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In Minneapolis right now, went to the north side to see where the tornadoes had been.

The houses were not particularly damaged by the tornado, but by the trees. The trees don't look like they were blown over, exactly. They look like the wind grabbed them by the leaves and yanked them right out.

I talked to a cop who said "I wonder if the trees do more damage than they protect." I think he may have a point, though on every other day of the year the trees do much more help than harm. But now I'm wondering -- the wind is SO much stronger at slightly higher elevations than on the street level (because the houses weren't caved in or windows blown out, and nearly every tree is down but no houses are down at all) -- perhaps trees serve as a first line of defense, protecting the houses from the wind that would surely reach down to grab them if it had not been slowed by the branches.

This was the one that bothered me -- it's an old, old treehouse that the tree had grown around. And then the whole tree got ripped right out of the ground.

But I missed my chance to see the tornado. I was on the convention floor at MCBA when they came over the intercom and said there was a sighting, the doors would be locked for twenty minutes. It is a telling indictment of the capitalist frenzy that conventions incite in me that I saw this as an opportunity to make sales to a captive audience instead of an opportunity to see a tornado. My mistake, my loss.

MCBA was pretty great, though attendance on the second day was extremely light due to, ya know, tornadoes. But we had powerful protectors.

Some better than others.

Cop: what are you laughing about?
Me: your hat says Police State Fair.
Cop: ...so?
Me: your hat says Police State....Fair.
Cop: yeah, I work at the state fair.
...Me: I know, but your hat.... it says Police state, and then it says fair.
Cop: why is that funny?
Me: .....we don't have state fairs where I live.

First thing I saw when I got to MPLS, by the way, was three cops grinding a hundred-pound man into the sidewalk in the middle of downtown. We were on a bus going by, and everyone was looking, everyone was outraged. I've never heard people speak so openly and contemptuously about their police department. Got off the bus and within fifteen minutes saw a replay, three security guards menacing a guy out of the library. And I thought to myself, wow, this is just like last year already.

But other than that this place has been great. I've been hanging out with Tim and Timsfriends, an amazingly cool bunch, and staying at his new house, which is more or less made out of legos. I've been riding a fixie around. It seems that I've never ridden a fixie before. I always assumed that I had, automatically, for some reason, but actually, no, I haven't. They're different. You feel much more in touch with the road. But that's not a good thing. The inability to coast is a hassle. But they're great going up hills.

I got here by hitchhiking, though it is a new and amazing form of hitchhiking that I have recently perfected.

See, the sport of hitchhiking has three divisions. There's the women's league, the men's league, and the crusty old homeless league. Women's league is easiest but requires much more self-defense (or as Gewel calls it, "thwarting."). Men's league involves a lot of getting suntans and reflecting upon humility as hundreds and hundreds of people drive by you. Crusty league, I dunno, it looks unpleasant though. You gotta drink.

Well, I have levelled up at this particular game, because I figured out the rest area trick. Consider this a master-class in techno-advanced hitchhiking. Observe!

What you do is you figure out where you're going, figure out where all the rest areas are on the route, and only take rides that take you from one rest area to the next. It works brilliantly. It's tricky to carry off, though. You have to know where you are, and you have to turn down a lot of rides that don't get you there. The rest areas are a closed system within the interstate loop. They are never anywhere near towns (because that's sort of the opposite of the point).

For those of you who are worried about such things, rest areas might have been a big hook-up spot before we were born but now they are the farthest thing from it. Literally. REST AREAS ARE NOT NEAR CITIES. You no longer have to retreat forty miles from town to express your love; you can just go to a bar. And they have liquor and electricity. There is no one, absolutely no one, at most rest areas most of the time. There might be a couple people who are paid to be there but there probably aren't and when there were they were cool as heck.

Here are the rules you must observe:

1. first and foremost respect EVERYONE and be polite to EVERYONE because I am sharing this information with you and I do not want you to burn this down.

2. take ONLY a ride that will drop you off at another rest area. Once you are out of the system you have to start all over again to get back into it. If you are a man you can plan on losing a day just getting back into it.

3. bring your own food. Rest areas almost never have anything to eat but vending machines. Bring a sleeping bag. You can camp in comfort at nearly every rest area, though you have to walk a ways away.

4. Sit outside and read (unless it's raining of course). When people walk by, make eye contact and smile. When they walk back out of the bathroom, that's when you ask them:

"Excuse me, are you going [north]?" Substitute whatever direction you're going, of course. And of course they're going that direction, because they're on that side of the road, so you give them an instant chance to say "yes" to you.

If they say yes, tell them you want to get to the next city after the next rest area. Give them the mile marker if you can.

That simple. How do you know the rest areas? You looked them up on the internet. And a lot of rest areas have free wireless now.

All you have to do after that is hang out. And that's the fun part. When you hitch you meet hundreds and hundreds of people. It's a great opportunity for an instant cross-section of the American zeitgeist. And you learn so MUCH.

Here are my impressions/perceptions/informations from the last trip:

high gas prices have driven practically every owner/operator out of the business, which means every trucker works for a big company, so you'll practically never get a ride with an eighteen-wheeler these days. No point in even asking them, honestly.

An extremely interesting ride came from Zac, who was a medic just returned from Afghanistan. We talked about the war for two hours. He says that the Iraq de-deployment is real, and we are actually going to be out there for real by December. Do you believe him? Do I? I mean, we've all heard that one before. But he seemed sincere and well-informed on that point.

Most people out there are working. Makes sense, how can you vacation at $4 a gallon gasoline?

In the twelve years of my hitchhiking career I have gradually seen the fat old white guy disappear. One thing that was very interesting about this trip was how many rides I got from Mexicans or Latin-Americans (five out of ten rides) and how interested they were, universally, to discuss racism. 100% of them broached the topic. Believe me, I do not ingratiate myself to rides by saying "boy isn't it fucked up how white people treat Mexicans?!?!?!" Used to be we danced around the topic for hours. Not this time, they went straight to the point. Interesting. Good on you, guys. Don't be shy about that shit, call it out.

But now the show is done, the tornado is over, and I'm going home, straight down I-35 like before. There's much to miss about Austin Texas.

and now back to our regularly scheduled entertainment; the Echo Chamber, a script by yours truly. If this is the first you've heard of it, start here:

part one:


part two:


part three:


part four:


part five:


and now, without further ado, here is part six

Read more... )


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