road trip day 4: nowheresville, sd > sioux falls = ez’s stomping grounds

the mission intensifies.  to-go coffees acquired.  we are back at the grind.

we stop in mitchell to see the corn palace.

have you ever seen someone so comfortable at a corn palace?

have you ever seen someone so comfortable at a corn palace?  also, i’m not offering street corn to kids.

it’s a surprise to us all, but the corn palace isn’t where the real story lies.  from the corn palace i saw this gem across the street:

in this photo you can't see that there is a bible playground for kids

in this photo you can’t see that there is a bible playground for kids

walking inside of this place is a confusing endeavor.  it feels like a swap meet / thrift store / candy shop / mess.  we tuck into a small doorway and see the most bizarre indoor playground the world doesn’t even know about.

the first bend

the first bend

caption eric's expression = apprehension

caption eric’s expression = apprehension

what does this egg mean?

what does this egg mean?

christian playground VS air hockey by way of the pods from the movie

christian playground VS air hockey by way of the pods from the movie “troll”

once we exit the playground back through the store the shop keeper basically interviews us.  he has that thick slavic accent that i love.  he asks where we’re from, where we’re going.  we let him know we’re on our way to work on a movie outside of minneapolis.  he asks if we have any animals.  we are confused.  he asks us to bring back all the taxidermy animals from our film shoot.  we tell him, as far as we know, there are no taxidermy animals in our shoot.  he gives us a knowing smile and tells us to call him and we can meet him to give him the taxidermy animals.  then he pulls out his phone and asks for our phone numbers.  eric tap dances into an explanation that we’ll email him and thank you very much.

and then we’re back in the car.

we want to get to sioux falls with enough time to mill about the city because these are eric’s old stomping grounds.  when we arrive he is most excited to have one of “nick’s gyros.”  they are amazing and served by the greek owner.

next up is eric’s old job, a coffeeshop called “black sheep coffee.”  he’s disappointed he doesn’t see one of his old drawings that’s been up for years.  i describe the sketch to the barista and she knows exactly where it is.  she brings it out to show us.

classic eric style

classic ez style

we sit out back and soak in the afternoon for a moment.

out back

that home town swagger

from here we take a slight tour of the neighborhood.

we go to the art center conjoined with the old theater he worked at.  there was a really great exhibition of mixed media works.  this was one of my favorite pop comic pieces:

isn't it great?

isn’t it great?

and then we swap photo opportunities:

ez

ez

jc

jc

eric finds out there’s a ferris wheel in the local sporting good shop.  we check it out before we’re back counting mile markers.

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road trip day 3: wyoming tire fix > black hills > baby jesus

after some morning research we find that only one tire shop in evanston has the size tire we need.  luckily they’re sympathetic and not too busy and get us in and out of the shop with a decent turn around time.  we blow out of town as fast as we can.  neither of us was looking forward to the monotony of driving through all of wyoming during the day but frankly, i was surprised by how much i enjoyed the subtle color play of the landscape.  somehow in my mind it stayed fresh and i was able to enjoy that stretch of road.

wind farm up on your right

wind farm up on your right

something about the sunset and dusk that followed this day could not be justified in cellphone photos.  on one side of us was a rainbow sorbet of colors lighting up the sky, on the other side was a dusk steeped in dark childhood stories.  it was like we were driving down the center of two worlds, two different days.  it was surreal in a way that made me ache for it to never end.

as we reached the border of south dakota i was convinced that it was already to dark for photos and i turned around to this vision:

this will always remind me of the burning playground in

this will always remind me of the burning playground in “the terminator”

the moon hung heavy above us as we made our way to and through the black hills.  if we hadn’t had our tire mishap i would have seen some of this during the day.  it’s unfortunate i missed it in the darkness.  there was a vapor like blackness permeating all around the horizon and it felt like a dangerous place.  like a fairytale dangerous place, not an east la dangerous place.

and eric, ever vigilant, tried to take me up to see mt. rushmore because we thought it may be lit up at night.  it was not lit at night.  we ended up in a weird vortex where somehow we were driving in one direction but kept driving the same stretch of road over and over.  we were able to break the spell and headed toward rapid city.

oh rapid city.  we thought you would be our bed.  but you had no place for us to stay.  and no one knew why all the rooms were taken at every hotel.  so we drove to the next town.  no vacancy.  and the next town.  no vacancy.  ad naseum roughly 150 miles.  we sleep in the car.  well, he sleeps in the car.  i toss and turn and turn the car on to get heat.  and then i finally nod off and WE ARE AWAKE AGAIN.  IT IS ANOTHER DAY AGAIN.  HELLO HUMAN, HOW ARE YOU LIKING LIFE?  it wasn’t that dramatic.  but i hate feeling like i’ve slept 2 minutes when i’ve been out a few hours.  such a waste.

Y U NO have room for us at the inn?

road trip day 2: reno > salt flats > evanston, wy

we got a later start than anticipated because me + mornings = heartache for any morning person i’m with.  sorry eric.  at any rate we stopped by a local coffee drive through to grab drinks for the road.  the lovely barista recommended a breakfast joint for us.  so we went.

peg's glorified ham and eggs

peg’s glorified ham and eggs

the place was packed and we were glad to be there.  the food was really amazing and i was obnoxious as usual shooting pictures of us to post right here:

that's not bruce willis

that’s not bruce willis… or maybe it is.  he’s happy having breakfast with us.

back in the car.  back on the asphalt.  our next exploration is the salt flats.  i have wanted to see them for longer than i can remember.  we have a similar experience to our imagining every cluster of lights is reno.  in utah we think every slightly flat place with light-ish dirt is the salt flats.  we have an argument about whether or not they are dry or wet (i’m team wet salt flats).  finally the world flattens around us and shallow pools of water on either side reflect the sky like mirrors.  we can hardly wait to exit at the rest stop.

looks like iceland? maybe the surface of the moon.

looks like iceland? maybe the surface of the moon.

the water has an amazing hue once you take a moment to get beyond the reflection.

melted muddy mercury

melted muddy mercury

and the rest stop graffiti reminds me of our slavic host at “circus circus.”

“no one cares” and “it doesn’t matter” are essentially the same thing

we marvel the entire time we drive through the salt flats.  the mountains look like they’re floating just above the water.  everything feels slightly european and other worldly.  we coast on the interstate in a suspended state of disbelief and wonder.  we are pretty damn glad we chose to take the long way to minnesota.

that is clearly why this happens:

we stop at a scenic spot as the twilight is darkening.  we get back in the car and not half a mile from the rest stop we run over something.  the warning lights spark up the dash and we’re in the middle of nowhere.  luckily we have a donut and eric is a champion with putting it on the car.  the only problem is we only have about 70 miles on the temporary tire and we’re far away from anything.  if we can get to something, it’s certain it’ll be closed and we lose hours of driving.

MVP

MVP

we make it to evanston, wy.  it’s the first town beyond a gas station on an exit we’ve encountered since we got the flat.  we try to find a connection through a truck stop, walmart’s tire shop is closed and none of the locals seem to have any timely solutions.  we’re bummed.  and we’re starving.  so we eat at a diner.

this lovely human brought coloring pages to the table and coloring did make me feel better

this lovely human brought these pages to the table and coloring did make me feel better

i really indulged in this moment.  i ate a steak.  and this diner did a pretty amazing job.  it was just what the doctor ordered.

after we ate we checked into the days inn.  the indian man at the counter asked us three times if we had a dog.  there was a sign on the counter about undeclared pets.  we did not have a dog.  we said “no” three times.  keys in hand we park behind the hotel and enter the back entrance.  when we open the door a dog comes traipsing up to me.  i was leary but the dog seemed friendly so we continued about our business.  i look up and see a security camera.  the dog follows us to our room.  when i attempt to open the door the dog tries to go in ahead of me.  i close the door and try to get between the dog and the door so i can push myself through (my hands are full of heavy luggage as are eric’s).  it takes a few tries but we’re finally able to get in yet leave the dog in the hallway.  and eric and i fall into a fit of laughter because of the grilling we got about pets at the reception desk.  it was a tough end of the day.  we have to find a tire solution the next day.  we sleep.

i have strange stress dreams.

this is the same day i was floating on an icelandic moon while driving on american roads.

these are days we’ll remember.

road trip day 1: la > sacramento > reno

i stayed up all night packing because i never do things on time.  also because i don’t like to wake up in the morning.  oh, and i don’t like to go to sleep at night.  we left los angeles on thursday morning heading for sacramento.  the first leg of our trip was mostly unremarkable except for a phone booth outside of a convenience store that was charging highway robbery for a bag of beef jerky.

not the mojave phone booth

not the mojave phone booth

the one thing we wanted to see in sacramento was fairy tale town.  we arrived in the city fifteen minutes after it closed.  i am not one to accept no for an answer without at least trying another option.  i could see there were still families milling the grounds.  i called their number and someone answered.  i explained that we drove up from los angeles and we would pay full price and we would be the first people to leave.  she hesitated but ultimately said she’d let us in and asked us to meet her at the front gate.  i was so excited i ran as eric rolled his eyes and strolled behind me.  she walked up to us and stopped.  “oh,” she says.  i’m waiting to hear the problem.  “you don’t have a child… we can’t let you in without a child.”  my brow furrows in confusion.  “we can’t let you in, it’s for the children’s safety.”  she doesn’t say anything else and sheepishly turns on her heels and walks away.  like creeps we walk around the outer perimeter and look in at storybooks hanging from trees, a pumpkin carriage and other assorted whimsical elements.

this squirrel taunted us by showing us his nut and his nuts

this squirrel taunted us by showing us his nut and his nuts

we stopped off to eat some barbecue and then we hit a chinese restaurant for road drinks.  eric got a peach smoothie.  i am a glutton and ordered two smoothies: an avocado and a honeydew.  all three of them were delicious.  we said goodbye to the city of trees (aptly titled) and hit the road for reno.

neither of us having been to reno, as we closed in on the city we were convinced every cluster of lights on the horizon must be the mini vegas oasis.  eventually one of those collections of lights opened up to us.  we pulled into an alley and booked a room at the circus circus.  i was really excited to stay there.

necessary neon photograph (if you look slightly to the right above the sign you'll see the moon)

necessary neon photograph (if you look slightly to the right above the sign you’ll see the moon)

we went into the hotel to check in.  we were blessed with a slavic woman behind the counter.  she asked us where we wanted to stay in her beautiful, thick accent.  “what floor has the most circus stuff?” i ask like a wide eyed five year old.  “it doesn’t matter,” she says.  i struggle to respond.  we finally come to a conclusion with room choice and we’re off.  it’s early enough that we have time to look around.

amazing neon "circus circus" clown

amazing neon “circus circus” clown

we explored the midway and hit the streets.  there was a biker gathering going on.  somehow there were vendors everywhere but it didn’t feel like the event was fully attended.  a few couple arguments broke out (which is always really entertaining to overhear) and the police took the streets and had the vendors close shop at ten pm.  but, not before eric pointed out a white pride booth to me.  something about it added an eerie emotional color to the event.

at one point we decided we were hungry and began touring the place in the search of food.  even though it was early, many of the restaurants were closed.  we asked some cops on the street for a pizza place recommendation.  they were jovial and joked with each other before sending us to a spot.  it was a great local location off the beaten path.  we grabbed menus and were excited to eat.  that was short lived.  the service was agonizingly slow and a few other patrons jumped in front of us in line so we cut our losses and headed up to the room to sleep.

i drifted off to a marathon of “project runway.”

make it work.

the ez eagle lands in lost angeles

when eric agreed to meet me in los angeles to drive to minnesota i didn’t have a set plan for what we’d do once he landed in la.  i thought it would be nice to hit a couple of art spots and keep everything cheap and easy.  it was neither of those things.  we crammed a week of the city into less than a day.

i took him down to venice beach so we could see the freakshow (closed) and the skatepark (much smaller than i anticipated).  those two things being somewhat ‘meh’ i decided we should walk to the ferris wheel on the pier.

defunct freakshow

defunct freakshow

skatepark

skatepark

so we walked and walked… and walked.  we finally reached the pier and while walking up to it i realized i made him walk all of venice beach to the santa monica pier.

pacific park athletic octopus

pacific park athletic octopus

santa monica pier

what is he pointing at?

taking in the sights we grabbed a cup of coffee and sat under a tree on the beach.  neither of us wanted to walk all the way back so we decided to take a bus.

all of our change and a couple of stray bills could afford us two bus tickets.  just as we decided to take the bus, one came rolling up the street.  we jogged up, tossed our money into the receptacle and took our seats.  impressed with our decision to take the bus instead of a cab and the serendipitous timing, our faces immediately soured as the bus- once certainly poised toward venice beach- took a u turn and headed in the opposite direction.  i tapped the girl sitting in front of me, “where does this bus go?”  in the notorious la girl monotone she said “malibu” before putting in her ear buds.

getting off at the first stop available to us we realized that we were in the middle of nowhere on the pacific coast highway.  across the road is a country club, surely they’d be helpful.  the staff seemed annoyed to see us.  we explained the bus situation and that we needed change to try and catch another bus, they said they didn’t have change.  we asked to use their restroom, a giant no.  we asked if they had any courtesy services / shuttles that could help us get any closer to where we were going.  the sound of their eyes trying not to roll out of their sockets was the elephant in the room.  so we politely excused ourselves and began another long walk along the highway.

i was feeling desperate, it was incredibly hot and we were both getting sunburned from being in direct sunlight for so long.  as we walked along the beach i approached the occasional person in their car seeing if they’d give us a ride up the beach.  note to self: nobody in los angeles is going to pick up hitchhikers.

finally we saw an oasis in the distance.  passing under the highway via a bridge we were able to stop, cool off and grab something to eat at a really charming spot called “patrick’s roadhouse.”  we enjoyed the ambiance and a break from what was supposed to be a fun little jaunt that was easily turning into a pain in the ass.

patrick's roadhouse

patrick’s roadhouse

after our late lunch in the middle of nowheresville we opt for a cab to coast us back to venice.  i ask the cab driver to drop us off at the pier so that i can show eric the canals.  after strolling across the waterways we start walking back to the car.  i had no idea how far we were, it was another mile before we got in the car and blasted air conditioning into our sweaty faces.

venice canal

venice canal

at this point, traffic has begun and we didn’t want to be detained in gridlock.  as we were squirreling through the side streets eric decides he wants to go to the la brea tar pits.  we plug that into the gps and off we go.  we walk the entire grounds, enjoying the bubbling tar and the sculpture garden of lacma.  my favorite outdoor installation was “urban light.”  the sun was just setting and the lights were on giving everything an ethereal glow.

“urban lights”

not bad

la, you’re doing it right

next stop: the chandelier tree in silver lake.  while we were marveling at all the lighting fixtures strung up in the branches, a girl eating cereal on her porch stared at us.

the chandelier tree in silver lake

the chandelier tree in silver lake

making amends with this being the grandest day out, we traveled to “the last bookstore.”  a lovely mix of art, used and new books overwhelmed and excited us.  one of our friends from denver, cougar, met us there.  on our way out a homeless man gave him a ring and said, “hey kick-ass, this is yours.  it’s going to make you a lot of money.”  you know, as a homeless man will do.

the amazing neon of

the amazing neon of “the last bookstore”

is it socially acceptable to have a mannequin crush?

is it socially acceptable to have a mannequin crush?

book vortex upon book vortex

book vortex upon book vortex

this may or may not be a dream i had in eighth grade

this may or may not be a dream i had in eighth grade

those days when you're on fire

those days when you’re on fire

#BodySuitGoals

#BodySuitGoals

looking for a spot to chat a little and end our night we found a semi-speakeasy called “the association.”  this place was sexy as hell.  the lights were dim and red.  the bar was empty when we strolled in.  the music was libidinous.  it was the perfect end to our night.  we chatted and laughed.  it felt really great to see someone we knew and share stories and connections before setting off on our huge road trip in the morning.

cougar to my left

cougar to my left

eric to my right

eric to my right

the kids are alright.

art department

this time next week i’ll be beginning a trip with one of my best friends and collaborators.  we’re going to minnesota to work on a film for the next two months.  as part of the art department i’ll be working as a set dresser and he’ll be working as lead man.  it will be the longest stint for each of us to work on a feature and be on location.  we’re really fortunate to be able to go through this experience together.

rumors that we’ll be staying in a defunct college dorm and may be lighting cars on fire is both exciting and anxiety inducing.  much of our shoot is exterior, meaning we’ll be shooting outdoors, and the cold weather is a concern.

my hope is to catalog this journey, which is a great leap in following my dream, so that i can remember all the nuances of this time.

send me shooting stars to light my way.