30 September 2005

It's that time of year: Lake George Yard Sale! - Friday, September 30, 2005

For nearly two days I lived, slept and died in my small Hyundai. I’d rushed from Longmont to Long Island in less than two days. Fast food, fast driving, fast sleep if any. A month without my immediate family, my friends, and my heart, wherever that was. Who can be sure.
I could have survived without my immediate family for longer. A month. It was nothing. My friends were missed, some of who kept me company via cell phone during long hours in the car. In fact I may have had to had I known what I would come to know. I came back for her and for the yard sale. The situation with her was…uncertain. The yard sale was this weekend and that was certain.

Year after year, we’d gone with few exceptions. Me. Mom. Dad. My sister. My brother-in-law. My cousin. My friend. Some combination of this listing of people had gone for nearly a decade with few exceptions. September 11, 2001 did not prevent our going some weeks later. Live life as normal. Fuck the fear. Spend money. Enjoy capitalism, materialism, orgasm. Aftermath.

Lake George means more than any of those. I have no intentions of spending much money since I am recently returned and without gainful employment. I go to spend time with my family and friends, whoever makes the journey. Lake George usually means Best Western. It means cold nights when Long Islanders are used to humid days followed by still humid nights. It means the lake sparkling under light of the sun and then moon. A continuous luminous cycle. Lake George means waking up before the sun rises. I love it.

The yard sale is actually in the satellite town of Warrensburg, but to us, it’s all simply called Lake George. This weekend in the small Adirondack town means food vendors baking, cooking, sautéing, frying and deep-frying things like pizza, funnel cake, sausage and peppers, popcorn, candy, cookies, hot dogs and hamburgers, homemade lemonade, roasted in the husk ears of corn with a cup of melted butter, corn dogs, French fries, blooming onions (heartburn included), ice cream, and whatever new surprises may come with each new year. It means porta-potties with no toilet paper. Every year, this weekend on the lake means going out to eat at night. Same place as last year (service and food were great last year!), or someplace new (give it a shot!)? These weekends mean threats from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so watch what you eat!

Lake George in early October means the crisp smell of cold when the sun is still revolving back into the hemisphere. It means the smells of fall and the colors of leaves losing their fill of chlorophyll. Green to yellow. Yellow to brown and then they all fall down. Weeks later, in Lake George, you might hear the crunching of those once lush leaves below your feet, but in early October they exist to please the eye in colors of yellow, red, and orange. This weekend means foot soldiering around town in search of treasures hidden on backstreets. Lake George means walky-talkies bellowing strange sounds and snippets of others’ static-filled conversations. It means pranks and anonymous fake threats carried on radio waves, threats that will never be birthed into existence. They’ll never hurt us, but they’ll make us laugh. This weekend means thriving crowds from out of town. Throngs of people before these crowded streets. It means haggling. It means dirty hands after sorting through other people’s junk. It means finding cheap parking in a good spot, central to the festivities. No one wants to drag pounds and pounds of the good stuff through several miles of the horde to get to the car parked in someone’s muddy front yard, for five dollars. Lake George means a four or five hour drive with my father behind the wheel. It means my mother yelling at my father to slow down or back off someone’s ass. I love it.

Lake George means the arcade where Mom rocks the pinball machines without tilting, playing on fifty cents for a good twenty minutes, much longer than my two coins last. Then we shoot invisible beams of light from rifles chained to the counter. I hit the spittoon and the man plays a ditty on the old timey piano. He never lets me down, year after year. Dad rolls the ball into the slot, hoping to make a Full House and get maximum points represented by paper tickets. What kind of prize can we get this year? One hundred tickets for a bouncing ball that we could have got for fifty cents from a vending machine? It was all worth it. Mother and son, side-by-side, picking off furry varmints and snarling desperados. Father and son playing poker. Mother smoking, walking next to father on the sidewalk behind me. On the lake means the wax museum, and the haunted house. Two-for-One pricing!

The yard sale crowds mean trouble for the ambulance trying to get to someone who must have found that nick-knack they’d been hunting for decades, overwhelmed that they’ve found their holy grail. He turned the water into wine. Weekends on the lake mean somebody might get to the good stuff before you do. Fuck you—It’s mine! Lake George means blankets, tables, tents, tarps and barns. Neon stickers, tags on string, markered up masking tape telling us how much. Negotiate. Bargain. Haggle. Araby. I love it.

Crowds and crowds mean people of varying looks. Check her out; she’s got huge boobs. There’s the guy with the voice box, here every year. Were I a kid, I’d be scared. Lake George means the cell phone rings at least ten times and dad asks you where you are at all of those ten times. If you’re not near a street sign, you tell of some landmark that you forget about all year, but once you get into town, it all comes back to you. I love it all.

Lake George means if you’re a melancholy teen and you sit in one spot long enough, strangers who are your peers may come up to you, you who is sitting there in your headphones waiting for your parents and trying not to look alone. These strangers will ask you if you’re okay. After you tell them yes, but don’t necessarily mean it, you want to go with them when they leave. You have so few friends and fewer good ones and maybe that cute girl with them will make out with you. You’re young enough to be satisfied with that and not desire much more, the way you will in the years to come. You watch them go off and are satisfied that someone, who is maybe like you, has shown concern. They cared enough and it got to me. Hit me in the heart and I loved humanity those minutes after, until my parents came around and I was soon digging through a box of G.I. Joe action figures and hoping they’d have their corresponding weapons.
I love those kids, now adults, somewhere in the world, maybe still there, waiting to invite me for a night on the town, as small as it is. Are they still alive, dead, perhaps joined the Army, or Marines and went to Iraq? Did they go to college and move to the city? Albany, Boston, or New York? Did she get pregnant at eighteen or nineteen and go to work at the grocery store that bears no name that anyone outside of the upstate region would recognize? I hope for only the best for them. I love them.

I’ve been returned for a mere week and I’m off again, but not alone. Not alone. My parents and I are heading up to Lake George, New York in a few hours. World's largest yard sale and all that, every first weekend in October. Miles of wares. Miles to go before we sleep.

Mother snipes some terrorists in Silent Scope.

Son, a better shot, gets more headshots than mom.


The world outside of lower New York can be found lacking. Exotic New York foods such as bagels and pizza do not truly exist outside of New York. There are rare pockets in the outside world beyond the intangible walls of civilized New York where these delicacies occasionally form themselves from up out of the earth. Before we leave I'm going to get some bagels, because I've been without them for a month. Real bagels made with New York water. I think that is really the key to many of our fine foods. Pizza and bagels. Bagels and pizza. Thoughts of them bring me to the verge of gastrointestinal orgasm. It's the water that goes into the dough and makes them good. I've only eaten pizza twice since returning, so I must have more of it. Umberto's and then Giuseppe’s with their sweet sauce. A good sauce helps too. Francesco's is next, a family favorite for over thirty years. Mountain Mike's Pizza in Cali is dreadful. I fear Mountain Mike had his balls cleaved off, or perhaps caught in a meat grinder, because he takes no chances with his food. No flavor. None. I might as well go to Sunday mass and eat the wafers coated in flavorless cheese. Is "mass" supposed to be capitalized? I'm agnostic now, so I don't care in the sense that I could go to Hell should that exist, but for grammar's sake I want to get it right.

I just watched Layer Cake (L4YER CAKE on the box). It's a British crime film. The director was supposed to direct X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but "did not want to uproot his family to film in Canada." I think he would have done an excellent job.

I must away now.

26 September 2005

The Hero's Return - Monday 2005 September 26

I'm letting everyone know that I returned Sunday night at eleven. Going through 30 days of mail is harrowing. There are too many bills and other solicitations for money. I have none.

That's all folks!

The Long Road Home - Sunday, September 25, 2005

Text to come soon!

24 September 2005

Let's get this show on the road.

I plan on getting on the road tomorrow morning at around six am. Sans stops and work zones, the trip should take about twenty-eight hours via I-80. When I get to Mifflinville, Pennsylvania, I'll have traveled almost all of the continent spanning roadway. However I decide to break up the time is how long it will take me. Mr. Owl, how many days will it take Paul to get home? Let's find out. . . 1, 2, 3, CRUNCH! The world will never know. Not until I get home anyway. It'll be like a big surprise. Big, because I put on about twenty-eight pounds. Not really. That would be kind of funny just to shock everyone.

Anyway, it's almost midnight, and I'd love to get at least six hours sleep before heading out through the cornfields of Nebraska. I wish the midwest was still forested, as I believe it was over 200 years ago, before the days of Ira Hayes. Trees are much more pretty than the nothingness of endless maize. I should leave at four, just do I don't have to look at corn.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Friday, September 23, 2005 - ENTRY UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I woke that morning to see my cousin had left me with directions and a crude map to travel to the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. With my National Parks pass I would be admitted for no charge.

It would take about an hour to get there and I would pass through Estes, with its huge deer population and scenic lake.

Entering the park groups of aspen stood spotting up the forest in gold through the changing of the seasons.

At times the park road winds up the mountains with drop offs on both sides whose bottoms lay thousands of feet below.
At an elevation of over two miles above sea level clouds blanketed the sky and snow flurries blew about in the biting wind. I spied upon the mountains and valleys until all other the other adventurers had returned to their cars. I had this magnificent view to myself until the next caravan wheeled up the mountain. After taking in the view I walked back to my humble blue chariot where a beautiful girl smiled at me from behind her car window. It felt great to be alive.
Signs along foot trails inform interested travelers of the geological history of the land. Near the apex of the mountain peaks, a sign informed me of the fascinating phenomena known as rock streams. Water seeps into the ground and begins to run downward while underground. Because of waters’ ability to seep into the smallest of spaces, it makes its way underneath rocks as big as melons. Because of the temperature differential between night and day, when it becomes freezing at night, the expansion of the water molecules push the rocks upward until they rest on the surface in streaming patterns. Sometimes two rock streams merge into one. They really are beautiful.
Grand Lake, Colorado
The quaint town of Grand Lake rests past the western border of the park. The main drag runs along the lake and is lined with restaurants, stores and hotels. There are many gift shops selling both typical tourist town kitsch, like mugs with a picture of the lake, or T-Shirts with a painting of the landscape with the name of the town. I bought a few items I thought friends and family would like as birthday and Christmas gifts.

There are many great restaurants and bar & grills. One I went to had great prices. It was hard to believe I got as much food as I did for only six dollars.
After my meal I headed toward the lake to relax for a while and enjoy some homemade ice cream. I walked along the dock peering over the side to see if I could view some fish swimming by.
I then walked onto one of the pontoon style boat docks where I lay down to bask in the sun and let the pulsing of the lake rock me into a sense of peace. I closed my eyes wanting to take a nap.
Deciding it was getting late, I returned, extremely relaxed, to my car and reentered the park at its western entrance. Only a few minutes in droves of cars littered the shoulders meaning only one thing: wildlife. I parked in one of the few open spots and trekked into the tall grass to join dozens of other folk all enjoying a herd of elk. One that looked like a bulky male was wearing a radio collar. Some zoologists were currently tracking the movements of the herd with their equipment and explained to many curious people their efforts.

Back on the road it wasn’t long before I encountered more stopped vehicles, cars, motorcycles and campers. A man was pointing up a steep incline in the trees so I pulled over and walked to where the man was, spotting a huge make elk followed by a small herd. They stuck to the cover of trees and looked amazing amongst the backdrop of endless forest.

Driving slowly along the road there were cars stopped in front of me. A mighty elk commanded respect as he made way across the road.

22 September 2005

Blogtime in Longmont - Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'm in Longmont, CO, listening to The Who's "Teenag. . . ." I mean, "Baba O'Riley." I wish I had thought to do this blog sooner. It would have been a great thing for those who would want to follow me along my journey into alcoholism. I think I've done more drinking on this trip than I have in all time preceding. I await the song titled Squeeze Box. Somehow I don't think it's about a musical instrument, but an equally moving instrument of a different kind. You just got to play it right.

Where did I get the title for my blogsite thingy, you ask? It's the title given to a bunch of Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories from the 1970's. At the time the stories were very different from the usual comic fare. If my memory serves me correctly, the two DC characters traveled the country together, fighting crime of course, and I believe taking on issues such as racism and other topics, then and sometimes still, considered taboo. Of course, it would help if I read those stories, but I will soon. They might even be out in the car.

I'm going to quit this for the immediate future, as it took me a while to get this far with the blog and setting it up. Hopefully Chris will be home soon and we can go get something to eat. I ate Sbarro's Pizza last night after the movies (40 Year Old Virgin, which was likened to myself, except for the virgin part, and Wes Craven's Red Eye). That is considered good pizza out here. I can't wait to eat some New York Pizza. Soon enough. ...Soon enough. Perhaps later today I will get one of my posts up here.

15 September 2005

14 September 2005

Alcatraz or Bust: I Wanna be Machine Gun Kelly's bitch. - September 9, 2005


Made it to San Jose alright. Came in about midnight. It really
smells bad in the hills of California. Supposedly something about
lawn clippings and pigs wallowing.

07 September 2005

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas- September 6-8, 2005

Coming soon!

The London Bridge is Falling Down - Lake Havasu City, AZ - September 6, 2005

I woke up from nightmare sleep on a hot leather couch, stuck to it by my own sweat. I'd dreamt a girl I had left in New York had gotten back together with her exboyfriend. I think I awoke from that nightmare dreamscape as I had left it, tears in my eyes. It's not wise to waste one's water in this desert climate. I had no stillsuit to reclaim it, just black leather. Not good. Precious bodily fluids. Ill portent. POE.

After getting Erica's sister, Nicole's kids off to school, we went to IHOP with David, the guy Erica had been seeing. I treated for breakfast as a thanks for letting me bum off of them. We received lackluster service, even though the waitress had plenty of time to dick around with others from the staff, forgetting my toast and denying me of precious water refills, I always require. I tipped accordingly.

I gave Erica a strong good-bye hug as we dropped her at work, not knowing when I'd see her next. Another year, ten years? It had been six already. Life has a way of doing that.

Back at the house I talked with Nicole after packing my belongings. She seemed like she could be my sister too and we both cared deeply for Erica. David was cleaning the car in the garage. I stood in the doorway telling him it was nice to meet him and to take good care of Erica. Now I was on my way, good-byes said and nothing but more of America ahead of me.

Interstate 10 took me west for nearly 100 miles and past my intended turn-off. I had been talking on my cell phone with the girl from my nightmare (no, not Chani) when I realized I'd gone too far and had to turn around, passing through clefts in mountains that blocked out cell phone signals. Turned around and finding my intended turn-off, I headed north on US-95 toward my destination. I was still driving cautiously slow, only about 5 miles over the speed limit, trying to avoid another moving violation, so I could make sure that ticket from Texas wouldn't show on my record and push up my insurance rate. I couldn't afford such a thing, because my job as adventurer didn't provide income of a financial kind. The only payment I would receive would be to my mind, heart and body.

The sun was falling lower and lower in the sky. I woudn't have much daylight before I got to the London Bridge. I drove along brown bluffs of rock and soil lining what I believed was, or originated as the Colorado River and would wind up in the Gulf of California at its end.

When I finally got into town, the signs for the bridge were very vague so I stopped at a Circle K to ask for directions from a woman with brown weathered skin. Too many years in dry climates with high, hot sun.

At the bridge, there weren't many people around on a Tuesday evening at Summer's quiet end. The monsoon season coming to a close. In like a lion, out like a soft, warm breeze. It seemed like a place that would get lots of weekenders still, or would be busy on weekdays too, during the summer, when the weather was warmer at night. There were tons of quaint shops for T-Shirts and other cheaply made souvenirs for the rubes. A significant amount of bars, with party decks, that would surely be filled on a weekend, by people in their twenties and thirties lined the walkway along the lake. On the other side sat California. I'd be there in a few days more. The place reminded me of the Jersey shore or maybe Lake George in upstate New York during the summer months. A watery getaway for people who didn't want to drive more than a handful of hours.

The scenery was beautiful, but a closer look into the water revealed plastic bags and empty soda cans almost destroying the quaintness of the place. Fat, heavy looking fish lay shallowly submerged like German U-Boats waiting for unsuspecting Allied ships to pass within range. Ducks paddled about, carrying out their daily existence of eating, flying, and mating.

The sun sets peacefully, casting its final yellow rays on the side of the bridge.

At a distance, the sun no more, just its twilight remants.

A young European couple agreed to take my picture.

...is falling down.

After darkness fell, I made for Las Vegas with great haste, driving the pitch black roads of straight-arrow I-40 east and then on US-95 and 93 north, passing atop the Hoover Dam, a great Public Words Project completed in the 1930's.

Several miles before reaching the dam, along snaking roads with speed limits reduced more and more toward a snail's pace, a different sign appeared, one I'd not seen since Sierra Vista. Coming to a stop in an area lit like the finale if Close Encounters I pushed the button to "roll" down my window. It's funny how some word usage keeps even when technology changes the actual act we refer to. A police officer-type asked me if I was a US Citizen, to which I responded in the affirtmative. He then asked me where I was taking the two droids I had in the back seat. I waved my fingers...

I'd heard horror stories of the extraordinary amount of time it takes to get over the dam. Luckily it was nearly eleven at night and there were very few people about, belying what I hear about the daytime trauma of tourists flooding the sidewalks and roadways. Crosswalks lined the road constantly, indicating that the foot traffic must be horrendous at times.

I pulled over to peer hundreds of feet down the retaining wall to see the water below and then crossed the road to see turbines or something which looked like the power generator Obi-Wan shut down in A New Hope so the Millennium Falcon could escape with the stolen plans for the Death Star, Nevada's greatest new casino.

Coming out of the rocky passes, a glow could be seen far on the horizon and before I knew it, a curve around a jutting rock tower brought Nevada's city of shining lights into view. A blade of light from the Luxor cut the night sky. The sprarkling metropolis of win and sin lay before me like a feast laid out for the master returning to his keep. I only ever plan to be temorary master in Las Vegas. That city, much like Phoenix, is much too hot for me. I have never been properly able to express myself in this climate. I could never live there, but I sure as shit could visit the hell out of it, trying to reap rewards from one-armed bandits and spinning wheels of chance, a marble away from winning $35.00 for every chip on the winning spot. Sweet Las Vegas, make me rich, make me rich.

A quick hop up I-515 transformed into a long crawl. There were several lanes closed, funneling us into a narrow line. It took nearly a half hour to drive two miles, allowing me to chow down on the cold Burger King I'd grabbed while at a rest stop some dozens of miles back, left in the darkness of night and afterthought.

Navigating the grid of North Las Vegas took me to my Uncle John's, where I believe I woke him up, apologizing for arriving so late in the night, nearly half past midnight. He set me up in the spare bedroom often used by his mother-in-law where I passed out not much later.

06 September 2005

The Grand Canyon - Or as I like to call it: Frodo's journey up Mount Doom - September 4 & 5, 2005

We'd survived the mysterious car that was tailing us the previous evening. No one had to die, and that was a good thing. It was chilly. We'd gone from weather that even amongst cloud cover, was fairly hot, to a brisk daybreak an hour-and-a-half north of Flagstaff. The sun was just coming up and who could sleep with my chainsaw snoring. Not even me at times. Our clothes were still drying out on the hood and roof of the car. Those strange tourists we'd been making fun of the before had not taken our underwear as we thought they might. We had another hour-and-a-half to go before the park offices were open and we could get an overnight permit. We went over to the nearby lodge to use the facilities and wash up a bit. The sweet aroma of the breakfast buffet was tempting, but we didn't want to hike on heavy stomachs. We'd tide ourselves over on disgusting energy bars and trail mix.

We stood in front of the office at nearly half hour to eight. We were worried about competition for cancelled permits and wanted to have the best odds at getting one, even though we planned on camping anyhow. Getting the permit would make us feel better about the situation though. We preferred not to have criminal records, because who knows what they would do to us if we were caught. We had no idea what it was like at the bottom of the canyon.

As soon as the doors opened we stepped up to the counter and asked the ranger if any permits had become available. Normally, one would have to make reservations days, if not weeks or more in advance, especially during the busy summer season. Luckily we had read online about possible cancellations. The ranger told us that we'd be travelling at the hottest part of the day. He also exclaimed how it would be much hotter at the bottom of the canyon. We asked if we would need sleeping bags, to which the ranger replied that sheets would do us fine. Ideally, we should have left before first light, to avoid the apexed sun's most intense heat. What could we do. We were here now and determined to see the Colorado River for ourselves, from mere feet away. The ranger suggested we take Bright Angel Trail, as it had drinking water along it at several spots. I grabbed my two schoolbook backpacks and we were off.

Since we weren't entirely prepared, I stopped at the Xanterra counter inside on the the lodges in Grand Canyon Village to arrange for meals at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the trail. As my luck prevails, I got on the line that looked shortest, but had the trainee manning customer service, so I waited and waited and waited. I finally made it to the front of the line, prepared to order meals only to find that the computers were not working and we could not reserve meals, which were limited to first come, first serve, as there is no easy transport to Phantom Ranch, so the food they have down there, is all that is available. The journey is ten miles each way on foot or mule. Not trusting of these animals that walk so close to death's edge, we chose on foot. Besides, we would have had to make mule reservations many months in advance.

The sun's unyielding gaze creates an amazing halo effect for this shot.

Tyrel walks on ahead.

Clouds waft by overhead, undeterred by the building heat of the day. The canyon wall looms overhead, master of all it surveys.

The ages are revealed in the multi-colored strata of rock, millions of years gone by, laid bare before human eyes.

Miles of chasm stretch out, carved out over millions of years by the mighty Colorado, thousands of feet below.

Tyrel strikes a pose.

We were stopped and asked for our permits. Is this how it had felt, minus the fear, during the Nazi Occupation and after that the Cold War, being asked for one's papers as they moved about? Is this how some people feel today in our country? Had we not had papers, as was a potential before that morning, we would have been very worried. After checking our permits, the ranger asked if I was comfortable with a backpack slung over each shoulder. She could tell. She stopped another female ranger and asked for some bandage wrap and piggy-backed one backpack atop the other, to put more of the weight in a vertical line, easier to carry, than with the weight spread out more sideways.

Hours later, at Bright Angel Camp, only a few dozen feet from Bright Angel Creek, Tyrel attempts a nap beneath an emergency blanket during a sprinkling of rain. All food and personal hygene items are to be kept secured from the local fauna in old ammo boxes. It was getting cloudier as time passed, though the temperature remained hot, in the mid-nineties, much hotter than at the top of the rim.

After the rain passes, we spend time near the creek talking and taking in the view from the bottom of the canyon.

We make our way to the ranch to see if any meals are available. After the long hike down, we're hungry and trail mix will not do to fill our starving guts. Our dinner choices are reduced by one, to no choice but steak and salad with vegetables and cornbread, followed by homemade chocolate cake. The ranch was out of beef stew, so we accept the last two $30 steak dinners available for the four o'clock mealtime. Though I'd given up red meat, beggars cannot be choosers. Added to our tab was one ice cold lemonade, unable to wait for dinner, that was thoroughly enjoyed by myself then and there.

With nothing to do but enjoy our time, we attended an informal gathering, a Q&A session with a park ranger. Fellow campers, some staying in cabins on the ranch, others in their own equipment near our campground, asked many fascinating questions.

A young boy wondered how the human excrement was removed from the bottom of the canyon.
Answer: it was expensively air-lifted out via helicopter, which was dangerous, because of updrafts.

Another question was answered with what a park ranger's authority is.
Answer: they're empowered the same as any other law officer.

Someone asked how quickly the ranger could make it to the south rim of the canyon from the ranch.
Answer: She said two-and-a-half hours.

It was asked if people had been caught camping illegally at the bottom of the canyon.
Answer: Yes, and it was a $50 fine per person for camping without a permit, and an additional $50 per person for destruction of foilage, as that is where most people attempt to hide at night.

The question that kept Tyrel and I awake all night regarded local creatures. Someone asked about scorpions and snakes, when they come out, how much it hurts to get bit. The ranger said that everyone'd be okay so long as they kept their tents zipped up. We didn't have a tent. We had bed sheets to be laid on the ground and would only be covered by our emergency blankets, like baked potatoes or Jiffy Pop, you know, when popcorn used to be made on a stove and not in a microwave.

Ringing drew our attention to the dining hall. One of the server/cooks clanked a metal rod against the triangle that hung from the doorway overhang post. It was time to eat.

Tyrel and I sat with strangers, in the only empty seats, across from each other. Strangers became less strange, as we gorged ourselves on the best food I'd ever eaten. Mind you, they could have served gruel, and I'd have asked for more, please, because any hot meal, cooked with skill and a love of cooking, would have been just what we all needed. I devoured that steak and heaps of peas and carrots, extra helpings of cornbread and finally the sweet chocolate cake as if this was to be my last meal. If gluttony really is a sin, than my mortal soul was in dire straits.

We'd decided to go check out the river that carved such a spectacle into the plateau. Instead of walking all the way back toward the ranch, we decided to cross the creek, via rocks, with barely sat with their smooth tops above water. Taking off our boots and socks, Tyrel ventured out first, cautiously hopping from stone to stone to no avail, the loose rocks shifting underfoot, his foot slipped into the water and I laughed.

A short hike along steep cliff walls brought us to the Colorado River for relaxation and digestion. Swimming was illegal, even though on the water's edge, the current was not strong. Nearly a mile above us, the north and south rims enclosed us in this deep chasm.

We walked toward the river, chatting loudly about comics, guns, girls and whatever else interested us. As our senses took in everything that was, I commented on how this was one of those places on Earth, that a girl would automatically put out, because it was so romantic. Tyrel agreed as we came across a young couple, around our age, probably thinking the same thing. Having paid our admission too, the price of the permit and the physical toil of descending the canyon wall, we were not going to be deterred from enjoying the river ourselves, for the sake of young romance. Stepping onto the river's edge, the ground sunk below our feet; soft, silky silt, the kind that must have enriched the farmlands near the Nile after each year's floods. The water was a comfortable temperature and several feet out, a silt island rested, the mighty river on one side, and a lighter current sweeping around the other. Above, arched across the sliver of blue sky was a rainbow. I wished I had brought the camera.

We oberved the youthful couple as they walked off, likely disturbed by our pressence and we did not feel an ounce of compunction for them. The river front belonged to us alone. Tyrel and I walked over every inch of the small isle, oberving how far we'd sink into the silt, before we had to step onto firmer footing or risk the river having its way with us.

We crossed back over, water up to our thighs, and laid in the sand, staring up at the sky as the sun fell over the rim and the rainbow faded. Dusk was settling in for the evening and something scurried through the sky in an evasive, erratic flight path. We wondered if it was a bird, but no, birds don't usually fly like that. Small and black, it was a bat that was soon joined by two more of its mammalian bretheren. I'd wanted to see four different creatures while on my journey. I'd seen a tarantula and now bats. Scorpions and snakes were the other two.

Light faded and we'd decided to put our boots back on and head to the campground before it was too dark to see. Tyrel walked on the bath severl feet ahead of me. Startled, he jumped to the side, telling me to watch out. He pointed out a snake, barely visible in the twilight, coiled silently on the side of the path. Tyrel said he'd noticed it coil as he was walking by, otherwise he'd not have seen it. It could have cut our trip real short had he stepped on it.

As we briskly walked along the center of the path near the rockwall we'd passed on our way out, a swarm of bats circled near Tyrel's head for several feet. I was amazed by them and wanted them to envelop me in their cloud.

Back at the camp, we started to settle in when a commotion of people brought our attention to a ring-tailed fox as it tried to hide from prying eyes within the thick of tree branches.

Fear of scorpions stinging us in the night was bad enough to keep us from sleep, but the snake incident made sure we would not sleep on the ground, and not really sleep at all. Once darkness overtook the daylight, there was little to do without a fire, but get into "bed," chat and watch the stars until we fell asleep.

We'd each taken one bench of the metal, diamond laticed picnic table as a bed. The bed sheets we brought were our pillows, our emergency blankets noisily covered us and we'd each slung our belts through the table slats, sliding whatever arm wasn't tucked under our bodies trough the belt opening, in an attempt to keep from touching the ground.

We laid there talking and looking at a sky free from light pollution. Starts twinkled, planes flew by, Tyrel pointed out constellations I still couldn't see and the ocassional shooting star flashed by, thousands of miles overhead, a piece of the cosmos brushing our humble atmosphere.

Eventually conversation shrank into sporadic obervations or comments and sleep overtook us...

A loud, Reynold's aluminum foil crinkling woke us constantly. The slightest shifts, attempts to gain some comfort on these horrible benches, tore through the quiet of the night. My arm grew numb underneath me and I had to roll onto my stomach, placing the numb arm into the make-shift sling. My booted feet grew heavy, unable to stay balanced on the narrow bench, so I removed the boots, placing them on the picnic table, praying arachnids with venemous fangs and stingers would not find them to be a suitable nest. I fell back asleep.

Likely minutes later Tyrel shifted, sending more cacophony into the night air, probably waking everyone else nearby as well. Back and forth we went all night. He'd shift, creating a noise I'll soon not forget, and then we'd fall back asleep and I'd wake up, uncomfortable, rolling onto my side, my stomach, my back, crackling my thin foil covers.

At three in the morning, long before daylight, I'd decided I wasn't going to get any sleep and so I told Tyrel I was ready when we was. He wanted to sleep more, so I let him. Laying awake for half hour more, I couldn't sit still, so I began to empty my ammo box of snacks and toiletries. I ate my breakfast of trail mix and power bars. Before putting my dreadful boots back on, I shook them out violently, hoping to dislodge any arachnid assassins. I had to go number two, but wasn't going to risk it in the dark of pre-dawn and especially not with the smell in the toilets and the possibility of eight-legged creatures inhabiting the building.

Eventually Tyrel awoke and packed and we got onto the trail around four-thirty, along with many other people. Tyrel had only brought his shitty rechargable flashlight, which had died sometime in the night as we attempted to sleep. I laughed at him for bringing that piece of crap as opposed to a battery powered flashlight, which I had brought, along with my spare AAs.

With a green glow stick, the color of Predator blood, tied to his shoelace and with me taking point, waving my flashlight back and forth along the dark path ahead of us, we began our trek out of the canyon.

I warned Tyrel of steps and big rocks in the middle of the path as we walked along in the pre-dawn twilight. Stepping on a rock the wrong way, I inverted my ankle toward the inside of my body. It hurt like a bitch and I had miles to go before I slept.

When daylight finally crept over the rim walls, Tyrel took point and walked on ahead, to wait for my at the next major rest stop, Indian Springs.

Indian Springs, used for many years by the natives, green things growing lushly, also marks the halfway point of the journey. I arrived at the springs to find Tyrel reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. High ground has the advantage. I guess that's why he went ahead, to secure the high ground. God knows what marauders lurked in the Canyon.

Near Indian Springs, I was told this species of rattlesnake is native to the Grand Canyon and it is not found anywhere else. Careful conservation is the only thing that keeps extinction of many species at bay.

Another hiker found this tiny snake near Indian Springs.

From the mid-point, Tyrel went on ahead as I rested and took pictures of the snakes. I changed out of my pants, which were getting too hot, into shorts and a T-Shirt.

I met Tyrel again briefly at the 3-mile rest station, with shade and runnning water. He went ahead to the top and I rested, snacked on salty trail mix. I drank lots of water from the fountain, filling up my three bottles and doused myself in the refreshingly cold water, as was suggested by a ranger. Describing what had happened when I stepped the wrong way, I was told I had inverted my ankle and I needed to follow the RICE accords. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation? Damned if I can remember it all. He also recommended I take Ibuprofren, which I did. I rested my leg up on a rock, my boots heavy, heavier now that I'd messed up my ankle.

On the road again, desperately hiked higher and higher, going slower than I wished with my backpacks slung from my back. Had I been able to climb without them, the trek would have been so much easier, but what choice did I have. This was my stuff. My precious.

I rested again at the 1.5-mile rest station and doused myself in cold H2O again. By this time, my walking stick had carved raw grooves into my hands, where rough little nubs, which had once been narrow, sprouting branches grew.

The last legs of the trip required constant rest. Hike a little, rest a little. Repeat until you've made it back to the top. It was getting difficult to breath, the air dry as can be. With my two unruly backpacks, ill-suited for hiking, I'd felt like Gollum himself was hanging on my neck, in an attempt to wrestle me down, trying to take my precious.

At journey's end, two cute women, who kept leap-frogging me during the last mile or two, took my picture. Yes--I realize I look like an awful jackass in that hat.

At the car, I wrapped myself with a towel and changed my clothes. It was now an hour past noon. We'd left at around five in the morning. Tyrel slept the passenger seat, two hours into a new journey of his mind's making. We drove towards Flagstaff for maybe half hour, an hour, when I started to feel incredibly droswy. Eyelids heavy, I pulled off the road and decided, without choice, to join Tyrel in the dreamtime.

A feast of tasty Italian food lay at our destination. I'd past several attractive looking Italian restaurants in Sedona days earlier, and considering it was a small side-trek on our trip, yet still taking us south, it was considered a great idea.

Delicious pasta and alfredo sauces satiated our appetites a short time later. I filled up on chicken parmesian and more than one basket of delicious rolls that I generously dipped into the pasta sauce. Those who know me well, know that is the bread and sauce are good, I will devour them by the truckload.

Driving out of town, we took the highway past Bell Rock and her red rock sisters. Wanting to pull over, hike and climb, I resisted. It was getting late in the day, and we had two more hours until we arrived in Phoenix. We drove on, monoliths to be left unmolested until another time.

Back on I-17, traffic bottled-necked twenty-five miles from Phoenix. Our pace of eighty miles an hour slowed miserably. We took amusement by keeping certain vehicles from purposelessly changing lanes, as neither lane was moving faster than the other. One such vehicle pulled a horse trailer, with what must have been his buddy in a similar vehicle behind him. As the interstate opened into three lanes, the pace did not pick up much, but we'd managed to score some distance between us and the horseman. Minutes later, he was gaining on our position. We imagined that he'd come riding up on one of his horses, gun in hand, to exact his revenge, as he was nearing one side of us and his friend on the other, potentially boxing us in for our highway transgression.

An hour later, we unpacked in Chandler and parted ways, satisfied with our incredible journey. I called Erica and headed back her way to stay for another night in the sweltering heat of Phoenix. The next night, I determined, I'd be in Sin City, but not without seeing the London Bridge first...