May

1999

The Expeditionary Log of Mr. Kristoph T. Jensen, on his trip to the Southwestern Extremities of the Great Nation of the United States of America, May 14-21, Year Of Our Lord 1999, and What He Found There.

Having packed my rucksack, secured my foodstuffs for the journey, and consulted my translation guide for the natives of the South (“Dude…Dude…Dude”), I was accompanied to the Greyhound motor-coach depot by my Mother, who also provided substantial financial underwriting for this exploration. My heart was a-flutter with expectation as I boarded the automatic bus, bag over my shoulder, at 1:50 in the morning. I dutifully recorded the time, temperature and brief descriptions of my fellow travelers in my logbook, but I will not burden you with those details at this time.

The motor-coach began the southward journey. I had hoped to observe the Sun rising, to calibrate my navigational instruments for the travel, but we experienced a “lay-over” in the Portland, Oregon depot whilst the contrivance was cleaned and de-bacterialized, and hence I could not make the necessary observations to do so. When travel was resumed, I managed to garner a small amount of somniloquence on the quite uncomfortable seats; apparently, the request I had made to the driver for a private cabin with more appropriate bedding facilities had been rejected by the Greyhound Corp. Ah well – I would have to face stricter privations before this odyssey would be complete. During the travel through Central Oregon, I eavesdropped (for scientific purposes) upon the monologue of an acne-scarred “cow-boy” in the early part of his 3rd decade, with mysterious tufts of facial hair sprouting from locations on his phiz – as he was wearing a hat, I could not conduct a phrenological examination, but from his conversation, I judged him a patent idiot. His conversation, directed towards a younger example of his morphological peculiarity, was centered upon: Trucks – the purchase, upkeep, attractiveness to the opposite sex of, and location of; Killing a man – almost, with guns, as a result of property damage, as a result of the opposite sex, as a result of drunken provocation, his father; The opposite sex – almost killing a man because of, appeal of trucks to. Sadly, magnetic tape recordings of this subject were damaged in transit, but the observation was quite edifying.

In Grant’s Pass, Oregon, I was distracted from my reading (The Adventures Of The Good Soldier Svejk in The Great War, by Jaroslav Hasek, a Czech) by a rapid expectoration from the aforementioned subject. “Whoo-ee, look at that!” I followed the path of his gaze (with the help of a sextant) to it’s zenith, a badly nicotine-scarred blonde woman in here early 20’s. She boarded the bus at sat next to me, necessitating a re-organization of my measuring instruments. During a brief layover in Medford, Oregon, seat arrangements were reshuffled (to a $10 profit on my end) allowing our “cow-boy” to have a seat next to this woman. For the 25 minutes remaining, I noted his attempted mating procedure with great interest, and it will be the subject of a further monograph.

The bus arrived in Ashland, Oregon, the site of my first surveying. I was met at the terminal by Ms. K. Miller, a long-time confidante and correspondent who should be at least partially credited with any patent monies or publishing fees that come as a result of this study. She had her chauffeur or somebody with her and we quickly hied ourselves into Ashland proper. Once we arrived at her home, I barely had time to assemble my tripod, telescope and oscillograph before Ms. Miller was called out to record some sort of seminar at her University. I took the opportunity to light out on foot and complete a topological survey of my surroundings. Ashland is quite aesthetic, being situated in a valley surrounded by gentle, rolling hills. I began walking in the direction of the major metroplex, stopping into a local market to purchase a Bartlett varietal pear and a local pastry, but was deterred by a sudden, fierce monsoon! Having brought no protective gear, I set off at a trot to Ms. Miller’s abode. However, the storm soon abated and I continued my wanderings, exploring a “bowling alley,” a “thrift store” and other curiosities. Eventually, Ms. Miller and I met up again, and I took her to dinner at a local brewery, where we discussed her future prospects and my eventual drunken ruin.

We walked back to her domicile, stopping briefly for a caramel apple at a confectioners, and were stymied as to the next course of action. I took the opportunity to make a few sketches of furniture and plant-life in my immediate area. Eventually, the decision was made to spend the evening engaging in the consumption of alcohol at “Omar’s”, apparently quite the meeting-place for local young alcoholics. The remainder of the night was spent finding acceptable sound on the oddly-stocked jukebox, drinking a surprisingly fine hard cider, and engaging in oddly comforting college gossip with residents of this small town. The valid scientific results gained by this method are probably questionable, but I can share with you an alcoholic “delight” allegedly native to this small bar in this isolated town:

The Cherry Bomb Take 1 maraschino cherry. Soak in mixture of vodka, gin, rum and some other alcoholic stuff (use discretion). Serve. I take no responsibility for individual enjoyment of this recipe, but I was forced to consume two of the aforesaid and suffered no noticeable ill effects.

After more than half a dozen pitchers of cider were purchased and consumed, the evening wore to a close and we retired. I spent the evening upon a Japanese-style “fu-ton” bed that resembled in composition and comfort the shale cliffs that surround my homeland, and yet, perhaps due to advanced inebriation, I slept like Van Winkle.

In the morning, Ms. Miller was needed at a motion-picture filming, as her quite considerable technical skills are unequaled in this sleepy little hamlet, so I meditated, did my morning exercises and amused myself sketching the hills and reformulating theories upon the essential nature of human enlightenment. Eventually, Ms. Miller’s mother arrived to shepherd me to the motor-coach depot, and after a brief spell of absorbing healthful solar radiation, I was once more on my way.

On the automatic bus to Los Angeles, I was at first struck by the disgraceful state of parenting in this area – the cacophony of caterwauling babies made it well-nigh impossible for me to plot our course in a trigonometric fashion, so I was reduced to facile surface observations regarding the terrain we canvassed. The former lumber towns of Northern California are beautiful and sad. As we passed through Douglasville, all I saw out of the window and walking the streets were beautiful women, and it took all the fortitude I could muster to prevent myself from demanding that the coach be stopped so that I could… excuse me. Science!

We proceeded south through the vast emptiness of the state, the vast, blue sky serving as a kind of “spiritual drop ceiling” that keeps everybody trapped in a state of constant scurrying despair. As the sun went down over the vast horizon, I was nearly paralyzed with fright, and this leg of the journey was barely half completed. It would be a long night indeed.

In Chico, California, an aged gentleman with a cane and a plastic sack boarded the bus, and immediately discoursed into a rambling, pained monologue, on the following subjects: Greyhound Corp – stealing his money, being rude to him, driving too slow; Reno, Nevada – hospital there, his eventual arrival to; Death – his upcoming, his wife’s, his father’s, unavoidability of. He also sang several hymns of the Methodist persuasion, lending a bit of a pall over the carriage. I documented nearly 12 minutes of his performance upon magnetic tape; copies are available upon request. Also, in Marysville, California, when we stopped there at 2:10 AM, over a dozen people boarded the bus, causing a slight disruption in seating, and I was forced by pure scientific chivalry to yield my seat to a woman with a (thankfully quiet, well-behaved) baby. The aisle of the Greyhound bus was a similarly unforgiving bed as well, and I remained sleepless for the remainder of the journey. The old man deboarded at Sacramento, the Capitol of the State of California, for his transfer to Reno, Nevada. I rode all of the way down to the Heart of Darkness, Los Angeles.

The City of Angels is quite an ironic name for the cesspool that the settlement has become. Luckily, however, I was only forced to spend an hour there before boarding a coach to Claremont, my next destination. Upon arrival, I used the telephonic voice-communication system to contact Kunitsugu-chan, my half-Japanese research partner, but she had yet to rouse herself from slumber. I obtained directions to her home, and arrived to find her still in her bathrobe, apologizing profusely. She bathed herself and informed me that her parents were coming to take her out to breakfast, and I was invited to the meal, which I bemusedly accepted. I had undertaken this expedition not only for scientific purposes, but also as the result of a drunken promise made to Kunitsugu-chan during the summer of 1998 that I would be present during her graduation from Pitzer University, which is some variety of 2nd-rate charm and etiquette school.

Breakfast was enjoyed at the Cable Airport restaurant, to the incessant humming of single-prop aircraft taking off and landing. We then proceeded to the campuses of Pitzer University, where we were subjected to quite a lot of speechifying and prognosticating, followed by a chorus of cheering and hollering. Post-ceremony, we repaired to a local eatery to snack briefly before the proposed evening’s drinking and collapse. Due to some temporary brain aneurysm, I purchased the meal for Kunitsugu-chan, her parents and her grandmother, who seemed to register no distaste at my frequent and colorful usage of the word “ass,” among other terms neither scientific or polite, and for this, I do apologize. That is no way for an explorer to comport himself.

That evening was occupied with similar drunkery, as the graduates of the academy were celebrating an end to their sheltered lives and the first blush of the painful freedom that the real world would give them. After several slugs of whiskey, I brought out my Mexican wrestling mask and there was much hijinkery and exclamation. After the midnight, the gathering petered out and I gratefully repaired to a couch prepared for my sleeping.

The next day, I, as per my scientific training, woke with the sun, but as the rest of the inhabitants of the house were still coping with the detrimental effects of alcohol on human systems, I confined myself to bed and did a bit of research. However, when 11:00 came around and the assembly still had not awakened, I became impatient and dressed. I found my way around the telephone system and contacted my former Biology colleague, A. K. Collins (Ms.), who also was conducting long-term studies in the area, and arranged to transport myself to her residence and compare notes. I left a note for Kunitsugu-chan and started on my way. Collins, however, lived in Upland, a shanty-town composed of strip malls and vast amounts of dirt several miles out, so the trek there in the beating sun was none too pleasant.

Upon my arrival, we discussed her research into the essential nature of tragedy, and I stood her to luncheon at a local restaurant. Her male consort had arrived back at her home whilst we were out, and once he had donned his leather pants, he drove me back to Claremont in his auto. For the rest of the afternoon, I made some sketches of local architecture.

That night was again spent in drunken amusement, as Kunitsugu-Chan’s housemates were gregarious and entertaining, and I let drop my scientific diplomacy and “cut loose,” as they say, which was quite satisfying in moderation. However, my scientific ethics precluded any further exploration, and I retired to sleep once again.

My final day in Claremont was mainly composed of conducting botanical drawings upon the local flora, sampling some of the local cuisine (The culture of the Mexicanos that comes across the border is quite flavorful and interesting), and silently meditating and contemplating. The first conceptualizations for this manuscript came to me during this period; if I had known the immensity that it would become, I would certainly have celebrated then and there, as I feel that this may be my greatest contribution to the exploratory sciences in my long and storied career. As Kunitsugu-chan and her compatriots were departing to view a motion picture, “Star Wars,” I began walking to the motor-coach terminal.

I departed from Claremont in the early evening; the trip North was not enlightening, but I noted that my billfold was rapidly thinning, and the reckless expenditure of my travels would need curtailing, and soon, if I was to continue eating.

Upon my arrival in Santa Cruz, I treated myself to a walking tour, as Atkins would not awaken (I assumed) for several hours. The city was sheathed in fog and quite beautiful, as only a seaside town can be. I explored the famous “boardwalk” and other interesting areas for the amusement of the lower classes. I telephoned Atkins, my local guide and a fellow scientist for nearly a decade, but he was not to be found; his answering service informed me that he would return at 11:00 AM. At that time, I phoned him again and he informed me that he would be down to meet me soon, and would bring S. Schear, a mutual acquaintance, with him. He arrived, as scheduled, and after a moment of deliberation, it was settled that we would repair to the bar.

At the bar, several of Atkins’ Teutonic compatriots were already well in their cups. We proceeded to order some local lager and “whiskey-cokes” and reminisce about the early experiments that gained us our respective fame, and the fates (some quite grisly) of our compatriots from the Lycee. Marriage, suicide, and more had greeted us, and yet we three had remained steadfast in our devotion to the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The bartender, obviously impressed by our standing, provided us with a free pitcher of beer, and, after consuming it and additional whiskey as well, we staggered out into the early afternoon sunlight.

Despite advanced drunkenness, I was still able to assemble a collection of notes regarding the inhabitants and social mores of the citizens of San Diego, which will appear in a future manuscript. For now, though, you must settle with the cold hard facts of our perambulations. After a brief stop for the Italianate “pizza” to soak up a portion of the alcohol occupying our intestines. However, it wasn’t long until we were stymied as to our next course of action, until Atkins suggested we purchase another bottle of whiskey and repair to his home until the sun set, and S. Schear and I wholeheartedly agreed.

My notes from the following period are hazy. I can certainly vouch that the whiskey was drunk, and, for the first time, I was overwhelmed by alcohol to the loss of certain physical functions. I believe I enjoyed a brief period of complete unconsciousness. Also, I cleared the contents of my stomach.

That evening, we retired to another bar where the principal offering was pitchers of malt beverage for the price of a mere three dollars. Many such beverages were consumed, and in the midst of the frenzy, Atkins disappeared into the night, leaving the survey team stranded without access to any of our instruments, food or hygienic supplies. I narrowly averted panic and managed to commandeer an automotor and find my way to his residence, where I bedded down on the floor. Atkins returned in good spirits, and I was transferred to the davenport, wherein I fell into a deep, black sleep.

I woke with the sun, composed myself, and traveled to the bus depot to return home. The trip was long and uneventful, with many stops and layovers, but I had no trouble sleeping, due to my immense blood alcohol content, and I found it almost enjoyable.

I was also treated to a layover in the city of St. Francis, by the bay, which was quite edifying. Again, I wished that I had brought my photographic equipment, as the many signs for establishments specializing in the retail of pornography and burlesque dancing were quite interesting and certainly deserved documentation, but the expense and bulk of transporting the plates, cameras and lights would have bankrupted both me and my family. I also spent time in the Chinese settlement, which was quite edifying. The remainder of the trip continued without incident, and I arrived into Seattle tired, filthy, but possessed with a wealth of information that will serve myself and the generations of scientists and explorers to follow me. Thank you, gentlemen, and goodnight.