Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I love Intercourse. (PA)

I'm blogging from my cell phone by sending an MMS message to Blogger Mobile. Seems to work all right after a little finagling.

I stopped off at a gas station a couple days ago ($3.85 a gallon? Sheesh. Well, beats $4.50 the summer of 2008....) and walked into the convenience store to grab some water. What's the first thing I see when I walk inside? T-shirts that read "I <3 Intercourse" in big bold letters; then, in small letters, PA.


Places and town names all just kind of run together when you're zipping through on the interstate (it's still weird to call it the "interstate;" I just grew up out west calling it a "freeway") at 65 mph. But boy, oh, boy, am I glad I stopped in here. I have a half-heartedly cultivated taste for road kitsch. Convenience stores at gasoline stations, travel plazas, and truck stops sell some really great stuff, and if you're lucky (or plan a visit well enough in advance, like I did out in Beaver, UT), you'll get a t-shirt commemorating your 15 minute stop at Intercourse, PA, or some other unfortunately-named city -- just like me.

Anyway. The road is getting longer and the weather's getting hotter and more humid the further I get from New England. The radio blurts out severe weather warnings every so often -- about thunderstorms, mostly -- but the closer I get to Joplin, MO, the more wary I get of hearing a tornado watch warning over the airwaves. On top of the fact that I already watch too many horror movies for my own good, I also unfortunately watch too many disaster movies, just like -- yes, Twister. Last thing I want to have happen is a tornado sucking me up and spitting me out somewhere in the middle of a densely populated cow pasture.

Yes, the road is getting longer and the sacroiliac is not happy. Little Sonny has gotten used to the journey and sits half-asleep in his cage most of the time. Sometimes when I turn around to check on him, he'll open his eyes and let out a scratchy "Hi." before going back to sleep. When he comes out at rest stops, he chirps, takes baths, and draws a crowd of parrot lovers and children. That's when the beak flashes open and the eyes slit and he goes into defense mode momentarily, all before diving for cover underneath my hair to hide from the crowd out of shyness.

I'm in Collinsville, IL now, just a little outside St. Louis. This is my second time in Collinsville, and I realized sometime today (while roasting my limbs and getting that authentic "road warrior" driver's tan) that I was lucky to be able to say I'm driving across the country. I've always wanted to. Next time, though, I'll have to put in more time to get in some of the roadside attractions I would have liked to see (like Jesse James' cave hideout).

Ugh, next time...? By the time I'm done with this time, I'll probably want to fly next time. My poor sacroiliac....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I love Moosic. (PA)

At the cafes and truck stops
All up and down the line
I see lots of pretty girls
But there's none as sweet as mine
With big blue eyes that sparkle
She's the sweetest I ever seen
Gotta keep these big wheels rolling
To my truck driver's queen.

I finally left Cambridge this morning and pulled into Scranton, PA sometime in the early evening. Ah, Scranton. Doesn't the TV show The Office take place in Scranton?

I used to do a lot of driving between Tonopah, NV and Southern California a few summers ago when I worked for the Forest Service. During that time, I'd listen to a variety of NPR podcasts, The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper being one of them. She'd usually have Jane and Michael Stern talking about the more delectable highlights of random restaurants they'd hit on the road. It took me several years after that to finally pick up my own copy of Roadfood. Now that I have it with me and I'm actually taking a road trip, I wanted to use my copy of Roadfood like a journal. It would be so marvelous at the end of the trip (or, better yet, at the end of many trips), to thumb through a ragged, dog-eared copy of a book that, for the present moment, sits clean and new in my backpack. At the end of its usefulness, I imagined that I would have written millions of notes, directions, comments, critiques, and stars in the margin and between the lines of Jane and Michael's reviews. The pages would be stained with grease and ketchup from diners through the South, the East, the North, and the West. This was a book with untapped potential. This was a book that would get about as much use as my Munsell chart, and would undoubtedly prove to be just as good an investment. The Sterns have an online version of Roadfood, but I figured I'd pony up the money and invest in some serious memory-building and memento-collecting as an American archaeologist in America. Buying this book was not an option. It was like a college textbook. A textbook on LIFE. LIBERTY. and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

I pulled out my copy of Roadfood and looked to see whether any restaurants in Scranton had been reviewed. Yup -- the Sterns had reviewed the Glider Diner in Scranton, PA. After double and triple checking the diner hours -- "always open!" -- I pulled into the parking lot with anticipation.

The Glider Diner. Closed. SO a B. on Twitpic

They were closed.


Well, of course they were. If there's anyone alive on this planet that so plainly deserves the title of "Harbinger of the Most Anti-Climactic Moments in History," it would be me. The hours on the door read, "Open 24 hours -- Monday thru Saturday." Well, Jane and Michael, this place is not always open. Or maybe someone should have told the Glider Diner that they were supposed to always be open because the Sterns said so. Well, I suppose that random closures and incorrect hours are supposed to be verified by dialing the diner's phone number that the Sterns had also graciously written into their reviews. Oh, well.

So I turned around and Yelped up a place -- Thai Rak Thai on Adams St. -- and enjoyed a lovely (overpriced) Thai dinner. I brought Roadfood in with me for good measure and set it down by my plate. By George, I paid $14.95 for this book. It's going to get stains on it whether it likes it or not.

(That's what she said.)

Friday, May 27, 2011


I'm preparing to head out on a very long drive to New Mexico. Once upon a time (when I was younger, probably), I probably would have been very excited to leave and see the country. Now I feel the need to just get out there and do it. But it's never the destination, so they say -- whoever they are. Whoever they are, they're probably younger than I am, and so are excited to sit in a car for hours on end.

This summer is the first summer after I started the Ph.D. program at Harvard University in the Anthropology program. I will be doing some mapping around Jemez Pueblo, about an hour away from Albuquerque. I haven't been to New Mexico in awhile -- well, just last year I was in New Mexico, but around the Four Corners area and at Aztec and Chaco Canyon. That's just a tiny bit of New Mexico. I'm talking about the belly of New Mexico -- Fort Sumner and Billy the Kid's grave and Las Cruces and Santa Fe and the desert and Taos and everything in between. The West is great, and I haven't been out west for almost a year now.

Despite my excitement, I still have to sit in a car for days.... I'll be sure to pack my copy of Roadfood.

So I'm making my preparations to leave home like I do every summer since I became an archaeologist -- finding babysitters for the pets and new homes for my plants, putting away the school clothes and breaking out the fieldwork clothes, unearthing the Camelbak from all the camping gear, reorganizing the camping gear, and making sure that most of the academic albatrosses that have been circling my head have been hunted down and destroyed. I sent off the ferrets to the babysitter out in Boston the other day, and am now missing them very much. But the good news (and bad news) is that Sonny the sun conure gets to come out to New Mexico. There was the option to board him to spare him the cross-country trip, but he's so bonded to me. It won't be his first cross country trip, anyway, and he's endured the past trips like a champ.

Blogging will be interesting, given that I won't have internet access, although I'll have 3G and wifi access in town somewhere, I suspect. So I'll see how it works out. In the meantime, I'll continue packing and shoot for a Saturday departure. In celebration of my escape from the 02138, I might grill up a lion steak before my departure. If I consume the lion, will I get the lion's strength?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Launching in two days. Well, I was supposed to blast off from Cambridge today, but, like everything else related to summer fieldwork, the best laid plans of graduate students....

More later.