I could die today.

I woke up at 8:24am because she sat down next to me. She turned on the tv. Apparently the Hyundai-Asan chairman committed suicide. The television said in hushed morning whispers that he threw himself to his death. Every other camera shot seemed to be looking up at his open window, on the very top floor. I saw rows and rows of ceremonial funeral gift flowers, and wondered idly whether anyone would make a list of 'flower-givers' of whom to give future presents and apple-boxes.

News elsewhere was drab enough. I suppose nobody fully realizes this culture. My mother always said, "Fifty years of rapid acceleration" every time I complained. It was one good enough that I always churned down whenever I heard it. After all, only fifty years. Later, I learned that it was praise.

It's like SimCity. Every day the news announces a few more suicides, the small meter goes up, and you get riots in the streets and people drinking pesticides after clubbing their children to death inside plastic bags. The TV ceremonially chimes out 9:00pm and the dinner news starts. More deaths. A fire. A mother who killed her baby girl and then threw herself to her death over credit-card debt. Love is in the air.

And then I wonder, hasn't it always been like this?

We finally bought an air conditioner again. There's a reason that I don't turn on any other songs. I've been listening to the same songs over and over again. Fans don't seem to cut it. Air flows through our house. This time we kept it. Its a monstrosity, almost as high as the ceiling, gigantic, monolithic. A shrine. Silver and wood-paneled. Built-in air cleaner. A remote control almost as complicated as my new cell phone.

My cell phone. Oh, my sarcasm phone. Full color screen. Advanced ringtones. Slide-down keypad. Maybe I should just leave a link to the the 'specifications' section of the manufacturer's website. That would be quite convenienent. I could talk about my cellphone and my air conditioner all day. I could tell you about how my air conditioner makes the air as cool as the pale innards of my freezer. How I have Procol Harum's 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' as my cellphone ringtone. How I plan to make a frameless-proxy of E2 so I can read nodes on the subway and on the bus via WAP.

I feel dulled. Rubbed into gentle numbness. How could I explain? The best way to explain is not to explain. Modern People like to say that they don't believe in destiny, that they don't believe in anything. I like to leave their belief in anti-belief alone. What is the meaning of life? How do you push an elephant through a funnel?

You don't.

I have no explanations. A long, long time ago, I would say 'There are no explanations.' A long, long time ago, I would stare at myself in the mirror and say, "I was young, a long, long time ago. I am not young now." I am not young now.

I live in a box surrounded by five walls. Ignore the blatant. I am sitting in a green chair. My foot is on a desk, my other foot is flat on the ground; I am full of right angles. My mousepad is a sheet of math equations. My dead clock sits next to me. This is a moment. This moment is structured this way. I remember 'structured' being in italics. This moment is structured that way. What saddens me is that nobody talks about why they liked Slaughterhouse Five. My best friend asked me 'what James Joyce meant' in The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. I said I didn't know, because I didn't.

I have these fleeting images, like white doves in flight. Doves that don't come from silk scarves or from magic tricks.

Every day I silently repeat within, "You have no reason to be angry at me." Every day I watch the wheels turn.

Some thoughts on the wedding process, after dealing with it for the last year and being under 2 months away from the big day.

First, I recomend not having a big wedding, trust me its easier and less expensive. In fact, offer to take any money the folks would spend on the wedding and use it for other reasons. Buy a house, use it for a sweet honeymoon, anything other then a huge ceremony. Trust me its not worth the stress and energy placed into it.

Now before people start flaming me with messages about the fact I feel this way is because I'm a man has nothing to do with it. My fiancee feels the same way I do about this. We have planned the whole wedding ourselves, and I do mean we. I have been quite involved in the whole process, unlike most fellows I know.

The second thought I have on the wedding process is the whole shower bit. Tradition states that the groom, me, needs to show up at the end of the shower and meet the guests and pick up the gifts. But out of all the friends that are married I've spoken with they have not done this bit. Does this ever happen?

A final thought... Why do people buy you gifts of crystal for the wedding? I would much rather prefer something practical, like dishes, towels, power tools, or anything else that can be used right away....

End of an era, man.

For the longest time, The Lovecraftian compulsion to keep writing even as one is being devoured was (I've been told) the highest-reputation writeup without any downvotes on E2. Yes! I believe at its height it topped out at 180 + to 0-. However, I see today that it has received two downvotes. It wasn't something I ever talked about because I didn't want to jinx it (pointing out that something has never been downvoted is a sure way to attract the attention of the Crap-Flinging Monkey) but it was always a source of delighted amazement to me.

Gorgonzola does America in a Month

Day 5: Sauk Centre to Murdo: Lake Agassiz, and Off-roading in Eastern South Dakota!

(Day 4)

WARNING: if you read these you will begin to realize that a whirlwind trip like this is primarily a story of missed opportunities. I don't want to think about the number of things I should have done but didn't. I won't blame you if you get angry at me for skipping something essential.

The day started out in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, which was where I had originally decided a day's drive from Madison with accompanying sightseeing stops would end comfortably. I hadn't figured Sturgis Bike Week into my plans, and the closest place to Badlands National Park I could get a hotel reservation was in Murdo, South Dakota, just southwest of Pierre. So the day would consist of one Interesting Geographical Landmark, and driving across treeless prairie and wheat fields as far as the eye could see.

So I dutifully packed everything up and headed off for the Interesting Geographical Landmark, a 100 mile drive through rolling Minnesota farm countryside. Browns Valley, Minnesota happens to lie at the point where Lake Agassiz drained into the Mississippi River System (via the Minnesota River) 13,000 years ago. I expected the town to lie in a dramatic deep channel. Indeed, there was a point right at the head of Big Stone Lake where you could get an indication of how enormous the outlet must have been, but there was nowhere to get out of the car to take a picture. The only places to stop showed signs of local high school kids drinking themselves silly at night. A park on the South Dakota side afforded a nice view of Lake Traverse.

My Big Event of the Day complete, it was time to get the driving over with. About 20 miles into South Dakota you hit Interstate 29, but I had the bright idea to add one more state to the trip by going north to the North Dakota Welcome Center for a map, turning around at the next exit, and stopping at the Welcome Center in South Dakota for that map. Yes, I drove 60 extra miles for a map. Well, two maps, so it should be worth it when the Earth dies. A coworker later told me North Dakota shouldn't count, becasuse it was like saying you'd been to France because you changed planes in Paris.

The northeastern corner of South Dakota is a lonely place. I can tell because the lady at the South Dakota Welcome Center was very glad to see me, taking the trouble to get a detailed itinerary for South Dakota, and to describe all of the construction spots on my route. She even gave me a map of Wyoming (70 miles for three maps, see? nyahh!) when I listed it in my itinerary.

I turned west onto US 12 and drove through and around a zillion mini-lakes around Waubay. Then I hit the first stretch of construction. The word "construction" did not loom large in my mind as I began The Big Push for Pierre. But when I pulled up to the STOP sign held by the flagman, I could not believe what I saw. US 12 was a four-lane highway; I expected a diversion onto the eastbound side. But in South Dakota, they repair roads differently: They simply tear up the entire road and build it again. In the meantime, any traffic that wishes to pass drives across the dirt. I could tell I was in for a wait when the guy holding the sign walked up for a chitchat. "All the way from Maryland, huh? Wow!" It turns out that the State of South Dakota provides a pilot truck to guide you along the safest path through the dirt. If you got stuck, it would only delay completion. So after five miles of dirt road driving, I was glad to see pavement again.

Gas in Aberdeen, and as I proceeded west things got lonelier and lonelier. Fields got larger as farmhouses became fewer. There was a stretch of about two hours where I had the road entirely to myself. The only radio station was the one broadcast from the Standing Rock Reservation. Exchanges of local greetings between families and public service announcement about the hazards of sniffing glue reminded me that there was civilization somewhere (the glue sniffing ads reminded me of home actually, as Maryland had made a big deal about it just a few years previously). I finally turned south onto US 83, at a monument to a town that had once stood there.

I was expecting the second stretch of contruction, as it had been marked on the map with a big diversion. No pilot truck this time, they simply dug up the road and placed barriers across it. A diversion east through Gettysburg added another 26 miles to the trip. Towards the end, I was so astonished to see a hill that I did my first exercise in photography while driving. to capture it.

By the time I reached Pierre, it was about 4:30. After the sensory deprivation of the previous hours, Pierre seemed like Manhattan. Unfortunately it isn't really, no matter how hard it tries. Everything was closing up. I eventually had to eat at a Burger King in the center of town.

But after dinner, a drive up to the Venderyne Memorial was worth it, as it afforded a beautiful vista of the yellowish hills rolling into Missouri River, the blue water of the river itself and the greys and browns of the city. My pictures of the Venderyne Memorial would prove quite surprising months later when I examined them in detail, but that's for another node.

The final stretch of construction was the most harrowing: A seven mile drive on a dirt causeway, uphill into the uplands south of the Missouri. After rounding a particularly nasty bend, there was Blessed Pavement. The final stretch of US 83 was uneventful. The 20 miles of Interstate 90 to Murdo were dominated by signs for distant Wall Drug and the last rain I would see for two weeks.

In the end, it was a Good Thing that I rushed Pierre. When I finally pulled into Murdo Best Western, the desk clerk told me I'd come a day ahead of my reservation. But she had a room, the very last one! This is no joke. As soon as I walked out of the office, the NO VACANCY sign came on. Just as six bikers pulled up. This, of course, incurred a karmic debt with the God of Bikers that would be paid the following day.

On the other hand, karma must go through a Goverment Budget Process, applicable only to specific projects. The "fun" part of my trip was officially set to begin the next day. And it was, for the most part.

(Day 6)

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