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11.29.2008

Smoking or Non?

I'm staying in a hotel in Connecticut, and it got me thinking about hotels. The not-so-expensive kind. Like this one. No internet, no wall outlets by the bed, a phone that isn't plugged in, a refrigerator that isn't plugged in, etc. The type of lodging that offers you smoking or non. And conveniently, though I asked for the non-smoking abode, I was awakened to the treat of my neighbors' cigarette smoke in the morning.

Well all this got me thinking about the hygienic history of this room.

For instance.

The floors. Have you ever seen a housekeeper vacuuming the rooms? I haven't really noticed, but after seeing the stuff on the tiled bathroom floor, I can only imagine what awaits us within the fine shags of 15-year old carpet.

Toilet paper. It's been a technique of hotels for years now, to recycle already-opened rolls of toilet paper, simply folding the end in some fancy origami design to reassure us it's safe. But I'm starting to think less of this. I know it saves them money and us trees, but it also promotes nasty germ transfers. Why? Because inevitably someone before you used that toilet paper for a purpose. And had to get it off the roll somehow. And also contaminate the room with bowel-dropping aromas. Yet that same toilet paper roll managed to convince the housekeeper that it was ready and able to help another guest. Gross. If they want a cheap, sanitary solution, they should order much smaller rolls. If someone runs out they can unwrap a new one. That will solve the problem of wasting the hotel's money, the world's trees, and our lives.

I used the mini-shampoo they gave me. I squirted the yellow blob onto my hand, and in an effort to get some more, I squeezed again. Only this time it slurped back into the bottle. I don't know what I just put on my head, but it was a cross between a liquid and solid state of matter. With a mind of its own.

I also question how clean community towels can get. Particularly wash rags. If a bath towel (the kind you dry yourself with) can still have a stray hair or two from previous owners, how sterile can the dirtiest rag of all-time really become? Everyone uses it in the same ways, for the same purposes. Maybe they're washed on account of their nastiness. I'm sure hotels use a scientific formula to decipher how many washes with how much bleach is needed to cleanse the rag of its bacterial menaces.

Why did I stay here? Well, it was quite the deliberation...

When I pulled up to the "Inn" it was very much like the one-story motels that are playgrounds for serial killers. The ones where you pull right up to your front door--AC unit in the window. The cashier/owner/tenant in the loft above the lobby spoke marginal English with a thick Indian scent/accent. I took my key, so I could determine if the room would suffice. Figuring not, I would then simply return to the desk and say "I'm leaving," in however many languages I could create, using hand gestures and charades when necessary. But that didn't happen.

Obviously I stayed the night, and it's because at the motel room next door was parked a brand new Mercedes SUV. I figured, "If anyone's gonna get hit tonight, it'll be them."

So now I'm off to visit two state capitol buildings. I realized last night I could've gotten pictures at 5 of 8 capitol buildings. Providence, RI (I will today); Hartford, CT (also today); Boston, MA; Concord, NH; and Albany, NY. I wish I would've thought of that yesterday. Maine, Vermont and Maryland will have to wait for another time. Quite a fun trip. I fly out tonight at 8.30pm.

11.28.2008

Vermont and Beyond

Well I'm in a Cracker Barrel in Albany, NY, right now, taking a break from a rather busy day.

I don't even know where to start, so I'll just explain my route, and go from there.

Yesterday I landed in Providence and shot up to Kennebunkport, ME. It got dark before 4pm--I had my car lights on at 3:30 in the afternoon! Crazy. That's been the one downside.

This morning I went to the beach and saw an amazing scene. Rocky beaches. I touched the water. It wasn't arctic or anything, but I ruled out a quick swim. I drove past Fmr President George H.W. Bush's house. They weren't there because Mrs. Bush is in the hospital. Maine really wasn't that cold at first, but after those 2 minutes, I opted for the gloves and snow hat. I was anticipating the cold would be the most peacefully miserable I'd ever been in my life. It wasn't quite that cold, but it certainly was peaceful.

From there I shot over to Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire. Beautiful there too! I was driving with trees all around me one second, and then there would be a clearing and you could see the mountains or a lake or a river. It was breathtaking. At one point I pulled off and took pictures. I can't upload them now, but I will. It was risky on several fronts. I parked the rental on a steep hill, the ground was very soft and covered in leaves--leaving you in the dark as to what was water and what was solid ground, and being in the woods where wild beasts (see: black bears) live.

I passed through NH into Vermont and experience the oddest thing. There was no snow in NH except for ice on the rocks or snow on the tips of the tallest mountains. But as soon as I crossed into Vermont, literally only minutes, there was snow everywhere! Everywhere! It was fun, except for the ice, but it was only on the shoulders. Oh, and I almost slammed into a deer that most certainly looked like a ram. I don't think they live in Vermont though, so I guess it was a deer. I wish it was a moose. If I was in the Stratus, I don't think my breaks would've stopped me in time.

Now I'm in NY. And honestly, it's too dark to care much about scenery, though even at night, the lights have lit up the buildings that appear to outline some river I should probably know. Gas is most expensive here, but at least the roads aren't winding over the mountains and through the woods and around prancing rams.

I'll be passing through Massachusetts again on my way to Hartford, Connecticut, where I'll be staying tonight. Then tomorrow I'll explore there and Providence, RI again, until my plane leaves at 8pm.

Last thought. Massachusetts and Rhode Island roads are awful. On two fronts. They are bumpy and rundown, even though they're busy areas (this is most likely the cause), but they're also incredibly curvy. Nauseatingly. This leads me to believe that most of the houses have been around much longer than the interstate, because the freeway winds around them at every possible turn. I bet we probably looped a couple neighborhoods just in trying to travel north.

Ok, time to eat.

11.13.2008

Super Obama

My first post-election post of a political nature. And it goes like this...

There's a new computer game online.

Super Obama World.

It's a take off of Super Mario Brothers, except that you're Obama and you battle pigs in lipstick and Sarah Palin on a snowmobile.

You can play it here.

This is how I'm getting over the election results.

11.11.2008

Mr. Veteran, Sir,











I went to Normandy last year. It was only a few days before another D-Day anniversary. I remember the awe as I walked onto American soil in the heart of France. Reminiscent of Arlington National Cemetery, white crosses flank the right and left and north and south. It creates a sense of smallness; you're enveloped by so many crosses, too numerous to count. But you're also surrounded by so many lives lived well; lives given on your behalf.

I didn't get that very well. Not in Arlington, and not in France. I thought of distant heroes who won a great war, but I didn't wander too far into the gritty details. I read the history throughout the indoor museum, but only from the historical perspective. Not from the human side.

I walked the crosses, counting the souls that left this earth on the very same day they landed ashore. I counted the number of Jews who fought--and died--for other Jews to be freed. I compared divisions and companies and battalions. But for every single cross, every single gravesite, a life laid in the ground. A story much like my own, laid dormant, obedient to Fate's demand.

Saving Private Ryan was on tv Sunday. I needed it. Within the grotesque depravity of war, the human story prevails beautifully. And I needed that reminder. I needed to see again that some guy like me had a future and a hope and dream to be something big. Someone with a purpose. Aspirations and imaginations that ran wild.

And then it was over.

He didn't get to live out his dreams and grow old with his wife. He didn't get to raise a son or buy a house.

It was over in a flash.

Soldiers give themselves for us. It's cliche and underappreciated now. But it wasn't then. Those men are heroes, not just because they did save the world, but because they gave all they had.

Themselves.

Some made it. Many didn't. But every last one of them is a hero. Then, and now.

What if my life went that way? I never see it ending like that, so unhappily ever after. Cut short before I figuratively conquer the world. But if it happened just that way, and I don't live out the imaginations I envision, I can only hope my life will have been found so honorable.

Here's to you, Mr. Veteran, Sir.

And thank you.