I'm back in La Belle Province, named for famous French Canadian Patti LaBelle, who wrote Quebec's official anthem, "Lady Marmalade." Even today, any blue-blooded Quebecois will tear up if you ask them if they would like to sleep with you this evening.
My trip to DC was equal parts rewarding and benighted. I got my award from the National Press Club, which is always nice, and I saw fellow Shuttlecock, monster namesake and bosom pal Dave, which is always nice. And, best of all, the weather was very accommodating. It pretty much rained wherever I went, easing the blazing summer heat. It was as if I was the Rainbringer, as told of in The Rainbringer Chronicles, Book One: He Who Bringeth the Rain. The only time it was hot at night, I was in a hotel in Baltimore.
The first sucky part is that some stuff of mine got stolen, as I mentioned on Twitter. I don't even know when; it wasn't until I cleaned out my van in Tarrytown, NY that I noticed my guitar was missing along with the Kindle I was keeping in the guitar case, and it wasn't until I organized things further somewhere on the New York Thruway that I noticed my digital SLR camera was missing. My hat was stolen as well, although I kinda blame myself for that one. I left it hanging in the only bathroom at the Plattsburgh, NY library, and said bathroom is right near the children's area, so not the best place to leave nifty headwear.
My blueberry scone just disappeared in the fifteen seconds between walking away from the milk-and-sugar place at a rest area Starbucks and going back to look for it.
I said that the thefts took away some of my faith in humanity, but I realized later that that isn't really so. The Internet took away all but the most tenacious chunks of my faith in humanity long ago. There's a chance, after all, that the person who stole my guitar and camera really needed the money for whatever reason. But anonymous vitriol and violent misogyny never fed anyone.
Anyhow, the other sucky bit, which also ended up kind of interesting, is that I ran out of money on the way back. Twice, actually. I was stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike for a couple days, then I found fifteen bucks I had forgotten about, and that got me back on the road, and then I was stuck on the New York State Thruway for a couple days.
The fun thing is that both the Turnpike and the Thruway are toll roads, but you pay when you exit. When you enter, they give you a little ticket that says where you got on, and when you leave you give them the ticket and they charge you based on how far you travelled. It's kind of like a parking garage, only you're charged for distance rather than time.
The upshot is that because I was out of money, I couldn't actually afford to leave the freeway. I was in limbo.
Actually, as someone pointed out online, you can tell them you don't have any money and they sigh at you a bunch and give you an envelope and you can mail them the money. So I could technically leave the freeway, and eventually did, but I couldn't AFFORD to leave the freeway.
Now this story makes me sound kind of like an idiot. How did I manage to get trapped on not one, but two toll freeway systems? The answer is a combination of poor planning and excellent planning.
The poor planning was running out of money. Long story short, I expected a direct deposit to come through on Friday and it came through on Monday.
Honestly, I shouldn't have driven down to DC in the first place. Wired is going to reimburse me for the hotel room and the dinner and -- they don't know this yet -- the parking, but I'm out the gas money and I don't get the rest reimbursed for a while yet. But you know, wave an Honorable Mention in front of me and I get all starry-eyed.
Those of you who follow me uncomfortably closely on Twitter will notice that the last thing I did before getting stuck on the Turnpike, in spite of being extremely low on cash and gas, was driving into Philadelphia and buying a cheesesteak. This is easy to explain: I was near Philadelphia and wanted a cheesesteak.
Anyhow, here's the thing. If you're going to run out of money, I highly recommend the New Jersey Turnpike and the New York State Thruway as places to do it, at least if you have a reasonable supply of canned food and a comfortable place to sleep in your vehicle.
Rest areas in California are generally sad places designed to provide the barest of services to travelers while discouraging any and all cock-sucking. You're lucky if they have one of those machines that fetches you an ice cream sandwich using a robotic vacuum hose. Most of them are very stern about overnight stays.
Rest areas on the Turnpike and Thruway are elaborate affairs with big indoor food courts and a slick stall out front with a guy selling sunglasses and a machine where you can buy a god-damned iPod if you want and a FARMER'S MARKET on weekends, which is to say some lady selling overpriced locally-grown plums, but hey. They're thoroughly air-conditioned, there are places to sit where nobody bugs you apart from stealing your scone, and most importantly they don't care if you stay the night. Or, apparently, a couple nights.
Not wanting to push my luck, I tried to move along to the next rest area every day or two, which is why I ended up switching states in there somewhere. But eventually I emerged, more in need of a shower and a shave than would be optimal, but otherwise fine.
I was a little hesitant to talk about my situation, because I didn't want it to come across as a plea for more donations. As it turns out, I was kept busy by a series of deadlines for Wired Magazine, so I'm doing pretty okay if only in a time-shifted sense. Current Lore is having to count his dollars, American and Canadian, very carefully, but Future Lore is going to be pretty jazzed.