Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A little analysis.

megan mcisaac,Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography
(Self-portrait, I-5 outside Stockton, CA)

I've discovered a few things about myself from my thirty-three straight days traveling around North America. Many of them have to do with what I can handle, what I am willing to fight and strive for, what I am and am not willing to finally put up with, and the things I need to do to make myself consistently more content. Being away from my "real life" has given me a fresh perspective on a few universal truths regarding beauty, the insecurities and flakiness of others, and the inevitable measure of time.

I can foresee some of these personal conclusions being lauded by many and a few not being terribly liked by several others, though frankly I don't care about either reaction. I am clear-headed, focused, resolute, tired, and smiling. Though there are personality traits I will never fully conquer such as not being able to live fully in the moment or getting over my "home-body" comfort zone, in the last month I have squarely kicked those traits asses, though maybe only temporarily. It was grand.

I was reminded of things I love, made aware of things I hate tolerating, and was pleased to rediscover so many of my strengths that lay dormant in my daily life. Across forty states virtual strangers made me feel like a part of their family, as well as funny, intelligent, clever, desirable, reliable, and trustworthy. Feeling special is not something I have ever been comfortable with, but the last few weeks have been a constant reminder that others think I am. That was nice.

I also learned about my country and my fellow Americans. There really are no such things as "red" and "blue" states. There are only hard working Americans of various ethnic and economic classes that are trying to better themselves and the qualities of their lives, raise their kids well, pay their bills promptly, and get laid as often as possible. Thankfully, some Americans are still optimistic and hopeful. Many have dreams, and a few even have plans on how to achieve their dreams, though sadly those individuals are few and far between.

Most Americans think that their lives are nothing special, not all that terribly exciting. In many places across this country, citizens think there isn't much to do, that they would probably be better off somewhere else. We as a society are just not that satisfied. I'm not sure if the myth of the great and invincible America, where anyone and everyone should be able to succeed and thrive no matter how high the cards are stacked against them, is doing more harm than good. Life is not a Little League, not everyone gets to play their desired role or deserves a medal for showing up. Life is hard, and those with the most skill, talent, and work the hardest don't always get the awards. There is a sad lack of entitlement that so many of us cling to as a floatation device in the rough seas of the world and it is an illusion. Yet that doesn't mean we should stop chasing our goals, we should just be aware of what could or could not happen and be prepared for that.

Thankfully, I did get to see a wide variety of both positive and negative aspects of my fellow citizens. Witnessing a white couple in Kansas refuse to be seated next to a black mother and son left me speechless and terribly confused, while seeing countless acts of kindness by Good Samaritans on the roads, in restaurants, and in every state I visited filled me with hope.

I don't have any conclusions or helpful advice other than the phrase I have uttered before: Do your best and enjoy the moment. I have essentially been sleep-deprived and sore consistently for the last thirty three days, pushing myself, constantly on the move, living out of a bag, unsure of where I was going to lay my head the next night. That lifestyle is not for everyone, and at some point it wasn't my favorite thing either, but in the end it was well worth it.

Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography,megan mcisaac
Here is the last photo taken of me on the trip, a portrait by one of my favorite photographers, Megan McIsaac, in Portland, Oregon after she modeled for me. I think it is an accurate description of the dualistic aspects of my personality as well as showing my exhaustion and readiness to go home. Now I am left with about twenty thousand images to sort through, as well as a month's worth of stories to record, edit, and regurgitate to family and friends. Thanks again, North America, it was great getting to see you again.


  1. im listening to "pony" by tom waits and it was perfectly suiting for this blog entry of yours, funny when those sort of things happen. i can not explain how proud of you i am, as terribly cheesy as that sounds, but i am. driving across the country is something i will do in years to come, and to hear your stories is very fulfilling and... real. i'm excited to see the photographs youve made :D

    and thank you for the shout out and for using my photograph, it means a lot :) and thats a fact! ;)

  2. Man, your trip's been awesome and a pleasure to read.
    I'm looking forward seeing the results of your trip :)

  3. Your visit here with me was something I will aways cherish. Roger spoke of you well yesterday. I know your mind must be reeling and it all seems a fog. But remember this, not only did America touch you but in so many ways you touched America. You made the journey that only a few can imagine and you have your pictures to prove it. By the way, I think your writing is as amazing as your photography. As I told you before, I will leave the light on for you. You always have a place to stay and a friend in West Virginia. Take care my friend and I hope to visit Toms Takeout someday and have a bunch of cheese fries with you.


  4. Excellent. =) Can't wait to see/hear/read all about your trip!

    I'm about to head out as well... I'm SO OVER Arizona after only three months, and next weekend I'm driving from Phoenix to Vegas, crash for a couple days, then up to NorCal. Mapquest takes me up the 99 from Bakersfield? If you know of a reasonable way to cut over to the coast I'll make a midday pitstop to see ya en route. Lemme know friend!

  5. Where in Kansas did you see the seating refusal? I'm very curious.

  6. Why does Kansas always get a bad rep?
    There are decent people here.
    I've met so many wonderful people.

    That lady who refused the seat she was offered is absured. She needs to look around and realize she isn't special.
    I can't believe how rude people can be in public (or in private).
    I'm just trying to say that you can encounter rude people anywhere not just Kansas.