As I left Monterey latish last night, my only goal was to get to the bay area. I wasn’t too concerned with where I stayed. I could have stayed on the south end in San Jose, the east bay in or around Oakland, or on the peninsula in or around Frisco. The obvious choice, for anyone who knows me well, was Oakland. Not only do I naturally tend to gravitate towards the less traveled paths (not that Oakland isn’t huge, but c’mon… what tourist comes to the bay area to go to Oakland over Frisco?) , but the neighborhoods just to the north of Oakland are home to countless of the best punk bands of the 80s and early 90s. Operation Ivy (and their offspring Rancid and Common Rider), Fifteen, Crimpshrine, Jawbreaker… all fantastically aware bands combining elements of punk, ska, metal with socially responsible lyrics. The jams will never get old. Some shitty band called Green Day started there, too. Not sure what ever happened to them. They lost their way sometime around the early 90s, haven’t really heard from ’em since. My decision to stay in Oakland was frankly made as I crossed over from Arizona to California a few days ago. I was invigorated with energy at being on the left coast, and immediately dug out my Op Ivy CD and put it in the player. 27 songs. 52 minutes. Countless years of feeling unified with people. That’s the way to describe them. The kids were only together from ’87-’89, and only recorded 1 record and 1 ep, and only played about 200 shows. They are legendary. Ask any punk kid in this country, and by this point, probably even the world, the words to “Knowledge,” and you will be singing in unison mere seconds later. A part of me has always lived in Oakland, and it’s really awesome to be here now.
The plan is to continue traipsing around Oakland until lunch, then to venture over to Frisco for the afternoon and dinner before meandering up north for the evening. I do have a few hours now though, and am going to be recalling the travels from Albuquerque as far as I can get through to now until I’ve tired of writing, my gut demands sustenance or some combination of the two. Not really going to be much talk about golf in this entry, but some of it will inevitably creep in. Golf based entry from rounds in TX, NM, CO, AZ, UT, NV and CA later.
So, New Mexico had charmed me fully by the time I finally got down to the bottom of Sandia Crest, but the end of the state’s appeal had not yet come. Having a raging hunger, I decided to go to the first fast food joint I was not familiar with as I headed north from ABQ to Farmington. Just minutes outside of ABQ, I ran into a place called “Twister’s Burgers and Burritos.” Being a fat guy, I love both of those things. I had never heard of the place. I was pretty much sold. I ordered a chicken wrap (chicken, bacon, mad veggies, avocado, sauce) and spoke briefly with a few of the teenagers who were running the place. Apparently, Twister’s had started some time ago under it’s current motif. A rift in the joint ownership’s ideas of where the business should go, however, had lead to an intense rivalry in and around Albuquerque. One faction wanted to turn the place into a drive in place, much like Sonic, while the faction which retained ownership of Twister’s wanted to keep the dine-in / drive-thru feel. They split. With a nearly identical menu, Hurricane’s operates in the same area as a drive in eatery, while Twister’s retains the traditional fast food feel. I likely overplayed the intensity of the split and rivalry, but the story is right out of the kids’ mouths. Firmly in the Twister’s camp, I sat down to feast.
Minutes later, a couple in the sunset of the prime of their lives parked next to my car. The man looked at the sign and a humongous smile came to his face. He pointed it out to his wife, and was talking excitedly for a minute before they came in. In the meantime, I made eye contact with his wife, and smiled. As soon as they entered, they asked me if it was my car. Half an hour later, they finally ordered. Harry and Cheryl were there names, and they had vacated Detroit about ten years ago, to retire in Albuquerque. They were friendly, open and well educated, and we conversed about a wide variety of things. We talked about travel, baseball, my job opportunities in New Mexico, and the Southwest. I was already enamored with New Mexico, and they picked up on my excitement and nourished my enchantment properly. At one point, Cheryl told me how glad she was that I got New Mexico. She went on to explain that many people just don’t get New Mexico, but that for her and Harry, the choice was affirmed after living there for a few years.
When they had retired, they wanted to move to the Southwest, and had narrowed their choices to ABQ and Flagstaff (or Phoenix or Scottsdale…. one of those Arizona cities… I can’t remember). In the end, the superior health care available in and around ABQ sealed their decision. They also preferred the political climate of New Mexico to that of Arizona. Cheryl is running for city counsel, and I trust that Rio Rancho will be better off with her in charge than whomever it is she is running against. As I left, I wished Cheryl luck with her campaign, and hoped that there wouldn’t be too much smearing going on. Harry went out to his car and dug out a AAA map of New Mexico and Arizona. He gave it to me. Selfless. Sharing. Human. New Mexico, from the minute I crossed over the Texas border, until I crossed into Colorado the next day, was full of human beings. Authentic people, great views, tons to see and do. I’m going back to New Mexico in my life.
Next state on my docket was Arizona. Arizona. The west’s version of Florida. Old people love it. It’s hot. Tons of great, but expensive golf. Tourist haven. Crazy politics. I sort of passed through the panhandle of Florida at night, and didn’t really get a good feel for the place. I’m relatively neutral on the state. Arizona was another story entirely.
So I had just dipped into Colorado to play a round of golf at Conquistador in Cortez, and then made my way back south to Arizona. I wish I could have spent more time in Colorado, but NM wouldn’t let me go. Anyhow, I was passing right by the four corners, so I figured may as well stop in. The park was literally on my path to Page, so it wasn’t like I was going out of the way. I made the turn, and was confronted with a checkpoint where I was expected to pay $3.00 to spend 2 minutes among busloads of tourists entangling their limbs in a contortion fueled by misplaced excitement to get a picture in 4 states. No thanks. I did take this picture, though, confirming I was there:
I carried on, and was eagerly anticipating getting on the ground in Page, AZ for the night. I had selected Page for a few reasons. Primarily, I had to play in Utah and Nevada in the next two days, and going to Phoenix, or even Flagstaff, simply would have been too far South. Page was the only settlement of any prominence in Northern Arizona. They did have a golf course, Lake Powell National. It was a small city, with a population of about 7,000. Small enough to be out of the way, large enough to have a few hotels. Imagine my rage, then, when I roll into town around 9:30 PM, only to be shut out of the first 6 hotels I tried. I was dumbfounded. It was a Monday night! I was in the middle of nowhere! What the hell was going on? Clearly frustrated, I asked one of the desk guys “where am I? This is the middle of nowhere and I can’t get a room!” He says to me that Page is a massive attraction for foreigners, as Page advertises overseas heavily. They have Lake Powell, they have all sorts of Canyons. Fuck me. Who knows if I would even find a room? Down to my last hotel, I called Super 8 in desperation. If they had no rooms, I was either sleeping in the car or driving 2 hours to Flagstaff. They had 1 room left, for $140. Exasperated yet relieved, I took it.
It wasn’t just foreigners in Page, though. Every parking lot I went through was 95% California plates. Sure, a large percentage of these cars were rentals used by foreigners, but a massive majority of them were yuppies from California. I was enraged at these people, whom I never met and certainly had no possibility of knowing. Here they are, thinking they were so fucking cool by going to Page to vacation instead of Las Vegas, or Lake Tahoe, or anywhere else. Latte sipping, Mac using, Prius driving yuppies. All of them. I love coffee, have an iPhone and drive a diesel car. I’m not too far off from yuppiedom myself. The primary difference though is in the approach to life. Yuppie is derived from “Young Urban Professional.” I was a yuppie, by the very definition, until I bounced earlier this year. The definition alone doesn’t get to the heart of yuppiedom, though. There are tons of young urban professionals who are far from being a yuppie. What defines a yuppie, for me, is the young urban professional who tries so very hard to identify with some sort, any sort, of authenticity that they end up failing miserably. The kids who in middle in high school who wanted to be different, but ended up pretty fucking normal. Desk jobs dominate their lives, and they outwardly hold a scorn for the prototypical business person, yet inwardly thank the maker for the stability that job offers them. They wear Fedoras, listen to Vampire Weekend, and groom themselves meticulously to look as if they just rolled out of bed on weekends. Or they just dress well. They waste their money on their clothing. In the end, you can forget everything I said above, and focus on this simple explanation of yuppies. Yuppies are people who gave up. We all want to be authentic. We all want to be unique, and want to have the simplest fulfilling life we can. Yuppies are people who were full of potential, but simply had their senses of aesthetic eroded by years of struggling against the machine. The ultimate Winston Smiths, their sound and fury died out years ago, and what’s left is a smoldering pile of halfhearted attempts at living. They often come in chic packages, and they can fool a lot of people, but they can’t fool me.
So here I was, the definition of authenticity and coolness, in Page, AZ. Locked out from affordable lodging thanks to these yuppies. Yuppies everywhere. Trying so hard to be cool that half of the Republic was vacationing in Page. I was enraged. Remember, if you will, my experience in New Mexico. I slept in my car in a National Forest two days prior. I ran into authentic, real people at every corner of the state. I found a hotel for under $50 in Farmington. Pull the old comparo-contrasto with Page. Feel my frustration.
If you ever doubted that I’m flawed, re-read the above few paragraphs more critically. Sometimes I search so hard for authenticity that I myself end up being far too hard on people and places. Sometimes tourist traps are cool because they are (See: Big Texan Steak Ranch). I would hope, however, that my brutal honesty, and my meta-analysis of my flaws is endearing. In that regard, I do my best to emulate Howard Stern. If we can all channel the inner Howard, we can all be great.
Holy hell, I’ve gone off the rails on this one. I’m getting back to them, I promise. I still have over an hour to write before heading over to the Gilman Grill for lunch. I really did need this. I’m sitting in a coffee shop on the very northern shores of Lake Merritt, in Oakland. Dudes are skateboarding by, dogs are barking at them, and a cool breeze is blowing off the lake. I think I’m going to go outside shortly. Once the battery has ample charge.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
After spending half my fuckin budget on a hotel room in Page, I awoke at 6 am for the continental breakfast. This was a conscious decision. The hotel was full of foreigners and yuppies, and an East Coast boy trying to get breakfast in a confined area full of lolly-gagging vacationers was sure to be disastrous. Listen to George Carlin’s bit comparing New York and Los Angeles to get a succinct look into my mind on how I was feeling about breakfast. I was full of energy, and wanted to be on my way!
So yes, I made it to breakfast at 6 AM. There was nothing out! No fruit, no bread, no yogurt. No donuts, no waffles. No cereal, bagels or biscuits. What. The. Fuck. The girl working the buffet was lazing around in the back, and I asked her what time she might have breakfast ready. She responded that she usually got everything ready at 10 of. It was already 5 after! I said, “isn’t it 6:05?!” No, she said, it’s 5:05 – you’re in Pacific time. Oh? Really? I was pretty fuckin sure Arizona was in Mountain time. I asked her again if she was sure I was in Pacific time, she said I was, and, defeated, I walked back up to my room. I immediately got on the internets to research this time zone shit. Turns out Arizona is in the Mountain Time Zone. I was correct. However, only certain portions of the state observe daylight savings time. Arrogant assholes. Get with the times. Toughen up. So it’s hot there – not my problem. You want to do stuff outside starting at 8 not 9? Move somewhere where the temperature allows for that. But for fuck’s sake, don’t be a renegade state ruining things for travelers!
I slept for half an hour, and made my way back down to breakfast at 6. Of course, in a sold out hotel, I was the only person there. The day had begun an hour ago, but by the very nature of being on vacation, no one else in the hotel seemed to give a fuck. I got some feed and began watching the local news which was on the TV. Now let’s recap: I came from NM, which was charming, easy, cheap and beautiful. I was now in AZ, where yuppies drove the price of my hotel room up, and they just don’t feel like keeping the same time as the rest of us. I was already pretty heated. The last thing I needed was for some of those ridiculous Arizona politics to impress themselves upon me. The president, of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was going to be speaking at a high school to the South of Page that afternoon. The seniors, the reporter said, would have the opportunity to watch the speech live, in the auditorium, while the underclassmen would be able to watch the speech on closed circuit television from their classrooms. “Not everyone, however, wants their children to hear the president speak,” reported the news lady, as the program shifted to mongoloids spouting their bullshit. These kids would not be forced to attend the speech. That’s tragic.
“I taywhat – I dohn like what Barrack Hussein Osama doin. He ayn no Murcan, an I dohn wan my boy to be listenin to that traitor.”
That type of shit. Come on Arizona. Come on. You find this type of uneducated drivel everywhere, but it was the cherry on the top of my Arizona experience. These tea party types get all worked up on misinformation from questionable sources, and do nothing but make a mockery of themselves, and make it embarrassing for someone to identify as a conservative or republican. You can hold any political viewpoint you want. You can say whatever you want. That’s all fine. It’s a two way street. Like him or not, B.O. is the president. The American thing to do is to respect him, and the office. Outright ignorance will never be patriotic. If you really don’t like the guy, wouldn’t it be far more prudent to have your kid go hear him speak, then to discuss everything that was wrong with his speech over dinner? The PRESIDENT, of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. To think there are parents in Arizona that are so blinded by their own idiocy that they would prevent their child from partaking in a once in a lifetime event is very, very disappointing. Not surprising, though.
Awww christ. I was not having a good time in Arizona. That was, thankfully, about to change. More details on the course itself later, certainly, but something amazing happened while I was on the course at Lake Powell National. I paid my resident rate (thanks guy at the counter!), and was off. I had just had a decent stretch of holes, and was coming up on the 15th. A scenic par 3, the tee was elevated some 120 feet above the green. A fierce wind was blowing in, and judging the distance was going to be difficult. I picked my stick, popped my shot, and was super pleased when the ball came to rest about 30 feet from the hole. I took numerous pictures, and was just about to make my way down to the green.
The view of the 15th green from atop the crest from where you hit your shot. If you squint, you ought to be able to see my shot. It was coming from so high in the air that it was nearly 90% submerged below the green. You might not be able to see it even if you squint.
Anyhow, the point of this story is certainly not the golf hole, or my shot, but on the amazing human experience I had on this hole. As I mentioned, I hit my shot, and I was about to head down the massive hill to the green. As I turned my eyes to the path, I noticed an old native American woman hobbling up the hill.
She emerged from the brush just beyond the sign on the left. The sign warning you of how steep the approaching hill was. She came from behind there. She was hobbling.
She beckoned me on, and was going to wait for me to pass. As I was passing her on the cart, I asked how she was doing. I got an honest answer, and I knew immediately that I should dig deeper here.
“Oh, not well honey. Not well.”
“Oh no! Why not?!”
“Well, I have three pins in my hip. I wish I had a… something… you know… to (making cane using motions)”
“Oh jeez. I’m sorry to hear that. I’d give you one of my golf clubs (chuckle), but you know, I need to take those with me.”
(She heard “PLEASE TAKE WHICHEVER OF MY CLUBS YOU WOULD LIKE,” and began rooting around in my golf bag for the club which was best for her.)
“No no no! I can’t give you one of my clubs – I’m sorry.”
“Oh. Can you please help me get up there?”
(Up there was another 50 feet up a desert cliff. Cacti, rocks and other desert shrubbery were in the way. I honestly wasn’t even sure I could make it up there)
“Well, I don’t know. Can I drive you somewhere on the golf cart?”
“I just need to get up there.”
“Hop on the cart, I can drive you wherever you want to go. Where are you going?”
“The post office. The post office.”
“Okay, where is the post office?”
(She pointed vaguely in the direction of the post office)
“Alright, get on, I’ll take you up there, as far as I can.”
She got on the cart, and we reversed up the hill, then drove a few minutes to the border of the golf course, as close to the post office as I could get. She had me drop her off at a ramshackle path through the desert shrubbery, and continued on her way. Here she is, making her way through the desert to her destination:
I turned around, and headed back down the hill to the green. No one had stolen my ball in the five minutes I spent helping this wandering soul out. I two putted for my par, then turned around to take a picture of the ascent that my friend had made, complete with 3 pins in her hip:
This may not look very intimidating. I got well below the green to get the flag and fountain in the photo. Trust me, this was a massive slope. The tee is in the middle of the ledge in the background of the photo. You can sort of make out the teeing area as the flat line running through the middle of the crest. According to the scorecard, the elevation change is 120 feet. It was all of those 120 feet. It was the highest portion of the course. I ran into my friend near the tee – she had somehow made it up there by herself, and had only another 50 foot climb to complete her ascent through town towards the post office.
As I found out, she was going to the post office to pick up some checks. I didn’t ask why she was going through the golf course, as I think the answer was self evident: it was simply the shortest path to get there. Who knows when she arose. She had a walk of at least a few miles, through the desert and up mountains, to get to the post office, and that was what her day consisted of: walking to the post office, getting her checks, then likely walking back.
I happened to cross paths with her, and saved her a solid 20 minutes of walking. As she disembarked from the cart at the course’s border, she said “Thank you Grandson” to me. I said “you’re welcome! Have a nice day.”
“Oh thank you Grandson. Thank you so much Grandson. Thank you Grandson.” These were the last words she spoke to me before going on her way through the desert. Arizona had been redeemed.