Tuesday, November 09, 2010



This blog has been with us a very, very long time. However, I have not done the best job of keeping it up-to-date and answering the question that it poses: Is Max Alive?

As you are all probably aware, I have created several other internet indulgences that have, over time, usurped this blog's position. I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn; I Tweet constantly; I created a web-presence focused on my writing and artistic work, as well as professional; and most recently I have launched a Tumblr blog that chronicles the adventures of my cousins and I in New York.

I am not shutting down this blog. Firstly, because it's a nice repository of writing going back nearly six years now. Secondly, because I might want it again some day. In fact, during my Assault on America's Senses, it was the only blog I could easily post to. It may prove useful again in the future.

So, I thank you for reading here and I hope you'll keep reading my elsewhere.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blogging from the Air

So, this is it. I spent a fantastic few days with Garg-alum and former Mason Proper member Matt Thompson and now I am in the air. Thanks to the miracle of WiFi technology, I can write this while our plane shakes over the Rockies.

Many of you are probably wondering why I haven't been updating from the road more, though I imagine that most of you assume it's because I am too busy/lazy. Well, that's only half right. As previously stated, the iPhone app that I've been using to update this blog while on the road has ceased to function. That, combined with a full to the brim schedule of exploring Seattle and hiking around mountains, has prevented me from keeping you as up to date as I would like.

And now, cruising over clouds, I am not even sure what to say about the trip. For all intents and purposes it's over. But it doesn't really feel like it's over because there's so much left undone back in Virginia. Plus, I am flying back, so it feels just like an everyday vacation. The days of camaraderie and the nights of fear in the Utah desert seem distant, like the memories aren't even mine.

Maybe by tomorrow I'll be better sorted to put this all together. I've said farewell to the road, and now I need to write the epitaph for the Assault on America's Senses.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Final Push

Today, I board a bus in San Francisco and ride (first south to Sacramento but then) North to Portalnd, Oregon. I'll say one night in a motel downtown and meet up with Cousin Sarah while she's attending some kind of conference.

On the 27th I'll take what is probably the shortest bus trip of my Assault and pay an extended visit on Matt Thompson (formerly of Mason Proper, formerly of Gargoyle, formerly of Some French Dairy Farm in France) in Seattle. I'm really looking forward to this, since I'd previously only spent a few hours in Seattle.

On the 30th (or so) I'll check my trusty duffel and ride a jet all the way back to DCA. That'll be it. That ends the Assault. Tonight is the final push up the west coast.

See you all soon.

The Lawns of Longmont

So, I already wrote this post while standing in the Denver Greyhound terminal, but Blogpress -- the iPhone app I have been using to blog while on this trip -- decided that it no longer wanted to play nice and did not actually publish the post. Then, for the sake of consistency, it deleted the draft of my post. Nearly an hour of thumb twiddling on my phone down the toilet.

This is very disappointing. Not just for the loss of a blog post, but because it means that my ability to update y'all gentle readers from the road is greatly inhibited. However, I have my trusty disposable laptop with me, so hopefully I can continue to keep you all in the know.


Thanks to everyone who wrote so encouragingly about me taking the plane from Omaha to Denver and "cheating" on my trip. Not only did it warm my heart to know that people are reading my blog, but it was great to have some positive reinforcement for my decisions.

And it turned out to be a great decision. Not only did I arrive in 1/20th the time it would have taken me to bus out to Denver, my ticket was apparently a "classic" ticket on Frontier airlines. As such, it entitled me to a free checked bag, a premium beverage (bourbon and soda water, thanks), and a snack (oh man, you guys have cheese curds?). I had no idea that I was entitled to such perks when I ordered the ticket and was feeling extremely pleased with myself as I floated in to the Denver International Airport.

Now, the Denver airport is famous for two things: losing your luggage, and horrible omens. First and foremost among the bad omens is that the airport is home to the worst bar in America: the "Q Bar," which is a Quiznos with an attached bar that charged me $9 for a Blue Moon (bottle) the last time I was there.

Second are the amazingly creepy murals that can be found inside. One of them, as I recall, depicts the Grim Reaper drawing the souls out of people.

Third is the Nightmare Pony, which I guess is supposed to symbolize the power and majesty of the Denver Broncos (football team, not horses). Why the artist chose to communicate this concept with a giant rearing blue horse with terrifying patterns across its body and illuminated red eyes is completely beyond me.

Fourth is a recent addition: a huge statue of Annubis, the Egyptian god of Death. So uplifting!

Despite all these bad omens my flight arrived on time, I met Kris (best pal, Boulder resident, artist), and was on my way to Longmont. On my way out, I was pleased to see two new members of the airport freakshow: gargoyles leaping out of suitcases that the explanatory placcard ominously says are "about the size of a ten-year-old boy."

Sunday was a lazy day for Kris and I, since it was pretty late by the time I got in. The next morning, I had planned to get started working on Kris' backyard. This wasn't a condition of my visit, but rather something I volunteered to do. As many of you know, I used to work as a groundskeeper and every year my hands get itchy for plants and soil. Kris inherited a rather unkempt lawn from the previous owners who had employed some downright odd gardening practices; the oddest of which was laying newspaper underneath mulch.

Unfortunately, after I had finished reacquainting myself with Kris' excellent vinyl record collection, I wound up getting distracted and not starting on the lawn. Most of the late afternoon was spent with Kris, going to different stores and searching for the legendary Mexicoke. That is, Coca-Cola from Mexico where it is still made with cane sugar. Years ago, Kris told me that after one drink of this stuff, I would understand why people used to be obsessed with Coca-Cola.

After four stores and nearly two hours of searching, we threw in the towel on the Mexicoke. Once again eluded by the fizzy beverage, I renewed my vow to track it down and taste its delicious, caramel colored contents.

That evening, Kris took me to Il Pastaio where I was once again treated to some of the best pasta I've ever had. Il Pastaio has an interesting format for ordering. You're presented with a menu that lists sauces and prices. When you order, you tell the waiter which pasta you'd like and with what sauce. You are billed not based on what kind of noodles you order, but the sauce.

The house specialty is, without a doubt, the ravioli. Unlike most other restuarants which might have, at most, three varieties of stuffed square noodles, Il Pastaio offers a veritable cornicopia of choices for the discerning diner. That night, Kris had the squash and I assure you that it did not disappoint.

The next morning, I gathered the gardening equipment I'd found the day before and began my assault on the yard. There's not much to say about that, and I am running out of time at this coffee shop, but I did a pretty good job and thuroughly enjoyed my time working on it.

To celebrate the taming of the yard, Kris and I went out to Toy Story 3 in the dying Twin Peaks mall (I looked for Laura Palmer, but she never showed). As you can imagine, the movie was excellent, and I declared it to be the best of the series.

There's much more to tell, and I am not being fair to the amazing time I had in Colordado, but I am running out of time. Kris: forgive me!

I must be going now, gentle readers. Portland awaits, and my bus leaves soon.


Sunday, June 20, 2010


Right now, I am snug and cozy on the couch of Jenny -- a friend from College and GargAlum. She has been the most gracious of hosts, and I am grateful for it after the long slog it took to get here. I'm in Nebraska, a state I have visiting twice before. Both of those times, I was headed to where I am going tomorrow: Colorado.

However, tomorrow I will be boarding a plane to get there.

For me, it feels like cheating. Part of the reason I took this trip was to do it on the cheap and to stick to buses to see America pass by me. But I just got off of a 20+ hour ride this afternoon, and would be staring down the barrel of at least another 10 hours (more likely 16-20) to get to foot of the Rocky mountains. Right now, I just can't do that.

It would be one thing if it were my last big trek, but it isn't by a long shot. The trip from Colorado to San Francisco is over 30 hours, the train takes just about as long, and the flight is more than I am willing to throw down. Also, it's a cheap flight and a very short trip.

So I am cheating.

I feel bad about doing so. I feel like it's not in the spirit of this adventure, and that I'm not living up to my promise I made to myself when I stepped out of Virginia: do this and have fun, but be smart about it. And when I said that, I was thinking primarily of personal safety and bank accounts.

But getting to Colorado does put me in a good and flexible position for the final leg of my trip. Also, it means a nice respite before the longest ride of the trip. And right now, I think I need that. I've loved my trip but the long, dark, quiet nights in the buses aren't just hard on my back. I need to see more friends, take it easy, and lighten my heart before I get back on the Greyhound.

I'm looking at a no-transfers straight shot from Denver to San Francisco, and I am looking forward to being ready to make that trip.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Jersey: Sinus Attack

There was something wrong with my throat when I woke up in New York on my last day in the Big Apple. I laughed it off over brunch, and only started to get worried while on my New Jersey bound train. If I was sick, it would throw everything off. Not just the trip but far more if it was serious. I had no insurance, it expired the night of my last day at SAIC. An illness could easily ruin a lot, not to mention my bank account.

But my red-headed aunt Mary was at the station when my train pulled in to Denville and everything was well with the world. That first evening I was treated to a lavish meal, courtesey of both Mary and uncle Rick. There have been many times on these long bus routes where I have thought of the steak I ate that night.

The next morning it was clear to me that I had a Sinus Situation on my hands. I didn't feel great at all, and I kep going back and forth between whether I was sick or just allergic to something. It was a maddening feeling, not knowing if I could or should continue my trip. It was particularly infuriating because my bus to Atlanta -- my next stop -- would not only pass through DC, but would stop there for over an hour. I could easily grab a cab back to m apartment in Virginia and rest up.

I discussed such things with Mary over what I can only describe as a "very cool breakfast." There was fresh fruit, eggs, and meat all eaten while a cool morning breeze blew off the lake. We ate on the porch, overlooking the lake. All the while Neil Young played on the stereo, my aunt humming along from time to time.

Because of my iffy health and the threat of thunderstorms, we decided to make it an easy day. Rick ha already left for work and Mary had business in town. I sat and read until the storm started.

It was swift and beautiful that storm. It blew in over the empty lake pushing a strong, cool wind through the entire house. And then the rain started, devilishly hard at first but eventually evening out into a steady patter. It felt like the whole woods and lake were collectively relieved as the rain cooled the ground and cleared the air.

I stood in the doorway of the porch, and felt I was cured of many things at once.

That night, Rick, Mary, and I had massive burritos, and we took a truncated tour of town. Of note was the house of a local provacatuer who had several run ins with local police and his neighbors over the lawn decorations that he puts up.

Lawn decorations is only one way to describe it. A giant fiberglass tiger crawling over an awning, a collection of animal statues, and a boat wedged magnificently in a tree pushed the limits of my ubderstanding of lawn art.

Needless to say, I was in love. Not only with this man's bombastic taste but also his audacity. When the police cracked down on him, the homeowner bought and restored a vintage cop car, painted "Thought Police" on the roof and frequntly parked it outside the local police station.

Is this immature and even a little reprhensible? Absolutlely. But I really like this guy. The world has far too many boring homes and predictable yards to require police intervention. Perhaps his passion could be better spent fighting greater ills, like homelessness, but I'm glad this man has taken a stand like this. It's not right to fault a man for following through on his passions and convictions. In addition to more interesting yards, I dare say we could use more people willing to be passionate about anything.

The afternoon of my last day, Mary drove me in to Newark. We grabbed a bite at the spectacular Hobby's Deli which had walls covered in letters from the corridors of power, giving thanks for pastrami on rye. A chief justice and An American diplomat spring to mind. Several large salami hung on the back wall, waiting to be sent to Iraq ad Afghanistan; a special treat for Soldiers abroad.

I boarded a bus and 20 some hours later was in Atlanta.

Location:U.S. 90,Lafayette,United States

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Not Really Texas

That's what I was told when Ben picked me up from the bus station. In his own words, it's a hilly, verdent, liberal oasis in the midst of a multi-faceted Texas desert. While I can't speak to that per say, I cab say that I gel much better pulling in to Austin than I did other towns in Texas.

(Truth be told, I was intrigued by Houston, and would like to come back. Plans are already brewing in my mind for a future trip through the mid-northern and southwestern states.)

I've done a pretty bad job of keeping this blog up to date on my trip, but that's been a function of how much fun I am having! I've got back-fill posts started for New Jersey, Atlanta, and I must write about New Orleans, but I can't get bogged down and leave everyone hanging.

New Jersey was great, Atlanta was a blast, and I miss New Orleans already. Also: I took a shortcut through Alabama with my uncle Gary, so I have that to talk about as well. And to think, it's only been a week!

The southern extension of my trip has ended and now I turn Northward again. This is my last night in Austin, and I'll next be in Omaha, NE.

The most important things you need to know at thus: I am staying with Ben, an old friend from Highschool. Austin is a fun town, and we're going to make the best of it. And lat night, we had tacos from a fortuitously named cart:

Ben has been a vibrant pick-me-up from the post vacation depression that was starting to set in after NOLA. The trip is starting to wear on me a bit, but just when it seems bleakest (see: on busses) America offers me something to keep going. Whether it's great tacos or a church with a URL in it's name, it keeps me going.

Now: to shower.

Location:Northcross Dr,Austin,United States

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New York, Yew Nork (part 2 of 2)

I woke up on Al Pacino's couch ridiculously early, already damp with sweat. I was sleeping on the third floor, and in full sun, so continuing to snooze was not an option. I knew that Hyatt was going to be sleeping for quite a while, so I left him a note and made my way back to Manhattan.

Luckily, the film crew outside of Lindsey's apartment hadn't started for the day. I would find out later that the crew was there to film an adaptation of the play "For Colored Girls That Have Considered Suicide," a play I know nothing about, but did remember from NPR.

Showered and refreshed, I headed back downtown to Time Square. From the directions I'd read off a sign on the subway, the King Tut exhibit was somewhere in that general area. It was not hard to find, thankfully. Time Square isna critical mass of tourists and bizzarre New York entertainment, and I prefer to view it from a distance.

The exhibit was surprising not only for its completeness, but also the scope of how informative it was. While Tut was not present, the exhibit goes to great pains to help the viewer understand the social, political, and religious context of Tut's rule.

For instance, I had no idea that Tut was the son of Aknahten, the enigmatic pharoah who overthrew the traditional gods and instituted his own brand of monotheism to Egypt. Tut succeeded Aknahten, and set about undoing most of the social and political turmoil created by his father. All of this was rather deftly handle by te exhibit, in addition to supplying plenty of shiny and interesting things to look upon.

After I'd had all the Tut I could handle, I retired to Bryant Park. I stumbled upon it while trying to find my way elsewhere, but found the peaceful allure of the trees too much to resist. As a result, I spent some time there.

The city provide park goers with equipment for games like bocci and ping-pong. I was stunned by how many games I ended up watching. It was shockingly engrossing!

Once Lindsey was off work, we strolled the stately grounds of Central Park. I arrived a little before she, and used the location-based game Gowalla to find some of the park's attractions that I had missed during previous visits. Little thing like the Cherry Hill Fountain:

And big things like the Bethesda Fountain Square, where I found a man playing cello:

After an excellent Thai meal, Lindsey, her boyfriend Noam, and I went out to Brooklyn to meet up with some of her friends. It was a curious evening, made curioser by the Armenian gentlemen we shared a table with. I think I'll go into greater detail on the other blog (wmeddy.com), but needless to say: the subject of the Michigan Militia was addressed.

We closed off the evening with a night-cap of rum from the Dominican Republic that tasted eerily like Nyquil. We used these coasters:

My last hours in New York were spent pleasantly with Lindsey and another of her friends over a late lunch. Befor I left, Lindsey was kind enough to show me one of the advantages of living in NYC.

And then I was off to New Jersey! I'm sorry that this is so glib, but I am running Late an have just completed a 22-hour bus trip from Jersey to Atlanta. More to follow, of course.


Location:Savage Rd,Denville,United States