TravelBlogue:  An All-I'mErican Journey









Saturday, April 8, 2000
Back home again in Indiana

Arrived yesterday afternoon and vegged out the rest of the evening. I guess 17 hours on the bus and in bus stations is too much. It didn't help that my tiny radio somehow got turned on in my pocket and the batteries were dead before I boarded the bus Thursday night. So much for listening to America as I travel across her.

Had a great evening Friday with my cousin S. We gorged on BBQ at a place in Arlington, VA called Red, Hot and Blue. She then showed me around Arlington and Alexandria. Then she dropped me off at the bus station. She even waited with me, thought it was after midnight, so I wouldn't be alone with the nuts.

Yesterday morning I called Dorothy and when she asked where I was I replied, "some city in Ohio that starts with a C...don't know which one." I think it was Columbus, but it could just as well have been Cleveland or Cincinati. As the bus moved through OhiO, the WKRP song went through my head. I loved that show.

Today I went to my cousin R's wedding. It was really lovely. His wife picked a great dress, traditional styling but with a removable train, which I always thought was a great idea but most people don't get them and drag the dress around all night. Without the train, it was a classic white, beaded top with a long, slim skirt. They were so glad and surprised that I made it. I guess no one believed I really would for some reason. I said I'd be there, so one way or another I was going to show up.

I have so many cousins and second cousins and now I have one more since my last visit in July. There's a whole lot of Jacksons in Indianapolis and I'm probably related to half of them. Then there's my dad's whole family, who'll be gathering tomorrow. Indy is one-stop, family shopping for me.

Not much else going on. This is a good few days to rest up and eat well, taking a break from the road and bad road food. I've had more hot dogs the past few weeks than in the past few years.

Going out with my cousins (R and his brothers J and P, who I grew up with in California) tonight to toss back a few. link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/8/2000 10:37:24 PM


Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Twice in One Day!

I did indeed make it to the Frederick Douglass house. It was gorgeous and the museum interesting and informative. There was even a badly acted short biopic, probably made in the '70s. I knew a lot about him, but learned a few more things today. I didn't know he'd worked for woman's rights or that he was married a second time to a white woman, which caused controversy in general and in his family in particular.

I met up with a school teacher there who said Frederick Douglass was her favorite historical personality of all time. She came to the house in lieu of joining her group in a tour of Annapolis. I helped her get back to Dupont Circle because Anacostia, where the FD museum is located, is pretty far out and, well, it's the ghetto.

It was a good day for the museum, too, it was rainy and cold and my hat was still wet from the sudden showers at the Lincoln Memorial last night. I wanted to visit the Smithsonian and National Archive, but I don't think I could take another long day of walking in the rain. I love the rain, usually, but I think it wears you out more when you're wandering around in it for hours at a time, than if you were wandering on a clear day.

Afterward, I met Ken for an early dinner at the Daily Grill at the corner of 18th and M, which I highly recommend. The crust on the chicken pot pie was as big as a regular size pie. It was incredible, flaky, tasty, huge pieces of chicken, great gravy. We each drank a few hard ciders and were feeling fine. I remembered the Pop Tarts I had put in my pocket for breakfast and put them on the table to get the lump out of my jumper. We had a really attentive and fun waiter. He would not throw the Pop Tarts away. He gave us some really great vanilla ice cream on the house and insisted we eat the crumbs with it. It was actually pretty good. Would've been great all toasty, too. The question of the day? They were brown sugar cinnamon.

Afterward, Ken walked me to the White House and all around. It was much smaller than I had expected. I don't know why. I've seen it on TV a million times, but it just looks much bigger. Took pictures of three sides (one was obscured by trees, so there was no point), the snipers on the roof and the presidential gates and light poles with eagle and star motif. They were pretty tacky.

We also talked with the man across the street who, with two others has staged a continuous anti-nuclear protest since 1981. We talked about how little freedom we have left in this country. People are giving so much freedom up in order to have a false sense of security. Increasingly, we're settling for less and less authentic lives, rarely leaving our homes. When we do, we visit prepackaged tourist attractions. I hope during this trip I'll be able to have a good mixture of both. I want to get out there and meet the people, rather than let the media tell me who We the People are.


Speaking of people...I'm at Ken's right now. We thought I could download pics from my digital camera, but his Mac doesn't have the right port. I have beheld the wonder that is the Skoochie couch. I only wish the pictures worked, it's unbelievable. It's a sectional, red with a black paisley pattern. I just found out today that it has attached end tables, though that joyous discovery was tempered by the knowledge that the perfectly-matching red glass lamps on top are not attached. What's really cool is that the glass comes off the top of the tables, so you can put your own items under display. Ken has Mardi Gras beads and dubloons from his many visits to New Orleans. What would you display in your Skoochie couch end tables? link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/4/2000 11:06:17 PM


Sick, sad, obsession With the internet, that is. Went over to the Black Studies department down the hall, where they have longer term use terminals. While I was waiting, I found two books that look interesting:

Cookie Cutter about a biracial serial killer who leaves an Oreo in the hands of his black victims.

Coal to Cream, a black man's memoir/travelogue of escaping the racial tensions of Washington, DC for the beaches of Ipanema in Brazil. At first, he thinks it's a paradise with regard to race, but he soon learns that Brazil's complicated color scheme has problems of its own which lead him to probe his assumtions about race back at home.


Also of note yesterday, the park ranger (I love park rangers) at the Lincoln Memorial had the same kind of beard as Lincoln, without a mustache. It made him look Amish. Speaking of which, I was also surprised to see some Amish (or were they Mennonites, like we have in Indiana?) on the steps of the Supreme court. I swear, the man was wearing Dockers. That's not nearly as weird as the homeless guy I saw talking on a cell phone Sunday. He must've been CIA.

I took some great pictures of myself with the Supreme Court (OK, someone else took that one) and the Capital behind me and hope my digitals and regular come out as well. I took two rolls of black and white and three or four color. I'm a nut. Having fun, though, and that's what matters. If I find a scanner or get back to Kinko's, I'll put them up.


I've decided to take it much easier than planned on this trip. It is, after all, a vacation. I hope to visit at least my must-sees: New Orleans, Ottawa/Montreal, Niagra Falls, South Dakota, and the Grand Canyon. After that, everything else is gravy. Graceland, Dallas, the Civil Rights Museum and important cities in the Civil Rights Movement would be nice, but not necessary. I figure I can always do this again, probably even by car to hit the smaller towns that aren't easy to get around on foot or public transportation.

I feel the time and money running out, so I suppose those two factors will determine my actual end date. Also, I have a feeling I may have to go to California to apply for unemploymen because, as just occured to me, there might be a deadline. Going to hit their site for more info now.

Today I hope to visit the last residence (now a museum/national park site) of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Later tonight, I'll go visit a friend in Maryland. I also have a cousin in Virginia, so I hope to see her as well. The opportunities are endless, I'm getting more excited everyday. link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/4/2000 12:38:56 PM


Remembering Roger A. De Die Wow, yesterday I covered a lot of ground. Literally. Boy are my dogs barking.

I got another late start, but did wake up at 10 am, (7:15 today, so getting earlier and earlier as I recover from moving all my crap). Headed for the Supreme Court. Got all the way to the Metro station and realized I'd forgotten the cell phone. Ended up glad I did, because, when I walked back to the hostel, I almost fainted from heat exhaustion. In those mere 15 minutes, it went from cold and overcast to dank and humid. I took off the thermal shirt and pants I was wearing under everything else and started back out again.

So there I was in the highest court in the land, taking pictures in the bathroom. Don't ask me why. I also got tons of pictures from the outside and in the court itself. It's big and grandiose, but I was only surprised it wasn't bigger. Moreover, I was really shocked at how close the table where the lawyers sit is to the bench. It's intimidating, to be sure, to sit before the 9 justices of the highest court in all the land, but all the more so, I'm sure, when one is but two feet away. It makes me all the more in awe of Sarah Weddington, who I met a few years ago, one of the lawyers who argued Roe v. Wade successfully before the SC, thereby opening abortion rights to American women without trust funds. I think she was only around my age when she argued before the court. It's just amazing when you think about it.

I was shocked, shocked and appalled, to see that there was not only a store in the Supreme Court, but also that it sold cheesy souveneirs, like a cartoonish gavel magnet reading, "Equal justice before the law" or somesuch, my mind fails me, but it's the motto on the front of the building.

Time is running out, I'm at a library on a terminal with a 15 minute limit and trying to remember all I did yesterday.

I also was in awe of the Capital building. Wish I could see the rotunda, but the line, even at 4 pm, was long and full of people who hadn't booked a tour. The tour folks just walked right in. What a crock. Otherwise, I can't complain, because all the monuments and Smithsonian collections are free, free, FREE.

Speaking of which, haven't been to the Smithsonian yet. I got tired and took a cab to the other end of the Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial. Didn't realize the Vietnam and Korean Memorials were right there. What an amazing acre. The Lincoln memorial is much bigger than I had imagined, though, paradoxically, the statue itself is not. I guess I thought the building was just big enough to house the statue, but it only takes up about 10% of the space.

Gotta go, the librarian is pulling me away. Roger A. De Die is the name of a Vietnam vet I didn't know. Wish my dad had made it to the wall, wish I knew the names of his friends who died, so I could do a rubbing. But Roger is one I'll wonder about instead. link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/4/2000 11:31:09 AM


Sunday, April 2, 2000

Had a Blogger accident, this is reposted from: [3/23/00 2:05:10 PM | Erica Jackson] I leave New York in less than 6 days. I still have to pack up my room, which was on my To Do list for every day this week. It's already Thursday And then there's my storage space...I have to give notice and make sure things are packed up and ready for shipping. Yesterday I did manage to buy my (Greyhound) Ameripass, a tiny little radio so I can listen to local stations (what's left of them) throughout my travels, a cell phone and headset, sandals and some extra toiletries. I can't believe I still don't have a decent camera to take on this trip. The Polaroids are bulky, expensive and won't be good for landscapes. I'm afraid the digital will fill up (holds just 60 pictures). I also need to get film. I'm acting as if I don't know I'm leaving on the 29th and it's already the 23rd. There is something so wrong with me, I do this for every move. I guess the deadline pressure is my best motivation. link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/2/2000 7:21:10 PM


Et tu, Britney?

Oh my fucking God, I can't get away from *NSYNC! They're on the radio here at Kinko's and all the TV Guide covers faced me as I recharged my calling card today at CVS. Ay dios mio! Last night, I also saw a review of their LP in one of the local papers and an editorial against Miss Spears' upcoming cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." Jive Records is like the mafia -- there is no escape. [Al Pacino]Just when I think I'm out, they keep pulling me back in![/Al Pacino]

That reminds me...I decided to take a cab from the Greyhound station to the hostel because I have two more bags than planned (ran out of time, tape and boxes because the boxes kept breaking -- I'm usually a great packer/mover, but this time was crazy). We got to the corner and the cabbie asks these guys if they needed a ride. Uh, hello, you have a fare! I will now proclaim that the cabs here are even worse than Boston (except that was my only beef with Beantown).

The guys get into the cab and I quip, "I guess it's a DC thing." I figured I'd break the ice, to see if they were OK guys or wackjobs. They were actually really nice and funny. We got to talking about the record business and how we all thought slavery had ended in 1865. Turns out they work at a major label that a lot of Jive alums seem to turn up at. They pay better, apparently, but it's still insane because they know 100 other people will work for less, just to be in the oh-so-glamorous music industry. We had some great laughs, though the ride was short.

So, you see, I can't really slag Jive too seriously, as it's obviously a record industry thing. Also, I met some incredibly funny, kind and otherwise wonderful people there and learned a lot. There is nobody I left there hating. It just became a matter of, do I want to work myself to death for none of the recognition or glory (most people thought all I did was answer my boss's phone, while what I did is being split into TWO jobs) in an industry I was meant merely to observe as a writer OR would I like to be sane and happy?

It's funny, but people in general and James in particular have commented on how happy I am and how good I look since I left. When a job is making you an awful person you're not -- get the fuck out, please. Could it be perhaps because I'm not working 60 hours a week while getting paid for 40 and struggling to pay my way in one of the world's most expensive cities that I moved 3000 miles to see and never do? Ya think? I just wasn't meant to be in an office 8-12 hours a day, the world is too beautiful and there is too much to see.

A lot of people have expressed wonder, joy and envy regarding this trip. I understand completely. I've always been happy for friends who had the opportunity to travel for months at a time, yet surprise anyone could get by without working for so long. This has been many years in the making, yet it all clicked into place in a few weeks. When the time is right, if you really want it, it will happen. A month ago, this wasn't possible for me. Even when I am complaining about minor inconveniences I know I am very blessed to have this opportunity right now.

OK, sick of making KinkyKinko's rich now.

Wow, DeBarge is waiting for you... link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/2/2000 6:20:53 PM


Finally, it Begins

I'm in DC and having a bad time! I'm tired, sore, lost, cranky and it's raining. Still, it beats the hell out of working for The Man. I can always stop somewhere for shelter, drink, rest, food and/or company.

I guess I should've packed sooner, both so I could enjoy my last few days in NY and my first few of the trip without hobbling about like Grandma Moses. I have too much crap. Let this be a lesson to me. I'm also sleeping alot (great, since I didn't sleep much last week) and doing silly things, like getting massages so I can walk upright eventually.

Haven't done much. Thanks to my procrastinating, I was in NY until late in the evening of March 31 (Friday). I was really desperate to get away. Took an hour to get a cab to the Port Authority! The city was rejecting me like a bad organ. Same thing happened when I left San Francisco in '98. Once you've broken up, you just can't live there anymore.

Things have been rocky. I left the line at the bus staion to go to the bathroom when they announced the 8:00 bus to DC was late. Ten minutes later, it was full and I couldn't get on. DOH! I hope I don't have that problem in other cities, particularly ones in which the bus doesn't run every 30-60 minutes, like between NY-DC or NY-Boston. However, thanks to a wonderful customer service agent (much more helpful than the woman in the info booth who tried to explain the words "first come, first served" as if I was a moron), I got on the next bus.

It was another Peter Pan, as I took both times to Boston; I've yet to ride an actual Greyhound bus. The driver's name was Smity, which was the best part. The second best was that it only took 3.5 hours because there was NO traffic whatsoever. I added at least two new states (if passing through counts): Virginia and Maryland. I slept on and off, so there may have been more, I'll have to check my map. I hope to actually step foot in those two states plus Delaware while I'm in DC.

Yesterday, I slept until 1:30 because I hadn't had much more than 3 hours of sleep any night since last Monday. Because I could hardly move, it too hours for me to get showered and dressed. Didn't leave the hostel until almost 5. Hadn't eaten since Friday at lunchtime. Couldn't find anything near the hostel that appealed and ended up stopping at McDonald's, of all places, after wandering a few blocks.

I can't recall the last time I was so lost. Probably when I came to NY, but NY is a grid above 14th Street, so it's not so hard after a day or so. I usually don't mind being lost, it always ends up burning in the orientation much more deeply when things finally do click.

Yesterday I went to a free concert at the Kennedy Center (for the Performing Arts). There is one every night at 6 on their Millenium stage. Wonderful! Even passed the Watergate complex next door on the way. Anyway, saw this jazzy trio called the Groovin' Girls who were really fun and funky. Great to tap my feet and shake my head. Their original compositions were great as well. So much so, an otherwise dignified-looking man shouted for an encore, while another asked for their "Tea Time for One" instead of a standard when they obliged.

There was a group of adorable, rambunctious toddlers next to me who alternately jumped, tumbled, danced and talked throughout. One girl invented a dance and showed another. They stood with one foot out in front, tapping. The leader would say "switch" and they'd hop so the other foot was in front, start tapping and repeat. It wa so cute. Somehow they seemed more funny than disruptive. They were very excited to meet the band afterward. I just couldn't take my eyes off them.

After the concert, I took the free shuttle back to the George Washington University Metro station and took the Metro back to Metro Center, the nearest station to the hostel. Well, actually, first I went to Rosslyn Virginia. I realized this because it seemed a very long time between stops and also it felt just like when BART goes under the San Francisco Bay. Too quiet. In fact, the trains are very much like BART, with different upholstry on the seats. Shall I go to Vienna, Virginia tomorrow and beg AOL to sponsor my trip? she asks, having eyed Palm Pilots and laptops she can't afford today.

When I returned to the Metro Center Station, I intentionally went in the "wrong" direction -- toward the White House. I could only see a snatch of the south side -- I hadn't figured on trees. On the way, I saw the National Theatre (what an ironically British spelling), where Rent is playing. Didn't want to get lost trying to find Ford's Theater. I'm afraid this is going to be the assassination and tragedy tour, as Dallas, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis (where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, it's now a Civil Rights Museum) and Oklahoma City are also on my tentative itinerary.

Also got to see the Washington Monument and the Capital. They were much like I imagined -- all these white monuments glowing in the night. Gorgeous. Weird to see scaffolding at the bottom, after approaching the tall white shaft of the Monument for 15 blocks.

Went back to the hostel early so I could get to bed early and get and early start today (yeah, as if!). Dinner was BBQ chips and grape soda. Mom would be so proud. I just didn't have the energy to go out and didn't want to spend $10 on Chinese or pizza I couldn't finish. I decided to sit in the lobby to make phone calls, check local papers for pubs, events and a place to get a massage.

Around 10:30, a guy tried to bring a hooker up to his room. The desk clerk asked for their receipts, customary practice in youth hostels, as only registered guests are allowed up in the sleeping area. Neither the guy nor the hooker seemed to understand this policy. She kept saying, "He IS a guest!" to the desk clerk. I looked up to see what all the commotion was (not yet realizing she was a hooker) and all I saw as her ass and a bit of white leather. She had on a white leather jacket and skirt. The latter had lacing in the back that wasn't done too tightly, so there was a 4-5 inch window. A bit obvious there, I don't know what he was thinking. Moreover, as the desk clerk kept saying, "It's a hostel, not a hotel," where was he going to take her? Back to his room with 11 other guys? The bathroom, I suppose.

When the desk clerk said she was kicking him out, that he couldn't "do that kind of thing" and added "we have Girl Scouts here," I had to stifle a giggle. She didn't find it a bit funny, and I supposed part of me is equally disgusted. It just struck me as very absurd.

Damn woman in the top bunk stole my blanket, so I'm freezing. Have to remember tonight to bring up my heavy ass luggage (will jettison a lot at my grandma's house in Indiana), so I can sleep in my thermal pants and shirts. Didn't get to bed until 3/4 am (I guess it was 4, since Spring Ahead started at 2 am), so much for getting up early today. All things considered, 10 am wasn't too bad. This is crazy long. Will have to chop it. link
posted by Erica Jackson 4/2/2000 5:54:16 PM


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