Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blurry Pictures and Midwestern Charm

Hello World! Danny and I are at the Minnesota Twins game. The tickets come courtesy of the McNellis family, who have also been kind enough host us in their basement, and we're sitting right behind home plate. It's the fifth inning, and the Treo and keyboard are sitting so perfectly on my lap. Oh, technology! The Blue Jays are ahead 3-2. Torii Hunter just made a catch at the warning track, and the crowd went wild..

We've been in the Twin Cities since Wednesday morning, getting our things together. We'd hoped to head north earlier, but instead we've been stuck waiting on a ride from Kevin's mom. It's a middle school twist: We're off to have the adventure of our lives, but first we need to wait for our parents to drive us there. Ah, to almost be twenty-one.

But America is a crazy place. Yesterday, Danny, Kevin and I went to Sam's Club and bought $170 worth of food. We bought bulk raisins, and huge tubs of creamy peanut butter. We bought industrial size artificial maple syrup, and enough pancake mix to last until 2008, and a huge block of artificially preserved american cheese. Everywhere in the store, old women stood behind little counters, serving bite-size samples of food. With their white hair and curved spines, they all looked like they should have been retired. Walking past one woman selling Swiffers, I couldn't help but remember walking the Red Light District in Amsterdam, all the women selling their bodies, their product. The old woman shook her Swiffer at me and gestured for me to come over. I put my eyes down and walked on.

Just look at Kevin in the place:

Where did all this stuff come from? What a testament to our culture of surplus and unlimited supply. And how hypocritical of us, to set out on our off the grid river trip by making pit stops at Sam's Club and Walmart. But in the 21st century, such is the natural order of things. Later in the car, Kevin and I talked it through and shook our heads. For all their cultural deconstruction, homogenization, and environmentally destructive corporate policies, the mass corporation does serve its purpose. Sometimes, something's gotta give. It's best to be in the middle, Kevin said. "Being a martyr isn't much fun. No matter what, transnational capitalism is going to crush you."

Back to the Twins game: they're playing Sweet Caroline! And they're doing the Wave! The guy sitting next to me watches it go by and says, "Every time I'm in the cheap seats, I always get angry at the people in the lower boxes who don't do the Wave. And now I'm sitting in the expensive seats and I'm not doing it." We get to talking and we tell him about the trip. He says that might be the coolest thing he has ever heard. His name is Travis and he studies philosophy at Hamline in the cities. Look!

I tell him I'll give him the blog address. He says he'll have to follow along. Suddenly, he doesn't seem to mind as much that the Twins are losing. "I think America needs a revolution," he says, "I think we need a deep change." He asks me if that is part of the reason why we are paddling down the river. I smile. "That's good," he says. "I'm serious about this revolution. You guys should have a good trip."

In the evening after Sam's Club, Danny and I had nothing to do. So while Kevin went out with friends, we borrowed his car and drove around Minneapolis. We drove to Dinkytown, by the University of Minnesota, and walked around. We walked past young people, and bars, and live bands playing covers of other bands's songs. In a tobacco shop, two girls came in and asked for the energy drink Cocaine. We walked the drag twice and got back in the car.

In downtown Minneapolis, we got out again. Girls in short denim skirts and high heels walked by while young men in button-downs smoked cigarettes and watched them. Danny said this reminded him of Phoenix, when he and Boomer would walk around for hours with nothing to do until Boomer couldn't stand it any longer and skipped town. I listened and nodded and remembered my own periods of angst and loneliness; what it felt like to move away from home. For a moment, they returned and seared across me, and I imagined our entire generation as a lost group of kids, wandering through the neon electronica nightlife like nomads, throwing notes to each other through the internet wires. But I didn't take up the bait. We walked back to the car, and I let the feeling subside.

Back at the Twins game: someone has just proposed marriage to his girlfriend on the big screen. She said yes! They're kissing and she's crying. The crowd is all aflutter. The Twins are trying to mount a comeback, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. 7-4 going into the ninth. E-40's "Tell Me When To Go" comes on the P.A. System, and Danny and I try to remember if we've ever seen more white people in our lives. We don't think we ever have. Hurray for the newlyweds!

Bottom of the ninth coming up. Last chance for the Twins to pull it out, and then it's on to the north in the morning. Hope everyone is well. We certainly are.

P.S. Twins came back to tie in the 9th, but lost in the 13th, 9-8. Afterwards, we met up with my friends Kevin and Nate and drove down to the Mississippi. At an old railroad bridge, we parked and walked out over the river. The Minneapolis skyline spiked in the distance, and the river stretched out in both directions. It was beautiful:

We sat and told stories about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Danny looked over the edge and said, "In two weeks, we'll see it from below," and because it was windy, we walked back to the car.

At Nate's house, we dropped the two of them off, and Kevin guessed he'd probably see me soon. May the longtime sun shine on you, he said, or something wonderful and sappy like that, and they walked up the stairs to Nate's porch. We said goodnight and drove off, to sleep until the morning when it all begins.


markie said...

love the progress reports. they should become a book, you know, with each guy's input. a pic of the four of you would be nice, to put faces to names. happy launching! ps: danny, i've fallen in love with someone named MAC.

Peter said...

Sounds like a letdown for the Twinkies.

Jane said...


AddledWriter said...

I just read about you guys from Al Filreis' dispatches to Writers' House alumns. What a romantic and fun idea you guys had! The pictures are beautiful and I'm sure I'll enjoy the updates. Let us know if you run into Huck, Jim, etc. And keep writing!

Caren the writer
Penn '93

Hannah Jane said...

Really excited to see this. Do you want contacts in communities upriver, or down? Good work, Writers House, for supporting such a fantastic project.

Danielle said...

just been catching up on your escapades...can't wait till you get in the water!

Francesca said...

I can't wait to spend my summer following you along the Mississippi! Try to keep afloat and keep us updated.
much love

Dudley said...

"-what do you take faith in?
-Nature. Just elemental nature. I´m still tramping my way through the forest, really, on daily excursions. Nature doesn´t change. And if there is any war going on on a big level today, it´s against nature."

(Bob Dylan in the R.S. 40th anniversary interview)

Anna Shepard said...

I hope you three are well and celebrating heartily today. Happy Birthday, Gabe! I will make sure your blog has consistent commentary from this neck of the woods. Keep up the wonderful writing and be safe.

Anna Shepard said...

oops, sorry, that was a little premature. I've lost all sense of time.

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

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