The trestle in Grand Forks

We are all caught in the mythos.

We build and live out our own personal legends, and Seattle was inscribed in mine, among other forms of kismet which have been intoned in words of blood on the farbic of destiny. Seattle meant traveling and traveling is, of course, also leaving: a little good-bye, a little I do what I must do. The last few weeks were a combination of obligations and good-byes. I'd been searching for a ride west for some time and had got into the unfortunate habit of saying finalistic good-byes with people whenever we parted since I could, literally, at any time receive a phone call that would pull me away. Preparing to depart bears similarities, I imagine, to terminal diseases.

These writings to the contrary, I have spent more time not traveling than I am really comfortable with. People, your dearest friends, hold you close, and you are afraid to leave. Yet mine is not the only mythos and others are leaving as well: France, Lousiana, Michigan, Colorado, Norway, Italy. Dispersion. You cannot hold them, should you be held by them?

I went up to Grand Forks to visit friends and family. My time there is peaceful, and memories of it flow together. I drove up with my old fencing partner, Kales. We hadn't seen each other for perhaps two years or spoken in one when I called her. Yet there we were, meeting up at the EWB office, grabbing my stuff, and driving off and away. It was a five hour drive and our conversation lasted the entirety of it. An important point which may have come out of it is the desire to drop by and visit my fencing couch, Mikan. Although he ranks as one of my favourite people, much of my six years of knowing Mikan has been centered around fencing. Escaping that backdrop to meet as people, rather than mutual addicts, is something I'd like to do and something Kales believed was possible - she'd been trying it herself.

I arrived late in the evening and dropping by Jenn and Coric's, though they were not awake. I climbed the stairs and walked into my niece's room, to find that she now had a bunked bed and was reading high atop it. She took my sudden apperance in stride, without surprise, and immediately began describing the minutae of her life. For most, if not all, of the time she's known me, this has been the way of things. I make sudden appearances and brief stays. Though I'm told later that it made her day… at least what was left of it!
One night Mikeri invites me to join some of the Urban1 crew at a late night jam session. We swing by my sister's place so Mike can grab his guitar, the Highlander Bottle Shop (which I have never been in2) to pick up beer, and then my place to pick up my electric bass, which I do not play nearly enough these days. The jam session lasts until around two and is a mix of music we've heard, but don't really know, and music Amazi has written, which is catchy. One song in particular is about there are many things a person can believe in, especially dinosaurs, but not a god who revels in the smell of burning goat flesh. The next day, a new photograph of me holding Amazi appears on Facebook. This in addition to previous tags as lichens, glaciers, and road signs.

I was also fortunate enough to help my friend Dirk clean out his pick-up topper. I feel my friends and I frequently feel pressure to come up with some sort of activity around which to structure our meetings, so it was special to have a pedestrian and necessary task serve that purpose without exerting such pressure.

When I left, I thought I would be back. In a week. To gather my things. So good-byes were brief and not enough time was really spent with some people. (Sorry Coric, Mikeri, family.)

My parents and I drove out to Grand Rapids and then on to Duluth for lunch at the Amazing Grains with my grandmother and cousins. It was here that I decided to try to hitchhike to Minneapolis. Once upon a time I had been offered rides just walking up from Park Point wearing my backpack. Today there was no such luck.

You see all those cars pull onto the road and you think that surely there's room for you in there. But not all people ignore you because they're scared, lazy, wasteful, or one of several other possible adjectives. During that time I could have gone anywhere in Duluth with the rides I was offered, or, several times, to Wisconsin. Several people who were leaving later or to different destinations even took my number or gave me their's in case I didn't find a ride sooner. But I had a deadline. Two hours and hundreds of cars passed, my family drove by several times (either not trusting to or believing in my method), before I decided to take my back-up recourse - a bus.

Most important things in life, I keep in my head. Consequentially, one might get an odd idea of who my friends are by looking through my telephone, because very few of my actual friends appear there. Instead, I have several Greyhound bus stations, Amtrak stations, airports, Jefferson buses, taxis, hotels, and the venerable Skyline Shuttle - the most regular, versatile, and secret link between Minneapolis and Duluth. I ran over to the parking lot of the Radisson, pulling out my phone and calling them as I went.

The bus had already left - ten minutes early.

Turning, I walked back towards the interstate. Now I really needed a lift.

The phone rang. The owner of Skyline Shuttle was apologising… and driving my direction. Soon I was seated beside him in a sizable Yukon and we, going ten miles over, chased after the shuttle, which was going ten miles under. There wasn't time to pay, so I just transferred vehicles when we met at an on-ramp, and we kept going as quickly as we could. Payment would happen later, via the phone.

A couple of hours later my toaster and I were standing by the state capitol. (It was for a friend. And, yes, I was trying to hitchhike with a toaster.) An hour or so after that, Steca and I drive to Northeast, park, and walk the dark streets together to Psycho Suzie's. We (Steca, Bripi, and Becca) went here once before, earlier on in college, and some how all became nostalgic for it. We're joined by Kare, a housemate of Steca and Bripi, and Jason+fianceé, from the music school. It's our first gathering in over a year. Kare will leave the next day for Fargo and, in a few months, for Colorado.

Although I spent most of the previous visit covering my ears, this time the music is quieter; the drinks still come to the table with flames dancing on top.

Afterwards, we walk back to Steca's car and I borrow her house for the night and her church for the morning. After hanging out for the day, she leaves for a baptism, and I, after finishing an episode of the animated Star Wars with her sister, leave for other milieus. A week later, she returns to France. Dispersion.

I had never expected to be the last inhabitant of my home, especially since I officially moved out at the end of May. Yet, sleeping on a foam mat in abandoned rooms, feeling like Bourne, I watched people leave. Until one night there was no one left.
The next day we reconvened to close out the house. The accumulation of years' worth of previous inhabitants' stuff had taken almost twenty hours of work to clean, most which fell on Tad's shoulders. Kudos to him.
Still, there was fear that after all that the deteriorating condition of the house (squirrels invading the attic and the upper floor, burst pipes and mold in the basement, and other conditions) might result in the damage deposit not being returned. So Tad wrote an epic letter, which we signed.

And we left.

But I came back, because of the cat.

I'd been told that the new renters had been contacted and that they wanted to live with Vinnie T. Cat, one of my favourite roommates. So, I dropped by to see how he was adjusting. And then the world twisted in on itself.

Back in June, I went square dancing (after years of hearing rumours about it) with my uncle and, while dancing, met a girl with a salmon shirt on. I have this thing about salmon - there are five Pacific species and to call something "salmon" is to cover up huge differences in taste and texture, not to mention the salmon's particulars whilst it is still alive. Surprisingly, however, Jerip knew the difference. It turns out she had once gone to Alaska to go organic farming near Haines, ran out of money, and had to work in a cannery for a season in order to get home. The day after the dance, she left for Portland and then for Alaska again via a long, long road trip through British Columbia. Meeting her came at a time when I was desparately wanting to go back there, and painfully accentuated that desire.

And here she was telling me, as I struggled to pay attention and not focus on the extraordinality that this person who had made June seem unbearable by dint of her adventure was now living in my house, that one of her roommates had a problem with Vinnie. Said roommate appeared shortly thereafter and said that Vinnie was probably diseased and couldn't come inside because he might make one of her four cats sick. Instead, she wanted to take him to a shelter. I said a flat "No." and spent the next few days making phone calls and trying to find Vinnie's original owner - Orion. They'd been together for seven and a half years before and I'm told their reunion was a happy one. So it all worked out, but not without certainly feelings of miffedness towards the new inhabitants of my home.

Other pre-departure activities:

Spend many hours reworking all EWB's computers. Spending more hours recreating the office by removing most of the cubicals. Sigh over the fact that I keep putting so much time into this.
Join my counsin for her birthday. Revel with my other cousin in the joy of home-made ginger ale. Enjoy an Indian restaurant in celebration of all this, and my graduation (I had, at this point, completed my magna cum laude B.A. in philosophy with minors in mathematics and computerscience).
Photograph random hawks on the way to explain the EWB website to Aarand.
Met up with Corgee for breakfast and a walk to a place I'd never been before - something that doesn't happen too often in Minneapolis - and to look inquisitively at squished turtles.

Spend some very good time with friends. There was climbing, and watching of Dr. Who, and then, the last night, gloriousness.

On my last night in Minneapolis, Justin, Kathleen, and I got together and hit up Sebastian Joe's ice cream. Following this, we walked over to PG's house, and I climbed up to the second story porch to knock on the door. PG told me when she heard the knock, she knew it had to be me, but that I shouldn't do it again. It reminded me of the time Becca and Steph were studying and heard bangings somewhere in the ceiling, to which Becca said, "Richard must have finally made it into the ventilation shafts."

We picked up Beth at her new house, back in Prospect Park, and then Scott, before a night of light graffiti.

We got home pretty late, but it was the best of possible evenings, and I saw almost everyone.

The next day began fairly early in my uncle's basement, where I spent the last week and change. When I'd last spent a summer in Minneapolis it had worked out pretty terribly. My work was reclusive and buried in a lab under the ground, a relationship had ended poorly, fewer people were around than I'd hoped. It was reclusive. This summer worked out better, as I was able to get out of the city several times and couchsurfing was inherently more social, but it was done at the risk of offending hospitality.

I went to visit Dr. Σταβρου in his office and, after finally settling a thousand dollar reimbursement for the previous summer's work (things are more relaxed, time-wise, in Greece), we talked about what I would do next and he asked me, "Vhat will you doo with all this knowledge you have… acquired? I saw you at graduation - I was seated on the stage - but you were imperious and lost in your own thoughts, so I thought I would not bother you." Then he pointed at one of his bookshelves - every wall is covered with books to the ceiling such that you cannot see the walls, and a shelf runs out into the office - and opened the book I gave him. It was a documentary of the university through the 90's and mentioned that one of the presidents, upon leaving, had said that one of the few things he would take was a framed copy of the poem Ithaca, which Σταβρου had given him. Σταβρου reach up and took a copy off of his own wall, saying that he'd given the president one because he thought it would give inspiration as he sailed rough waters. He then read me Ithaca.

I dropped by to visit Dr. Tiberius, who had advised my philosophy thesis. When I first came to her office, I came to enjoy the regular sight of a bike and rubber boots off in one corner. At that time I didn't know what I was going to write on and had all sorts of big, grandious ideas. She told me I should go away and think about it, and it would come to me. When I replied that that was an almost spiritual answer she said she thought it was the first time anyone had ever said anything she had said was spiritual. Spiritual or not, she was right. The topic did come and develop, though it took longer than I'd have hoped for. After asking for two extensions, and receiving a polite warning that those who delayed their theses into the summer seemed not to finish them, she wrote to say that she was going to stay away from her office for as long as possible, but would advise via email.

So it was the first time we'd met in months and the talk was good, at one point she mentioned that while she was away from her dogs she didn't know if they were happy or sad (they're always happy when you get home), but she suspected they slept. Philosophy majors, apparently, end up everywhere, so she wasn't surprised about where I was off to.

At the last moment, Mom called to say she was driving down, and brought a bunch of stuff with. Just as she was arriving, Kawis finally made it back from her cheesemaking escapades in Italy. Together we went to my uncle's house to find Bripi also waiting to say good-bye. As we all awkwardly stood in the living room, I packed up two backpacks worth of stuff. Stared at it for a good long while, and then decided I was going to travel ultralight, and unpacked most of it again, leaving behind important items, such as underwear.

My cousin and aunt made it back just in time to say good-bye and then we drove to the airport, a trip that was only possible due to my uncle's prodigious driving abilities. Bripi followed our hair-raising travel in her own car. While we were careening, Kawis and I tried to catch up on seven months of adventures, but it was difficult. Bripi left us at the airport, to begin (from my perspective) her trip to New Orleans. Mom and my uncle said good-bye at the car, and Kawis came in to see me through security. I made it to the airplane just as boarding began.

And then we were airborne. Shelly, the lady next to me, was heading back to Alaska after her first visit to the continental U.S. in ~2.5 years. She lived somewhere outside of Anchorage in Eagle River and had majored in sales before becoming a su chef. Eventually she quit that, after continuing to miss opportunities to be her own chef, and got into shipping logistics, which she loved. The cheffery became a hobby. Conversation about Alaska is always good, and the flight went quickly.

The plane swept in through Phoenix, revealing a dusty, sprawling city, with a few mountains in the distance and some sizeable monoliths in the urbanscape itself. I gave Vanche a call, since this was the closest I'd got to Tucson since she moved there, and together we discussed the heat exchange efficiencies of sprawlitecture.

The next flight up, I was sitting next to a soft spoken, difficult to understand lawyer whose whole demeanour screamed "serial killer". While I tranced, he borrowed my copy of "The Things They Carried" and read the whole thing in under a couple of hours - a talent lawyers must have, I suppose - and agreed with me that it was terribly depressing.

I arrived in Seattle at 11:30PM-PST, 1:30PM-RST. And it was raining. I played my pennywhistle while waiting for the light rail and then, because the car was empty, played it the whole hour long ride in to downtown.
Where I got dropped off in a tunnel. A few minutes later the #73 came and picked me up… driving along on top of the train tracks and then departing up through the same tunnel the train had gone through. It could make a person nervous, this. As I walked along, the shoelace of my boots cut into my neck and my cellphone, reaching the end of its battery, began to plaintively say, "Richard, you're killing me.", as I tried to make more calls to figure out where I was going. But, at last, I made it to a door, a friend, and an inflated matress.

1Referring to the legendary Urban Stampede "House of Joe"

2Yes, this is a footnote inside a paranthetical. When the subject comes up, which is pretty often because I take an odd pride in it, I like to say that I've been in nearly every publically accessible building in Grand Forks… and some that aren't. The Highlander, then, is special. The discovery that it had both a bar in the back and a basement further added to the excitement. Kudos to Mikeri for offering me the experience.

Check if this is a private message just for Richard:

Little Cousin - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 22:58:37 (PDT)
This is delightful! I hope you are doing well. Is Alaska in your future?