X-Country Journal, Chapter 1

Saigon. I can’t believe I’m still in Saigon.

Actually, I’m in Pasadena. It’s Wednesday morning. I made it to Pasadena last night at about midnight. Tonight at about 8pm I’ll arrive in Flagstaff, AZ. Once there I’ll look at my finances and see if I have enough green and energy to see the Grand Canyon.


But anyway, here’s the update on the past few days. They were pretty crazy. On Friday, after returning the U-Haul truck and did some more packing and what not. Overwhelmed as usual. I drove to San Jose where I had to run some errands and saw Daved. We found a place that would pack and ship my mountain bikes ($$$) and then he drove all the way up to Daly City — in his new Honda CR-V — to help me out. Those CR-V’s are nice. We made some good progress and with his help I removed the mental blocks from the bedroom mess that allowed me to tackle it.


On Saturday I tried to ship my acoustic bass and other assorted instruments. I found out that the bass alone would cost over $400 to ship. The electric upright would have been $148 to ship. So I ended up sending two amps, the acoustic guitar, the electric bass and a box of music books for a grand total of $417. $$$$$$$ This is relevant because now I’m po’ and have probably just enough to make it back if I don’t splurge at all. I guess some things just aren’t meant to be easy.

Meanwhile, I was not at home where I was supposed to be, which is where Janna was looking for me. So she drove down and met me in San Mateo. We ate at the California Pizza Kitchen and then she offered to drive back up to Daly City to help me. And she did.

We got a lot done. It was actually starting to look possible for me to get out on Sunday. I was supposed to be meeting Michael, the landlord, at 8:45 AM to return the keys.

So we loaded my car full to the brim with boxes as I anguished over what to store and what to attempt to fit in the Pathfinder. Janna is possibly one of the most efficient people on the planet. She got a lot more done than I did.

As time progressed my stomach began an uprising. A gastrointestinal coup d’etat. Food poisoning. I was complaining all evening that my stomach was hurting but it kept getting worse until after a point I was completely useless. Meanwhile, Janna was still cleaning and even walked to the gas station to get me some Pepto.

After a point I had to declare the night over because I couldn’t even think anymore to even answer her questions as to what I wanted her to do next. So after she left I laid on my only remaining piece of furniture — my very first and very last piece of furniture in California — the pillowchairbed. After spending the night vomiting up Jerk Chicken Pizza I was able to function again the next day.


On Sunday I had to be back at the shipping place to pay them an extra $15 because of UPS’s special handling fees. Then I went to the U-Haul storage place to unload what Janna and I had packed the night before. Then I made another run full of odd-shaped things and that was everything to be stored.

Tim Bulkley let me use his garage as temporary storage. So I made a trip there to drop off some things like three boxes full of CDs that I couldn’t take with me or afford to ship. But I still have a full complement with me, of course.

Then I went back to my place and tried to finish up. I had called Michael the night before when the Jerks were over taking me and asked if I could drop the keys off in the evening. The evening turned out to be about 12:30 AM. It was grueling. During the day, Janna and her sister, Lindsey, came by to pick up all the leftover boxes and packing material because they’re moving soon, too. That cleared up the place even more, which was a psychological necessity.

Tim had given me an extra set of keys to his place and the garage clicker. Anyway, after midnight I had everything in the car and was out of the apartment. I was so proud of myself until I sat in the car and couldn’t see a thing out of the back or sides. And poor Leika. By the time we got to Tim’s she was wedged against the door by a guitar and a hand car and other assorted items that had avalanched on her.

So I dropped some things off there and then drove to Castro Valley to leave the apartment keys at the landlord’s place.

I got back to Tim’s at about 4AM but couldn’t get one of the doors open so I drove back to the condo complex where I lived, parked in my space and slept for a few hours. In the morning, around the time when Tim would have been waking up I went back there and he let me in, showed me how to use the key and I crashed there for a few hours. I could have buzzed up at 4AM but I didn’t want to wake him since he was working the next day and up late the night before. But I should have and he told me so. I just didn’t want to be a bother, I guess.


I spent all day on Monday trying to pack everything in the car while fitting Leika also. After about 5 hours of that I couldn’t figure it out and was stressing. Tim came home from work with Adam and Adam’s father. After a while they came back from playing B-ball and we grabbed some food, which I desperately needed but ate too soon after having food poisoning. But it helped me come up with a solution. Put Leika in the front seat which maximized the rear cargo space so I was able to do it. Pack aaaaall that stuff and still see out of the car.

By the way, I’ve bought a bunch of those SpaceSaver bags recently. And they stink. I mean, they’re good but they’re very fragile. Practically every one I have quickly developed ruptures and therefore was a waste of money. You can’t even use them as normal bag containers because they tear so easily.

Monday night I went to Yoshi’s one last time to see Chris Potter. That group is amazing. It’s not really emotionally moving but there’s so much energy and skill and groove to it that it’s a great show. After the show I said my goodbyes and drove to the abode of Tony Catman Slajs in Fremont. Tim wasn’t able to let Leika into his apartment in the Mission and she would bark her head off every time a dog passed. In other words, often. I couldn’t rest or relax fully because I’m tuned to her bark and every time I heard it I woke up or was agitated.

At Tony’s, with his cats safely ensconced in their room, we watched MST3K “Attack of the Eye Creatures”. Woo boy. What an awful movie.


In the morning I showered for the first time in too long, shaved and felt human again. Tony and I went to have cheesesteaks at the filthy sports bar dive that is Jersey’s in Campbell. Back at his place I packed up again to the aptly selelcted MST3K “Mitchell”.

In the evening, I took off and got the final provisions, bought a little wide angle mirror to paste on to my driver’s side mirror and hit the road with a CD changer full of good music.

An easy night of 6 hours of driving and here I am in Pasadena.

Wednesday Morning

This morning I turned on the TV, scanned the channels and saw a brief glimpse of Jerry Springer: “I had a threesome with my mom.” Reluctantly, I might add and including her female cousin.

Rewinding a bit, I was listening to some great music on the way down. I had Eric Benet’s “A Day in the Life” CD on as I got into this area and I was noticing that all that work he did and all that talent and the best he can do is sing about his friggin’ wanker! That’s pretty much what the gist of the CD was. Well, it was full of love songs. “Love” songs. You know, that selfish, sexual, self-gratifying, bragadocious kind of love songs.

So to clear my mind from that and the cultural spume and inanity of morning TV shows I want to put the lyrics of a true love song here. I used to listen to a lot of Motown when I was in elementary and middle school. Every cursh I had on every girl at the time had a soundtrack to it that was invariably Motown. But last night listening to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell I heard these lyrics again and they had even more meaning to me somehow. Like, a true love song encompasses more than romance. Anyway, here they are and then I have to check out of the hotel and hit the road. Looking out of the 2nd story window of this Quality Inn I can see that my car is still intact and still contains its contents. Leika is laying on the floor almost asleep but she’s just raring to go and get back in the car and get out of this strange place full of strange smells.

In the background, CNN is going on about 35 miles of missing Bubonic Plague vials in Lubbock, Texas. I’ll let you know if I find them on the way through.

Anyway, thanks to the incredible human beings that have helped me out so much over the past few days. They made the impossible possible when I was too overwhelmed to accomplish anything.

So here’s the song by Nickolas Ashford/Valerie Simpson as sung by Marvin and Tammi and as put here by me:

Like the sweet morning dew, I took one look at you and it was plain to see you were my destiny. With my arms open wide I threw away my pride. I’ll sacrifice for you. Dedicate my life for you. I will go where you lead, always there in time of need. And when I lose my will you’ll be there to push me up the hill. There’s no looking back for us. We got love sure enough. That’s enough. You’re all. You’re all I need to get by.

Like an eagle protects his nest for you I’ll do my best. Stand by you like a tree and dare anybody to try and move me. In you I found strength where I was torn down. Don’t know what’s in store but together we can open any door. Just to do what’s good for you and inspire you a little higher. I know you can make a man out of a soul that didn’t have a goal ‘cause we got the right foundation and with love and determination.

You’re all. You’re all I need to get by. You’re all I want to strive for and do a little more.

All the joys under the sun wrapped up into one

You’re all. You’re all I need to get by.

Wednesday Night

And now I’m sitting in a Quality Inn in Flagstaff, AZ and I am tired. It’s very cold here. I guess the elevation is around 8,000 ft and although it’s easy to forget when you live in California, it is January. There’s isn’t much snow, though. There’s some on the sides of the road but it hasn’t snowed much so the ski season isn’t happening. That is a good thing for me because the ho-tel mo-tel Holiday Inn prices are cheaper. Hmmm. Lot of forestry stuff on the news being this close to the Grand Canyon and other national Parks.

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