up

Damon: i messed up: it's even lower than that

Damon: the machinery messes up once every 10^9 times

Katya: 0.000000000000001%?

Damon: ONCE

Damon: in 10^9

Katya: *blank look*

Damon: 1 in 1000000000 times.

Katya: i don't even know wha... oh

Damon: for every 1000000000 bases it adds one

Damon: on*

Damon: it messes up ONCE, overall.

Katya: you should put commas in.

Damon: 100,000,000

Katya: oh. 100 mil

Damon: 1 mistake per 100 million bases

Damon: ONE, KATYA.

Damon: if you were copying

Katya: *laugh*

Damon: by hand

Damon: CGATATGCGTATCGT.... 100 million times

Damon: you would not make only one mistake.

Damon: and actually -- the thing is, it makes more mistakes than that? more like one in every ten to a hundred thousand? (which is still MIND BOGGLING)

Damon: but it's got a built-in proofreading mechanism

Damon: where if it makes a mistake, it'll REALIZE it

Damon: STOP

Damon: GO BACK

Damon: FIX IT

Damon: and go on again.

Damon: and here's the really amazing thing:

Damon: so think of if you were doing this by hand, like i said?

Damon: the human genome is... *thinks*

Katya: *peek*

Damon: had to go look *LOL*

Damon: the human genome is 3x10^9 base pairs long, roughly

Damon: (so all our DNA is 3x10^9)

Damon: which is... 3,000,000,000 bp's

Damon: 3 billion

Katya: .... mmm.

Katya: *nod*

Damon: so

Damon: imagine if you had to copy all this

Damon: CAGATTGATGA...blahblahblah, 3billion of 'em

Katya: well. i wouldn't, for starters. :P

Damon: i know, but like! just imagine how LONG that would take

Katya: yeah. well. *laugh*

Damon: not even ASSEMBLING it? like if you imagine it as legos, snapping it on?

Damon: not even that

Damon: just... writing it

Damon: or TYPING it

Damon: think of how LONG that would take

Katya: you're in a cesspit of awe, aren't you?

Damon: think of how many mistakes you'd make

Katya: *grins*

Damon: but right now

Damon: i mean. RIGHT. NOW.

Damon: in your body, there are a billion cells doing just that

Damon: and it's doing it so that in all 3 billion base pairs

Damon: it makes 30 mistakes.

Damon: THIRTY.

Damon: and it does all this in 8 hours.

Katya: are they the 'mutations' ?

Damon: 3 billion base pairs copied, with 30 mistakes, in 8 hrs, in a billion different places IN YOUR BODY, right this second.

yeah, the mistakes are mutations.

Damon: but 99% of them are totally harmless

Damon: and the other 1%, 99.9999.....9% of that will just be destroyed by cells watching for it.

Damon: now in the VERY slight chance that one cell gets away with it, and starts replicating wildly?

Damon: that's when you get cancer.

Katya: *hms* see my mind has trouble grapping with... so much acti.. ok i sound stupid. *shuts up*

Damon: *laughs*

Damon: bah!

Damon: well!

Damon: doesn't it amaze you just a LITTLE bit?

Damon: put another way:

Katya: it amazes me!

Katya: but.. i don't understand it like you do.

Katya: and.. it just reminds me of sermons in church. *grins*

Damon: the replication speed of this enzyme that does it, called a polymerase, is 1000 base pairs PER SECOND.

Katya: well not quite. but the allusion to how amazing the human body is, does.

Damon: heh -- i mean, can you visualize this?

Katya: not... your raving.

Damon: you've got one strand feeding into this enzyme, which is shaped like a big ring

Damon: and out the other end comes two strands, perfectly matched except for one mistake every 100 million base pairs.

Katya: mmm. you're almost making me miss my biology classes.

Damon: you've got free base pairs floating around in the cytosol, getting sucked in and slapped on

Damon: little bursts of energy every time one gets fused to the backbone

Damon: and this ring is racing along at 1,000 base pairs in a single second.

Damon: i can just see it, you know? *laughs*

Damon: (this is why i went into biology, heh)

Damon: i mean, honestly, THIS is why i do what i do. because it's just stunning, how it all works.

Katya: i did biology as my token science glass in high school, and did well at it! but... i forget everything.

Damon: *laughs* oh well.

Damon: you go learn your doctrines of human law *grins*

Katya: .. class.

Katya: bleh.

Katya: i find it just as fascinating as you!

Damon: i'll stick with my divine truths of human biology.

Katya: but i guess a little overwhelming?

Damon: it IS overwhelming

Damon: that's the point.

Katya: because i don't know it as well as you do.

Damon: it's like... unimaginable, how fast it all is

Damon: and how perfect!

Katya: well. even the words are overwhelming!!!

Damon: gahh!

Damon: katya, to be totally honest

Damon: (and i'm gonna say something corny here)

Katya: *laugh*

Damon: if ever i believed in... i dunno

Damon: not god? not the way christians believe?

Damon: but if ever i believed in some greater pattern

Damon: something greater than ourselves, that we can't ever understand, but can sometimes see or feel or touch?

Damon: it's when i think about stuff like this.

Katya: yeah well. *grins* sounds like something said by a creation scientist.

Katya: except they know who to attribute it too. *muse*

Damon: it's like when i really think about it, or visualize it, it's like i'm seeing a tiny fragment of something incomprehensibly larger than myself.

Damon: and i know in every discipline out there, there are moments like that.

Katya: *nod* *sighs* yeah it all is. I think thats why I don't think about it.

Katya: like i can admire, and be fascinated and awed and all that.. but don't think too hard about it.

Damon: i mean, astronomers look into deep space and see things that make them feel like they're touching god, or creation, or whatever, just for a second. i just find it within, instead.

*laughs* why not?

Damon: (ok, i'm not getting up in the morning *laughs*)

Katya: because.. i don't think my mind is capable of dealing. :P

Katya: (no shit)

Katya: (i still wanna watch my movie. *sighs* damn you! *shakes fist*)

Damon: (that's why i'm talking to you now!)

aww. talk a little longer? then i'll sleep.

Damon: and heh. katya, my mind is not capable of dealing either.

Damon: i get boggled by it.

Damon: i'm like, moved by it

Katya: and i think a lot of people feel like you do. *muse* well. a lot. no small amount.

Katya: yeah but i'm not capable of dealing with the implications, i guess.

Katya: *grins*

Damon: i swear to god, i think about it enough and i get all MOVED *LOL*

Damon: it doesn't matter to me what's behind it?

Damon: like if it's god or evolution or creation or aliens or whatever you wanna attribute it to.

Katya: happy without your meanings? *smiles*

Damon: it's just that feeling you get that for a second there, the fabric of the world as we know it kinda rolls back and you see something MORE than yourself, or anything you could possibly understand.

Damon: gah! i have a hard time putting it into words.

[end rant]

--Turns out I screwed up my math. heh. it makes one mistake in 10^9 base pairs, so that's one in a billion.

ONCE in a BILLION. 3 times in your whole genome, when it replicates.

i really -- have a hard time putting down exactly why this amazes me. i think the bottom line is because it's right there, inside you. it's easy to be amazed by deep space and particle physics, and things so obscure it takes a lifetime to even begin to understand it. but what most people don't realize is inside their bodies, right now, right this second, any given second of any given day, there's a billion tiny miracles happening.

i mean -- right now, just look down at your arm. look at your skin. right there, what i ranted about is happening. it's in you. it IS you.

you don't need to look at the stars to go beyond the human experience and see something divine. you don't need to witness stigmata and miracles of the church. it's right there inside you, all the time. the very act of being alive is a collection of a hundred trillion miracles every second of the day. and that's what amazes me.

i know my party line about being in medicine is to help people, blahblahblah. but really, it's more selfish than that. it's because if i go into this profession, i work with this stuff every single day. and yeah, most times all i think about is -- how much of this drug to give, what procedure to do, what tests to administer, patients and diagnoses, problems and solutions.

but as long as i'm exposed to this stuff, sooner or later, once in a while, i'll be able look beyond the details and see the whole of it. i'll be able to sit back and look at it and realize, if only for an hour on a monday night at 4:35am, the utter beauty of it all.

and when i do see that, it gives me an utter certainty, somehow, that there's something amazing out there, and in here, and everywhere. this whole secret life of the universe just under the skin of everyday existence, never far away, always within reach, if only i stop to remember it.

if i just stop and consider it, i'll remember, if only for a second, how i felt sitting in a lecture hall learning this for the first time. i'll be able to reach beyond the mundane existence and touch something that proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there's a pattern to everything. i don't understand it, and i won't understand it, and i wouldn't ever want to understand it and take it apart to its fundamentals. because all i need to know is that it's there, and that it's not out beyond the stars. it's not out of reach. it's right there, inside me, if i just stop for a second and remember.

gah. i sound so pompous when i go on like this. i can't help it -- it's because i'm trying to put this down in words, but the words just don't ever come out right, and instead it turns into a bloody church sermon.


it's so frustrating. i just -- can't find the words to explain it. i try and it comes out all wrong.

okay, anyway, i'm gonna stop trying to add to it. heh. maybe i'll try again some other night.

roadtrip rants! (ii)

CA-111 North:

leaving palm springs now, leaving the desert. it's amazing, you can actually get very used to this sorta temperature. it's like a hundred degrees or more every single day, but... it doesn't feel that bad. i think it's cuz it's so dry here. i mean obviously it's still nicer to be at home, like indoors. but the thing is when you're outside and you're not doing anything -- if you run around you're gonna get heat exhaustion -- but if you don't run around, if you just sit there, it's almost kinda enveloping, the heat. so, you almost... i got used to it. i liked it. i think i'm even gonna miss this sort of heat, sitting out there. it's very much a decadent sorta heat, where you can just ... sit, and soak it in.

heading north again, back to the grind and the shit and all that. work. it was very relaxing, these few days. i was always running around, but it was mentally relaxing. all i did was chill. so it was good.

probably oughta a coupla words about the desert. it's this incredible... this bleak land. i mean, you have green, but it's obviously fake, and everything else is just sunscorched tan, kinda like khaki, and everything's that color, the mountains are that color. there's actually a lotta mountains here. i take that back, not all the mtns are that color. when the mtns are in shadow, they're very dark, black. when they're in the sun they're kinda (hic) dust-color. and the (hic) hills (hic) are kinda tan (hic) ugh, i'm hiccuping. so yeah, the ones close to us are kinda this lighter tan, the ones back farther are darker tan, and the ones in shadow are black. the mtns are actually surprising high. we're kinda in this basin surrounded by mtns. very high wind off to my left here as i'm going north.

jagged mtns, kinda rocky looking. no plant on them. very barren and scorched, flat under the sky. which is actually dusty. it's not a clear blue sky, very dusty -- my car is full of sand.

what else can i say about this land? it's HOT. something you can't ever forget. every minute you're

outside you're conscious, constantly aware of the heat that just envelopes you. it doesn't feel a hundred the way it feels a hundred out on the coast where it's hot and humid, but it's definitely still there, like this weight on you. if you don't move, if you just stay still, it's actually very comforting if you just let it surround you. it makes you very tired, sucks all the energy out of you. so you just lay there. i suppose if you kept laying there you'd eventually die (laughs) -- so i'm gonna get outta here before that happens to me.

definitely a desert here. mile upon mile of open desert land. i wish i had a camera. turn around and take some pictures. instead of a camera i got this little recorder, which is much cheaper.

102 degrees -- ridiculous, isn't it? 102 degrees outside (laughs) i take a shower that hot.

the thing about the desert, everything's bleached. sunbleached, windblasted, sandblasted, faded. even new things start to look old after a few months. freeway signs barely have any color left to them. people are the same. i mean you get tanned, but your hair gets bleached, eyes get bleached.

if i take my sunglasses off, this place is just white light under a blue sky. dazzling white light. i think it's some aspect of having no humidity in the air. and you can see these scars on the mtns, these roads, paler lines on pale. and just... desert, everywhere.

wish i was riding a train.

these mtns ring you all around. 1000 ft high? tallest peak, closest to us, i'd get 2-3000 ft. but there's one little pass in the west where the highways are coming through. at night when the sun sets it's absolutely beautiful because you'd have these colors, these mtns, and they'd be layered in shades of purple and grey and blue. the sky behind will be just a fire, one of those so-cal sunsets that you really don't get in the north. i miss them a lot, those sunsets. i remember everytime i come back to so-cal, it'd look like... i'd always think it was some spectacular sunset that night, but it's not. that's just how it is. the southern sunsets are redder than the north. and you forget that, because you start thinking the ones up north are beautiful, but they're nothing like the ones down south.

the mtns, the shape of them are very ridged and defined. rumpled, kinda wrinkling up out of the earth. the hills are sorta rounded, but the shadowy mtns are definitely ridged. that's something i should try to remember too.


I-10 West:

Aw shit, freeway looks crowded.

Took my sunglasses off and you can't even keep your eyes open. if it's not the sun it's the wind if it's not wind it's the sand in the air. i can feel sand between my teeth, and i don't even know what from. all the windmills are going today, the windmills in the pass between the mtns. the big mtns on the left, the big ones on the right, this gateway to this desert land. through it, far away, the ocean. is it my imagination, or is the color of the sky different there? probably imagination, i'm too far away from the ocean to see it.

mtns on either side road in the middle flanked by all these windmills moving, not all in the same direction but all swinging with the same leisurely movement, and the freeway in the middle, cruising through. cars, the meandering freeway -- it's like a river.

right by those big mtns now, rearing up way high into the sky, and the rivulets where the rain -- i guess it does rain in the desert -- the rain in the desert has carved into the flesh of the mtn, laid it bare to the chalk bones beneath. curtained ridges at the bottom, folding up. always reminds me of some giant, the knees of it bending up its clothes.

climbing through the pass now. pretty low pass. coupla clouds in the sky, but mostly a sheathe of white, blue behind it.

here's a sight to remember. you come through the pass, and what you see -- you expect to see the ocean behind it. you do see something flat almost like the ocean, but it's not, it's the desert. and i think millions of years ago this was probably the ocean, 'cause that's what it looks like, and you can imagine these mtns on either side as islands. just this flatness, flat lands stretched between. road through it straight as an arrow. the bushes almost like ... i dunno, almost like patterns in the cloth. optical illusion makes it looks like they're strung out in lines, and you have more of those windmills turning.

distance here is deceptive. it's probably much farther than it looks.

you can see the pale veins in the mtns really are the rocks beneath. 93 miles to los angeles.

well, first traffic jam of the day, 3 o'clock, barely what, 20 miles outta palm springs? i think it's all these fucking people coming in from fucking, you know, whatever. brush fire off to my left here. 87 miles to los angeles. i'm pretty sure that's why we're stopped here, fucking tourists gawking at a fucking fire.

if it's like this all the way to LA, kill me.

okay this ROYALLY. FUCKING. SUCKS. i'm stuck in a FUCKING traffic jam on the I-10, far as i can see it's moving at this rate. this is the only way out of the desert. pretty sure we're in a jam right now because some FUCKER decided to look at a FUCKING fire outside. what the fuck, never seen a fire burn? i'll light your ass on fire (laughing).

well, out of the traffic jam suddenly. no reason to begin, no reason to end.

out of the desert now, brushland area: riverside, east of LA. 80 miles to LA central, maybe 75? through mesas and canyonland, very southern california.

huge interchange right here where the 10 goes under 1,2,3,4 levels of different freeway overpasses -- junction at 215.

you know you're going to LA when the sky gets overcast and yellow. LA: it's alll about the smog.

i really don't understand why american men are all fat, ugly, and have goatees these days. and they drive HUGE suvs. every huge SUV you see is gonna have an ugly fat american male in it. it's ridiculous. it's a fucking plague of them!


I-15 north:

leaving the 10 now, going north on the 15 to join 210 in a little bit. um... i could be going to SD here too because 15 south leads you right there. another overpass here, 4 levels.

i can see in the near distance, not even the far distance, the shape of the san bernadino mtns in the north. this is actually really familiar to me because when we went skiing when i was little, this is about where we'd turn off and head into the mtns. big bear up ahead, very tall. a shape in the mist right now -- well, not really mist. smog. LA smog.


I-210 west:

leaving the 15, leaving southern california, heading north. 210 now, circling the base of the mtns.

ha -- passed this red truck with a MOUTH on the grill, big teeth and a tongue.

circling the san bernadino mtns. they're very beautiful in this... (laughs) smoggy air, because you can see them in layers and layers, the closer ones in greater definition, the shape of their stones. in the back they're outlines, really, smoky against the sky. and in the far distance, you can baaarely see it against the sky. layer upon layer of mtns, and i'll be going through them in about... 30 minutes -- fuck this guy's almost coming over here!

i was talking about mtns there, waxing poetic, and this fucking bitch of a van almost came over in my lane and ran me over. so i beeped 'em.

high voltage wires stretching north to south -- i always wonder if these are the same ones i see later in the central valley.

such a sight to see: the mountains tumbling towards the sea.

weird, during the day you feel no kinship whatsoever to these other cars. you just sorta hate them. this one's too slow, that one's too fast... that one's riding your ass, this one's got a black tinted window so you can't see anything through it. that one's got an ugly american dude inside, this one's got an ugly hispanic dude inside, yaddayaddayadda on and on and on, you hate 'em all. and then night falls and all you see are the taillights, and suddenly they're all the same as you.

heading north now, at last -- i can see the opening, the break in the mtns where the 5 goes through.

fucker behind me. see if i can get him stuck behind me somehow. heh.

i had something of a crush on sarah mclachlan. largely on the tone of her voice, but she is a lovely woman. you don't realize at first, but she is. but yeah, her voice is so sensual. the way she sounds so wanton when her voice kinda... slip-slides and shears apart like that. when she goes into a higher register and deliberately lets it just... slip a little? like a hint that, although she's a respected, i dunno -- i think it's cuz she's very respected and intelligent, obviously, her ability to let it go a little bit like that is slightly seductive. it's almost like -- it's sorta like you think if she lets that go, what else would she do? like she lets down her hair a little bit, just enough for you to wonder.

something awesome and amazing about the freeway just belting through the mountains, curving through it, nothing but barren mtns and bushes on either side, and then 8 lanes of freeway and shoulders and everything just right through the middle. now i can see ahead of me layer upon layer of other mtns.

365 outta san francisco.

finally, golden state fwy. 5. 2 1/4 miles. i like that name, golden state fwy. i know it goes all the way up north, all the way to canada and back, but I-5's really one of those freeways i think of as a californian highway.


I-5 North:

time is 4:59, sunday. and i'm once again on I-5 as of right now.

i just cut off this mitsubishi racer type. he's like sitting on my ass, kinda funny.

southbound 5 is MAJORLY stuffed up right here. INSANE traffic on the other side coming south.

so the guy that i cut off came back and cut me off. we kinda slid around for a while, and... then i think he went out of sight.

346 miles to sacramento.

mtns by day are golden brown, very parched and dry -- not quite the golden of nor-cal, more brown. so now we're in the middle of the mtns now, mtns all around, and there's this sense of height even though you can't see the ocean for reference. you can kinda sense it ... kinda in the color of the sky and the shape of the mtns, how they look like high-altitude mtns but they don't rear that high above you.

i remember this one time, coming down from san francisco in the winter. took the train, but the train actually stops at bakersfield and then you take a bus through the grapevine, and another train from LA to SD. i remember, i went through, taking this road in a bus. and strangely enough, that winter it was snowing -- oh look, it's a lake -- anyway, these mtns were just COVERED in snow, and these mtns were like, what, 2000 ft up? the snowline was incredibly low.

feel sorry for these southbound drivers. they have no idea what they're about to run into -- a HUGE traffic jam.

[oh, the irony.]

48 miles to bakersfield, 323 to sacramento.

even though we're 3000 ft in the air, it almost looks like a desert around there. i can see the pass, the opening where the mtns fall into the valley. and after that, the long long drive all the way up to the bay. you have the right side tumbling in first, and then the left -- and beyond that, just sky.

4144 ft, Tejon Pass.

it's beautiful -- golden mtns, and then in the middle you have this little pasture, this little meadow, full of cows.

309 to SF, 308 to sacramento, 38 to bakersfield.

ok, that was a false alarm. this is the true entrance to the valley. 5 miles on a 6% downgrade, here we go. shift into neutral and let 'er ride.

these hills look almost like a pelt, fuzzy almost in the difference between the highlights and the shadows.

wtf is the hurry? there's all these little sport sedans with little fucking yuppies that never had a day of fun in their lives ZOOMING past at 90mph. who the fuck cares, man? you're skimming what, half an hour off your trip? chill the fuck out.

here we go, my first glimpse of the central valley. the opening of the mtns and nothing but flatness ahead. incredible. the golden mtns falling away to both sides, and this basin in the middle, this endless valley. and I-5, straight as an arrow through it. you can see the fields, layer upon layer out to the horizon.

there's always a feeling of freedom when you come through the mtns and you see nothing but valley. amber waves of fuckin' grain, baby, nothing but the yellow of ripe grain. out on the horizon where it fades into indistinction it almost looks like an ocean out there.

just amazing, this flatness -- far as the eye can see. the mtns to the right falling away to nothing, past visibility. and in front of you, and eventually to all sides of you save one, nothing but flatness and farms.

we just split off from the 99 and we're going into the central valley now. 99 actually goes deeper into it, kinda into the heartland of california-- oh shit. (laughs) sudden stop. hope this isn't a fucking traffic jam.

oh, please don't have a traffic jam in the middle of the fucking, central, valley. insanely crowded on the 5. think i'm gonna take an hour's break or so at starbucks. hopefully by then this traffic will have cleared a bit.

this place is dazzling, just dazing.

300 miles of this open space, and that's just half of it. a person walks, what, 3mph? 100 hrs to walk it. if you walk 12 hrs a day, that's what... almost 9 days to walk from LA's side to SF, through the valley.

286 miles to san francisco.

here's the one first hill in the central valley. i always remember this one, mainly b/c it has no purpose whatsoever. i think maybe it's just letting some water under or something.

i remember when i was riding my dad's car i'd always look behind and wait for the moment i couldn't see the san bernadino mtns anymore.

someday i wanna take a roadtrip to the middle of america where there's absolutely nothing but flatness.

7:48 and i'm leaving buttonwillow after an hour and a half pitstop. stopped for some coffee, and apple fritter that's got me kinda sick from sweetness, and finally surfed the internet.

road's looking a lot better, not nearly so crowded. [this is called the eye of the storm.] sun's starting to set into the west, and 250 miles left to go, 3-4 hrs left to drive, if i'm lucky and it stays pretty empty all the way up.

over to the east i can see some thunderheads over the plains.

still pretty warm out there, easily 90 degrees.

this wide open road, this is what a roadtrip's all about.

here's the wires that followed me over the mtns, crossing over the freeway. northeast for them, northwest for me. sun's setting in my eyes.

can't explain why it feels so good, but it does. no cars in front of me or behind for at least half a mile. i'm just cruising along at 80mph. it's like freedom, you know? right now all that matters right now is me, the road, the distance, the sky.

247 miles to san francisco.

as the sun sets into the west you start to get that nice ruddy glow again, that ring of purple around the horizon, blue above, purple shadows of mtns in the west. jet streaking overhead and you see the flare coming off their tails. thunderheads in the east lit up in all those colors, the little thunderheads in the front and the big anvilheads in the back.

8:09 and the sun's about to set over the mtns.

so the san bernadino mtn range is completely out of sight now.

racing the sun in a way -- the sun's setting behind this mtn range, but if i go fast enough i'll beat it to the horizon.

here's a little truth about driving on the highway. if you drive behind a car, it's much easier going. if you're in the lead, you have to break a lot of headwind.

clouds all around lit up in different colors. shadows are the same color as the sky. the entire trip is all about this part of the drive, the central valley at dusk. sights and sounds, images and memories.

207 miles to san francisco, 8:30pm.

i think i just caught up with the vacation-goers again. once again stuck behind a long line of cars.

8:40, 805 miles total, of which 300 were ran today. i'm taking a break because the I-5 is again crowded, and i'm letting it pass. down by the place where 198 comes over. last time it took me four hours to get from here to stanford -- hopefully this time it'll take me less.

full dark now, 196 miles to san francisco, 9 o'clock sharp. and the fucking freeway is so crowded... oh well.

right here is where i came in last time -- 198, coalinga.

this song here, silence, is another one that has lots of meaning for me. it definitely does remind me of -- (laughing, wry) decker and imogen, since this was the song that was playing when that fabulous c'mere scene happened. it seems really appropriate, given the lyrics. when my rage subsides, something, silence, all that, yeah.

ugh, smells like cow around here. kinda pissing me off how busy this road is this weekend. one of these days i'll do a speedrun of the central valley, no pitstops, one end to the other.

stupid fucker had an accident, and stupider fuckers slow down to look.

like 70 fucking miles an hour on I-5, central valley. that's how crowded this fucking shit is, and you look ahead, like a string of red ahead. goddammit, fucking, gah! can't they go any faster? what the hell is wrong with them!?

now we're going 55.

now we're not moving at all!

passing a real beauty of a truck here, all those lights, all that chrome, mirrors.

tourists are such fucking idiots. go up a hill and they all start braking, and then everyone stops dead. for no particular reason things will just slow down. mainly cuz tourists overreact at every tiny little bump in the road because they have kids in the back, and they feel like they don't wanna kill their kids -- FUCKER!!! [shouting at some slowass minivan i was passing] -- so then, they brake, randomly.

167 from San Francisco.

fucking tourists brake over everything! it's like a fucking chain reaction! you see one light up, the one behind it lights up, and on and on and pretty soon they're stopped fucking dead!

car parked by the side of the road with its blinkers flashing and everyone brakes for it. FUCK! the hell is wrong with them?

they just decided to stop in the middle of the fucking freeway again!

holy shit, huge crash on the other side -- like, fucking scorched, fire everywhere. i wonder what happened. no wonder we're slowing down, everyone's staring at the carnage. 'course i'm staring too, i have to admit it. holy shit.

car in front of me is an idiot, he keeps stepping on the brakes for no fuckin reason.

car in front of me, kinda two cars ahead, is trying to pass all these fucking trucks? but instead of passing at 80mph, he's going at 70, so he's taking fucking FOREVER. why don't you get out of the way so i can go ahead?

43 miles to the 152 junction, 156 to SF.

34 miles to the junction, 146 to SF, and this piece of shit car in front of me braking for no reason.

every other mile there's like a family pulled over being towed or whatever 'cause they're too fucking stupid to drive on the I-5.

137 miles to SF.

10:13 and i'm on the road again... took another little rest-stop at the rest-stop just before 152, and pretty soon i'll be off the 5 onto 152, and hopefully 2-3 hrs after that before i get home.

another big clot of cars passed and i'm kinda in the relaxed area afterwards. hopefully this'll last a while. kinda not racing like crazy this time, going 75mph, and hopefully it'll stay open.

vista point right now. but every time i'm here, it's dark. so i've never seen what's over there, because you can only get to it from the northbound side, and every single time i get here it's night. one of these days, i will come here by day and see what it's all about.

126 miles to SF.

a little bit of peace. i'm up in the hills already, still on the I-5, and i can see the stars overhead. 10:30pm.

about ready to leave the I-5 now, for 152. spent, what, a total of... when did i get on this road? 5pm? spent a total of 5.5 hrs on this road. you have to take out the 2 hrs of so i spent taking pitstops. about 3.5 hrs on this road, which is about right. so now i'm getting off, 152 to the west, and then 101, and home.


CA-152 West:

it's actually pretty empty tonight. that's nice. a lot freer breathing.

love this song: solid sessions' janeiro. friend of mine gave it to me. kinda reminded her of this scene i just played -- night driving, drove out to the countryside, made love in the front seat. and there was a sense of distance to the scene, which i suppose is what this song reflects. by day this place i'm driving through is beautiful. at night you can't see much, just shadows of mtns, stars. still beautiful, though. sorta desolate. this is a good drive.

stars overhead are very, very bright. oh, this is a great drive. 2 on 2 highway. here it's pretty empty. i really wanna stop somewhere and look at the stars. they're brilliant. i can see orion, shooting his bow. and there's so many other stars out there, because there's no light around for miles and miles. this is pure driving pleasure.

top of this thing now, coastal range. going down now. scenic route, but all i can see are the stars overhead -- but that's worth a look anyway.

everyone's going like 90mph, buncha mad dogs in these mtns.

2 lane highway through the garlic fields (laughs).

now i see in front of me the valley between the coastal range and the diablo range. 2-lane highway through farmlands and lots of trees, a very bay-area type of farm. not the sprawling plains of the central valley, but a more cloistered farmland.

shit, almost back to civilization! 101 just ahead!


101 North:

11:07, i'm on the 101 north. pretty familiar turf to me. i think i'll set it at 85mph and just let it ride. friday was, how many days ago? 4 days ago? came down this very road. feels like no time passed at all, feels like i never went anywhere. feels like this is just one of those vent-drives i have when i drive down to salinas or wherever i might go, and just come back again. but in the middle i've been down to the desert, been down to through valley. been to a place where it's a hundred degrees during the day. 60 degrees here, right now, at night. very different. hard to swallow, the idea that i've been so far from home and come all the way back again. this is the final stretch. i'm almost there. i'm very fucking tired. i don't know if i'll do this again -- oh, hell, of course i will.

i'm in san jose city limits, 11:17. usually, on my vent-drives, this is where i go, aw man, because this is where i turn back. this is probably the first time i've come up this road and went hell yeah, finally.

now i can see the glow of the bay area, lighting up the sky. after the whole evening running in darkness, it's a welcome sight.

sooner or later you make the realization that every mile you take is one closer to home, whether you're heading forward or back.

101 north, San Francisco: something about that sign is beautiful.

52 miles to SF.

unbelievable, i just opened the window and it's cold outside.

full circle: i've gone all the way through my mp3s and started again. think i'm not gonna complain about SF being hot for a LONG time. nothing can be hotter than palm springs.

11:39. i wanna make it home before midnight.

11:43, and i'm getting off the freeway. goodbye, 101. going home to san fran.

everything looks very familiar. almost there.

[listening to frou frou, shh] this song reminds me of getting 198 getting on the 5, trying to figure out wtf they're saying. stopping at a rest station to eat a bit, keep listening after, still don't get it. don't ask me about it. is it about sex? i think everything's about sex.

going home: the only thing on my mind now. going home.

now, i'm about to get off the main road. so it looks like... this trip takes me 1.5 tanks of gas each way. start out full, refuel at buttonwillow when i'm at 1/4 tank left. by the time i get to palm springs i'm at 1/4 tank again. coming back up, refuel at palm springs, again at buttonwillow.

all right, turning onto [my street]! everything looks the way i left it. okay, lemme park.

amazingly, my favorite parking spot is actually open, so that's very nice.

i am home! 11:49. i have driven a grand total of 974.5 miles. song right now is frou frou, shh. so now i'm just gonna close things up, go home. so here's me, signing off until the next long roadtrip, whenever that might be.

roadtrip rants! (i)

So, I took a roadtrip over July 4th weekend down to Palm Springs (again) to visit my friends from high school and whatnot. Since I was making the trip alone (decided to leave Bri at home because I thought it'd be kinda a bachelor thing -- though then the other three guys with gfs brought their wimminfolk -- GRR!), I was bored outta my mind and bought a little tape recorder to babble into on my way down.

The following is a transcript of the more interesting parts of my rants. Actually, I only cut out like 20% of it at most, so the majority of the rants are here.

This is the southbound stuff. I'll transcribe and post up the northbound tomorrow or something.


On State Route 152 East, stuck in traffic:

"okay, so the car in front of me is impossibly slow. i mean, even in a traffic jam you shouldn't be this fucking slow."

"overall, this hasn't been the most successful trip so far."


Why i'm doing this:

"i'm driving south, and it's a 10 hr drive, and i'm gonna be bored outta my mind. so once i heard there was gonna be a traffic jam, i was like okay, i gotta do something, keep myself occupied. so, heh, this is the idea -- i'm gonna, make a recording. y'know, just kinda talk. because, a lot of times when i drive i get these thoughts that i wanna write down, but obviously i can't."


Still on 152 East:

"Hey, it's finally moving, good. It's really pretty land here. It's like... green, fields. Kinda this little minivalley between the central valley and the sea. And you have, those golden mountains of california, those famous mountains of gold, with the grass. So there's all these plants growing everywhere. It's green on the ground, gold on the mountains, blue in the sky. Thing is, in the spring, it's just unbelievably beautiful. (Uh oh, we're slowing down again.) In the spring, all the mountains are just green like you wouldn't believe.

"The thing about green is that it tends to be really early in the year. And around then it's still raining. It's just unbelievably beautiful. You could not believe how beautiful the green can be under the grey sky. (Holy shit, it's totally jammed up. I wonder what's going on?)"


Damon's road rage: "Man, the car in front of me is pissing me off. Go a little faster, huh, you fucking chain-smoking bastard. Fuck."


STILL on 152 East:

"So this girl ahead of me just flicked her cigarette out the window and it totally reminded me of, um, Imogen Slaughter. Wow, that's the first time I've ever said it aloud. It's always in my head. Oh man, how long am I gonna be stuck here? I'm gonna turn on my computer and see if I can get reception."

"Fuck this! Okay, we're gonna take the 101 down (laugh) and then go back on the 5 sometime later. Fuck this, man, it's not even fucking moving! Fuck this, people, fuck the road!"


On US-101 South:

"Okay, so after wasting 20 minutes not even moving I'm going to go down to the 198 and go from there."

"The hidden track at the end of, end of Behind Blue Eyes always reminds me of, again, Imogen. Fuckin' obsessed or something. But you know, it's a cool character. I wish I'd thought it up. Okay maybe not. Have too much fun playing with it. With her. Playing with her. ROLEPLAYING with her."

"Well, this isn't exactly how I expected my road trip to be. One fucking traffic jam after another."

"So, going down the 101 instead. Land of... y'know. Farms in the middle, mountains with the green oak trees. Kinda windy. 25. highway 25 to Hollister. Wonder if that'll take me over to the 5? But, I don't think so. Probably some tiny-ass little road. Even if it did, I'll probably be stuck on it til like midnight. Maybe I'll get a motel out in the middle of nowhere tonight, we'll see. Well, I wanted to drive, I'm driving."

"27 miles to Salina, 154 to San Luis Obispo, 354 to Los Angeles. 6 hours to Los Angeles, if I stay 60 mph. Which I won't."

"i've been down this road before. just drove and drove. eventually I ended up in the middle of nowhere and it was so dark. pulled off the road, turned off the lights and sat there and. i wanted to watch the highway move in the dark. the pinpricks of light that are the headlights streaking across like electrical impulses down a nerve. but as it turned off, as i turned the lights off i felt this overpowering sense of ...aloneness? and it was almost fear, fear of being alone in the dark, primal fear from the time when we were all apes and darkness was a dangerous time."

"here comes Y road. why would you name it y? oh. why would you name it y, that's why."

"the hills kinda close in here, golden. they always remind me of a lion's pelt."

"maybe this isn't such a bad experience. it'll take longer, but i'll get there. i'm takine 198 and i'll get there."

"now we're on this part of the 101, passing through eucalyptus trees. the first time i was here, it was night, and the moon was shining down, and it was just ... ghostly, these trees standing straight, very straight."

"by the way, i fucking hate commuters."

"huge black hawk just went overhead and almost made me crash!"

"guy behind me is tailgating me. i'm sorely tempted to just stick my hand out the window and flip him off. fucking commuters. i can see him in the rearview mirror, him and his scowl and his i'm so cool goatee. yeah, you know what, guy? you're not cool. you're a fucking idiot."

"it's been a long time since i've seen the sea."

"you have the road, and you have the trees that are so tall on both sides. the clouds overhead are kinda these undefined, foggy-ish clouds overhead. marine layer coming in."

"i wonder if you can even hear me mumbling?"

"cloudy day over the pacific. i miss the pacific suddenly. i wouldn't say i grew up near the ocean, but somehow it seems like i've never been that far from the ocean. it's always been within reach, within sight somehow, gleaming in the afternoon. i'm only maybe 20 miles away but it seems so much farther behind a mountain."

"i can't see the ocean. i'm so close and i can't see it. everything here's kinda grey, but that luminous grey when the sun's close but not quite shining. the mountains are ghosts."

"somehow talking isn't quite the same as thinking what i wanna talk about. i always think of things i want to talk about, or write down when i get home, but i never do. i think it's something about the movement, the scenery, and the music in the background -- it affects you."

"there's some sense of disappointment when we get to salinas, which sounds like such a pretty name, you think of farms and ocean so close -- i can smell the sea in the air. but you get there and what you see is fucking auto dealers."

"i love singing along to this song. (sings along to in your house)"

"i have this intense longing for the central valley. does that sound weird? the central valley isn't something you'd think you'd long for. it's so long and dry, like this chunk of heartland transplanted into california. but... because i was shut away from it for so long -- i can't see it, i can see the mountains dividing me from it."

"i can see this little clump of clouds that looks like those desert clouds. those very defined, piled-high, textured clouds.

"i remember in san diego, in june, you'd see over the mtns, right there over the desert, you'd see these clouds ready to roll in."

"the clouds to the south are getting a lot bigger now."

"funny, at night you couldn't see the mountains, you couldn't see them at all. it looked like i could drive forever."

"that cloud is definitely growing. awesome. it grew up from a little baby cloud."

"i just wanna say i fucking HATE american SUVs. they all have those fucking dark windows in the back. i'm trying to get ahead of this long line of cars, literally just hopping them one by one. it's agonizing."

"i'm finally at the head of the line. no more cars in front of me. sweet. it's a good feeling."

"holy shit, like 60 harleys just went by."

"i wonder what it's like to be a trucker? you probably don't get a lot of action driving 20 hrs a day. but even so, there's something a little glamourous about it, isn't there? i used to wonder what it'd be like to just drive all the time. do that for a living."

"there's so many hotspots on the I-5. interesting thought is that, if i'd been an english major, if i'd gone to an english PhD program (of course i'd have no future whatsoever) -- but, at the same time, you know, i could just... i could just move around. and in that case, i could just, literally, go on the road, me and my laptop, and just drive. course someone will have to pay for the gas but that's what the stipend is for right? do they get stipends? if they do, that's the way to do it."

"i'm playing that one by one hop game again."

"it's starting to look a little bit like southern california. bushes everywhere. in norcal you have the long grass, and the oak trees. in socal you have a lotta eucalyptus, you have a lotta grasses, and you have a lotta bushes. the farther south you go, the more bushes you have."

" 'she serves him mashed potatoes, and she serves him peppered steak. with corn. she pulls her dress over her head and lets it fall to the floor.' i find that so strangely sexy. i think it's that ... you can see the image they paint out for you. whup, there's my exit. goodbye 101, i'll see you in a coupla days."


On 198 East:

"oh my god, i gotta say, this place is beautiful. holy shit, next services 53 miles. it's just this winding 2 lane highway over these golden fields. a hawk flying there. pay attention to my driving now...


golden mountains, blue skies, white clouds, black road. colors, can you imagine it? and off the side of the road, here and there, right here there's a tiny little patch of fruit trees. beautiful.

dusting of white on the mountains too. chalk maybe? like the sort of mountains you see the windmills across. but this a road right through them. you know, i'm kinda glad there was a huge traffic jam on 152, otherwise i woulda never come here, ever."

"how can i put into words, these sights, these mountains? rounded against the sky, which is... not quite perfectly blue. i think the last time i saw something remotely like this, this sort of desolate emptiness -- i mean there are no other people on this road, just me and the two cars in front of me, nothing behind me, either. there's just nothing here. it's almost no sign of civilization, but not quite. you see fences, and telephone poles, and electricity poles, but just no houses. just land, rolling hills. well, there's a barn over there. and these mountains. they're rounded, and old looking, and the sky above... i'm saying the same things over and over again, but the thing is, when i'm speaking it, it's the same, always the same, but when i'm seeing it, it the changing surroundings.

"sky mountain road. blue-white, yellow-white, black-yellow-white."

"desolate road. unbelievable, it's just so beautiful. up ahead the sky cleared up a little. the color's just amazing when i look around. gonna drop the windows a bit."


"ah, human civilization. one truck offroad raising clouds of dust behind it. farmer sitting inside, arm out the window."

"you know, i think these places might be abandoned. that might be why it's so silent here. just mile upon mile of land, and corrugated steel structures standing there, slightly rusted from time, or neglect, disuse. this is prime writing material."

"amazing, this is something i need to talk about when i get home. how... everything came together for me to come through this land -- OH YUCK, a bug just smacked into my window, like CRACK -- hey, a roof that caved in on a barn."

"waaa, truck on the other side! (was trying to pass)"

"can't remember if i've ever been a place like this. literally deserted two-lane highway through farmlands. cows. barely any human civilization. me and three other cars. i don't think i've ever been in a place like this."

"no turnoffs! none! how do you get to these farms? no wonder now one comes here."

"top of the hill, going down this winding road, and there's this panorama of golden mountains. and the fucker behind me just passed me on the double-yellow line, fucking bitch."

"here you can see nothing but sky. of course, i had a nightmare where i could see nothing but sky, and then i fucking fell off the roof. gotta be careful."

"fuck, this jet just screamed by! like right by! i'm really high up, actually. i took a look, really really high up."

"i am off the mountain, kinda in the central valley-thingie. road just got straight and long. two lane highway. farms w/ trees on both sides. me, driving. i have this urge to drive in the middle of the road."

"so i just passed this sign saying priest valley station. grill, bar, dance hall. sounds like something out of a western. just passed it. big red barn."

"i estimate the temperature at about 80 right now outside..." (actually it was more like ...90)

"estimate temperature at about 85."

"hot wind that blows here. hills here, road between, valley to the side. pine trees, actually. there's generally a mixed character to this land. oak trees. feels a little bit like northern california, a little bit like southern, a little bit like mountain, a little bit like desert, a little bit like central valley, not much like coast."

"i wish i could fly."

"estimate temperature at about 90." (more like 100)

"like a roller coaster here, up and down and curving all around. road surface is very smooth, that nice dark asphalt. curving, not much, you can stay 50-60 mph. and it bumps up and down."

"crossing the diablo range. all these mountains rearing up around me, not quite the same rounded ones but these... folded now. there's all these places where landslides have happened, and you can see the scars where the plants and the topsoil have fallen away to reveal the gaunt skeleton of the mountain."

"just caught my first glimpse of the central valley of california. unmistakeable. it's the end of the mtns. the opening, the pass. this two lane highway's almost about to meet the I-5. i'm excited about it. i just went over a hill, and i can see it now, and it's flatness, just flatness as far as the eye can see."

"civilization! cars, trucks. houses, stores. gonna make a stop before i get on the I-5. i am in coalinga, that's the name of the city. i'm in a suburbs. after the desolation, suburbs seem like massive civilization. it's amazing how big little towns seem when you don't know where the hell you are, for one. where am i?"

"i-5 junction, i found it."

"making a pit stop in coalinga's mcdonald's. ice cream sounds good."


on 33 east toward I-5:

"gonna try to pass now.


holy shit, that was thrilling. second and a half to spare to get back on my side of the road. passing cars, fucking cars that weren't letting me pass. you know, you should slow down when people try to pass you on a 2-lane highway, but these bastards weren't. whoo... adrenaline rush, nice."

"almost getting on the 5. these roads, they don't bend, they go on forever. can't see the other side of the central valley. i'm on one side, crossing it, sort of, going across it. heading east toward the I-5, then turning south. colors, golden, under a blue sky. greyblue sky actually. i think this is where i get the inspiration for all my hick characters from."

"definitely been an interesting trip. i keep going places i don't expect to go, and that's the whole definition of a roadtrip, right? one-person roadtrip. i'm glad it's one-person. sometimes it's a little boring but that's what the recorder's for, right? one person, driving, going places i never thought i'd go, and never thought about going. and that's the thing. these places, they've always been there, but i've never gone or thought of going, and if not for the ... series of coincidences that led to me going there."

"the I-5, i can see it in the distance, moving. and i'm racing towards it."

"i'm glad i did it. i'm gonna be very tired next week, but right now it doesn't matter, you know?"


On the I-5 South:

"finally getting on I-5. mother road, right? los angeles, 191 miles."

"every time i go on the 5, i keep waiting for the mtns at the west side of it to fall away, but they never do. i'm always disappointed by it. but the 5 always follows it, so they never go away. one of these days i'll go on the 99, which goes right through the center, which is very different."

"bales of hay, off to my left. i can see fields as far as the eye can see, all these different colors. some are golden, some are green, some are reg-tinged -- reg? red."

"cruise control is a wonderful thing."

"i find myself kinda wishing that it'd be night already. oh look at that, endless plain. feel like maybe if i drove east far enough i'd end up in illinois, indiana, something like that."

"174 miles to los angeles."

"62 miles to bakersfield, 163 to los angeles."

"this part of the central valley looks like a desert. bushes, no trees, everything low, very flat."

"it occurs to me how unattractive your average middle aged american man is. they get old and they grow these ugly-ass scrawny goatees that they think look good but don't. wear big grease-stained t-shirts over their bulging beer bellies... yuck.

"here comes one trying to pass me. hope you enjoy life with your ugly ass FAT wife and your ugly ass FAT belly!

"here comes another fat american in his huge stroke! f-250 heavy duty power stroke. POWER STROKE. if that isn't compensation i don't know what is."

"152 miles to los angeles."

"44 miles to bakersfield, 145 to los angeles."

"i think i might prefer to be on this road at night. seems like people aren't in quite such a hurry at night. seems like... might be nicer too. not so bright. not so much rushing."

"134 miles to los angeles, 33 to bakersfield."

"128 miles to LA."

"okay, so it's 7:20 and i'm getting going again from buttonwillow. i estimate... 4-5 hours left of driving depending how i find my way, who much traffic there is, stuff like that."

"35 miles from the grapevine, crossing the mountains."

"sunsets look somehow familiar to me. sun dusky through the clouds. barely glimpsed through the clouds."


At Buttonwillow:

"$2.09 a gallon. pretty good price for around here. i found a starbucks! thinking of going there. getting online. but it's 7:30pm. fuck. if i get online for an hour, it'll be... 8:30pm. and then, 4 hours on top of that, i'll be there around midnight."

"so i just left starbucks, and it's 8:30pm. kinda late, but that's okay. just got online in the middle of nowhere (laugh). this town smells like shit, literally. to the west, the sunset is just lighting up the sky, in bands of red."

something typed at starbucks:

ElementalShiva: that's the thing about this drive

ElementalShiva: you only ever see half of it on any one run

ElementalShiva: cuz the sun sets before you get to the other end.


On the I-5 South again:

"it just occurred to me how utterly appropriate it is that i'm driving at this hour, on this date. independence day. this is my own freedom, driving this far. this is how i'm spending my holiday, one person, alone, driving, on and on and on. freeway's a little emptier now, so that's nice. yeah. los angeles, 123 miles."

"different place here, at night. i think... this is why i wanna drive. when i go on vent drives at night, this is why i wanna keep going. not the distance during the day, which is glaring, and loud, and people just wanna get there. no sense of relaxation. at night, with the dusking, i guess the harsher features of the land fade away. you don't see it so much anymore. it's just this blurring, streaking land. light fading from the sky. pink fading from the west. the horizon is... ringed in this smoke-grey-purple-violet color that i can't quite describe. but it's everywhere. a ring around the horizon, except in the west where it's duskier, a rose color. sky above is still blue.

"and somehow, in this light, distances seem... shorter, should i say? not really shorter, just different. doesn't seem such a race to get to someplace. i don't care where i end up right now. i could drive forever. i have this urge to just drive south and south. past san diego, into mexico. never come back."

"there's a freedom from driving at night that isn't there during the day. times like this i realize how utterly similar to my father i am.

"this is my own personal freedom."

"now as night begins to fall in truth, i can see the shadows of the san bernadino mtns closing in. the end of the valley is not so far now. every single time, every single time i come here, i feel this sense of regret when i leave the valley. even if it was boring in the middle. even if it feels like it'll be endless. 'course this time the valley was shorter than it's ever been before, but same principles applies. i'm sad to leave it. because this is, this, right here, is what i love most about california, almost. maybe? i don't know.

"it's not the california you think of. it's not the sun and the sand and the beaches. but it's california nonetheless. a side of it most people don't think about. it's not even desert. it's farmland, green. open, free. roadtripping. it's the side you only know if you live here.

"i love these 18 wheeler trucks. they're like steel dragons, flowing along. all their lights lit up. across the top. the chimneys. the running lights. all those wheels spinning. the power of it, the speed."

"at night no one tries to go 100 mph, 90. everyone goes 80, just flows along."

"the high voltage lines arcing overhead, and you just wonder where they're coming from, where they're going. they're connected, you know, beginning to end, one end to the other. you don't know where the other end is, but. you pass under it here, briefly intersecting, and then -- pass."

"mosquito time. i can hear them splatting against the windshield."

"the highway's a little hypnotic, going on forever. here's the hill i remember, first hill out from the long decline from the valley. there's a certain feeling you get when you finally get through the grapevine. you swing around the last bit and all that's left behind you is mountains, and all that's left in front of you is valley. and you can see the road stretched out in front of you, straight as an arrow."

"exactly 100 miles to los angeles."

"you can see the freeway climbing into the mountains, a ribbon of red and white."

"i can see where I-5 bends into the mtns, strung out like pearls. always thought lights on a freeway at night, strung out across the land, looks like electricity on the nerve, impulses cruising across synapses."

"91 miles to los angeles."

"everything's barely more than shadows now. we're about to go through the mtns, and there's 99, coming in. 99's always fascinated me. i've never gone on it, only gone near it once when i was coming down on the train, once. always fascinated me how it splits off from the I-5, and now, just before the mtns, they come back together. it's like, in my mind, it's almost like highways have a life of their own, strange as that sounds."


I-5 South through the Grapevine:

"leaving the central valley now. one look behind, flatness all around. road splits up ahead. you can see the red to one side, the white to the other. spiraling up into the mountains into the mountains, moving. the red like so many bands flowing. the white seems to move slower. i think it's the angle. coming down the other side, like... a river, really, glittering and glistening, like sun off water."

"the mountains tall - the sky overhead, still faintly blue."

"it's always amazed me. 4 lanes on each side, wide shoulder on each side, 12 lanes' equivalent going over the mountains, right through it. don't have to go slower than about 60 mph. usual speed about 65-70. all these cars just surging over the mountain."

"what fascinates me about the highway at night is the anonymity of it. all cars from a distance are reduced to lights: taillights red, headlights white. and the thing is you don't know where they're coming from, where they're going. and somehow at night you realize this more than you would in the day, when you're pissed off at the sedan that just cut you off, of the truck that just blocked off your sight. at night you can't see anyway. you just follow taillights. and there's a... certain hypnotic quality to the road. you start wondering, the car in front of you, why are they down here, are they on vacation? are they a family? are they running from something, are they going towards something? are they happy, are they sad, all these questions that go through your mind.

"you feel a certainly continuity with the road, with those traveling with you. you feel this... certain... fellowship, i guess. not so different after all, fat americans, skinny asians, whatever. it's all the same. you're all going on the same road. different origins, different destinations, but for now, this one moment, you form a certain bond with them, these cars you travel with the car behind you, the car you travel behind, the one you've been behind for the last... 20 miles, 30 miles. there was a time when people couldn't walk 30 miles in a day."

"going through the pass now, tejon pass, 4044 feet."

"passing the lake right now, too dark, here there's a mountain lake, very beautiful during the day."

"i can see the glow of LA now, just over the mtns."

"full moon is rising over the mtns now -- it's not the glow of the city i saw, it was the glow of the moon. it's amazing, this big bloated orange thing. full moon tonight. rising. i'm catching glimpses as i pass through the mountains. me and my car, and these mountains, these shadows in the dark. the road under me. dashes and lines, spots of light."

"there it is, the city laid out before me. the LA basin. and the highway descending into it. you see the borders of it, the streets laid out like a grid. i don't like LA by day but by night it is beautiful."

"i remember going to universal studios with my parents. i miss my mom. we rode the ET ride. and that one part where you fly like ET, my mom was like, oh, so beautiful. and afterwards she was like, that was a good ride. and i don't know why, but that makes me sad and happy at the same time, so bittersweet.

"my mom always thinks she has a heart condition. she does have a weak heart maybe, but, she's afraid of strong rides, and... oftentimes, when we and my dad went and did things like that she'd just wait, like skiing, or whatever. and she goes with us because she loves us, you know, but it must be so boring for her. she's always like it's okay, it doesn't matter. but. it does."

"fireworks. there's fireworks over LA."

"the lights i saw earlier, it wasn't LA at all, it was just some podunk town in the middle of the mtns."

"moon is humongous in front of me, yellow turning to white. always surreal to think of how far i've come, from northern california to southern in the space of a single day, just a few hours. a hundred years ago, that'd be unthinkable."

"freeway 210 in 1.5 miles -- i'm about to leave I-5. hey, los angeles city limit, right here. i made it to LA. it's 9:47pm, friday."


On the I-210 East:

"9:48, goodbye LA, goodbye I-5, i'm heading east. back into the mtns that we so recently left, but i'm crossing it to the east.

"air's pretty cold outside. moon's unbelievably bright overhead. i bet if i turned off the lights i'd still be able to see."

"passing this beautiful church. got this spire that kinda juts out, and a cross hanging from it."

"passing a miller brewery. for some reason these factories, mills and refineries, breweries, they always look like miniature cities to me in the dark, and i like it. i like all the amber lights, lit up. especially the refineries -- because they have all these grates, or whatever. structures, what are they called. reinforcements? no. what is it. think think think think think, what is the word again? scaffolding!"

"this song reminds of that incredible moment in Y Tu Mama Tambien. that moment where she... turns on the jukebox. turns around. dances, and looks YOU in the eye, looks the camera in the eye. and all through the movie you wonder, what do these boys see in her? she's old, she's kinda horsefaced...gaunt. she's vulgar, she's controlling, she's not that great. she cries for no fucking reason, and she's fucking 16 year old boys. you see all of her, except for what they see.

"and then, that moment she turns around and looks you in the eye and dances -- you understand, suddenly, exactly what they see. she is... just. not beautiful, but gorgeous. and incredibly attractive. hard to explain."

"fireworks everywhere tonight. magic mtn, and i'm betting that disneyland down there."


On I-15 South:

"getting on 15 to barstow, san diego. maybe i'll go to san diego tonight. nah."

"leaving 210, going on 15. 10:41pm. 15 south, headed toward san diego, but not going there tonight."

"southern california, the night is clear. i find myself strangely homesick for san diego, because this freeway i'm on right now is the one we go on to everywhere in san diego. it's the san diego mother road, i guess. if i keep going on this road i'll pass right by my house. strange thought that some of these cars, maybe even most of them? are headed toward san diego. and some of them will pass my house. some of them might get off there. some of them are my neighbors -- but not anymore."


On I-10 East:

"leaving 15 for 10 east, headed for palm springs. 65 degrees in LA. not gonna be like this in palm springs."

"this freeway smells like cup noodles!"

"why do they put ads for strip clubs up on freeways? isn't that dangerous? i mean, wouldn't you totally stare at it? i know i did. i mean, it's like. has this woman up there with pink hair and her arms crossed over her chest, kinda leaning forward suggestively, and it says, "Pssst... FLESH." and then you keep staring cuz there's something next to that word FLESH and then you realize it says "psst, i'm at FLESH." turns out the club's name is Flesh. but by the time you figure that out, you've spent a good 3-5 seconds staring at it. and 3-5 seconds doesn't sound like a lot? but on a freeway going 80mph, that's a lot.

"so 3 seconds on a freeway going 80 mph is somewhere between 300-400 feet of distance."

"47 miles to palm springs. at the speed i'm going, another half an hour, maybe 40 minutes? not even, half an hour."

"36 miles to palm springs, i'm pulling off for a rest area. gotta piss. the moon is unbelievably bright. clear skies, white moon, shining down."

"okay, last push, almost there. off we go!"


Into the desert on I-10:

"i can see the shape of the mtns under the moon. occurs to me that palm springs might be a desert, but it's a pretty high desert. elevation isn't exactly low. i'd say at least 1000 ft up in the air. high desert indeed. dry and barren, palms, and these stark mountains."

"hard to explain how beautiful the mountains are, layered in the moonlight, which is like mist, falling from the sky. ones closer, dark. ones farther, light. and then they fade into the sky. you can't tell what the distance is, where they end."

"something about the desert makes it easy to go fast. i'm going 90mph and i don't even feel it. i gotta slow down. just a little longer."

"windmills in the desert, under the moon, with the shadow of the mountains behind it. stark sight, somehow desolate, lonely."

"palm springs city limits, 11:54pm, on friday."

"passed CHP going 80mph! (laugh) fortunately he already caught somebody but i'm gonna go slow now.

"and he just passed me doing like 90 or something! him, not me, i was doing barely 80. (laughing) HOLY SHIT.

"oh shit i am WATCHING him pulling someone over. fuuuuck me.

"he just pulled 2 people over at once. i don't know how i escape that. (laugh)"


Off I-10, on local highways:

"driving down the high desert, just past midnight, full moon shining down. mountains, shadows in the distance. me, ghost flowing over these lands. i turn off the lights, there'd be no light at all. i turn off the music, there'd be no sound at all. i'm almost there. all right."

"so, i've arrived. about, hm, 10, 11 or 12 hours from when i departed depending how you count it. been a long-ass drive. i'm at 85600 miles. i've driven 488 miles today, all detours, rest stops, whatever counted in. so here's me, signing off. catch you on the return trip."