The Best Laid Plans … (Part 1)

Four years ago, I uprooted everything I knew and moved to Houston, Texas.  A job opportunity opened up that I couldn’t really turn down, so I packed up my rabbit, my computer and some (not so) necessities and drove down with another co-worker who was also transferring.

The morning we were to leave, I discovered that the ignition switch in my steering column broke, which no longer afforded me the ability to remove my key.  I also was told that there wasn’t any extra room in the rented trailer (that I was to be towing,) so I had to leave a few boxes of belongings at home.

Three days, 1700 miles and one car accident later, we made it to the two bedroom apartment we were also sharing with co-worker’s girlfriend and their two dogs.  The drive was long and tedious, and I was also pulling a trailer full of furniture, that in retrospect, probably accelerated the decline of my 2005 Ford Escape.

Memphis, Tennessee is probably my first clear memory of the trip.  We’d pulled off to refuel and stock on snacks and drinks, in probably one of the more sketchy areas, after dealing with an almost insurmountable amount of weird highways that were impeded by construction.  At that point, I was too tired to really care about the creep factor of where we pulled over and just wanted to stretch my legs.

The gas station itself was unremarkable; just a little gas station on a corner, surrounded by a bunch of small houses that could’ve done well with some much-needed TLC.  I presume we’d pulled off in the Southern outskirts of the metropolitan area, as it was more suburban.  I remember the unnerving stares we recieved while filling our gas tanks and the attendant looked bored and didn’t seem too thrilled to have his conversation with a local interrupted by some random travelers buying Red Bull’s and snacks.

As we ventured further south, the people did get friendlier, which was a somewhat foreign concept for me.  Having grown up my entire life in New England, “Southern Hospitality” was something we’d only read about in school.  I honestly thought that friendliness had been exaggerated and played up for the sake of an interesting read, but no.  And I’m not talking about a simple holding a of a door or a cordial greeting at a cash register – I wound up having a full conversation with a nice gentleman who held a rest stop door for me, and he’d proceeded to ask questions about where I was coming from and going to, and gave me suggestions of places to see once I reached Houston.  He wished me a happy travels and even let me go ahead of him in line at the check out.  I believe this was in Arkansas.

The last leg of the journey started in Texarkana, on the border of Texas and Arkansas.  We’d spent the night at a hotel so we could get a fresh start in the morning and get to the apartment complex before they closed at 5.  Texarkana, the little I saw of it, seemed like a nice place.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if we were in Texarkana, Arkansas or Texarkana, Texas, because by then, the trip was starting to take its toll.  The drive, I think, took longer than expected, because my car wasn’t really all that fond of towing a heavy trailer, evident by the subtle groans and its resistance to driving up even the slightest of inclines, slowing my ascent to an almost dangerous crawl.  Stops were also more frequent because of the nature of SUV’s and my car was pre-fuel efficiency.  Things were smoother as we ventured south, simply because of the flat land, but the trailer itself would soon prove to be problematic.

About three hours from Houston, upon crossing an overpass, I hit a weird bit of asphalt and jackknifed with the trailer, spinning my car 180 degrees across the two-lane highway.  Thankfully, we were the only ones for a mile or so in either direction, so there were no injuries.  I don’t really remember much, aside from seeing my co-worker’s car about 50 yards ahead, and then suddenly, my rabbit’s carrier was in my lap, there were bunny kibbles everywhere and there was an oncoming semi.  So that’s nice.

The interesting thing that I noticed about interstate highways down south is that there are houses dotted along them, with driveways leading right onto the interstate.  Fortunately, when I’d spun around, I landed in front of a house, whose residents witnessed the whole thing and called the state troopers for me.  Apparently, that happens more often than not off that particular overpass, and I was lucky that the weight of the trailer had prevented me from spinning off into the ditch next to the highway.  The trailer had actually come off the hitch and was only being held on by the cables that connected the electricals.

There were also a few good samaritans that pulled over and despite not speaking English, they did their best to try to help get the trailer out of the road, for which I’m thankful.

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I was basically told to go sit in the ditch while everyone else tried to re-attach the trailer.  So enjoy this photo, taken from a ditch.

Eventually, I was able to sort of assess the damage and pick up a few pieces that were ripped off the trailer hitch.  I no longer had directionals or an interior light, but still had tail and headlights.  The trailer, however, had no electricals at all.  Awesome.

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The other one was mangled, but surprisingly, still attached.  This one just ripped right off.  It remained as a “trophy” in my cupholder for two years until I sold the car.  Now it’s in some box somewhere, I think.  Or I threw it out.

The state trooper was super nice and since a report was made of the accident, if I were to be pulled over for not having tail lights or not signaling a merge in the remaining three hours of my trip, there was documentation that would explain why.  Thankfully, I wasn’t, but I did vow never to tow anything ever again, (not like I could because my trailer hitch was basically destroyed.)

We eventually made it to the apartment complex with minutes to spare.  Once we got our keys and signed the lease, we unpacked the non-furniture stuff and dumped them in the living room before heading off to Walmart.  My number one priority was to get an air mattress, (as I wasn’t able to bring a bed with me,) and there were other various necessities we all needed.

Luckily, we still had a day to spare before co-worker and I started work, but we were now “home” and our Texas adventure was beginning.

Smile … You’re Blogging

Whenever I travel, I always bring a copy of Henry Rollins’ Smile … You’re Traveling with me.

I’ll be honest – I was never actually a fan of Henry Rollins, or even Black Flag, despite loving punk and hardcore.  I made a valid effort, maybe just because I wanted to fit in with my peers, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I’d picked up a copy of his spoken word book, Solipsist, but poetry never really was my thing.

Don’t get me wrong, spoken word poetry, as an art, is great, and you can call me juvenile or “basic” as much as you want, but Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Dr. Seuss were more my speed.  (Take that last statement as you will, because this is coming from someone who uses a pouch shaped like a pair of underpants as a wallet and still giggles at fart jokes.)

However, after deciding to give Rollins another shot, since clearly there was something wrong with me if I didn’t like his work and was into punk rock, I picked up Smile.  Unlike SolipsistSmile … You’re Traveling is a travel journal as Rollins traverses places unknown, logging his own adventures.  I was fascinated by his observations and envious of his experiences.  I wanted to have those same experiences and make those memories.  I wanted to know what it was like to wander down a street in a faraway land, without having to be under the watchful eye of a chaperone or in a group.  I wanted the freedom to discover what hidden secrets these places held.

I met Henry Rollins in 2007, while in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I was there for the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my university, who was performing there for three weeks.  Rollins was “performing” at the same venue my university group was, doing a one-man storytelling hour, at the tail-end of the festival.  (I say “storytelling” hour because he wasn’t doing spoken word, he was just there, talking about his travels.)  I was hanging out with the staff from the venue, (under the guise that I was “shadowing” them for future career experience, sorry-not-sorry-bout-it,) when in walked Rollins.  He’d arrived to discuss his lighting and sound requirements for his 4-day stint, which took all of 5 minutes, and then he came back and sat down with us in the storage room where we’d been hanging out.

We’d been talking about our pets when Rollins sat down with us.  Emma was talking about her dog, while I, at the time, had a cat and several snakes.  Euan remained rather quiet and I’m pretty sure Rob was dozing off, after having been out the night before drinking, (I would know, as I was there too.)  I’d already been familiar with Rollins’ involvement with ball python breeding – I’d briefly considered purchasing one from his business partner in Michigan – but never really expected him to join in the conversation as he did.  Emma would tell me later that once Rollins and I started talking about snakes, she felt like she was watching a tennis match, her head shifting back and forth between the two of us.

After about an hour of snake-talk, Rollins had to go, but told me to meet him at his prep room before his show the next day and bring my computer – he wanted to see photos of my snakes.  If when a big, burly, tattooed, gruff, punk rocker-turned-author-turned-actor points at you and says, “Meet me tomorrow at 3.  I want to see your snakes.” isn’t pants-shitting terror when aimed at a 5-foot-nothing, Asian girl, I’m not sure what is, especially when one of my flatmates had only agreed to come to Edinburgh because he was hoping for the chance to meet THE Henry Rollins.  Needless, the venue staff thought it was pretty rad and in a few hours, forgot all about it because we went out drinking.  (I would drunkenly write myself a reminder for the meeting and post it outside my bedroom door, only to get ripped a new one by the aforementioned flatmate, who felt it was a slap in the face, since he’d basically flown half way around the world to meet the guy himself.)

The next day, after my daily responsibilities were taken care of, I met up with THE Henry Rollins.  Snake pictures were shown and after some conversation, plans were made to meet again the following day, where we just hung out and he told me about his travels and showed me photos of his trip to Iran.  He’d talked about the Iran trip in his one-man show, but he went more in-depth about his experience when showing me the photos he took.  I’d mentioned I was interested in travelling like that and he was more than encouraging.

All in all, I spent 3 days hanging out with Henry Rollins, and learned more than I probably deserved to, and left our final meeting kicking myself for several reasons:

1.)  I’d never introduced myself to him until the last day when he asked who to sign my copy of Smile to.  I just showed up at his prep room when he told me to and that was that.

2.)  There was only about three days left of my three weeks spent in Scotland, and I’d spent the previous 18 drinking and partying when not working.

3.)  I never properly thanked him for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit and chat with me for three days in a row.  Obviously I didn’t know how busy he actually was during his time in Edinburgh, but I’d later find that that entire year was kind of a whirlwind for him.  Realizing that makes me appreciate and treasure the time he took with me even more.

It was then that I’d made the conciensious decision that the next time I travelled, espeically internationally, I wouldn’t take any time for granted and I’d smile, because I was traveling.

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After writing this post, I found out that Henry Rollins had written not one, but two books detailing his adventures the very year I’d met him.  I haven’t read either yet, but they look to include the stories he’d told me while looking over his photos and talking about snakes.  Hell, maybe he even mentions he performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Check them out:

A Preferred Blur: Reflections, Inspections, and Travel in All Directions

A Mad Dash

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He’ll never read this, but in the 1 in a million chance he does – Thank you, Mr. Rollins, for everything – taking the time to chat with me, for showing me your pictures from your experiences, for sharing your stories and for igniting a flame that’s been burning for years to start adventuring and living.  Thank you.

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Side Note:  Please check out the links in the post.  To be completely transparent, they’re Amazon Affiliate links and any purchase made, I get a little something for.  I’m kind of new to the affiliate thing, so I’m not sure how much of a percentage I get, but again, transparency and I want to be upfront that I’ve inserted Amazon Affiliate links.

Thanks.