On the road: Arizona

Grand Canyon

*takes a deep breath and then in my best R. Lee Ermey voice*

As an American and more importantly as a goddamn human being I COMMAND you to visit your National Park System and experience things that are bigger and more important than you are.


We don’t know much except that they were from Japan, they were deaf, and instantly struck a pose.


Elmo questions his life choices in the 90+ sun at the South Rim.

Visitor Center


I’m serious about that command. The NPS sells an annual “America the Beautiful” pass that gets you and all of your passengers into all the national parks, monuments, everywhere. And the $80 is cheaper than whatever bullshit festival you’re going to burn it on.

*R. Lee out*


Algiers Hotel R.I.P.

algiers_closesWhile most of Los Angeles awaits the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel, I’m using up my tears for the Algiers Hotel in Las Vegas which I only just learned was demolished last September.

The Algiers was certainly not the nicest hotel in Vegas. Hell in terms of Las Vegas Strip culture, the Algiers was a scabby old drunk that still patronizes the same divey bar long after it’s been gentrified into hipsterville. No casino, no flashy show, no volcano – the Algiers was pure attitude that only comes from surviving for 50 years in the face of Steve Wynn and his ilk. I couldn’t quite think of ever staying there, but the bar in the Algiers was one of the great dive bars of Vegas. Dark, smoky, and with a slight hint of malfeasance, the Algiers’ bar was the motel’s entertainment: crabby drunks and a loud bartender that made the meanest drinks this side of a longshoreman’s dive.

Sigh… I wish I knew about the clearance sale. I would have driven out special to purchase one of the spectacularly ugly light fixtures.



Wheeling, West Virginia

What struck me first about Wheeling was what I didn’t see. No Wal-Mart, no pawn or check cashing shops. Barely any strip malls. No obvious attempts at last-ditch downtown redevelopment. Almost like a cloak of invisibility descended over the city and kept it in stasis since the mid-1960s. No one ever thought about putting up “Old Town Wheeling” signs and turning all vacant storefronts into antique stores because that idea has never penetrated this far in. Welcome to Wheeling, West Virginia – it’s rural, poor, but it kept it’s identity intact.

Wheeling, WV

Wheeling, WV

Wheeling, WV

Wheeling, WV

Wheeling, WV

Victoria Theatre - Wheeling, WV

Wheeling, WV

When I get around to writing my “end of the world apocalypse” book, I’ll set it here. Assuming that Wheeling survives another kind of apocalypse.

Things I Like (January 2005 edition)

1. The statue of Godzilla in the Ginza district of Tokyo.


2. The terrazzo floor of the Clark St. subway station in Brooklyn.


3. The Yu-Mex music movement. When Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union during the “Informbiro” period, the entertainment authorities had to go elsewhere for film and music inspiration. Enter Mexico…


4. The web page of Albanian President Alfred Moisiu


5. Julian Opie’s strangely hypnotic Bruce Walking and Sara Walking LED signs in front of the Tweed Courthouse on Chambers St. immediately next to the Brooklyn Bridge.


Eastbound VII

Somewhere near the TX/LA border on I-10

Lighted Palms

Near as I can tell, the entire state of Tennessee is filled with pyromaniacs. There’s no way that many fireworks stands can stay in business. These two were directly across the street from each other (junction of I-24 and I-59) Tennessee Alabama Fireworks

Big Daddy's Fireworks

Obligatory World’s Fair site visit. No wig shops though. At least finding a motel room was easy.


The Island Of Lost Luggage

On the way up I-59, I just HAD to check out the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. You can’t beat the appeal of rooting through interesting stuff people left on airplanes, but everything is just worthless (or easily replaced) enough that people never bothered to make an effort to find it when it was initially lost. Not too different than slogging through any other thrift store, only the UBC is immense.

There were some odd things that you never see in a typical Goodwill – dozens of lost PDAs, cabinetfulls of portable CD players, even MiniDisc recorders, shortwave radios, and GPS receivers. Priced to move too. the MiniDiscs recorders were $49, Crate & Barrel flatware sets for $30. Luggage itself for $30-$40 apiece. Didn’t buy anything, and I certainly wouldn’t make a special trip to go there unless you were already on I-59.

Hilariously, the success of the UBC has spawned off imitation “Unclaimed Baggage” shops up and down Route 35 in Scottsboro. The UBC has warning signs about them, and they appear to be just normal rural thrift stores that are all too common in this part of the country along with check cashing and straight-up pawn shops.

Unclaimed Baggage Center

Eastbound VI – New Orleans

New Orleans was the last major American city I hadn’t been to, and I suppose it’s a little anti-climatic. Unless you smoke, drink, gamble, or go to strip clubs there’s not much to do except to look at the architecture. Overall, it reminds me of Las Vegas in the 1980s – there’s a central core where the tourists go to raise hell, a small section of upper class neighborhoods, new exurbs outside of town, and abject poverty filling in everything else.

Of course, being a geek from California my gut reaction was “hey, it looks just like New Orleans Square in Disneyland.”

Coffee & BeignetsFrench Quarter

Garden District houseThe Coliseum Theater