Monday, April 30, 2007

DAY 15

"Another day in the canyon..." The Counting Crows

After breakfast, I waited for the van to pick me up to take me to the tour bus.

I sat in the back of the bus and was soon joined by a man from Brasil named Alexandro. He'd come to Chicago for some kind of granite convention and then to Phoenix to visit with a client. He has two boys-- an eight year old and a month or so newborn. There is probably a wife to go with them but he didn't say.

The bus driver's name is Jim and he takes photos. He won an international contest recently and he showed us his pics which he was willing to sell for 10 bucks a piece. He had a habit of not talking loudly into his mike and I wondered how it is that a tour company can decide that talking into a mike and driving at the same time is safe. He drove all day too. We went over 500 miles.

First [at 10:30 a.m.] we stopped at a deli in Sedona for "lunch." To go, on the bus. We did the photostops along the way. Sedona is very pretty and there are any number of places I can hike in there. Blondie would love it. I miss her muchly. Along with husband, cats, frogs, fish.

We arrived at the Angel something or other site to view the Grand Canyon and it is spetacular!!! I took mucho pictures there and spent some money too. The cliffs are fantastic. A round tale ground squirrel was present as were some ravens playing in the air currents. The colors and the blue sky and the Devil's Monument. I wanted pretty and I sure got it.

Then a stop at another place I disremember the name. More of the same plus a little tower to climb up in. I settled for the deck rather than going all the way up. Pretty spectacular. A woman architect built it and hand-selected every stone. Made patterns in it too. On the way out of a store, a condor and I startled each other by being there. He recovered first and fled my human presence.

Then a detour off a road into the reservation where we saw the depth-- canyons, land, mountains. I also spotted a baby lizard and two little birds.

Along the road, there were numerous crudely set up "trading posts" with signs advertising
"Friendly Indians." Things like that. Navajos they were, different in looks than the Pimas in Phoenix who really are friendly. We went to a store/gallery/rooming house/restaurant set up though for shopping. I was hoping to see a reservation, not to be brought to a place that wanted us to part with our money. I was also wondering at why so many white folk want to be indians when surely the natives can't be all that enchanted with the white folks' ancestors and government. Some natives on the east coast were given trinkets for Manhattan; now present-day American Indians are selling those trinkets right back to us all over the land.

Dinner was a bring-Wendy's-on-the-bus in Flagstaff. Why do people want to eat at chain food restaurants when they travel? I don't understand that.

Then the long drive back, a beautiful sunset, and a full moon.
Back at 8 p.m. and crashing out.

sapphoq n friends

DAY 14

Breakfast at the hotel followed by waiting for the three busses which would get me to the Phoenix Zoo at Papago Park. Papago Park--the beginning, as there was also the road I had to walk up past the Botanical Desert Gardens to the zoo itself-- is on the way to Scottsdale. So, it was another long haul. The walk was Dante's hell. I did see some critters which resembled lean running mice the shape of chipmunks on steroids with long tails.

I got to the zoo itself just before 12 noon. It wasn't as pricey to get in as the San Diego Zoo, but then it failed to excite me like the San Diego Zoo did. I ate and then got on the three dollar tram. The star of that show was a round tail ground squirrel [Actually he had a buddy who didn't show up until we were almost rolling] with a hole under a tree and a precious habit of laying on his stomach to eat the popcorn people threw at him. He also scratched the ground while laying down and he seemed to have double jointed back legs as well. He was a little darling, a ham. I got several good shots of him. Hewas fairly aggressive in his approach, even stealing popcorn away from the hopeful piercing eyes of his fellow house sparrows who had their own congregation gathered round another tree.

I got a few pics of animals from the tram but then settled into taking pics of the people nea4rby as we rode. I was quite satisfied with this approach. After the tram ride was over, I set off for "the Arizona Desert Trail" and the herps. The herps were a disappointment. I didn't think much of the condition of the two toads who were housed together nor did any of them radiate contentment. I thought that the iguanas in their outdoor enclosure were perhaps the best kept of the lot. And the "real" gecko scurrying past me as I was exiting was pretty cool.

Besides the iguanas, there was a handsome bald eagle that was delightful. Regal and proud he was. And a bobcat with sharp feline features that I found to be quite stunning. There were others around too. A cage of chattering parrots was rather raucous with their calls.

By and large, I could feel that it was time for me to leave, especially as there was a long walk ahead of me back to the bus stop with no taxi cabs in sight.

I got on the bus shortly after three and several buses later, the desert turned into a dusty windstorm followed by five minutes of rain. I ate at Swenson's an uninspired b.l.t. served by an uninspired young woman. Then I was off on a jaunt to Barnes & Noble. The sun returned.

Back at the hotel, equipped with a bottle of Tide from the neighboring 7-11, I did a bit of laundry and had a soak in the whirlpool. Hibiscus had littered the water. The effect was rather like odd drifting rose petals. The laundry got done as I would allow it [that is to say, I would not wait 30 minutes for everything to dry to a crisp].

I carted that back upstairs and realized that I was hungry. Reluctantly, I went downstairs for prime rib. Dinner took away the craving for sweets. Now I am for a bit of reading and bed.

The convention of barbershop quartets wanted money. I had watched the registration lady explain that to one of the guests and quickly lost interest in the whole affair. That was this morning. Particularly as they were all heading off to some school to have the judging. So that was that.

sapphoq n friends

DAY 13

Another sunny day.
After breakfast, I headed for the 27 bus stop where I was soon accosted by a woman with high anxiety. She shared her foodbank grapes [quite good], gave me a foodbank orange [I didn't eat it], and we talked for a bus and a half until she got off. We both laughed like a couple of old friends when I almost fell over when moving to make room for someone else to sit down. She is a Christian, born near Baton Rouge Louisiana and was living there when I was. She has a couple of kids and takes the youngest to pre-school using the buses.

Downtown Phoenix is undergoing construction for a "light rail" system. Joy told me that the locals are having fits about it as it will benefit the tourists only and knock out the more favored bus stops. [More about this after I get home]. What appears to be well and good sometimes is dressing provided by big business. And anything that is good for big business happens. I think that the locals should have been consulted about the light rail idea.

It took four buses [the fourth because of my impulsivity] and several hours to get to Joy's home in Scottsdale. The living room was pleasantly cool. I was delighted to find two dumpies [her son's] in the living room along with some fish, and a snake and a coupla scorpions on the back porch.

We drank hazelnut coffee and chatted for an hour. Joy makes beautiful rope bead necklaces-- exquisite-- and they should be on display, winning prizes, and commanding 250 dollars apiece or more. Politics [recently the San Francisco mayor declared his city to be a haven for illegals and Bush and more] and paganism [working circles and bitchcraft and more] is what was on our minds. I found Joy to be amiable and comfortable.

We hopped a bus to Scottsdale Old Town where Joy pointed out landmarks, we went to art galleries, and then to a pub for lunch. We both had reubens. I had the fries and she had the salad. The place was filled with Green Bay Packers [quit laughing Jer] memorabilia and a sign over the door of Molly's stated "Wisconsin spoken here."

We walked somemore, stopped at the pink and white striped retro Sugarbowl for ice cream, and then bussed back to Scottsdale. I got my three buses back to the hotel. I was dead tired so no meeting. Didn't feel like eating either so Gatorade sufficed.

Upon arrival at the hotel, I discovered it had been invaded by aliens in blue shirts-- a barbershop quartet convention had come to town. It may be that tomorrow night there will be some demonstration of singing other than what was occuring impromptu in the hallway.

sapphoq n friends

DAY 12

I got off the train this morning and cancelled my one half hour at the Grand Canyon. I was too tired. Van ride to Phoenix was okay. I chatted with a woman who kept telling me that she and her husband "live off the grid' near Flagstaff. Flagstaff itself was a cute little town.

We stopped at a Burger King in Sedona for a five minute break. The rocks are red. Cacti finally started showing up with regularity. First the flat little ones-- prickly pears. Then the sagueros whose range is altitude dependent.

The Ramada Inn turned out to be nice upon first glance. Phoenix is a [Sonoran] desert and is hot. The cabbie who took me over is Russian. His name is Eduardo. He lived in Queens, Flushing for 12 years and now he lives here. Rent is half as much.

I did laundry in the laundry room and sat in the whirlpool for a bit.
I went to the transit center on the bus and got a book of discounted tickets for having Medicare-- half-price.
I went to an N.A. meeting after a salad at the hotel "grille." The grille is not impressive. After the meeting, I went back to eat dinner and it was so-so. Nothing to write home about.

I am tired and going to bed. I talked with Joy today and I am meeting her tomorrow.

sapphoq n friends

DAY 11

Another sunny San Diego day. After getting directions from the concierge, I walked to the Bank of California to cash in some travelers' checks and then to the mail place to mail home more stuff. I was sorry to see the gray San Diego jacket I got in Imperial Beach go-- that thing was the vision of comfort.

Back at the hotel room, I talked with Big Ed on the cell phone that Sally had lent me. He surprized me by being home. It was three o'clock in the afternoon back east.

The concierge whose name was David took me in the Holiday Inn van to the train station. I discovered an earlier train to Los Angeles and the lady at the ticket counter said I could take that one instead. I did, and the conductor told me where the bottom car is that is reserved for elderly folk and folks like me with the walking stick.

I got there and sat. My attention was drawn to a man who was prominently reading "La Vision Christiana." I thought perhaps he was passing for a Mexican man but that illusion got shattered when he was asked by an older couple to please move and allow them purchase. He almost snarled then and gruffly removed his suitcase to the storage bin. I knew then that he was no Mexican. I took his picture just in case he proved out to be some sort of wild-eyed terrorist. He was already on the train by time I boarded in San Diego and he got off at Los Angeles just like me. I thought about reporting him but wtf was I going to say? Excuse me officer, but dude was rude and he ain't no Mexican genteel man. I was afraid that was going to get me put in the slammer. I hope nothing happens over the next few days. One thing I will do once I find the internet in Phoenix is to go over to the F.B.I. site and compare his picture to the mugshots.

I shot some final pics of the Pacific Ocean as we passed by. I missed a shot but got to see a whole flock of peligans flying in semi-formation [I didn't know they did that] to a tiny pond between the beach road and tracks. Wonderful birds they were. I never seen them before and I was fascinated.

Once in L.A. I went to Corbeta Street where I ate two delicious guacamole tacos with salsa, sucked up a diet soda, and then bought three half-poncho like rugs. Hallway runners is the size of them. And a suitcase to put them in. The square was setting up for an anniversary celebration on this coming Saturday. I would like to be there for it but I won't be. I will in Phoenix. I was delighted when my attempts at Spanish were met with questions as to my own ancestry. And I did get the runners a couple bucks cheaper each for it as well.

I redcapped it to the train after checking my new third piece of luggage. I settled into sleeper 11 [I had upgraded in San Diego] and met Tom, the very personable older steward for our sleeper section. I noticed then that the Carnivale bag I am using for my clothing is beginning to split a tiny bit near the bottom. So my impulsive purchase turned out to be somewhat useful. I will send the old one home and keep the new one for clothing.

The man who was in charge of taking reservations for dinner-- Ken-- by contrast to Tom, was very stressed. He asked me to come back at 6:30. I did. Then he still couldn't give me a reservation. I looked at him and said, "I can't keep climbing these stairs" and sat down to wait. Within a few minutes, the station had telephoned in the reservations for dinner that they had made and I was first in line. The train left just about 6:30 p.m. as I was waiting and my reservation was at 7.

I was seated with Melissa [business writer] and her husband Greg [biology prof at University of San Diego, panentology and !herper! on sabattical celebrating their anniversary in New Mexico. Shortly thereafter came Mark who turned out to be a 70 year old retired neurosurgeon. They talked mostly of the "what do you do" and "where are you going" sort of thing. The neurosurgeon confessed when prodded to being familiar with Oliver Sachs if not with his writing itself and the couple nodded their familiarity with him being "strange." "Reclusive and shy," I said in response. Gabe or someone on Medscape had mentioned that so I had known it too.

I thought the woman in particular to be a bit stuck on herself. I couldn't get a read of genuine from her, a bit more genuine oozed from the herp guy. As for the neurosurgeon Mark, he was pleasant enough. Yet I felt like I was on the outside looking in instead of actually joining in with the conviviality. It appeared to me as if I had been judged somehow as being lower class or not accomplished enough or something. Maybe that is my own hang-up/bit of self-esteem that still needs improving, but there it is. I was a bit put out when Melissa and Greg ordered wine with their dinner and indeed had sucked up the bottle by time they were through. I also had to continually remind myself to shut up and let each one finish their conversation, even though my thoughts had been cut off at the first sentence at times. Somehow that doesn't seem quite right to me. I haven't figured this out yet. It is as if the brain injury has left me with some verbosity which means that I contribute more to conversations and people are prone to cutting off the long winded ones such as myself. At least I wasn't gaseous tonight.

After dinner, Tom turned down my bed. He explained that the feet should lay in the direction the train is traveling in case there is a wreck that will prevent nasty things like snapping necks. Okay I said and I agreed to follow that line of thinking. Most everyone in Amtrak has worked trains for one or two decades. I figure they know more about quite a few more things than I do.

We are losing time and thus losing sleep. It will be an early detrainment tomorrow in Phoenix so I am signing off for now.

sapphoq n friends

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I spent almost 25 bucks today for a cab to take me to a meeting which could not be found. As it happened, I landed
in Chula Vista [cute little houses] which was a walk to Imperial Beach and the pier. I ate at Subway, bought a few
trinkets, acquired directions to Tijuana and the San Diego Zoo, and then went off to the Pier. At the Imperial
Beach Pier, I watched a man reel in a stingray. He had two companions who had to help him because stingrays are
very strong and can snap a line. Then I went down to the beach where I waded in the Pacific and collected a few

I got on the bus which took me to the trolley. At the trolley station, a vet gave me a day pass which he didn't
need anymore that day. I went off to the #7 bus [the first bus driver, a woman, said I was on the bus going the
wrong way but she dropped me off across the street from the correct #7 bus going the correct way] to the San Diego
Zoo. The zoo is in Balboa Park. I went on a round-trip ride on the little bucket things that travel in the sky
over the zoo using thick wires for transport-- too bad I can't think of the name. I saw the herps-- including some
neat and well-cared for frogs, birds [one bird decided to peck on my leg and cane because his bird friend just had
laid some eggs], wild pigs, various four-footeds, camels, wallabees, a solitary 22 month old panda, and some other
stuff. I got cool pics, including of the monkeys and of the curlew who was intent upon finishing me off. I walked
too much and too long and at 6 p.m., I departed for the #7 to the trolley to the hike up the 8th Avenue hill to the

At the hotel I ate dinner there, saying goodbye to Jorge who was intent on convincing me that his bro-in-law would
treat me right for breakfast and then retired to my room for the rest of the late evening.

Tomorrow I am off to Phoenix on the train and bus. I will not arrive there until sometime on Thursday and will not
be able to post on the train. Til Thursday or after then,

sapphoq n friends

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


San Francisco was truly a difficult city for me to leave. I had found some community although I'd only been there
for a short time. I got up about 5:30 a.m. and I was waiting down at Fisherman's Wharf for the bus by 6:15. I
watched trolleys go by, and joggers; whistled to the birds and took a picture of the boats at dock.

The bus came and then the train ride to Bakersfield. Still no cacti. Just bunches of palm trees which the woman
from Norway who befriended me told me are not native to California. The bus ride to Los Angeles was mostly a view
of freeways. Toward the end, traffic jammed up a tad and our driver made for the nearest exit and took a back
route by the beginnings of L.A. Chinatown. Norwegian woman and I grabbed the skycap service. It wasn't even 4 p.m.
yet but I was done in. She was returning home to La Hoya from a long weekend at Yosemite where it had snowed. She
had a Mac Book which I was fairly impressed with and she showed me some of her photos which were also rather

The train was an hour and four minutes late. I sat upstairs on the right side and I did get to watch some ocean
go by. Unfortunately, there was a drunk in the rail car. He came complete with peroxide blond woman who was
desperately in need of Alanon. They were fighting about driving. She insisted he was drunk and she was going to
call the police on him, stay somewheres else, refuse to give him the car keys. He engaged in rather colorful and
vulgar language but did not offer any original thinking on the matter. The conductors kept walking up and down
the aisle until they finally got off one stop before San Diego. There was also a young 20 something kid who thought
that he had to share his annoyance with the lateness of the train with the Amtrak crew as well as with the many
people he called on his cell phone. And the car salesman who was phoning his boss to say that his sister had died
in Florida and that he was on his way there "now." [via San Diego?] When asked what time the funeral stuff was,
he hesitated slightly before saying "eleven o'clock." He wasn't overly convincing to me, but then again I had been
in management so it very well could be that I am just a hard sell.

I got in after 9 to the hotel via taxi and immediately went downstairs to eat. The waiter was from Tijuana although
he and wife and four kids also have a house in Chula Vista. We started talking then and he told me that T.J. is
very dangerous with drugs and that his two sisters want the family to move to San Antonio. We talked for a very
long time and he charged me half-price for my meal.

There was some good-natured teasing of co-workers going on in the kitchen. It was in Spanish. Funny stuff it was
and it got me laughing. Now I am totally done in and I suppose I will have to turn in.

Still no farking cacti.

sapphoq n friends

Monday, April 23, 2007


This morning was bright and sunny and found me dashing out of the hotel to a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous in a
hospital pavilion on Castro Street. The cabbie got lost and had to ask another cabbie how to get there even though
the website listed the cross-street DuBois or something like that. So I was a tad late and I can't blame the
cab driver entirely as I could have left earlier. It was a last minute "Oh, I can go to that meeting if I leave
right now" sort of decision.

The pavilion itself was spacious and I took a couple of pictures afterwards of the view of the city it afforded.
The meeting was welcoming and also predominantly glbtiq folk. I began to feel a sense of community that I had been
lacking [the feeling of]. I love San Francisco.

After the meeting I walked down Castro to the rainbow pride flag. I ate br/l/unch at a place called "Welcome Home."
That is what I was feeling after all. I was soon enjoying a first-class reuben and then a piece of real chocolate
cake. I stopped at the drugstore for a new memory card for the camera and some batteries. Then I went to a
fair-trade store with international flavor and bought stuff. Earrings and notecards and stuff like that. And an
offering bowl of wood with beads pressed into wax by some indians up north or maybe it was Mexico.

Then I got on the bus that took me to Haight Street and another one to 23rd street in Golden Gate park. I
followed the crowd to the free concert and I heard Steven Marley and his band play. Most excellent. I took
pictures. I stumbled through the crowd with my walking stick [I had already fallen once on the uneven ground
getting there and that hurt my pride but nothing more. Dammit brain injury!] in order to get away from the druggie
pipes and reefer smoke that was in evidence and smelled like body odor to me. I kept not breathing and I would
stagger onward, stop, discover that more people were smoking [I was glad for the wind which carried it away], and
stagger onward again to get away from it. Mental note to self: gas mask for next freebie concert
at the Golden Gate Park.

When far enough away, I took some pics of people or people and their dogs. I found the first aid tent and got some
Gaterade. I found an earth day bag for a buck and teeshirts for five bucks. I found the Reiki practitioners and got
a treatment for my gut. It seemed to help, although I could feel the inflammation along my left side and I hope that
I don't have Crohn's. I may have to inquire medically about that possibility when I get back. Better to know then
not to know, even if it is not what I would have chosen for myself. There were some drummers drumming [not drugging]
so I hung out there for a few minutes. There was a hippie bus vintage 1947 done over by the Twelve Tribes of
northern San Diego. I wasn't real interested in their trip but since there was no drugs on the bus, I consented to
sit for awhile and observe the love bombing going on. After leaving the bus on my way to Lloyd Lake [man-made I
think] and its' pleasant little waterfall, I saw a guy with this chicken. The chicken was a male Japanese Silkie
and it had a fuller head of hair than I do. The chicken's name was Zorro. I got to hold the chicken with his feet
dangling. Zorro was very peaceful but squawked a tiny bit when the guy went off to his car to get something. I
turned Zorro to see where his human went. He squawked one more time and then he resumed his calmness. It was
obvious to my non-scientific eye that the chicken indeed had bonded with his human.

I hopped on another bus after I walked out of the park, guessing that it was headed in the direction of my hotel.
This proved to be true and once I got off and found a human being who knew how to give directions, I found I had
a nine block walk. Back at the hotel I dropped off the loot, went to dinner [mixed greens] at a restaurant named
Sears' on Powell and then had the hotel dude whistle me a cab to the Unitarian Church to the 7:30 p.m. meeting of
Narcotics Anonymous. Several folks remembered me from the morning. It was an 11th step meditation meeting.
Someone read a passage from the 11th step and then we sat in silence for 15 minutes. Then people shared. This
meeting, like the morning meeting, was only an hour long-- though the schedule indicates that there are also N.A.
meetings which are one and a half hours long. After the meeting, I felt too tired to deal with the bus and a walk
so the nice guy in the church office called me a cab.

That was all of today and now it is a bit of e-mail and bed for a long day of travel tomorrow which starts early.

Oh, and I met this dude from a band called Kosha Dillz. He has a MySpace page and I will be ordering a c.d. If
anyone supports musicians that hardly anyone else ever heard of, consider Kosha Dillz. They start their tour in
San Francisco tomorrow. They are also going to San Diego although not until May first.

sapphoq n friends

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I woke up this morning to a close-up of beautiful rocks and a cut. It was brown and pretty but the camera took a picture of the window reflection instead. I was surprised to see hoar-frost on the ground. It was Nevada and I been waiting on cacti. Still none yet.

I ate breakfast with three men who were all going to different places but obviously had been riding trains for many years. One of them remembers a loop fare one could get back in the 80s-- under 300 bucks and ya could get on and off where you pleased until you came back home again. They also remember an entertainment car and free cookies and wine tastings.

None of them seemed to care any for Al Gore and truthfully I don't either. They all had some rather
pithy observations about environmentalists who got the land all bound up in regulations now that in some places you have to wait a year before you can build on your lot-- having to make sure that everything drains properly. One of them says the best place to buy house and land for your buck is Colorado. That would be after retirement since there aren't any jobs there. They were a pretty interesting bunch of guys they were.

I slept after breakfast-- perhaps the french toast was too much on the carbs and not enough of anything else. And woke up to brown dirt-sand, rocks, and the same vegetation I seen since Colorado. No trees though and some of the ground has that baked-in look. The mountains look like someone just dumped truckloads of dirt onto various spots.
Gone is the snow covering that graced Utah's mountains. I'm still waiting to see cacti and sorry to say but there is none. There is still patches of tough grass snuck in among the yellows and reds of the weedy things. I have seen some ducks and a few birds as well. It's a land as rugged as Utah was salty and it must take a special breed of human to make a living here.

Trees eventually came back along with tire factories and little outcroppings of people. No real towns though. Bunches of tracks and in the distance, snow-capped mountains returned. Reno came and went. There is a river that we will follow almost to Sacramento-- the ?Kentucky? River. Interspersed farms, boulders, and scrubby bushes.
Fancy houses and broken down ranches. Wherever the luxury hotels are, they must be a ways from here. The mountains
are beginning to have a few brave trees growing on then. The one with dashes of snow to the north seems to have more trees. Just scrubs, a few trees, boulders, and bits of green vegetation. This isn't like home at all.

Blondie would like it here. Open country, space to run in, a creek, trees, places to explore. She wouldn't appreciate the scenery from the train window. She would have to get out. Pictures don't do it for Blondie. We think we are smarter than dogs and yet perhaps dogs have more the right of it. Experience, not memory. Or memory is secondary to the right here right now. Dogs would be the perfect zen masters. If the Buddha were to come back, he could do worse than coming back as a dog.

There seems to be little man-made features mixed in with the river. Timbers holding the rocks up, a concrete waterfall, fences. The day is gloomy, the river is unnatural in its greenness with white ribbons of rippling swirling currents. Purples and greens, yellows, stalky vegetation. Shrub. Piles of rocks. Sun peaking out from under the clouds. Slides and reds and tans, rocks and sand. Where is my fucking cactus???

We are entering Cold Stream Canyon. The original trees were cut down more than 130 years ago or so. We will climb 1100 feet. There's lots of pine trees here even though they are young. At the top is a tunnel and then a photo op at the top-- after the tunnel, to the right of the train. That photo-op was Donner Lake. 89 people set off for California but only 47 people made it, they were stranded for 5 months and they had come from Illinois.

We also passed a small railroad community [not to be seen] where the houses were covered so the workers could get to their houses from the station. And Soda Spring-- cuz of the presence of carbon dioxide in the water, one didn't need baking soda for their bisquits to be rising.

We also went through a couple of snow sheds-- concrete structures built to hold back the avalanches. There is snow here and it can get up to 35 feet. I'm not sure if we are still in Nevada or if we are in California. We did pass under the lifts for the Sugar Bowl. Oh, it's California. All California since Soda Spring.

California became palm trees and flowers, poppies and poplars and stuff. Clean streets and shiny people. No slums on parade via the train window. Water, a harbor, boats. White stork-like ducks, probably some relation to herons but definitely not blue herons due to coloration and the sun. Pretty, not overwhelmingly so like central Colorado. But pretty enough.

I got off the train and onto a bus. The driver was not gaining points for his ability to deal with the public. I found him to be rather gruff. He offered to "take care of" us if we would "take care of" him-- in other words, after the scheduled stops, he would take people to their hotels for tip money. I was wanting to get off the bus when at Pier 39 [a.k.a. Fisherman's Wharf] the bus driver began cussing out a Canadien charter bus driver and then our oh so slick bus driver drove over a curb to get around the Canadien charter bus. That was my stop anyways so out the door I went. I wasn't going to help dude rip off his employer.

The hotel proved to be in the financial district next to one hell of a shopping district and I am on the 21st floor. I am liking it muchly. Dinner was expensive but worth it as dinner was downstairs in the attached restaurant. I had procuitto and melon for an appetizer and caesar salad for my meal. That set me back 25.06 but I was so freaking
tired and hungry that I could not trust myself to find a cheaper place while maintaining my sanity, or what passes for sanity round here.

Now it's internet and court teevee and hot tea and bed.

sapphoq n friends


I had a fitful sleep involving motel rooms and an overactive imagination. I was glad to get back on the train this morning. I went to breakfast where I observed a snooty old man and his wife refusing to share a table. They was fat anyways but even still. I sat with two quiet single people who were not together. I had the Tuscan omelette for breakfast. Fried potatoes were just as dismal as I remembered them but the omelette was okay.

I got a lower bunker this time-- and the bottom half of the train is easier to manage in walking. We went through miles of mountains and snow-covered mountains following the Colorado River. I saw a blue heron, a shitload of geese, some other brown ducks, a mallard, and a couple of ?western-style? vultures. Then came six miles of tunnels and
then the canyons started.

All I could think of when surrounded by canyons is holy shit how small we are in comparison to this. The scrubby pines and tumbleweeds, square glacial rocks and slides, little ranches and cows, and a few people floating down the river on blue rafts. It was the perfect day for all of it.

I sat lunch with a single middle aged man from Utica-Rome who had undisclosed business or fun to attend to a couple hours outside of Salt Lake City and a nice elderly couple from Pennsylvania celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. The chicken caesar was a winner.

Red rocks and water and canyons and ducks seemed to be the order of the day. I love my Adirondacks but I sure as shit could get used to this. Corny I don't care: I understand John Denver just a tiny bit better now.

At Grand Junction Colorado there was a stampede toward the little gift shop in back of the waiting room. I was no exception. I got an Amtrak hat and a neckerchief with trains on it and a chocolate bar and some ice cream.

Later on the afternoon clouded up a bit as the teevee said there would be rain and storms in the plain states. I had dinner with an elderly tour guide named Mary Alice B. and her friend, both widowed. Mary Alice had some troubles with swallowing I guess and I wanted to suggest the chin tuck thing. But I didn't cuz we were strangers. I don't know if she'd had a stroke or if she has Parkinsons or maybe both. The two of them split a chicken dinner. I had one of my own.

The last little town in Utah looked like a little old-fashioned western town with the old storefronts intact. The Holiday Inn van seemed rather out of place to the whole thing.

a p.s. goes here: Husband said some guy from [agency in another county] called about a job.
Husband told him I was gone cross-country for three weeks.
I am to call him back when I get back home.

Some time ago for a lark, I submitted an on-line application to their t.b.i. program. I never got a response so I figured that was that thank-you ms. ex-boss airhead who is currently working there.
What if they hire me? What if they don't?
Aw shit.


I woke up at 515 am with no difficulty independent of any alarm and well-rested. I did the quickie version of wash-up, since I was going to Denver for a day, and waited til 6 and breakfast. Companion one of the evening before greeted me and we were shortly after joined by companion two. Companion two [of Lutheran extraction] is from
Wisconsin and going to see relatives in California somewheres near Ukiah and companion one. One and two began an animated discussion about walking. Two says she walks daily except when it is near freezing. She does so for 20 minutes before the wind comes up-- around 530 in the a.m.

Both companions opted for the continental-- cereal, fruit, yogurt. I had the quiche [salty] with bacon [smoked, salty], potato strings [not eaten], and croissant [good] washed down once again by iced tea. Medusa has reduced herself to small grumbles off to the sideline and so in thanks for that I am not drinking coffee these days.

After breakfast was Colorado hill country. I called Ed who was amazed to discover that spring is farther along here than back home, and that there really wasn't any snow on the mountains surrounding Denver. [Actually there are but I didn't know it then]. Denver itself proved to be a city of interstates and large buildings. I disembarked downtown and got a cab to La Quinta. Seven bucks later [not bad] I was let out in front and the guy asked Lupa to get my room ready in Spanish. I ate a banana
while waiting.

Motel room has outside corridor to it. 237 faces the "back" side and interstate is visible. It is too early in the season here for the pool to be open. I washed out a few clothes and rested a bit before deciding what to do with the rest of the day here in "Mile High City."

I slept til just noon and then walked to the Park Street Cafe formerly known as Denny's where I had iced tea and a taco salad. I returned to the room to grab the camera and I was off for a bus ride to downtown Denver. After a bit of a walk, I managed to locate both a bank [to buy quarters for husband] and the post office [to send them and some
souvenirs from Chicago-- two tee shirts from Lou's Diner] home. Rocks from Illinois too.

I found the 16th Street Pedestrian mall and browsed around, had a chocolate chocolate chip frozen custard and some durr pepper/diet pepsi. I rode around on the freebie mall bus and then I started walking to get a taxi. I was getting overtired by then so I asked a young woman at a building to call me a cab. She did. All of the cabs here in the 303 area code are followed by seven repetitions of a number-- 333-3333 and 444-4444 and 777-7777 and now 333-4444.

The Narcotics Anonymous meeting was the best thing about Denver. It was in a small shop called "The Donut Hole." There were six of us there. The meeting was over too quickly. I had a cab called and it was back to the motel. I know I keep calling it a hotel but it is really a motel or a motor inn.

The return cab driver was a very nice man, been in the marines for six years, got a wife and four kids. We had an amiable conversation regarding that fucking moron who shot up them students down at Virginia Tech. I tipped him for his company. Sometimes there is a lonliness being on the road. It is not especially a horrible pale or any of
that shit. Just a sort of "I don't know where the fuck I am or what I am doing and I certainly don't want you to know it dammit" sort of feeling. I enjoy my own company although motels at night alone are rather creepy.

I walked over to the gas station and got a couple bags of popcorn. My guts spit out some shit this evening and popcorn is what I want to eat along with my lukewarm southern Illinois 7-Up. I am officially in for the night with a novel and some shoot-em up cops on teevee.

sapphoq n friends


I caught a few hours of sleep before we had to leave to catch the 4a.m. into Chicago at Centralia. The 4 a.m. surprised me by being a double-decker. I believe it was the tail end of the New Orleans to Chi-town run. The conductor asked me if "that was my walking stick." I figured I better not agree with him so I said, "No, it's my cane." Since it was holding me up and kept me from falling in the aisles, I figured it was partly true.

I settled into a coach seat. Being a bit on the drowsy side, I slept in spurts on the way in. I know I moaned once and also my body jumped a couple of times since I wasn't connected to the c-pap machine. I was quickly grateful that I had upgraded to sleepers for Chi to Denver and from Denver to California. The sleepy little towns we passed by were twinkles on the prairie. There were large storage vats and farm machinery which broke up the passing landscape.

Once in Chicago, I changed my tickets to match my upgrades. The woman at the counter was very persistent with the malfunctioning equipment she had to work with. It took a few minutes and she apologized. It was pleasurable having someone who was competent and cared about her work behind the counter.

I checked my bags in the special lounge Amtrak has for folks with sleepers [there is also one like this in Philly and in Los Angeles] and went off to Lou's for breakfast. The specialty there is fluffy omelets served in a skillet. I had a feta cheese omlette which was perfection along with some fried potatoes and some delicious Greek bread. Coffee rounded it out. I declined the ice cream which was included. Stomach was calming down finally and I figured I shouldn't test it anymore than I already was by drinking the coffee and partaking of the feta cheese. That didn't stop me from eating the Milk Duds they give all customers upon getting seated though.

After breakfast I walked along the canal by the Chicago River, watched a flatboat with a tug, listened to a street musician play the sax [he was quite good], and avoided the beggars looking for hand-outs. I sat for an hour or so in the special lounge playing Snood and people-watching until my train got called.

I opted to go in the transport to the train since my one bag is heavy. #5 went real fast and I was glad I did. There was some good-natured teasing back and forth between the skycaps. Once on the train-- California Zephyr 5, I settled into room 10. Facing the front of the train, 10 is on the left. I elected to spread out on the bottom chairs which converted into a bunk. Departure was delayed several times with an electrical problem.

We did get going finally and it was goodbye to the Windy city. A bright sunny afternoon illustrated all of the grime on the train windows. I was able to get off some decent shots anyways and finished one of the train magazines I had picked up in Chicago.

The rest of Illinois was all yellow dirt and cornfields. Iowa was much the same although a few hills began to creep in. Stations came and went with the blowing of the whistle. The sunset was nice though and I had a great view of the Mississippi River which forms a natural border between Illinois and Iowa.

My dinner reservation was at 5pm. I sat with two women who were both experienced train travelers. One of them is a retired schoolteacher from Ukiah, California. Ukiah appears to be the pot smoking capital of the United States. The woman said 'everyone' was rushing out to get a medical marijuana permit. She has two daughters in Campus
Crusade for Christ-- missionaries from there have to raise their own funds-- one in Ubiekistan and a married one in Moscow who comes back to Vermont to birth her kids. This first woman identified herself as a 'Free E.' The other woman is an almost retired title searcher. She is a Lutheran-- Synod. I listened as both of them exchanged pedigrees like prized cattle and I longed for the days when no one gave two shits what church you went to or anything. Those days seem to be gone now which is a damn shame. I prefer that people live their religions rather than announcing them willy nilly.

Dining staff advised that the veggie stir-fry is high in salt so I settled into some baked chicken, baked potato, and carrots. All three of us had the same. The iced tea was good. We all three had the chocolate bundt cake and I had to wonder why the idea of it was so tempting. It was a piece of cake.

I snoozed and took pictures after dinner. I settled down with c-pap and Amtrak blanket for the night. Just before midnight or so we stopped at Omaha Nebraska [of Boys Town fame] and I wondered if Kelly's ex Terri was still in Lincoln [hi Terri if you are reading this, it's spike]. The train station itself was kind of spooky with an old part added on to the new part. We stopped at the old part with its twisted steel structures and rich textures evocative of another time and place when the west was a bit more raw and boots had spurs as a matter of course. I drifted off then, so ending the fourth day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Another sunny morning though it did all turn to clouds later on. I woke up to biscuits and gravy. Then Sandy, Rich, and I left to go to Rend Lake. I stopped at the post office first to mail back my souvenir Illinois tee shirts ["Rend Lake Clean-Up '06," and "Continential Tires"] and some postcards.

Rend Lake is kind of like Sacandaga Lake in Fulton County New York. Both are man-made and both flooded over a small town to create. Our first stop was the Illinois Artisans Shop and Visitors' Center. A bunch of artists from Illinois display there and the stuff is for sale. There are textiles and all kinds of stuff...quilts, blown glass, stained glass, walking sticks, furniture and all of that. At the front entrance is a young woman leaning over a computer. They should give her a job away from the public really. For one so young, she is very serious and barely lifts her head to scowl and gesture to the back. In the back is the older woman whose son-in-law wrote four books on rollar coasters. The older woman takes charge of the money and of answering any questions which the younger woman fails to answer. [That is to say, all of them]. I yielded to my desires and got me a walking stick with a green man carved on the top of it. Sandy got me a coppery shell bracelet strung on black nylon. Rich started talking about tarantula tattoos and we decided it was best that we go.

We drove over a couple of little bridges which split Rend Lake [or rendered it] into two unequal halves and saw a stork or stork-like white bird. I don't rightly know what it is except to say it was larger than a snowy egret and skinnier than the yellow-crowned night heron of my memory of Montezuma was. We got along the north shore of the lake and watched some coots in the water. We went along the south shore where I was amazed at the tow-redness of the beach sand. It looked like rain and Rich was talking about possessions and we figured it was time to go. After dropping Rich off, Sandy and I went to dinner at Triple E Bar-Be-Que where I had breaded fried pickles for the first time ever. We also had some ribs and I made a reacquaintance with okra.

Tuesday night's A.A. meeting finished off the night for me once again.

sapphoq n friends


Day Two rose vigorous and sunny. I got out of bed to see what this part of the country I had landed in late the night before looks like in daylight and I was not to be disappointed. There was no disappointment to be sure in Sandy's bacon and eggs nor in her courageous stories of survival through her times in a really bad foster home in Missouri. We ate and then went resaling [they aren't thrift stores here in Mt. Vernon, Illinois] and so forth. First we went to a pawn shop; Sandy's ex-boyfriend John had some business there. He stank of yesterday's drunk just like I suppose sometimes I used to. Then on to Shorty's.

The people who own Shorty's are rich people pretending to be poor and running a junk shop in what used to be a gas station. Rusted out tools and items of no description lay about under the canopy where the pumps once stood. More stuff was piled about inside-- it looked like it had been flung around but there was a guy running around with a box of stuff scattering it here and there. The old lady there her daughter served in Iraq. I wanted to take a picture of the old lady but her wealth betrayed her. She said simply that she didn't want anyone to see her dressed the way she was. She looked fine to me in a simple housedress but one does not argue too much with older people so that was that.

A few more resale shops and we dropped John off at his apartment. All the old hippies of the 70s are now renting on his street. I always wondered where they went and now I know. John's apartment is in the back of an old [now closed] store-- it resembles a Western store with the red fake brick tacking up the front.
The street were cobblestone. I took a picture of that. [All pics to be uploaded at another time]. And it is haunted according to Sandy and John. They say a woman walks through his walk-in closet out to the back to gather up some wood to bring it inside.

Sandy and I went to the Fifth [used to be the Fourth but Illinois got bigger] Circuit courthouse where a nice guard named Charles West talked to us for a bit and he told us the spiral stairs were from France and came over by boat and then by oxcart. He also said Lincoln had argued a case there at the courthouse the railroad vs. the government of Illinois on taxes. A lady from the second floor was permitted to give us a tour. She showed us one room of old books and one old book where Lincoln had his name mentioned. There are eight circuit judges and three sit at any one time. When they do, they are permitted the use of a bedroom and they get cooking too. So there were three rooms which are bedrooms marked private. Made me wonder if they ever argue over which bedroom each of them is to use. The living room was from the eighties with the big ashtrays and the camp style furniture and the obligatory picture of english setters and a hunter on the wall. The dining room was elegant. The courtroom itself had wonderful arches and a chandelier and also really cool wooden chairs. The bench is up on a dais with room for all three your honors. The courthouse has some added-on downstairs but the original building itself is rather spectacular in its own right.

Dinner was at the Mexican Restaurant owned by a family who recently made a second one uptown. The porkchops and onions were to die for. The chips for the salsa were homemade and marvelous while hot. Sandy said there are illegals who come up this way to work construction jobs. Even the legal ones are afraid of losing their work permits. That's alright I guess though yes there are illegal aliens here too.

An A.A. meeting across the street from the courthouse at St. Mary's church finished off the night.

sapphoq n friends

DAY ONE 4/17/07


Passengers on the plane are downright unfriendly. There were two Lebanese guys waiting to go to D.C. in the waiting room and no one wanted to sit next to each other at all. The two guys were just regular folk relaxing. And ignored the hostile stares they were getting from most everyone else.

There was a male house sparrow flying around the waiting area. He seemed rather familiar with everything; hopped around as if he owned the place, checking out familiar spots. A chair here, a spot of floor there. He landed on the teevee set showing the weather briefly. When I whistled at him though, he split which reminded me once again something about being a nation of strangers.

The airplane was worse. It was a prop job-- a puddle-jumper of the skies-- held together by high-tech duct tape. The aisles were so narrow that only an anorexic could go through them without twisting sideways. An hour and a half later and I was in Chicago.

With no clue of how to get out of there. The guy behind the desk grunted at me and pointed to the left. "And then what?" I asked. "Jest keep going straight," he said. The hallway branched out into a tee.

I found the travelers' aid lady to be better equipped at giving directions and she told me how to take the subway to the train station. I got on the blue subway which gave me a bit of the tour of the city. The people in the car mostly seemed to be locals. Chicago is full of buildings and Cubs fans.

I got off and went upstairs, walked the two blocks (past more buildings) to Union Station. There were a coupla old men sleeping on the steps in the sunlight. It was that sort of day. They were homeless so maybe they didn't feel the same way about it as I did. I was a tourist, a brief intrusion upon their lives and nothing more.

The "Grand" part of Grand Union Station truly is grand. Large pews like I remember at Penn Station in Newark New Jersey and people lounging up them in the sunlight. I took a picture of a young woman reading a Steven King novel as her baby slept on her lap.

The waiting area for the Amtrak was a motley assortment and I enjoyed it. After a quiet lunch in a sports bar/cafeteria, the noise was soothing. People were friendly and talked to each other, even strangers. Everyone was happy to be going somewheres and so was I. Finally I started getting excited too.

Illinois equals Chicago plus cornfields. Even the dirt is sort of loomy yellow. Folks on the train were all locals and settled in to talk to whoever they were sitting next to. Some guy with a guitar said he plays with a band called "Hello Dave." The old lady sitting next to me she told me her life story who had hung himself and who was a good daughter-in-law and a bad daughter and her prize roses and dancing three times a week and everything.

Three hours later I was much relieved to say goodbye to her as I got off the train to meet my friend Sandy and her son Rich. (to be continued)

spike q

p.s. Sandi B, if you want a postcard, please send me your address again.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

SALESMAN 4/14/07

with a shout-out to 1588c from sapphoq n friends

A salesman knocks on a door.

A 12 year old boy opens the door, wearing a pink tutu, a martini in one hand and puffing on a cigar.

"Is your mom or dad home?"

The kid takes a long pull on the cigar and said; "What the fck do you think?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Remembering Mama

My name is Wednesday. The kids in school always made fun of me and compared me to

that twisted little girl in the Adams Family but i think I look more like Carrie in that Stephen King movie with the bucket of pigs' blood dumped upon her at the prom. Those kids are sorry they ever laid their unholy whoring eyes upon Wednesday Jones.

I am not evil. I am pure and good to the core. I don't have a blemish or scar upon me. There is no mark of Cain upon me. I do have a pearl necklace. They are genuine and came from somewhere off the Sea of Japan. Mama always hated when I wore them with my long black knit dress and my actor's grease pot salve. Mama's dead now. Ain't that right, Mama? You are as dead and your head as pickled in the jar as the other two back there behind me. Mama, you always told me I would amount to something-- even though I refused to put up the black dress in favor of some sort of frilly Chantilly go-go doll skirt and blouse.

See how nicely the candlelight glistens off your face Mama. You always told me it ain't right to recycle the canning jars by mixing salt after dairy or pork. But see Mama, you wasn't right about that at all. You was wrong. Mama, I'm sorry. I just don't like all those fancy colors. It must be a sin to wear all that gaudy stuff and cheap artificial finery and showing off what I got to those dammed reforms next door. At least we were congregationalists Mamma. Still, I think we shoulda kept Kosher better and learnt more Hebrew and stuff. I would have gladly killed off all them Israelites, Mama, who went a'whoring after false gods in the desert while waiting for G-d's socket puppets Moses and Aaron to come down off of that mountain with the fifteen commandments. Oh Mama, I know there had to be a third tablet about not wearing gaudy colors or showing off our booties but that damn fool Moses was drunk off of G- d's glory and he broke it. Aaron picked up the pieces and threw them in a midden pile and said, "Now, you shut up Moses. No one will ever know."

At least your head has company up there on that shelf, Mama. It wouldn't be right for no one to see how I curled your hair in steam rollers now would it? You weren't Hasidic dammit Mama so I figured it would be alright with you if I stuck a couple of other heads up there in the canning jars on the shelf next to you. They are two of my classmates Mama. I bet you remember them. You always was comparing me to them Mama. Not that I minded but they really were a couple of little tarts.

On your left side is Golda-- never a sicker bitch there was than her, Mama. She was always carrying on about who she had kissed and more out back behind the schoolyard in the woods. She got herself preggers and had an abortion and came to school one day all bloody and bragging she did. She had nice long hair but I left it plain and frizzled. I didn't fuss over her hair at all. She had no shame in life Mama. She won't in death either.

And on your right side is Madonna. She was a fool, Mama. She got to carrying on about how she was a high class whore and how her men (that is what she called them) would pay for a high-class hotel or take her away to the mountains with them for a weekend. I never believed her Mama. It was irksome all the same. Cuz of that, I cut all of her hair off of her head and put her head in the jar upside-down.

See Mama. Three bitches in three canning jars and me sitting here with one candle burning and I got on my long black dress and a string of real pearls. Now what could be more proper than that?


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

TEAM BLOG 4/3/07

Our team blog over at:
is growing.

With the recent addition of two very talented writers, our numbers are now up to eight or nine (give or take a couple of socks).

If you are a blogger with some talent and you would like to be a part of the team, write to varietyisthespiceoflife at resistant-witches dot com. Include links to your blog or blogs.

It is not necessary to agree with any opinion presented on itch-wars-report, nor is it necessary to be anything other than who you are. You would post about what you want to when you want to. Posting about your passion is definitely applauded. Cross-posting from your blog is encouraged. Spam, copyright infringement, and chain letters received in your e-mail box are not allowed.

Administrator of the itch-wars-report reserves the right to reject any applicant, to edit any post for spelling mistakes, and to delete spam and copyright infringement and chain letters.

sapphoq n friends