On the Road With Jess, Alyssa & Kyle

Denver and Iowa

August 28, 2008
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Denver was fucking amazing. At first our prospects of participating in the convention looked grim, as you couldn’t get within a quarter mile of anything without a pass. But then David helped me score a press pass and I got to go into the center and see Hillary speak. It was amazing! I was only on the floor for the last part because the fire marshal was declaring it at capacity and wouldn’t let anyone in, but those few minutes I saw of her speech were incredible. The vibe was infectious. I’m writing an article about it for NYU Local so I’ll link to it here once it’s ready. I’ve always been incredibly fascinated by politics, but whenever I go to DC, or a place like Denver while overrun with conventioneers and politicos, I realize how much I really am attune to this whole thing and how I could potentially do it as a career. I think I’ve already fucked up too much in damningly public ways to ever become a politician — god, the dirt they could dig up — but I could definitely live in DC as I’ve always loved the vibe there, despite the surplus of preppies and douche bags (redundant?). And I could definitely write about political topics as a career, not to mention it would make my father beam with pride and admittedly that is something I enjoy making him do.

But yeah. We got to see Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow at the MSNBC booth. Kyle met Ed Rendell, governor of PA, and we all met David Patterson, governor of NY, at an afterparty for the New Hampshire delegation. We talked about NYU! I saw Michelle Obama and Joe Biden walk by me at the convention. It was incredible.

Tuesday night we drove over night to Des Moines. In Nebraska we got pulled over for speeding, and I got shamed for lying down in the back without a seatbelt on, but Alyssa sweet talked our way out of it and we just got a warning. In Des Moines we stayed with Kyle’s friend Salem and his parents. It was… awesome. Alyssa and I got warm showers and were fed tacos and then took a 3 hour nap in this deliciously comfortable and glorious bed, then woke up and got fed pizza. And then we went out and got fucked up and came home and crashed again. It was wonderful wonderful wonderful.

Today we are off to hang out with some of Salem’s friends at Iowa state, and then we are heading to Chicago tomorrow.

-Jess

Some pictures from Denver:

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San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Salt Lake City

August 25, 2008
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We’re in Salt Lake City and the girl who checked us into our hotel was most certainly Mormon, at least by Big Love standards. We got in at 2am and it’s 6am now and we have to get on the road to Denver for the DNC. We’re exhausted. We got in so late because we decided to take an impromptu trip to Lake Tahoe. We had met this amazing interracial gay couple in their 70’s at a vista overlooking Donner Lake. They suggested we hit Tahoe because it was only 30 minutes south. So we did! We got picnic food and sunbathed (slash sunburned) and swam in Lake Tahoe. It was honestly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life: this pristine blue lake surrounded by giant clumps of untouched forest. We haven’t uploaded the pictures from yesterday onto my computer yet, but once we do you’ll be able to see what I mean.

San Francisco was amazing, by the way. On our last day we hung out in Berkeley: I took a class there when I was 17 and it is truly one of my favorite places on earth. We went to all my old stomping grounds: the smoke shop, the lawn near Sather Gate, the vintage shops on Telegraph. It felt delicious to be home. On our final night we stayed in Kyle’s Aunt’s amazing house in the Mission. It was essentially a hippie den and we loved every minute of it, hanging out on the back porch surveying the scenery, sleeping in her art studio surrounded by gorgeous paintings dripping with gold varnish. Alyssa and I decided it was our dream house.

Anyway, here are some pictures:


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Driving Stick in San Francisco…

August 23, 2008
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…is a motherfucking bad idea.

We knew this, but the BART closes so early that we decided to drive to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach last night. It was a bitch finding parking. Eventually we found a spot but it was on a hill: a small hill by San Francisco standards, but a hill nonetheless. We parallel parked with much difficulty, Kyle and I both getting out of the car to help Alyssa navigate. Every time she’d try to go in reverse the car would slide forward and come a hair’s width of smashing into the BMW in front of us. Finally we just left it there, the back tire all the way up on the sidewalk, only a few inches between our front bumper and their back one. We hoped that when we came back it’d be moved.

We went to City Lights and I wrote this there. It’s vaguely emo, read at your own risk. Alyssa bought some books and though it was wonderful in a dramatically different way, it still felt wonderful.

Of course when we got back to our spot the car in front was still there. It was literally impossible to attempt to readjust our car without hitting the one in front of us. Finally Kyle suggested that we put it into neutral and he and I try to push it a little bit more up the hill while Alyssa manned the break. We found some innocent bystander eating pizza and he lent us some much needed muscle. We did it! We pushed the car a foot or so up the hill and then immediately smacked the E break on.

We were relieved. But then — the car wouldn’t turn on and the steering column was locked! I don’t know what that means really, but the steering wheel wouldn’t move, and that’s what AAA called it when I dialed their emergency number to get car help. They told us to jiggle it a little while attempting to turn the keys in the ignition. Luckily it started without a AAA team having to be dispatched to help.

So we learned what we kind of always knew: DO NOT DRIVE A STICK CAR IN SAN FRANCISCO. Seriously. Don’t.

-Jess


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We are bored

August 23, 2008
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More Pictures!

August 23, 2008
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Our Flickr stream is already about to hit its monthly maximum, so we added a few more photos there and we’ll put the rest up here for now.

Yesterday we met up with my best friend, Ali, in Haight Ashbury and did some shopping then partook in some, um, “cultural” activities on hippie hill in Golden Gate Park. It was so good to see Ali again. I have two all-time best friends, Ali and Ana. Unfortunately, they both live in California: Ali goes to Berkeley and Ana goes to USC. We only get to see each other about twice a year — usually over winter break and during summer – but considering we’re broke college students living on opposite coasts, that’s actually not too bad. She’s off to Budapest for study abroad so she had to head to the San Jose airport. We came home and did blog stuff and then ordered Chinese food and hung out. It was amazing to relax and just do nothing: we haven’t had that luxury in what seems like forever.

This morning we woke up early and went to breakfast with Kyle’s aunt at this great authentic Mexican place in the Mission. Then we took the bus to the Embarcadero and walked around Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli, etc. We took the Hyde Street cable car to Union Square and did some more shopping. I fucking love this city.

We just ate In N Out (the only fast food worth eating) and are now in comas in bed watching The Brave Little Toaster on Toon Disney. The vacuum cleaner is so grumpy and reminds me of Dr. Cox from Scrubs.

Anyway, here are some pictures, and be sure to check out the Flickr for the rest.

-Jess


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First Video

August 22, 2008
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Pictures Updated in Flikr

August 22, 2008
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Wind farm

Wind farm

Haight Ashbury

Haight Ashbury

Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park

Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park

California!

California!

Our Flikr Stream is updated here.


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Eureka

August 21, 2008
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We plan to do full entries on our adventures in Santa Fe/Los Alamos when we’re not exhausted from driving 22 hours straight. I know, we’re insane. We drove from Santa Fe to San Francisco and it took 22 hours. We drove all the way across Arizona and almost ran out of gas in the Mojave Desert. It was insane. But for now we’re shacked up at a Howard Johnson’s – which is surprisingly nice and clean, with free wireless and digital cable – and we are just so happy to not be in the car anymore and to finally have reached our crosscountry destination: SAN FRANCISCO. We took a few wrong turns and went across the Bay Bridge and into San Fran and it just felt so good to be back. I’ve spent a lot of time here since I was a little kid and it has *always* felt like home to me, even more so than New York. It’s something in the air.

Anyway, here are some photos to hold you guys over until we do some more real entries and update the Flikr.

Sunrise in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sunrise in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Alyssa & Kyle in a teepee in Oklahoma

Alyssa & Kyle in a teepee in Oklahoma

Apparently the largest cross in the Eastern hemisphere - in Texas, of course

Apparently the largest cross in the Eastern hemisphere - in Texas, of course

A mesa in Arizona

A mesa in Arizona


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Cracklahoma City

August 20, 2008
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Though I’m completely neurotic and chronically nervous, I fancy myself a pretty comfortable person in terms of situations that might be considered “dangerous” by outsiders. I’m never the first to move to lock the car doors while driving through North Philly or cross to the other side of the street if someone sketchy is walking towards me late at night. I think this is partially due to two factors: one, that I live in New York and I’ve developed some pretty good street smarts because of it; two, my earlier formative years were spent in a pretty rough neighborhood where I came up through a shitty public school system with a small percentage of educated and/or families above the poverty line in the district. Therefore, I’m pretty steeled to situations that might be considered “sketch.”

That said, last night was fucked up.

There was a freak thunderstorm across most of Oklahoma, so we finally go to the Motel 6 in a torrential downpour. We check in and our room keys don’t work, so we have to go back to the front desk. Strike one. They put us in a street level room that faces the highway/parking lot. There is a fly buzzing around the bathroom and the carpet is stained with God knows what but I suck it up and attempt to not be a germaphobe for one night and we get our pajamas on and watch the Olympics. Not an hour into the stay we hear a knock at the door. A glance through the peep hole reveals it to be some random white guy pacing back and forth and trying to slide his key into our door and jiggling on the handle. He keeps banging. We bolt the door and try to ignore him but we are getting increasingly freaked out because it is very obvious he is on some sort of substance, probably crack or meth, that is making him tweak the fuck out. We’re afraid if we open the door he’ll be confused since he obviously thought it was his room, and start freaking out at us. This crackhead is strike two. He keeps fucking knocking. For 10 minutes straight he is knocking and trying to get into our room. Finally we try to call the front desk but THE PHONE DOESN’T WORK. Strike. Three.

I swear it’s like something out of a horror film: crazy crackhead attempts to break into our room in stormy Oklahoma City while we’re miles away from home, and when we go to call for help, the line is dead. And the wireless was out because of the storm. Eventually I find the motel number in my cell phone and get the girl at the front desk to come, but she is in her early 20’s and basically defenseless, so when she shows up and starts questioning us like it’s some sort of routine, we decide to leave. She immediately offers us a full refund, which in my mind kind of solidifies the fact that this is a fairly regular occurrence and um, we’re fucking dumb for staying in a Motel 6 near the Oklahoma City airport.

We run to the car, check out, get our refund and go to the Holiday Inn. We’re pissed because we don’t have money to spend on a hotel, but we’re so freaked out and exhausted and terrified that we’ll only feel safe in a place where the doors lead to a hallway and not the outside. Well, apparently in most hotels in Oklahoma, you have to be 21 to rent a room, so we get turned down.

At this point I’m hysterical. We’ve been sitting in the car in the pouring rain with all of our shit, homeless, trying to figure out what to do for about a half hour. Some guy in a van comes up and asks us if we’ve seen his puppy, he’s lost his puppy, please help him look for it. SERIAL KILLER PICK UP LINE MUCH? It was 10 o’clock at night on a Monday and pouring rain. You did not lose your goddamn dog.

Eventually I call my Dad and he comes to the rescue and gets some guy from hotels.com to get us a room at this Suburban Extended Stay hotel. We get directions and drive, almost crashing a few times because the storm was so bad, but eventually make it. We slept and then woke up at 7am to continue driving to New Mexico, which is where we’re staying now.

In short, it was terrifying. Terrifying because we were alone in a dangerous city far away from the comforts of home with no backup plan. Terrifying because this is the first time any of us have done anything like this. Terrifying because we all crumbled under pressure, but me the worst, because I started having a full fledged panic attack and barking orders and hysterically crying. To my credit, the Motel was really bad, egregiously overrun with prostitutes and drug addicts and various other transients. But I could have handled myself better. I guess that’s part of the learning process.

Because we did learn a few things:

1. Always have a back up plan.
2. Don’t stay in a motel near the airport.
3. Never go to Oklahoma City.

-Jess


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St. Louis

August 18, 2008
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We’re getting kind of a late start today because Alyssa had to go to breakfast with her Aunt. We finally made it into St. Louis around 7pm local time after visiting our friend Grace at her place at Case Western in Cleveland. The drive was bizarre. We loved Indiana because the speed limit was 70 mph and there were no cops and you could just breeze on through. Illinois was so flat and boring. Miles upon miles of farms and huge 10 story crosses looming over the highway and billboards that remind us the only way we’ll reach salvation is by admitting that, “Jesus is real.” (I don’t think *any* religion purports he never existed so I never really quite got that sentiment. I’m only kind of joking.)

We met a couple at a gas station in rural Illinois who was also from Pennsylvania. They were headed back from the world’s largest no kill shelter in Utah called Best Friends. They had driven all the way out there to do some volunteer work with the organization. They also warned us that the state police in Utah are insane and not to go more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, so that’s good to know considering we already got a ticket, as evidenced by Kyle’s earlier post.

Last night we also got the chance to see Tropic Thunder with Alyssa’s cousin and other real Missouri folk. They checked our IDs for the movie! That has *never* happened to me before. On the plus side it was only $8, compared to New York’s $12.75.

Now we’re off to see the arch in St. Louis down by the Mississippi, and then we’re headed out to Oklahoma City for a night in a Motel 6.

-Jess


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