Trip Photo Montage

Trip Letter to a Friend

I still like writing letters, especially when I've got lots of stuff to talk about. Here's part of a long one I wrote to a friend that tells the story of one recent road-trip adventure: I drove cross-country through Canada to Seattle (where I did a two-month internship at the Experience Music Project), then down the west coast to Los Angeles, and back across the southern route with stops in New Mexico, Kansas, and Ohio before arriving home in New York. To see photos from the trip, go to Gallery One in the Photography section.

...I thought I'd write you a little about my wonderful cross-country adventure. You can read it or ignore it, as you choose. I've got stories about Seattle, tales of Tacoma--even a few Kansecdotes (uh, those're anecdotes about Kansas!)

The traveling part of the past fall semester was pretty wonderful; the actual internship at the Experience Music Project disappointingly less so.  But it was, of course, an experience.

Paul Allen is ...[copy deleted because work contract forbids EMP employees to mention any details regarding the man the Seattle Times has referred to as "an eccentric billionaire."]...EMP's going to be an interesting museum, I think, when it finally opens--but [copy deleted, see above; stipulation applies to all Allen enterprises]

I worked on helping to develop several interactive exhibits for the SoundLab portion of this music museum, which is now due to open sometime in 2001 at the base of the Space Needle in a Frank Gehry-designed structure. (Experience Music is focused on encouraging visitors of all ages to listen, learn, and participate in music--and experience the power and joy of music in all its forms.) How ironic that one of the exhibit "treatments" I worked on (and Allen approved) involved hip-hop "music" and an interactive on "Match the Beat"---that's a story unto itself.

Let's see, the highlights... (in 2 minutes or less)...terrific salmon,
good beer, intriguing music--from a spectacular Pacific Northwest Ballet production of Carmina Burana and a performance by the St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad Phil) in Seattle's new Benaroya Hall to lots of funky club music with things like a lead cellist in a rock 'n' roll group (the Rachels) and a weekend-long folk festival where I camped out in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and got to know Beppe Gembetta, Dan Crary, the Austin Lounge Lizards and others....

Discovered some wonderful roads to dance with--I made my way down the coast on Highway One, from Vancouver all the way through Big Sur and Monterey to southern California and LA (I stayed in BelAir with an aging Viennese psychotherapist who's almost completely blind). Then across the southwest, with almost a week in New Mexico (a weird new-agey lawyer took me in)...Got my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon (lots of snow and ice--the photos hardly do it justice, but I'd love to show you the whole shebang some time, if you're interested).

Hit some great garage sales in places like Carmel and Santa Fe. Listened with amazement to a crowded poetry slam in Arcata, California; with pleasure to a Sunday afternoon music  "session" at a natural foods bakery in Trego, Montana; with sympathy to a despondent young German traveler in Pescadero at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, now a youth hostel. Stopped taking pictures when I felt it was something I HAD to do.

Brought home pinecones and beach glass and driftwood from my solitary walks along many beautiful ocean shores and forested strands; realized once again that being near the ocean makes me happy--but so does traveling. 

Determined to make the Plains as interesting as the Coast, I dug through some intriguing Quaker history in Kansas and Ohio as I traced the footsteps of my great-grandmother (that's the one I included in the video; she was one of the first women doctors in this country and practiced in a small town in Kansas from  1885-1943). I spent a few days in county courthouses and the backrooms of historical societies, unraveling little mysteries, enjoying the (very different) small-town character of places like Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Oswego, Kansas.

In addition to interviewing several people who remembered being treated by "Dr. Emma," I managed to locate the man who was her driver the last few years; he had been at the wheel when the car overturned on a flooded country road, coming home after a call. Emma, then 85 years old,  was trapped beneath the car in a rain-swollen drainage ditch; the driver could only hold her head above water until a passing motorist helped him lift the vehicle high enough to free her. She died of hypothermia--and as my dad always said, she quite literally died with her boots on, which is how she would have wanted it.

I detoured a couple of hours out of my way to interview the driver--who says he can remember nothing at all about how she died. (Too long to explain here--I'll give you the whole story if you're interested sometime.) Tried to track down where she was born, where her office was, where her other children were buried--I even went to a Quaker meeting in the process of seeking out information. (Court records from her divorce in 1904 included several juicy bits, among them quotes from the letters her husband had allegedly written to his lover.)

All along the way I met people who shared their lives with me and took me into their homes, from Winnipeg to Walla Walla to Wichita. Stayed several days with a woman in Portland, Oregon, who's a nationally renowned glass artist; enjoyed time with a by-the-book architect in Victoria, British Columbia; with an unusual poet and math professor in Arcata, Northern California; a couple of happy-go-lucky retired folks in warm climes like San Louis Obispo, southern California; and several farming families in places like Michigan and Saskatchewan.

Other SERVAS visits introduced me to a retired Shakespearean actor who's now a therapist (!), a couple of independent children's-video producers, one wanna-be writer, a handsome (but married) forest ranger, a couple of teachers and even one minister. Somewhere in there were a doctor and two lawyers, a musician or two, a house-husband, a geologist and microbiologist, a city planner, an interracial couple in their 70s, a Jewish-and-Chinese family, a Lebanese storyteller, and two men who'd gone C.O. in WWII.

I saw many beautiful places, some new to me and some familiar from earlier trips: I paid homage to the great redwooods again, hiked for the first time in the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park, marveled at the place where the Monarch butterflies winter over, clustering thickly in the eucalptyus groves of Pismo Beach.

Ate halibut cheeks and Dungeness crab, tamales on the street, yogurt and cheese from a family cow, and some amazing turkey dressing at a church supper; admired (with some alarm) a really weird collection of saws and knives in someone's barn, helped celebrate a kindergartner's first-day send-off, and got friendly with this truly funny band--the Austin Lounge Lizards--at a funky "Mixed Bag" bluegrass festival where the promoter put all his money into hiring talent and forgot to advertise. (Fewer than 100 people showed up.)

Discovered several wonderful museums including the brand-new Steinbeck Center in Salinas, the Getty, the Indian and Folk Arts museum in Santa Fe, the Monterey Aquarium (have you seen the new jellyfish exhibit?) and the Exploratorium, to name the best of the lot. As you can imagine, I checked out the interactive exhibits everywhere, was impressed by some and underwhelmed by others. (Did you know the Steinbeck museum's re-creation of Cannery Row includes the barely noticeable aroma of rotting sardines?)

It was hard to come back home--but I missed my sister's kids (and worried about my house) so I got back just in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with everyone. (Including mom, who, I think, spent the whole time I was gone worrying something terrible was going to happen to me.)

Anyway, I'm back, and need to finish up graduate school (no, don't ask-- I have no idea what comes next).  All that's left is my portfolio web site, which I want to be just great--but I have struggled with the organizing principle for weeks now and have come to no conclusions. I know many of the things that it must include, but I am not ready to sit down and start because I can't figure out what the metaphor to serve as my organizing principle should be! (I've been playing with obvious ones like a radio with buttons and stacked books, but nothing is "it" yet.) 

Headed to the Museums and the Web conference again this year, this time in New Orleans in March, and I will actually be chairing a session with participants from Brazil, Kenya, and Canada as well as the US (the topic is community-generated content). The program committee rejected my paper proposal, but instead asked me to chair this one, which will, I suspect, be a good (if frightening) experience....


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