Category Archives: American Oddesy

My trip across America by train.

And I’m Proud To Be An American

Where at least I’m kind of free.  At least my refills are free.

Yes, I have reluctantly landed back on American Soil.  I have been here, in Los Angeles, for about 48 hours now, and I’m not too happy about it.  My final month in South America was wild and fun filled.  Most of it was spent in Buenos Aires, what many call the Paris of the south but what I found to be much more akin to New York City.  This isn’t going to be a full article on my time there, since I still have yet to organize and upload pictures.  When I do write my piece on it, I will have a large number of complaints to file, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  I adored the nightlife, which begins at 2am, and though I don’t think I could do it for more than the month that I did, I experienced some of the most fun clubs, interesting cocktails, and inexhaustible crowds I’ve ever seen.  I also am proud to say that my pen pal of 6 years, Lucho, who I had never met, was able to come from his small city north of BA to visit me, and I adored him.  I don’t think I have ever before met someone with whom I have felt such a strong connection in such a small amount of time.  Unfortunately I had to leave him behind, but I hope our friendship grows.  But more on that mess later.

For now, I’m focusing all of my efforts on getting out of Los Angeles and back to the haven of the east coast.  Fortunately I have been able to book a cheap ticket to Boston for this coming Monday.  I plan on spending some time with the wonderful friends I have there, and then heading back to my home in Maine where I will crawl into my bed and weep quietly for a while and eat lots of American food and watch Battlestar Gallactica on my computer, before rising again to reasses and move on.  Odds are that I will be spending a month or so in Maine recooping before picking up and moving to Ohio to live with my sister and her boyfriend Luke in Columbus.  I just can’t stop moving, which may be beginning to manifest itself as a problem.

When I left Buenos Aires, the hot weather was quietly slipping into a subtle fall.  Now I’m here in LA and winter is blooming into spring.  How fitting it has been, to spend this transitional time of my life in such shifting times of year.  I can’t believe it was only 6 months ago since I went into the sleep study.  Now that money is gone and I feel like a different person.  I’m terribly sad to have to end my adventure in those mind boggling places with those complexly wonderful people I met.  At times like these, I think most travelers feel worn and confused, and it’s difficult to see into the nebulous space in front of me.  I have to enter it, just like I entered Peru, with fear and worry, but try to grapple for some faith that whatever comes next will be ok, and probably wonderful.

For now, I’m thankful more than anything for friends.  For Laura, Diana and Kyle who became so close to me in such a short time as we adventured together, and now for Brandon, Kady and Krystyna who are sheltering me in this City of Angelish things to protect me from completely losing my mind.

And as for the blog?  It’s going to be doing some transitioning as well.  In the nearish future I’m hoping to take some classes on web design and blogging, to get this baby up to full speed.  Soon I’ll be buying a domain name and moving all this to a bigger and more organized space.  Keep an eye out.  For now, I hope you keep reading as I catch up on the stuff I’ve left out:  the rest of the sleep study, more creative writing, more on volunteering in Peru, Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Lima, travel tips, and my upcoming attempt to insert myself into the gay rights movement that I have neglected for so long.  Stay tuned, tell your friends, give me a thumbs up on stumble, and for christ’s sake leave a comment if the mood strikes you!

Liam as a Ted Kazcynski Look-Alike in Lima

DISCLAIMER:  If you are a member of the FBI, CIA, any other like minded organization, or Dick Chaney, I am not in any way a terrorist, and the title of this entry is a joke.  You all could use a laugh.

Krystyna, my love, dropped me off at LAX around 10pm.  The line for check in at Taca, the Peruvian airline I flew with all the way, was out the door.  I felt like shit waiting there in line, probably because I hadn´t slept in a real bed for a few days, and simply had not been taking care of my body. 

I had about an hour to kill after I made it through security.  They pulled my bag aside when they saw my flask, but the ornery little TSA man gave up trying to pull it out from underneath all of my tightly packed things and let me go through.  Good thing I´m not a terrorist.  I fell asleep quickly at my gate, and even quicker once I was on the plane.  I woke up only for food, a nasty mess of alfredo pasta and a roll so hard you could bounce marbels off it.  When I woke up the next time we were landing in El Salvador.

I had 5 hours in the tiny airport, and wasn´t confident enough to leave.  The El Salvador airport is situated in the middle of a wide field ringed with short-stumped, long-branched trees that resembles, oddly, pictures I have seen of the Sahara.  There wasn´t much to do besides sleep and read, so thats what I did.  Here´s a picture of the place.

The El Salvador Airport

The El Salvador Airport

I reboarded my flight, and was surprised to find that Taca airlines serves unlimited free alcohol, even to the pleebs sitting in coach. 

TRAVEL NOTE:  When flying to Peru, book your tickets through Taca.  It is an excellent airline, the staff is friendly, and the prices are cheaper through their website than on expedia, travelocity, etc.

It was a managable 7 hour flight, nothing particularly special to comment on.  The real fun began when I arrived at Lima at 7:10pm. 

The Lima airport is a bustling, hyper-modern airport.  It is a hub in South America, and therefore very crowded and chaotic.  Unfortunately, flights to Cusco during the rainy season only take place in the early morning hours because that is when it is clear enough to fly a plane through the valleys of the Andes.  I was booked for Taca´s first flight, but that was still a good 10 hours away from when I landed.

Fortunately, you can sleep in the Lima airport.  However, it is a terrible experience.  First, a picture of my lodging that night.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Note the brightness of the place.  That never ceases.  Most airports and train stations have a personalized jingle that plays before an announcement is made over the loud speaker.  The jingles in France are particularly frightening.  The jingle in Lima is only three notes, the first three notes of the song “Happy” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.  Not too bad, except that those three notes, and subsequent ear-shattering announcements made first in Spanish and then in English, occur at a frequency of about 1 every three hundred miliseconds ALL NIGHT. 

Lastly, Lima is a very warm, very humid city.  It makes sleeping akin to lying in a shallow puddle.  And yet, somehow, the airport in the middle of the night was very cold.  So I had to keep my sweatshirt on.

And this is how I came to resemble the sketched image of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, while sleeping on a row of chairs at the Lima Airport.  Sunglasses on to protect myself from the lights, headphones in and playing Sovay by Andrew Bird on repeat to drown out (unsuccessfully) the announcements, and hood up to protect my sweaty head from the cold. 

Three times during the night a man riding a miniature zamboni around the airport would wake me up and tell me to stand up.  Then he would drag the row of chairs, surprisingly unbolted from the floor, to a random location in the airport, so that he could Zamboni where they once were.  I felt like a stray dog.

Finally 3:15am arrived and I was able to join the long line to get my boarding pass.  Sleeping by the gate to my flight was a similar experience, so I resolved to stay awake since I was anxious about flying anyway.  When I did get on the plane, the pilot announced that there was a delay because the clouds had settled.  It only lasted a few minutes, and I got into a pleasant conversation with the older Canadian woman seated next to me. 

The flight from Lima to Cusco only lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it is one of the most breathtaking flights I´ve ever been on.  Outside the windows, the peaks of

Snowcapped mountains reach up through the clouds.  As you approach Cusco, little villages with red roofed houses come into view, growing in size until the low, bowl-like city of Cusco comes into view.

Examples below.

The Mountains Through The Clouds

The Mountains Through The Clouds

 

My New Home

My New Home

 

Coming up next, my first exhausting and strange few days in Cusco.  Should be up the next few days.

Picture Post: Taos and LA

My blog is quickly becoming the place where I am going to save all of the pictures of my trip.  Here are 4 of Taos that got left out, followed by 3 of the train trip from Albuquerque to Taos on the South West Chief.  My guess would be that they are also of New Mexico, but it could be Arizona.  More posts later today that will actually be about PERU.

Taosity-taos

Taosity-taos

Tacos

 

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Scenes from the South West Chief

Table Top

Table Top

wires

MUST HAVE THE LA EXPERIENCE

Hola todos!  I´m going to apologize in advance for any blog I post from South America.  The keyboards here are screwy and spellcheck doesn´t work.  So forgive.

 

This beffuddled entry was written at a hostel in Cuzco.  I came here unprepared, so there will be updates soon.  I´ve been in Peru for 3 days now, but I realize there is more to my trip across America that I need to write about, so here goes.

It was sad to leave my Rita, but we had some good times, of course.  Rita took me to see her old hometown of Taos (only one letter away from TACOS), which is a beautiful, quiet mountain town.  Pics will be coming.  It was only the beginning of the massive amounts of massive mountains that I have encountered.

I took the train from Albuquerque to Los Angeles.  It was a 16 hour trip, and out of all of the treks I have made by train I have to say it was the worst.  The people on the train weren´t very friendly (probably because most of them lived in either Albuquerque or Los Angeles.  I wouldn´t be happy either).  I slept for most of it, but the desert of Arizona and the mountains of New Mexico that I did see was magical. 

I was surprised to find that Union Station in LA was the most beautiful out of all of the many train stations I visited on my trip.  It had incredibly high ceilings, and winding courtyards throughout.  But maybe I´m being biased because when I arrived it was already 75 degrees and it was only 8:15am. 

Brandi Baho was my knight in a white rental car. He picked me up so early in the morning and drove me around LA with some techno music bumping and the windows down.  A pic is coming of him too.

Brandon and I rested a bit, cooked a very manly carb-loaded breakfast, and then took a tender hike up the hill behind the complex (property of Emerson College, kind of) where he lives.  Last year a fire raged across that hill and almost consumed Emerson, and it was neat to see all of the burned trees and bushes as we climbed.  When we got to the top you could see all of LA, and it was un poquito disgusting.  The smog was visible from up there, even though it was winter.  But nonetheless the view was enjoyable, as was conversation and beers with Brandon. 

Brandon also took my to a very strange store that I wish I had taken pictures of to buy a sketchy new ¨ipod¨ for 25 bucks.  It´s a piece of crap, and probably wasn´t worth the money, but at least it plays music.  It came in handy in the Lima Airport, which I will explain later.  PS Check out my entry on the homeless in Chicago for an update on my old ipod. 

Eventually I met up with my true love Krystyna, who whisked me away to her Paris Hilton Is My New BFF-esque mansion.  We had a simple, lovely night of partying with her roommates and friends, and it actually turned out to be one of the wilder parties of my life.  If you want details,  you´ll have to find a way to talk to me about it directly.  Or call Krystyna. 

I woke up slightly dazed on an air mattress in Krystyna´s hallway.  It wasn´t long before we got up, went to a delicious and expensive (LA) breakfast place just down the street from her, and then quickly made our way to DISNEYLAND.  I kid you not.  I actually went to one of the centers of American Capitalism on the day before the night I flew to South America. 

Krystyna plays Sleeping Beauty used to work for a disney affiliate, so she had a silver pass that allows her to enter the parks with up to three friends.  Score.  What followed was a bizarre day of animatronics, homosexual safari boat drivers who looked like an ugly version of Matt Starring, and the biggest moment of all, Turkey Legs.  Pictures below.

Main Street!

Main Street!

Waited for 45 minutes behind this gem.  The front has a pic of Malificent.

Waited for 45 minutes behind this gem. The front has a pic of Malificent.

MATT STARRING´S UGLY LITTLE BROTHER

MATT STARRING´S UGLY LITTLE BROTHER

This makes me consider heterosexuality.

This makes me consider heterosexuality.

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And there you have it.  After Disney we blasted home through a moving parking lot of traffic, regrouped for a moment, and then I packed my things and Krystyna took me to the airport. 

Overall, I don´t think I´ll ever be living in LA.  I like the weather and the people there, but that´s about it.  Upcoming posts tomorrow or the day after on my flights and arrival in Cuzco!  Hasta luego!

Hey Santa Fe

Santa Fe Food

Santa Fe Food

That’s what’s currently wending its way through my digestive track as I write this.  It was delicious.  Scrambled eggs with green chili, organic thick cut bacon and cheese on a garlic bagel.  I ate it all very quickly.

Green chilies, as it turns out, is a major part of the Santa Fe flare, and I’m loving it.  Everywhere I go, even when Rita’s fantastic roommate is cooking for me at her home, green chills are in my food.  Green chili burritos, eggs, quinoa, calzones.  For the rest of my life, whenever I get that cold heat in my nose from slicing open a green chili, I will think of this city.

Santa Fe feels like practice for Peru.  It’s high up in the mountains, and I can feel the altitude when I’m walking around.  Due to some strict building codes and a reputation, all buildings in Santa Fe are built adobe style.  Everything, from liquor stores to consignment shops are red clay and stucco.  Every morning, as I walk to the cafe where I’m writing this, one or two hawks fly right over my head.  Little black ones, dad, but definitely hawks.  It makes it feel like someone reshuffled the American/Mexican border.  Lovely.

Of course, the most lovely part of this whole place is the person that lives here, the one and only Rita “Yee-Haw” O’Connell.

Here’s where she lives, and where I am staying:

The Rita Casita

The Rita Casita

It’s a little bungalow, old and low to the ground, with excellent shag carpets and strange but beautiful paintings by one of her roommates’ grandmother.

Rita works every day from 8:30 to 2pm, so most of my days are spent relaxing in her house.  She taught me to play chess the other day in a laundry mat, and since then I have spent my mornings practicing the game with her roommate, Jack, the one that cooks.  In fact, we usually are eating eggs, green chili and crispy hash browns while we play.  I can say usually, because it’s happened twice and I’ve only been here for 3 mornings.

After a nice quiet, relaxing morning in her house (I deserve it; a bed and a shower were very missed and will be missed again), I usually set out to walking around Santa Fe.  It has been in the 40s and windy, so today I have succumbed to just hanging out in this awesome coffee shop only a few blocks from Rita’s house and drinking too much coffee.  But here are some things I saw while walking around:

Two Cathedrals

Two Cathedrals

Los Montanas

Los Montanas

The Mighty Santa Fe River, Once The Most Endagered River in the US

The Mighty Santa Fe River, Once The Most Endagered River in the US

Sorry…still don’t know how to flip…

A Woman Restores Some Flowers At St. Guadlupe's Feet

A Woman Restores Some Flowers At St. Guadlupe's Feet

Rita Came to Pick Me Up at the Train Station

Rita Came to Pick Me Up at the Train Station

Soon Rita will be out of work and we’ll head a few towns over to Taos, where Rita used to live.  Can’t wait!  Then…LA here I come.  Rumors of Disneyland as my final act in America.

*Note:  Last night I saw the movie Dr. Strangelove.  I strangeloved it.

A List of People I Met and Things I Saw/Did While Taking a Train From Chicago to Lamy, NM

Most of this happened in the observation car of the Southwest Chief, or in the car directly behind it.

  • A gold miner from Colorado.  He was on the way back from his grandmother’s funeral.  He runs heavy machinery and works only 14 days a year.  He said I was wise to do what I was doing, and not get married and have a daughter and divorce, like he did when he was my age.  So, I guess points for me.  Apparently, there actually is gold in them thar hills.
  • Lost my iPod.
  • Searched for my iPod with the help of a surly Amtrak steward.
  • Never found my iPod.
  • The sunrise over Colorado planes.  It went from pink to tangerine to blue seamlessly.
  • A female correction’s officer from a maximum security prison in Kansas.  She worked there because she lost her job at General Motors.
  • Her autistic 10 year old son who taught himself how to play the piano and has perfect pitch.
  • Little red towns with names like Las Vegas and Raton.
  • Mountains!  Mountains!
  • Icy edged rivers, no more than a trickle.
  • Tumbleweed, twice.
  • Kaleb, a hillbilly from West Virginia.  He sold everything he owned except for a sweatshirt, hat, gloves, brown overalls and a jacket.  He is trying to go all the way around the world.  He has never been out of the US except for one trip to Niagara Falls.  He has no money left, and just that morning had eaten his first meal out of a dumpster (the left behind half of a Hardee’s potato hash and egg scramble).  His favorite bible story is the one where King David pretends to lose his mind.  He believes that the flood of Noah formed the Grand Canyon.
  • A little old woman on a platform selling playing cards, mittens, earrings, toothbrushes and the like in the vicious cold of the Colorado morning.  She made no sales on our train.
  • Many Amish people, two of whom I talked with for a few hours.  They were on their way to a picture framing convention in Las Vegas.  Still, days later, I’m pondering what that would be like.
  • A bagel that, when I asked for its variety, was described as “a brown one” and when I asked for it toasted it was microwaved.  It cost $3.50.
  • Rita, sweet sweet Rita.

Throw Momma From The Train

For an alternate version of what I’m doing, check out my mother’s awesome blog.  Also featured here on the Blogroll to the right.

Nina and The Homeless of Chicago

The train I took from Chicago to Santa Fe

The train I took from Chicago to Santa Fe

Well, I completed the first part of my intensely long train trip with success.

I boarded the Amtrak train in Boston at noon on Thursday, and rode that girl all the way to Chicago.  The car I was in was rather small, but I had a seat to myself for the majority of the trip.  I read mostly, this book by Margaret Atwood which is a page-turner, eye-opener masterpiece.

I was drawing a picture of myself on the train in my journal, and underneath it I wrote “I want to make a friend.”  As I was doing this, the girl sitting behind me started talking on her cell phone to someone, and said, “There aren’t that many cool people on this train, but the ride is pretty.”  As soon as she hung up, I turned around to chat with her, and actually ended up talking with her all the way to Chicago.

Her name was Nina, and she had just graduated from high school.  She was on her way back to her home on Chicago, where she was going to pack up her things to leave for India.  She habitually used the phrase, “Wandering Youth” to describe our bond.  We had some nice discussion, and she was more than happy to help me put away the flask of vodka I had packed myself.

Unfortunately, Amtrak neglected to tell me that we were making a 2 hour pit stop in Albany, NY.  I don’t know if you have been to Albany, but I would go ahead and say it is the opposite of glamorous.  They also neglected to tell me that if I got off the train in Albany, I could not get back on until 5 minutes before departure.  So I got to spend a lovely two hours reading and eating surprisingly good chowder in the Albany train station.  Then I was back on my way.

Around 10:30 we were both tired, and the scenery outside had faded from the snow-covered oak trees of Massachusetts and Upstate New York to pitch black flatness of the Midwest, so we went to sleep.  This was a trial.  First it was frigidly cold on the train, and I didn’t have much to cover up with.  I slept for a good period of time on my seat, but then Mr. Conductor woke me up and told me someone had to sit with me.  So I got up and moved over with Nina, since everyone had to double up anyway.  Nina slept on my lap for a while like a kitty kat, but eventually even that was too cold so I moved to the back of the train where it was warmer.  I slept on the floor amongst luggage until they yelled at me and told me to move.  By that time the sun was coming up, and I got to watch the beautiful flatlands of places like South Bend, Indiana.  It was so very flat, and it looked to me like a setting where quiet serial killers would flourish.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but I was still intrigued by how different it looked from the east coast I was used to.

Finally we pulled into Chicago, the train moving at half the speed of smell, about 45 minutes behind schedule.  I was sad to learn that it was a brisk 10 degrees there, but I slipped my PJs on under my jeans and took to the city.

First I saw this.

The Bean

This is the Bean, a really weird piece of art in Chicago that reflects a the whole city.

It's in front of a skating rink.

It's in front of a skating rink.

I had to keep moving because it was so cold, but I went in a search for some deep dish pizza and found it.  I have to say, I like the original NY pizza better.  This stuff has so much cheese I think one of my arteries is still clogged.

As I was walking from destination to destination, I had about 4 or 5 conversations with the homeless of Chicago.  Though I didn’t give any of them money, because I myself am broke and somewhat homeless, they were all so friendly.  One man even hugged me. stole my iPOD!  I can´t believe how long it took me to put two and two together.

After pizza I had to head back to the train station to board the next train, the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe, which I will write about later.  For now, Rita is coming to meet me on her lunch break for a bit.  Miss everyone back east, and keep an eye out for more update soon.

 

The First Leg: Bye Bye Boston

And I’m off.

I arrived in Boston last night around 5pm.  Not much to report here, except that I believe I have to say more goodbyes in this city than I am spending waking hours here.  It’s tough, but encouraging.  Love these boos.

Leaving Portland was one of the more frantic experiences of my life.  Thanks to a tip from good Leah W., I was able to fit everything in my backpack with room to spare.  She taught me the trick of rolling up all my junk and putting it zip-lock bags, then sitting on it to vacuum seal it.  It’s a silly way to pack, especially when you have choose to zip-lock the baggies while sitting on them by reaching through your legs.  But it worked, it’s all in.  Now I weigh more than my possessions.  I have a picture of everything laid out next to the bag it’s all in.  imgp01751

This  is my whole life.

Anyway, I’ll be posting more once this trip gets a little more out of the norm, as I head through the sections of our country where hurricane Liam has never before landed.  Chicago, Santa Fe, here I come.

Itinerary

This section of blogs will be a way for you to follow me on my sojourn across America and into Peru.  Currently I’m frantically trying to fit all of my life into a backpack as well as get vaccinated for free.  So I can’t tell you much yet, but I can show you my itinerary:

January 20th:  Watch Obama beat the snot out of George Bush!  Yay!

January 21st:  Leave Maine for Boston

January 23rd-24th:  Leave Boston and travel by train for 2 days to Santa Fe, via Chicago.

January 25th – 29th:  RITA and the newest Mexico there is.

January 30th and 31st:  LA

February 1st, 1:00AM:   Fly from LA to San Salvador, then San Salvador to Lima

February 1st:  SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE LIMA AIRPORT???

February 2nd:  Fly from Lima to Cuzco, where I will be picked up by the organization I’m working with.  Yes!

Stay tuned for more updates!