Aug 2017

Can You Stay In a Motel For Free?

tommylee

When I was nineteen, I spent my spring break traveling to see a childhood friend who lived in Minneapolis, MN. This meant a thirteen hour drive, so my plan was to stop at a motel about halfway there. However, being collegiate-poor and having just read Kerouac for the first time, I wanted to know if I could stay a night in a motel for free. I was going through that youthful phase of rejecting modern society, capitalism, and the distribution of wealth into which people are born in this country. My naiveite saw this exchange of money as a scourge – a modern wedge draining us of the humanity we once had in spades. So, I made up my mind I was going to stay in a motel for free. I would offer to wash dishes, do laundry, sleep on the floor somewhere, but I was going to sleep somewhere, damnit, with no money exchanged.

Getting a late start and stopping in Indianapolis…

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Mar 2016

My First Egyptian Taxi

Egypt!

At the end of a day that began in an Istanbul hostel and involved delayed public transit, airport negotiations regarding a hatchet, a missed flight and buying a new ticket, I shoulder my pack around two am, exit the Cairo airport, and am immediately swarmed by a paparazzi of forty to fifty men yelling “taxi” repeatedly at me. Being a white guy, I knew my body would label me as money here, but I was not prepared for this. I brush past and try to look for an actual taxi as I’ve no clue whom to trust, but one fellow persists. He’s charming and a few years older than me, and my first four “no’s” don’t seem to be getting me anywhere. Figuring I’ll need a ride anyway, I finally relent, mostly just to stop the interrogation.

I show him my journal with…

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Feb 2016

I Always Wanted to Start a Band

Trains, circa 2010
(photo by Giles Clement)

When you’re born and raised in the suburban America I came from, there might be no greater life than that of being a rock star (though professional baseball player probably ranks a close second). The TVs constantly reinforced this idea over hour-long specials detailing the sublime quality of the rock star life. In what other profession is there no discernible dress code? Are there office jobs where women seem to throw themselves at you only because you can play an instrument? To my sixteen year old mind, the rock star life couldn’t be beat; watching concert videos of Bruce Springsteen with my mother and seeing the impact this short guy with a quirky-looking band could have on her life, I knew I had to see if I could do that. So I tried.

If you’ll excuse the analogy, starting down the rock star path of the rock star is a little like…

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Jan 2016

What’s at the Bottom of Copper Canyon?

View from El Chepe

The two of us were spending the month driving through Mexico, crossing in at Laredo with plans to exit at Juárez. We had made it down to Mexico City and were on the northern return leg. The Captain, my partner in these crimes, had read about a train that runs straight through Copper Canyon, winding through 39 bridges and 86 tunnels, running between Chihuahua City and the Pacific Ocean.

However, having only two days budgeted for the excursion, we couldn’t quite make the coast. Instead, we decided…

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Mar 2015

What’s the Matterhorn Like?

Matterhorn
I wake in a tiny, clinically-white room in a Zurich hotel at which I haven’t seen a single worker (I checked in last night with a computer and a key-dispensing vending machine), and pack my bag. Having completed “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” the previous night, I decide to save weight and leave the English-language book behind in a German-speaking country, should there an be actual human who will eventually clean my room. I shoulder my pack and walk quickly to the nearest public transit station, inhaling the rest of last night’s pizza on the way. I choose not to pay (Zurich’s transit is on the honor system, which I am dishonoring) and awkwardly slide my pack and I into the Monday morning rush, clearly the only person not dressed in their downtown finest work clothes (mostly suits; there seem to be a lot of money-movers in this town), and definitely the only one with a forty pound backpack. I get off at the main train station and have barely enough time to buy the 8:02am ticket to Zermatt (the town at the foot of the Matterhorn), grab a cup of coffee, and relax on the pricey train ride into the Swiss Alps.

Three trains and five hours later…

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Jan 2015

Introduction

Introduction
When I was sixteen, my father asked me:

“Andrew, what do you want to be doing when you’re thirty?”

I thought about it for a minute.

“I want to have eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms. I want to have climbed mountains. I want to have traveled deep into Mexico. I want to fall in love, to write great songs, to be in a rock band, to read great literature, and made many friends far and wide.”

“Andrew, you’re talking about things you will have done. I’m asking what you will be doing.”

[Long pause]

On the one hand, my old man has a point – live a life where you’re chasing whatever’s around the corner…

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