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Freedom Is A Road Seldom Traveled By The Multitudes.

When I first learned that I would have a two-week fall break that coincided with my friends wedding in San Mateo, CA my first thought was road trip. There is nothing like cruising America's highways. The more distance one travels, the more distance one puts between the everyday existence of petty egotistical worries that we come to mistake for who we truly are. My plan was to drive I-80 all the way to San Francisco, roughly 20 hours of solitude and the open road. I would stay in the San Francisco area (Sausalito and San Mateo) for a week, then cruise down to Los Angeles for a couple of days, before coming back to Colorado. My hope was that I would have some crazy adventures, to suck the marrow of life, and to hopefully tell a good story.Traveling I-80 west is like taking a trip into America's past. There is a collective American consciousness of the westward journey. Hope lies in the west, adventure, riches are all for the plucking if only one has the desire. What you first must surpass is the absolute nothingness of Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. After driving for hours my mind became restless. I decided to partake in the ancient rituals of smoke signaling, in the hope to ease the boredom. Crossing the boarder in to Utah I began to feel a warm pushing in the back of my noggin. Like Joseph Smith (the founder of the Mormon faith), Utah would charm me with her open spaces, and as I approached a city built on religious faith, I would have my first vision.

The Great Debate A sure sign of insanity is multiple personalities, and I was about to take on three. After being massively entertained by the first two Presidential debates, I decided to hold a third debate: with my head playing the role of the moderator, with my right hand playing the right, and my left hand playing the left. (To make your hands speak simply curl your thumb towards your hand, and bring your fingers up over the thumb, to speak move your thumb). This debate is about to disappoint you, because the debate will only continue in your mind.5 Both hands spoke with passion about how the other hand is not the hand for the job. I believe both of them. Lefty made some nice promises about how it can personally change the world for the better and Righty made similar promises. Then the moderator began asking really tough questions like: Is freedom even possible in human societies, and if not why should we push it on others? Why hasn't either of you talked about how you will lead the species working towards our greatest potential and quit with the fussing and fighting?

You may ask, with all this debating going on who was driving the car? Good question. Right and Left alternatively spoke so one could steer while the other talked. Which worked gangbusters for awhile, until Lefty mentioned a previous non-service of Righty. And Ow-ee things came to a head. Righty jumped from the wheel, screaming, " I'll rip your stinking pinky off you $@#$, " Lefty of course gets into it, and there you go both hands beating each other. The Moderator screams, "someone drive!" So outta nowhere in comes the knee to save the day. Righty and Lefty see this and both attack the knee screaming, "There are only two hands in the car, and you aren't one!" So now it's a battle of all versus all, I look around for help. To my right is another car, the passenger looks by in horror as my car is now lurching left to right. The driver of the other car hits the gas a flies by me. I make out the word uberman on the license plate. My car hits a sharp curve and does a 360 in the air, both hands go in to protect my balls and WHAM the vision is over.

After a long and grueling journey I roll into Elko, Nevada. It is late but this is my first day of vacation and I am looking for some action. I ask the hotel clerk, "if the casinos are still open?", she laughs and says, "they always are." God bless Nevada. I play blackjack next to a woman who is slurring her words and has about $5000 dollars in chips in front of her. Behind her is an entourage of friends pleading with her to stop gambling (she started the night with $300 dollars), in front of her is the dealer who gives her the, "that's all your gonna bet, " look. I think about trying to make a quick grand Nevada style, but instead lose my $40 dollar bank for the night and head home. The next day I continue driving I-80 west. I stop in Winnemucca, Nevada a city that has haunted my memories and dreams for 16 years. My Father spent the last two years of his life in Winnemucca. I visited him twice (when I was ten and eleven) during those years staying for a couple of weeks each time. Those were the last times I ever saw him alive, so Winnemucca had taken on a deeper association then most places. I had not been there in over 16 years but as soon as I exited I felt I knew my way around. One of the strangest feelings one can feel is when a long held memory something as vivid as your own home suddenly appears before your eyes. I knew the route to take to get to where he lived and died. Stopping in front of his apartment complex I got out of the car and stood there for awhile, trying to piece together memories of the past. The rest of my journey was rather uneventful learning only that Lake Tahoe is beautiful and Sacramento is hot. As I approached San Francisco I prepared myself to soak up a brand new city. The Bay or Bays area is something to be seen. Green rolling hills sitting surrounding Bays of blue, new shinning buildings and homes. The area outside of San Francisco especially north and west looks like an ideal place to live. Arriving in Sausalito the town reminds me of a beach resort. I drive high into the hills to find my friend Julie's apartment. She has an amazing two-bedroom apartment with a deck that has a 200 degree view overlooking the San Francisco Bay. HOLY SHIZZA, How did you get such an amazing apartment? "One thousand and eight hundred reasons a month" she replied. My first taste of the reality of those Bay cities happened then and there. Being a constant partner in crime, I knew Julie would show me the sights. In any city a Monday night is a rough night for some action and unfortunately San Francisco is no exception. My first trip into the city cost $25 dollars. Taking a cab outside of San Fran into the city is not reasonable you must give the cab driver an extra ten dollars above his rate just to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Going across the bridge I got my first glimpse of San Francisco, and on looks alone "I give it a TEN". We ended up in the Marina and Russian Hill. The streets looked just like the do on TV. Rows of white apartments on top of shops, bars, and store, the first bar we hit is empty, the second is a cool lounge with fire places in the middle of the bar, but it was also dead. Finally we found some action at an up-scale mostly black hip-hop club. Being neither a big-ballar nor a shot-caller I decided to remedy the situation with lots of shots. After showing the club how white boys swing the camera got as hazy as the San Franciscan sky, and I woke up the next morning shy one ATM card and ninety dollars. Inadvertently that night I think I must have done a bad weather dance on the dance floor, because the rest of the trip bad weather followed my every step.

The next day we traveled into San Francisco by ferry. I would highly recommend traveling around San Francisco by boat. San Francisco is a city of surfaces and sights these sights have some people so entranced that they walk around with big #@#$-eating grins. Going by Alcatraz I wonder why anyone would put a prison in such a beautiful place, then I wonder why anyone one would want to visit a prison (look honey that's where 4 men raw-dogged another man), then I remember this is America. Arriving in Fisherman's Warf, my goal was to see as much of the city as possible. Unlike Manhattan, you cannot travel around San Francisco by foot, there are hills in the city that could kill anyone who dares trying to walk up them. The Wharf was not much of a port (I was expecting sailors and hookers), but it did offer many tourist stores and restaurants. The highlight was eating the best seafood I ever eaten at the crab shack, for 5 dollars you get a cup of fresh crab that makes you curse living inland. After that we caught a trolley to take us up those darn hills. Unless you are riding on the outside the trolley is no form of transportation. It is crowded there are all kind of rules that don't make sense, its slow, it won't stop, and it cost 3 dollars. Finally we got off and headed to Union Square. Someone obviously took the title seriously because at Union Square there was a large hotel workers protest going on. The Square looked nice but the protestors seemed out of place overshadowed by GIANT upscale department stores. We then headed down to the financial district and ate on the Embarcadero. At Pier One we caught the last ferry heading back to Sausalito. The ferry left right at dusk and as we pulled away from San Francisco the city lights glowed in the incoming night, and San Francisco once again took on a mythic beauty that is its selling point. As we rounded the end of the city I had to sit down, the western sky blazed in red, purple, and orange. In the foreground was the Golden Gate Bridge. A $#$#-eating grin spread widely across my face.

Wine Country The next day we headed to Sonoma to drink it up in style. Being a man I would not recommend going alone, nor with your buddies (I cannot imagine dinking beer in the car before hitting the winery). Luckily I was with a woman who knew her business. We first stopped at a champagne place that was over-priced. Our last stop was the Chateau St. Jean where thanks to Julie's parent's membership we got the royal treatment. We were seated on a members only patio outside that overlooked fields of grapes and had our own personal server, who seemed to be the happiest guy in the world, in fact everyone there seemed to be glowing, if there is a paradise I know what will be in everyone cup. We were first served the common wines, then out came the special reserves. All of the wines tasted amazing I am now a wine fan. Our waiter kept bringing out bottles for us to sample soon my head was singing and I couldn't tell much a difference between one $70 dollar a bottle batch from the next. Finally we left, I ended up buying 2 bottles for $80 dollars as gifts and later thought "wow I must have been drunk."

Anytime you start drinking in the afternoon there are inevitable consequences for that daytime bliss. That night we would be going back into San Fran looking for a party. Being new to the city Julie really didn't know what the haps was, so I called Yossi a native who happened to be in town. He recommended a club called Anu, so after dinner and two cab rides totaling $50 dollars. We arrived at Anu which boarders the neighborhoods of SOMA and the Tenderloin. One of my favorite author's W.T. Vollmann's epic book about the street, The Royal Family, takes place in the worst neighborhood in San Fran called the Tenderloin. Finally I would get to see a neighborhood where I could get shot, score crack, and a quickie in a matter of minutes. I cannot travel to the dangerous far away lands, but I can see dangerous home-grown places. True to Vollmann's vision the neighborhood Anu sat in was filled with sketchy and shady characters of the street. Anu itself was a lot like the Funky Buddha, but filled with a heck a lot less pretentious people. Luckily San Fran's taste in music runs with deep house, and that is the sound that filled the club. Everyone there was very cool and casual creating a great atmosphere. Somehow we ended up going to a dive called the Arrow across the street. This place was far too dissolute to be in San Fran were everyone was happy. I talked to the doorman for awhile, he told me that this block had the highest violent crime rate in the city, all the while we was waving around a little aluminum bat that he kept "for trouble". Finally I talked my intoxicated companion to leave her new best friends and head back to Anu. Unless I wasn't looking I really didn't see that many extremely intoxicated people in San Fran. A Friday night in Denver and Boulder every person out is three sheets to the wind, but in San Fran people either drank less or they could conceal their drunkenness. I began to realize I was going to play the role of babysitter, and I took on the persona that would follow until my last night in town as the soberer one. I called Yossi again and he came and picked us up and took us to Pink. I spent most of my time outside but Pink looked like a nice club. Standing outside smoking is an invitation for bums to come out and grub off you anything they can get. After telling some bums to buzz off, an older man walked up to the group of people I was talking to and asked for change for food. He really didn't look dirty and before I could tell him to buzz off creep. He started telling me his story, that we was a writer, living in the city, trying to earn a living, hmm a starving artist in the big city, as I reached for my wallet he said, " I got some herb." And sure enough the man produced a pipe and a medical jar filled with sweet smelling herb. Inside the jar was his doctor's note, and I got my first taste of government grown herb, and darn son that stuff is good. God Bless California!

Part 2 How many lives do we live? How many times do we die? They say we all lose 21 grams... at the exact moment of our death. Everyone. And how much fits into 21 grams? How much is lost? When do we lose 21 grams? How much goes with them? How much is gained? How much is gained? - Guillermo Arriaga Waking the next morning to a massive hangover I quickly gave up on any idea of a productive day. It was Thursday and the second part of my trip was about to begin. My plan was to drive from Sausalito to San Mateo for Joel's wedding. Roughly an hour away; the trip would take me through the heart of San Francisco. There is a kind of mythic fear of driving in San Francisco, I have never heard a positive word spoken about driving in that town, like if you take a wrong turn you'll end up in "the nexus of the universe." where 1st intersects with 1st. There were weddings to attend and friends to see, so I set out into California's roadways with a vague sense of where I was going . Upon reaching the Golden Gate Bridge's western side, I saw the area's next jaw dropping sight. Thick white fog like smoke rolled over a ridge one hundred feet above me and dropped down into the bay. The day went from slightly overcast to virtual whiteout in less then one minute. Once over the bridge the city turned clear. Quickly I learned San Francisco's streets are easy to drive in, and driving really is the only way to see the city, parking on the other hand is an entirely different bird.

Arriving at my hotel in San Mateo, I found my friend Colin impatiently waiting to do some damage to our livers. After spending my vacation with a platonic female friend, I was looking forward to heavy drinking, serious mischief, tail-chasing, and other hi-jinks that can only be accomplished among one's boys. The plan was to give Joel one last night of bachelor bliss, before he began the first day of the rest of his life as a grown man. We met Joel and two others in the hotel bar downstairs to plan what deeds were on tap for the evening. After quick deliberation I realized I would be driving us into the city. We were a 75-dollar cab ride from San Fran and I had pissed enough money away on public transportation to last a vacation. A local suggested we go to North Beach where we could find lots of bars and strip-clubs, being ignorant of who we were getting our information from we agreed and headed to the city. North Beach looked like a good neighborhood except this is where some of San Fran's famous hills are located. After attempting to drive up streets that resemble slopes at ski resorts, looking for parking spots that did not exist, San Francisco began to lose some of her charm. Finding the first bar with people we ducked in and began slamming down booze, hoping to arm ourselves with a free-for-all spirit needed to take the city by force. I figured I could start early and quit, still retaining the ability to drive much later in the night. After a couple of drinks we decided to get food, by the time Colin and I had finished eating slices the bachelor party was over before it could even take off. Like many engaged/newlyweds the nightlife ended by 11 pm, and Joel was no exception. It was up to Colin and I to party it up now. We decided to meet up with Yossi where ever he maybe and find fun from there. On the walk back to my car I began noticing Colin was getting sloppier by the minute. The booze hit him before the food could work, and we both knew this was trouble. He began slurring his desire; a little taste of South American Magical Marching Medicine would set him right as rain. I concurred so we set off to find the ever elusive yet ever present wonder. By the time we reached Yossi who was DJing at a nice lounge in the Southeastern edge of the city, Colin had taken on the glassy-eyed look of the living dead, passing out in his chair. I knew the night was over. Driving back to San Mateo I felt I had lost round 1, but I knew there were more rounds to come.

Friday was the day before the wedding and the night of the rehearsal dinner. This would be our last night we could party in San Francisco and I still felt the need to get fully Sammy-Whackled in celebration of my long vacation. Dinner was at a nice Italian restaurant in downtown San Mateo. I could tell this was the first time the couple's families had come together; everyone seemed nervous and expressed it by being quite. The tables were set so you could only talk with those who sat right next to you; you had to get up and move to speak with anyone else. Most of the talk during the 4-hour dinner was of politics, and I fantasized about days gone by when I could not bother to read a newspaper or watch the news for weeks and miss nothing. I wondered if life would in fact go on after the election, or would people lie down and die from boredom. Throughout dinner Colin would lean over and whisper, "I am wasted, " before continuing to lecture his parents about his regression into immaturity (I would recommend you hear his philosophy given the chance). By the time dinner was over it was 11pm, and the night had just begun. Searching a local paper we found our best choice for the night was the DNA Lounge. Kaskade and Julius Papp graced the decks that evening.

I was five days into my vacation and I was about to go to a club and get f-ing crazy. We hurried back to the hotel to change. For the next hour of I had to listen to Colin deal with his love triangle he managed to snare himself in back in Syracuse, while I once again played the role of sober driver. Being forced to listen to someone explain their actions and thoughts in a relationship while they are struggling with coherency is enough to drive anyone ape$#@!, cell phones need to have a breathalyzer connected to it, so once you reach a certain limit you cannot make or take calls. The DNA Lounge

The DNA Lounge is located in the SOMA neighborhood, a semi-shady club district (blocks from the monstrous 1015 Folsom). The club itself was small; strangely its vibe had a rave feel to it, something that can no longer be found in Denver. The layout was cool though and it was open until 5. After having a couple of drinks the club reached a comfortable capacity with some attractive females and numerous Asians. Kaskade came on a started playing some smooth house with enough edge to move you. Live drummers set up shop on the dance floor and created an up-beat flowing vibe. Unfortunately jet lag, wine, and numerous drinks had taken hold of Colin and he was quickly fading into oblivion. Once again his body forced him into the ultimatum of, "no S.A.M.M.M., no consciousness". Knowing not a soul there and not feeling all that needy I gave my own ultimatum of, "go to my car and sleep".

Being too engulfed in drink I knew driving was a horrible idea, so I figured I would stick it out at the DNA Lounge alone. Who knows maybe some beauty would see me there alone and decide to take me home to be her love-slave. And then again maybe frogs should grow wings so they don't bump their bums when they hop. It took me less then an hour to realize I have to be on another plane in order have a great time in a strange club in a strange city alone. Some nights it seems as if there is some kind of force working against you in trying to find a good time, at other times it seems as if we are blessed with nights that somehow drift into an eternal yes, where magic happens before our eyes. Driving back to San Mateo I realized I was 0 for 2 in this part of the trip.

Union I have always enjoyed weddings, the fact that two people can find each other and decide, "Yes, no matter what I'll stick by you, " says something of the species. I also enjoy the free drinks, seeing friends and family, and of course emotionally charged drunk women. I have reached the age (27) where I am going to about 3-4 weddings of friends a year. Weddings are great places to stock of oneself while judging members of the opposite Sex, those who are taken and why, and of course those like myself who are still available, there is neither finer nor accurate meat market then a wedding. The wedding is in a nice Catholic church, which quickly moves to a country club reception high in the hills of San Mateo.

After some nice speeches where Colin insults Joel's country roots, and Joel's mother says, "Jane has saved Joel from his wild partying ways, " (can't help but smile at that one). I come to agree with both of them. Jane had pacified Joel, while giving him the sophistication he lacked. In this case marriage was a blessing for my friend, he found someone who fills in the holes, before I can toast them, I am ushered to the bar for shots. Being two single women at the reception thoughts of giving the business fade and are replaced with booze and dancing. By the shank of the evening I was well watered and found myself alone on the dance floor to a Eddie Money track. Instead of shying away from the responsibilities of running the party I embraced them with a dance solo, where I proceeded to dance around the edge of the dance floor, dancing foot to foot Native American style, pumping the crowd up by waving my fists in the air. People cheered and I was told by numerous sources, "that you can dance, " before I called Soul Train I realized these were middle-aged white people jocking my moves.

The wedding was approaching its end, so we headed back to the hotel bar, finding it had been transformed into a 40 year-old singles hot spot. Watching an older crowd dance to a DJ spinning hip-hop while music videos played on giant screens covering the walls is a little disconcerting. All of the youth at the wedding (including the bride and groom) made it down to the bar, so some fun was to be had. At the bar I talked to a somewhat attractive 40 year-old blonde who used blatant sexual overtones, giving myself an idea. This would be like shooting pigs in a pen. I text messaged everyone on my phone with my plan, luckily I was beginning to be too engulfed to go through with any debauchery. The night grew long and I went back to my room.

Waking the next day was hell. I had drank for 6 straight days and was starting to feel like I was in the movie Leaving Las Vegas. I had to drive to Los Angeles that day to begin the last leg of my journey and could barely formulate a thought without pain. After lunch I began packing and pulling my head together. MapQuest told me it would take about 6 hours to drive to L.A. via the interstate. However I had the brilliant idea of driving Highway 1, California's beautiful Pacific Coast highway from Monterey to Santa Barbara in the middle of a storm. This would be my best and worst idea of the entire trip. One

I have been told there are few places that rival the sights one sees as one travels the Pacific Coast highway through Big Sur and Los Padres National Forrest. Mountains meet sheer rocks cliffs overlooking the blue green Pacific. Going through Monterey which rivals San Francisco in looks, the sky didn't look bad, just overcast, but then again the largest ocean in the world lay within arms reach. As I passed Monterey a light drizzle begin to fall from the grey sky. As soon as I reached the part of the highway where cars can pull over off the side of the road on a slight dirt edge that overlooks the ocean, I did and decided what a better place to partake in smoke signaling in order to honor nature in her mighty grace. As I let the smoke envelop my mind I watched as dark clouds came ever closer while the rain steadily increased. I decided to move on, after all I had 75 miles of "hills and curves" to get through. Driving on I realized I was far too high in the stratosphere to drive, so I made frequent stops to calm my nerves and began chain-smoking. I kept hoping I would drive out of the storm that seemed to be everywhere. There were pockets of peaceful weather, during one of these I saw a good place at the beginning of a bridge to pull over and got out of the car. In front of me was a sandy outcropping that seemed to go towards the ocean, so I started making my way down, as more of the ocean came into sight, I once again began to feel a strange feeling come over me, and as I reached a point of going no further without some serious climbing equipment and a pair of steel balls. I had my second vision.

What lay before me was one of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen. In front of me lay endless blue, like the sky fell into the ocean, inner mixed with mossy rocks jutting out of the water. To my left was a white bridge nestled in the mountains. To my right a small ledge which held the highway hovering above a sheer red rocky cliff that dropped one hundred feet into the ocean. The ocean came crashing in 8-foot waves onto rocks and a pristine beach of yellow and gold sand. I nearly leaped forward running at a sprint towards the beach. Reality screamed in my ear, I was standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean with at least a 40 foot drop into the unknown. I began snapping photos, and thanking God that I decided to stop here. I began thinking--- I have to come back on a nice day, I have to live here, why would I live anywhere else, if I had to die I would want to die here, I am not ready to die so maybe I could have my ashes spread here, wow that's a stupid idea who cares where my ashes lie, I must take this with me, I must open my soul up right here on this ledge and take all of this with me, I must fill myself up with this image, with this moment in time so it may live on inside me for the rest of my days, yeah that's the ticket. I tried to throw open the barrier between myself and the world, to merge with what lay around me.5.. Nothing happened. I began thinking maybe on something else this would work, but not now alone with no one to save me in case I went too far. Anyways the weather was bad and I had a lot more driving to do. Getting back in my car I felt like I was off drifting in the Pacific, but it was getting dark and I had to move. As soon as I started driving the rain came, in sheets. I noticed there were no other cars going the other way, the curves in the road became wicked, darkness crept over me and what I was doing. Soon I was overtaken by a horrible feeling of danger. I was driving on a two-lane road on the edge of nothingness. To my right was utter blackness an unknown drop into the largest body of water on the planet, and a cold drowning death. To my left were mountains and oncoming traffic. With the rain and darkness I could see less then 30 feet in front of me. Feeling utterly alone and scared out of my mind a passage someone had earmarked for me to read in Dostoevsky's, Crime and Punishment came to mind.

"Someone condemned to death someone says or thinks, and hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest all around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it would be better to live then die at once! Only to live.5Life, whatever that may be." Page 139.

At that moment I couldn't have disagreed more with Dostoevsky. Obviously my life did not end on that stretch of Highway 1. As the road straightened and the rain let up, I drove past the dread that had overtaken me. I had faced death head on, and come through the other side. It has been said that we feel most alive when we confront death. Maybe that's what Dostoevsky meant when he wrote that? Life, whatever that may be.

Part 3 Art imitates Life. Life imitates Art.Life imitates Art. Art imitates Life.

By the time I reached civilization my 7 hour road trip had me weary. The darkness that had seeped deep inside had gone, but my journey was far from complete. As I passed through America's premier sprawl of wealth and glamour better known as Santa Barbara and the San Fernando Valley, all I could care about was my friend's apartment in Hollywood. Calling Jeff, I found he was still working on the set of E.R. and would be for another 2 hours. The thought of going to the set did cross my mind, but I figured the last thing E.R. needs is a disheveled nut yelling at the camera, "I confronted life and death today and you call this trash drama?" Instead I drove Hollywood, in search of our collective consciousness that comes to call Los Angeles its home. Passing through Beverly Hills and continuing up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, I see a strange mix of pristine wealth and scarred poverty in a matter of blocks. I could not judge whether this is heaven or hell, with the day I have had I conclude its both. Doubting my own senses I wondered if I was dreaming, soon I realized that I in fact was. With daybreak my dark night of the soul had been replaced by a beautiful overcast Californian day. Feeling the need to clear our heads, Jeff and I headed toward the hills of Hollywood and the largest city park in the United States, Griffith Park. Overlooking the city, Jeff, broke down the common struggle of making the City of Dreams a reality. Tonight was the Premier of his film, the culmination of two years of learning cinematography at the American Film Institute put into action. Looking forward to the adventure of a Hollywood film premier the rest of the day was spent in anticipation.

The Business At night fall I head out into the city that has become so ingrained in our consciousness that reality can been sent reeling with the flicker of lights and colors on a screen. No other art form approaches the power film has over pop-culture hence American culture. Like everyone else, from the time of my birth I have been enchanted by movies. A day does not go by when I think, this should be in a movie, oh wait this is in a movie. American culture has become so obsessed with movies that people are constantly dazed and disillusioned that life does not meet the standards we see on the screen. Hollywood is the alter upon which Americans lay their lost hope and dreams praying someone will grant their wishes showing them what they are too dull to show themselves. I was jealous that Jeff had the balls to follow his dream, fighting against the odds. I joked with him that if he made it he would have to make my movie. Being an outsider looking in, I became high on what everyone around me seemed to be flying on. The desire to show the world a little something, then ask it, "how you like my kung-fu grip now bit@# ?" A.F.I.'s campus was absolutely beautiful resting in the oozing green hills of Hollywood. Inside a large white stucco building were about 150 people waiting for the premier to begin. I realized I knew next to no one, and to my horror no alcohol was being served. Looking around I didn't see any celebrities and noticed most of the people there were my age. The theater opened and I quickly sat down. If A.F.I can give my favorite director David Lynch the tools of the trade, surely it can sculpt my friend into a fine image man. The short was about a security guard who is driven to the brink of madness by Osama Bin Laden, Tom Ridge, and a whole lot of other paranoid nut jobs otherwise known as the media. The film was too short to induce anyone into a proper meltdown, but the images on screen were effectively sharp in their ends. I was happy as a clam my friend went into debt up to his eyes to become an excellent artist. After the show I mingled enough to make my way to the bar to get some wine and began warming myself up to the industry. Luckily I could talk to another outsider, an attractive mocha colored actress/model Jeff had invited to his premier (cinematographers get all the chicks). After drinking as much wine as I could drink without looking like a serious drunkard, and talking to a couple of people at the party, we decided to head down to a couple of Hollywood bars and celebrate.

With Jeff thoroughly entertained by his companion, I figured I would have to get real sociable real quick. With my belly full of wine this wouldn't be a problem. The first bar we hit was The Birds (after the Hitchcock film), the bar had a posh red d.5cor but was not outrageously expensive. It was comfortably filled with chatting exciting people. Sitting at the bar, I struck a conversation with a director trying to put together his second film as soon as he heard Jeff was an A.F.I. cinematographer they began discussing the business. I let my eyes wonder and found them resting on attractive female across the bar looking in my direction. Wishing Vince Vaughn was there to give me the claws speech (Swinger's), the woman got up from where she was sitting and her and her friend walked right up to where we were sitting at the bar sat down. My mind goes into pitching my own story in 60 words or less.5 See there's this free-spirit/educator/writer/connoisseur of the finer things on vacation from Denver out at the end of Western Civilization looking for adventure, to see and feel life how it should be, and he is out in Hollywood and sees this amazing girl who looks like a starlet, and did I mention I am casting for the female lead? Instead the words, "Hi, how are you?" get lumped into a goopy mess which falls out of my mouth. She looks at me and replies, "good" smiling then turning away. As the 15 seconds I have to say something, anything, tick by. I realize this is it @#$hole you are blowing it. I turn to my Jameson and realize that I am one the schmucks that lays their dreams on someone else's alter and says, "I can't fulfill my own dreams, will you do it for me?" Feeling deflated I head outside to smoke, Jeff's friend joins me and as we talk I begin to feel better. A stunning woman who has a couple inches on me walks by and begins asking Jeff's lady friend questions. She is European and has a lovely sophisticated look and accent. The woman's height is in direct opposite proportion to her dog's which is no bigger then a small malnourished cat. I think of an Onion headline of - Tiny dog suffocates in Prada purse. I began laughing and tell the two women my joke. The foreigner looks offended while, while the girl who is with my friend cracks up. I realize that I can't win them all and lighten up.

Eventually after a lot more business talk we leave the Birds and take Jeff's lady friend home. Our next bar has a history which blurs my sense of reality to the point of seeing things that aren't there. I get the feeling that we are explorers testing the limits of the dream world, to see if life really is like the flickering lights on a flat screen. The Derby is the bar where the main characters of the movie Swinger's go and see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the end of the film. Fortunately B.B.V.D. is not playing there that night, unfortunately Heather Graham is not sitting at the bar, in fact no one is sitting at the bar, because this is a Monday and it is raining and LaLaLander's don't go outside in the rain. The Derby looks exactly like it does in the movie, we don't stay long enough for me to confuse reality with a movie dream anymore then it already is. We hit a couple of other bars finding no action. Finally Jeff convinces me to see a little native Folk dancing in the shape of a small dive bar on Sunset with a small dance floor and one tattooed stripper. We stay for a drink, feeling loopy but not wildly drunk nor interested in the tattooed stripper that was working we head home.

The next day we decided to take our minds on a little cultural spin on America's largest merry-go-round, hitting the Getty Center high above Santa Monica. I salute everything the Getty Center stands for. A large and illustrious research facility as well as purveyor of culture, the museum holds some excellent pieces of art. The Getty's real magic lies in its location almost floating above the teeming city, and the intricate design of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards. One of the inside attractions are pictures of Americana in the 1950's taken on Kodachrome film which is so sharp that it captures its subjects in all of their glorious simplicity. The pictures remind me that most of America is a backwater berg. No wonder we have a backward bumpkin for a President.

After the Getty we head down to Santa Monica to walk the outdoor mall which finally gives me the sight of exotic, well groomed locals, and beautiful women that one expects from Southern California. Heading down to the empty beach I watch the waves roll in. Sticking my feet in the largest ocean in the world I instantly feel connected to something greater then myself. The ocean is a visual metaphors for the universe, in that just like every molecule in the ocean is connected to every other molecule in the ocean, is just like every atom in my body is also connected to every atom in the known universe. I once again question my own existence standing on the edge of this blue abyss. From deep inside me the feeling to scream, "WHY?" wants to come out. Instead I silently contemplate not the why, but the answerable what next? At this moment I realize that I will not find what I am looking for at the bottom of a glass, in a loud or quite bar. This was not a vacation of mind-bending partying like so many others in the recent past. The defining moments of this vacation came in contemplation. Maybe it was because I traveled so far alone, or maybe the worm has turned and the madhouse no longer has its appeal. Either way I found what I was looking for, even if I have yet to make sense of it.

The next day I headed back to Colorado, before leaving Los Angeles I stopped in Pasadena to visit my step-grandmother for a visit and to see how the other half live. My Grandmother lives on a street that gets national attention at the beginning of each New Year because of the Rose Bowl parade floating gently by. She lives in a million-dollar condo, rivaling any home I have ever seen. She spends her days as any wealthy person should, giving her money and renown book collection away to the community around her. She shows me a copy of Whose Who Los Angeles 1926-1927 and sure enough there is my step-father's grandfather. I think about this man's great-grandson who also appeared in a Whose Who in the USA Today's High School students on the track to greatness and my step-brother's picture and profile in the same paper 10 years later. My bloodline ate dirt and bark to survive in the 20's or so the story goes. I think about just what is passed down from our family lines.

Traveling back to Colorado is like traveling back in time, I go over the details of my experience so I can relate those back home of my trip into the future. Those memories that burn brightest have been copied on these pages above. Looking back on the experience all I can say is.5 TOP OF THE WORLD MA!

Random Notes and Observations: -Gas in California costs around $2.50 a gallon, sooner rather then later people will be saying, "I remember when gas cost $2.50 a gallon, boy weren't those times grand." Road trips will be for the rich. -The artistic drive to create films will be so money driven we will not be able to speak of film in terms of art but of money. When our last form of culture falls, a new shift will take place.5.. Art imitates Money and Life imitates Money. -The gulf between rich and poor will become so great the rich will cut the country in half taking both the east and west coasts, leaving the poor the middle of the country. -It's not where you are from its where your at.

By G.D. Koch -

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