Second Youth

Basically, I relived my whole youth while in California.

I’ve only realized this now as I sit down in rented office space in Portland for right now, I am working (or rather taking a break from working) as my friend Keith continues to tip-tap away behind me on his laptop. See, in retrospect, I took a full spin through my old neighborhood of youth for a full week before moving on to an older youth at my cousin’s house in Los Angeles.

In my second childhood, I played the week away with my friend Chad’s kids, Max and Rhett. We were on the go constantly. This was in large part to Chad’s wife Shay who has the energy of a woman half her age. I would wake up around 8 or 9 and work while the kids (or babies as I call them jokingly) scurried away to their school (which only had half-days the week I was there and had 3 recesses in each of those half-days – thank you budget cuts, recession, and California’s general crumbling infrastructure). Around 12:30, the babies would return and we would almost immediately head straight out the door to hike. The first day it was the crumbly dirt bikepath on the rolling hills around redlands, the next day it was Forest Falls – an awesome waterfall/mountain oasis 45 minutes from the desert of Redlands, and the next day Joshua Tree. I felt like I was a kid again being carted around to the great outdoors with my two brothers who mom and dad decided to have 16 years after me. My little brothers looked up to me and envied my independence in being able to put myself in whatever harm’s way I wanted as their real mother worried for their lives as they followed me up waterfalls, crumbly hills, beautiful Joshua tree boulders, etc. We would then return home and eat till our belts burst and play four-square in the driveway and hockey in the garage and shoot airsoft guns and play with the rats and make a ruckus on the drums and guitars and avoid going to sleep and put showers off as long as possible and crashing hard eventually from expelling so much energy that day. It was great. Of course when they went to bed I would have some very unyouthful beverages. In a way I was like the coolest peer I could ever imagine myself being as a kid. I related to them and played with them while still being able to stay up late, drink beer, drive, not go to school and toss myself in dangers way as much as I wanted – basically, everything you wish you could do when you’re eleven but can’t.

When I traveled on to Los Angeles, I entered my teenage college-ish years. My cousin works for AB and as such receives perks that completely suit a visiting irish family member. Everywhere we go – drinks are given to us without any thought of what kind of tab we may be running up; this can make you a popular person in any bar setting. I also visited my good friend Zack who has been in LA for the past 5 years. We always have a good time together as we have a general lack of awkwardness in our interactions; we’re dorks. We jumped around the boulders on malibu, looked for broads in bikinis, played basketball, trespassed into hot tubs and raised hell in general, all while talking about our current situations and misfortunes with girls. We always seem to enter into some hugely deep conversation that starts off talking about current events before veering into recent transgressions with the fairer sex which transcends into past transgressions with the fairer sex before a sharp dog-ear into destiny and fate and meaning and substance and elements and dark matter before u-turning into head-on traffic about girls once more. It’s always a good conversation. And it’s carefree while still being so damn important at the moment.

Back at my cousin’s bachelor pad, I refound my love of parlor games – mostly darts and pool. We would play these games while betting money we didn’t really want to lose until 3 or 4 a.m. only to have our bets refunded for some less expensive duty the next day. Thanksgiving was basically a non-stop dart and pool marathon with a break for dinner in-between. All we wanted to do was play darts and pool and we did and it was a lot of fun.
Also:
– Laker’s game which was cool I guess. I think I peered down at the back of Jack Nicholson’s balding head more than at the game.
– Irish Pubbery; after which we almost got towed. As Zack’s friend says – you need a degree to understand when it’s okay to park in LA.
– Golfed at the hardest golf course I’ve ever played which, playing with my cousin’s roommate’s (who is the asian version of gary coleman) clubs, did not boost my score. Also, 20 bucks for a two hot dogs and two beers. Welcome to California; bend over please.
–  Walked down Hollywood again which is less glamorous the second time around. Celebrity footprints and handprints are only so entertaining.
– Running; Running in LA is one of the most interesting and possibly life threatening things you can do in this life. Aside from the threat of sidewalkless roads and crappy terrain, you have a thin layer of ash that rested upon everything every night – presumably from some fire further north. Not to mention, California drivers are supposedly 43rd in terms of knowledgeable driving. Google it.

More days passed and before I know it, I’m in Portland. It’s cold and cool-looking and there are alot of bicyclists. And here I am, a little older and a little more re-experienced. I’m thinking of home and trying to decide if it’s someplace I really want to get back too… now that I’m officially an adult.

I’m not really sure.
But whoever is?

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Colofornia

Yesterday I woke up to -2 degree weather only to have a warm front move in ending the night at 57 degrees fahrenheit. Interpretation: I woke up in Colorado and went to bed in California.

Damn it felt good to fly again! I can only say this because it’s been a year since i’ve been 30,000 up but I was really looking forward to flying again. There is something that is still insanely mystifying about hopping into a phallus with wings and ending up thousands of miles from your origin in a few short hours*. (*see: the power of flight)

I woke up cracking early at 6:15 a.m. to finish packing up my room and my bags. I had a few dark stouts the night before and severely underestimated the remaining time it would take to tidy everything up. Instead of coming home from the local watering hole and taking care of business I instead came home and grilled some pork chops and potatoes and fell asleep to the Season 2 finale of Dexter. I awoke groggily the next morning with a dry mouth and no desire whatsoever to organize my life for the next 3 weeks. But with some supernatural power force stoking my engines I was able to clean up the room, pack my bags, move unnecessary belongings into storage, clean the bathroom, and toast some bagels for the trip to the Denver airport. Good to go.

Becca graciously volunteered to ferry my behind down to the airport – super nice of her and we traded some funny traveling stories in the process. A note on early morning travel: When you have to wake up early and pack up your life and eat and clean, you don’t exactly have much time to “take care of business”. Thus, a storm was brewing inside of me that needed a release of some sort.  The intensity of this storm reached an unexpected fury when I realized upon arriving at the airport that I had left my boarding passes and business cards in Estes. Now, I normally deal with stress pretty well by just not talking and heightening my senses. But for some reason, the stress of leaving my passes and my business cards (a.k.a tickets to future finances) hit me directly in the bowels. A wave of prairie doggin’, turtle-head madness swept over me and I had to squash it back like the gopher hole game oh so popular in arcades of yesteryear. The clenching strength that I possessed was on par with industrial machinery and energy reserved for steel bending. There was almost no hope in sight. I stood at the curbside check-in, sweating brown bullets, as the gentle septuagenarian patiently and methodically (MOVE YOUR ASS OLD MAN) ran my information and presented me with new boarding passes. I stumbled into the airport, knees locked and palms sweaty as I searched for the nearest lavatory; almost as if I was trying to find the kill-switch for a nuclear bomb counting down at 00:02. Thankfully, I found the red button and pushed hard – right as the timer settled at 00:00; neutralizing the bomb into a bright white bowl of defusing water.

Whew…

My first flight landed me in Las Vegas – which was actually very cool to check out on the descent. The first thing I realized was that Las Vegas is in fact a very large city with much more than one expensive strip of fantastical hotels; housing and commercial buildings spread out from the strip as far as the eye could see. I have to say, the hotels really are awesome looking and very imaginative. Also, the needle thing is a massive and recognizable landmark that appeared very cinematic looking from my airplane window. I was curiously wondering to myself what kind of epic airport would such a visually stimulating city have in store. The answer is: an architectural style based off of midwestern Dillards & Famous Barr department stores circa the early 1990’s. Yah there was the slot machines in every nook and cranny, open bar areas, best buy vending machines (nuts) and an irrepressible energy inherent within. But Lord. In a city with that much money floating around you would think that they could update their main hub of traveling humanity as not to look as bleak as Vegas (in reality) likely is. Oh yea, I also lost $5 to a promising looking machine that was really just a money pit. (I sat close by and watched unknowing gamblers plunk a total of $100 in to the same machine just to make sure).

A 40 minute plane ride and a strong Jack & Ginger later, and I was in the great state of California. I really mean this too when I call it great. When I’m in Cali, it’s like a mental heaviness of the rest of the country has been lifted off of me and I’m walking around the land of sunshine and happiness (ya also incessant materialism, the headquarters of the porn industry, and more than suspiciously ran government) but man, this is wear you effing surf and relax and see incredibly gorgeous girls in the most normal of places* (*YMCA front desk). I’m staying with my friend and traveling confidante Chad Daniel and his wife Shay and their insane little babies Rhett & Max. I’ve only been here for one quick evening and in that time I’ve already rode a scooter and heavily accelerated it up and down his neighborhood street, eaten hummus and pita as hairless rats (pets) crawled across the counter top sharing the food and beer with me (they also cleaned Chad’s teeth as he kept his mouth open), jammed out with the boys in the living room, petted an unmoving iguana, watched Chad clean a digested mouse corpse out the biggest damn spider I have ever seen in persons cage  and slept for a good 9 hours in Baby Rhett’s bed. I don’t think I slept that soundly the whole time I was in Colorado. I was in a real home with a real family and it relaxed me… and my bowels.

Kid, You’ll Move Mountains.

Yesterday was my birthday. I decided to climb a mountain. Not like a real mountain but like an almost mountain. Actually I can’t find it listed on the interweb anywhere but at the summit of said mountain I found a neat little jar with the words “Mt. Russell” scratched on the top. I popped it open and found scraps of paper with peoples signatures and youthful writings encompassing a gold foil chocolate coin. It seem that a family, a youthful group of pirates, and some adventurous individuals had all summited this little mount in Estes Park and i just had happened to mount this little guy as well… wait. Anyways, I filled out my full name “KEVIN RUSSELL KELLY, 11/10/09 on my Birthday” and sealed everything back up. I’m sure there is some sort of significance to this find but the french press I had earlier is not allowing me to entertain deep thoughts at the moment.

So yea I guess I ended last week on a bit of a downer. That’s life tho you know. As one of my favorite (and possibly least favorite) quotes goes, “Que Sera, Sera – whatever will be, will be”. I wholeheartedly agree with this but only at about 50%. I think you also have the ability to make things what they will be and shift the entire natural order of how things are just supposed to go. I find that I look at life alot like this; half and half. Grey. Yin-Yang. It just seems that that is how everything was meant to be. I can keep expounding on this or just move on as I don’t want to move the reader(s) to further boredom.

This past week was definitely straight outta the guidebook for Colorado Livin’ (Foreword by John Denver). I did some physical activity demanding hiking or rock climbing 5 days in a row. Needless to say I was not super productive but my computer has still been recovering from Hardrivecrash Katrina 3 weeks ago. I didn’t have all my tools and programs back in action so I decided to make the most of the great weather and explore the damn park. Katie (Patrick’s girlfriend), Jeff (Patrick’s Coworker’s Boyfriend) and I (Patrick’s friend) headed out on a great warm day last week to hike up to Mills Lake. The beauty of this hike & lake cannot be explained in words. Also unexplainable is why I brought my worst pair of shoes with literally no grip on a hike 7 miles away and thousands of vertical feet up. I reasoned that I would be able to slide better on the icy parts (like I did on an earlier hike with Becca that was maybe a mile) and bygeorge I was right. I fell at least three times heading up and uncountable, back-busting falls on the way down. I felt like a new gosling trying to make it’s way across a petroleum covered frozen lake (sorry for that unconscious enviromentalism – must be the hippies). But holy Lord was the view worth it. Just go look up Glacier Gorge and Mills Lake right now. Go ahead, I won’t mind. It’s a gorgeous winter wonderland straight out of some horribly idealistic contemporary painting by the likes of Jesse Barnes or Thomas Kincaid. Except it’s furreal and totally imprinted in my mind and camera forever.

Also, it’s now time for my favorite part of short blog posts – where I get tired of typing and realize how much work I really have to do now that I have my programs and computer back… BULLET POINTS!

• Flashed first outdoor climb, The Edge of Time 5.9 – A 3 Star Classic Route that I was very psyched to have done.
• Discovered many new, favorite beers. Here’s a few: Moose Drool (Big Sky), Red Ale (Estes Park Brewco.), Murphy’s Irish Stout, Warlock (Bristol), Thunderhead & Chocolate Dip (Mountain Sun). They are all beverage sex.
• Re-realized you truly are gassier up in the mountains.
• Been watching these TV shows on DVD alot: Weeds, Dexter, Arrested Development. Dexter is especially good.
• Also been watching the Dosage climbing videos by Big Up Productions.
• Been reading House of Leaves & Let My People Go Surfing.
• Ready to take off for my next part of the trip… CALIFORNIA

California, here I cooooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeee…

Rocky Mountain Low

I’m guessing if you’re bored then you’re not looking to read about someone moping about life and it’s multiple issues; I wouldn’t be either. But since there is a kevinkelly before the .wordpress up there in the address bar, I can type whatever the hell I want. I will try to eke out a positive ending but let’s get real – life doesn’t always have positive endings neatly wrapped up with a sunset and serenade. I remember some author or creative person talking about how much american storytelling has effed up the public conscience by unwittingly stating that there is a nice, tasty conclusion to all of life’s problems. I wholeheartedly agree.

So ya, I got sick for a few days out here. No worries, I tend to have an affinity to sickness when I travel and jump into multiple physical activities without much sleep. That is common sense. The odd part about this trip was that I started missing home within the first week. This was good for I hadn’t really missed home since I was 18 and had been away for a month overseas, steadily worrying about the social circle happenings I was missing out on that seemed so incredibly important at the time (but which in retrospect were silly and retarded. Ahh, youth.) This was bad because I had just left barely a week ago and I was missing what; life in a basement, over-beered nights, inconsistent people, an overwhelming feel of stasis? I was in Colorado dammit, in the land of ice and snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow! Yea I was. But it wasn’t hitting me yet.

I started to gently fit in to a semi-cycle of climbing, laptop working in the library or coffee shop, dinner parties, red wine, more climbing, nature, 12:30 bedtimes (super early for me) and new friends. This was good, I liked this – first week in Colorado is awesome and fun, yaay! The second monday is when things began to shift from lightness to areyoukiddingmeness? It started off very subtle. My facebook account had been jacked up for a few days and now I couldn’t log into it at all. This perturbed me at this instance for I had multiple conversations going on thru the book of faces on my future travel plans and, if you’re anything like 95% of the average 15-35 year old, facebook is a regular part of your day as much as a lightning-fast morning bowel movement greased up with a good night’s sleep, a new food-layer of cereal and some strong coffee. Ah well, what’s a couple days without it. I can quit cold-turkey as I have before in dark lands with no wifi. I kept clicking around idly, heavily procrastinating on work and other demands of my life when I noticed that the clicking was taking much longer than usual. I’m gonna go ahead and sacrifice the play by play of computer malfunction and get straight to the point. After a matrix like pattern of binary code appeared on my screen, my hard drive bit the dust. Luckily i had an inkling that this was occurring and backed up some important things while overlooking other important things (SHIT).

Amid a myriad of other smaller and more personal things I dare not divulge on a public forum, I decided it was time to leave estes and see more of the mountain range. Luckily, I have good friends in Colorado Springs who decided to take me up on this. I made the drive down in the morning as a huge winter storm was nipping at my heels which would ultimately extend my trip by another day. Thru Boulder, Thru Denver, Thru the other mountain range towns I traveled marveling at some new American landscape I had never seen. First stop, Mac Store. No Luck. They didn’t have the hard drive and would take 3-5 Days to get it. Thank goodness I was able to sit there for 2 hours while they were able to figure this out! Luckily I was coming up to the house of some very quality people Jake & Kim. Kim was at work so Jake and I headed out to do the ‘little’ manitou incline hike at the base of Pike’s Peak. This hike turned out to be the steepest, most breath-raping mother****er I had ever set foot upon. Picture in your head (or here) a 1 mile hike in which you cover over 2,000 vertical feet with the aid of thousands of railroad ties and busted rusty pipes as footholds. Imagine starting this hike in nice 55 deg weather and ending in freezing snow covered ties in THE worst possible outdoor shoes (currently described as “A bit heavy, with no traction on slick, or wet terrain.” and they aren’t kidding). I was wheezing like an 80 year old grandmother as this chick glides up past us with her little puppy. Luckily, altitude hasn’t kicked my ass this trip and jake and I were able to finish somewhat respectfully before sundown, even taking the scenic route back to the parking area. My barely-there ass cheeks continued to ache for the next 3 days.

Seeing as how Jake & Kim are originally from St. Louis, we decided to hit the bars that night. After ordering obscene amounts of Thai food, we headed off to the Bristol Brewing Co. for some insanely dark beer and that sand & metal disc shuffleboard game that I can never remember the real name for. A word about altitude & alcohol – They are awesome together. One micro beer to buzz and you feel like you just finished a 6 pack of Bud Light. (Also new in altitude, much more methane production.) Kim had to work in the morning so Jake and I dropped her off before heading out on a little pub crawl via ten-speed in the frigid night air.

The night eventually ended around 2:30 a.m. after many, many dark beers, many rounds of darts, and some of the most inspired farting I have ever had the pleasure of smelling all due to the digestive effects of heavily americanized Pad Thai.

This trip to Co. Springs definitely helped avert some down&outness. Over the course of the next few snowed in days, we watched multiple documentaries, ate much food, read alot, booked tickets for the rest of my walkabout, and played some intense Mexican Train Dominoes, also entering a great new phrase into our vocabulary, ‘The Bone Zone’. Also, I just need to say, that the local Colorado Springs 9 o’clock news may be the most unintentionally funniest and crappiest news program I have ever seen. Real life came whipping back at us on friday when Jake had to return to work and I had to return back to estes.

Before I could make it back, I had a 5 hour wait in the Flatirons shopping mall outside of Boulder so that I could tell the Apple Store employees the exact same story I had just told to Co. Springs employees a few days earlier. I made the most of the time by solidifying my severe hate of malls, eating some long fasted from McDonalds, and watching Zombieland in the mall cineplex for the cheap matinee price of 8 BUCKS! I thought matinee equals cheap?

Amid all of these minor little things that happened and the addition of more personal shit, the missing of a free Tapes n’ Tapes concert at CU in Boulder, the weary drive back to Estes and the continual feeling of losing control over my STL life I was/am feeling less and less of a good/greatful/happy/upbeat/purposeful/unlimited potential vibe than I thought I would as I’ve made my adventure out west…

(How’s that for ending on a happy note? Sorry – this is the truth though. No sense in sugar coating a true account of travels. If there is anything positive to eke from this bleak post it’s that my St. Louis pride continues to swell everyday and I have never felt more connected to my hometown. I actually want to wear a cardinals hat.)

“Welcome to Estes!”

After unpacking my faithful Jetta late at night and making my new bed (former water bed frame with normal mattress inside; like a low-rider baby crib kinda), I lay awake for probably two hours even though I was completely exhausted.  The first thing I noticed in my new abode was the abundance of big mirrors in the master bedroom. Not on the ceiling or anything kinky like that but 4 large mirrors that were directly related to the amount of pictures of the homeowner. Now I’m up for pretty much anything but pictures of oneself, not with friends – just framed solo-shots, in ones bedroom may hint at some slight narcissism. Many thoughts raced thru my head which made it’s way into some bizarre dreams before I finally fell asleep.

9:00 a.m. Saturday
I’m awakened by my great bearded friend Patrick notifying me that the weather would be an unseasonably warm 60 degrees and by golly we were going to take advantage of the conditions immediately… after breakfast. Up we headed to Mountain Meadows, a one-room cabin that served delicious omelets and coffee surrounded by God’s glory. It was great and delicious and hotter than a baby with a fever on a furnace because of the wood stove in the corner that was cranking at full blast. I walked in with a coat, hoodie and sweater and was quickly down to my t-shirt within minutes.

After getting our grub on, we headed towards the Monastery – a climbing area found by helicopter that Becca’s boyfriend had helped develop. It was on this drive up that I started to feel less than stellar, but I brushed it aside. We geared up and headed out on a semi-difficult hike to the climbing area. Along the way, we stumbled upon a deers leg complete with fur and hoof intact but with a clean break at the patella. This made me happy in a weird way to see such obvious nature in action in a blunt and destructive way. So, obviously, I picked it up and stuck it in the ground for Patrick to see as he was a few clicks behind us.

A mile or so in, we reached the first climbing area which was absolutely freaking gorgeous. Beautiful steep crevasses of rocky land with sheer rising rock faces that screamed to be scrambled upon. Trees shot up at impossible angles which acted as permanent hiking poles to slow our descent to the first ledge. We unpacked and suited up with the group deciding that I should try and lead the first route. This was funny for a few reasons: A. I had never climbed on real rock before (well, with ropes *refer to Cambodia & Germany) B. I did ‘better’ in the gym relative to my friends because it’s the only official climbing i had experienced. C. I clipped two quickdraws (carabiners that you clip into bolts) and quickly realized this was utterly different than the gym. In a gym, besides having the holds obviously marked and color-coded, you had to rely much more on upper body strength than fancy footwork. On this rock, you basically were climbing with your feet only and holding on to invisible flakes and crack features. I was totally out of my element.

Temporarily defeated, I let the seasoned outdoor vet Becca lead the route (placing quickdraws into preplaced bolts and anchors) which I followed after more easily on toprope (a rope threaded through two rings at the top of a route). We stayed here for a good amount of climbs before hiking through an awesome two foot crack that split 70 feet of sheer rock. At this area, we climbed an even harder route and took the obligatory climbing photos.

The sun had started it’s inevitable downward spiral as we packed up and began the hike back. This time though, I had an extra rope to carry. No biggy I thought at first, but as we hiked back it seemed much harder than the hike there and it was taking it’s toll. We finally made it back and I felt utterly pooped with weird muscle cramps and aches as a result of extra weight. I stripped off my soaked t-shirt and through my hoody on as we shopped for the evening dinner and booze. We clambered into my new mountain home and quickly showered while making some necessary spaghetti to replace lost energy. 2 glasses of wine later and I was feeling like I was sleep-existing. We called it a night and I crept into my bed utterly sapped of everything… yet it still took another 90 minutes or so to get to sleep.

10 a.m. Sunday
My great bearded friend awakes me again with more dreams of climbing. I begin to talk to him but the only thing that comes out is a croaky-barry white answer followed by a coughing spasm. And then, you guessed it! Yellowish-Brown Egg Yolk Phlegm. (What trip would be complete without some upper respiratory malady?) Nonetheless, he talked me into going with them to Lily Lake, a completely gorgeous park that housed the climbing area Jurassic Park. Today was slightly colder so I threw on some extra layers and proceeded to hike up to Jurassic Park all the while feeling retardedly sick and dizzy. I sat in the corner coughing up mucus as Patrick and Katie climbed – wind whipping all around us. After 30 minutes, i decided to hike back down to the car. I took a little longer way down and completely admired the mountain range housing Long’s Peak before hibernating in the car for a good two hours.

Back home, I took a three hour nap waking up sounding like I had earlier that day. Not good. I perked up a little in the evening as we grilled a huge amount of meat called London Broil bought at the local Safeway for a huge discount. This was a monstrous amount of meat that lasted long enough to be reborn into some of the best french dip sandwiches I have ever had.

The next few days I spent hocking up disgusting shit and trying to get better all while becoming sufficiently acquainted with Estes Park. Everytime we saw something uniquely Coloradoan or the mood felt right, Patrick and I would yell “WELCOME TO ESTES PARK” with huge dopy grins and arms wide open like a Creed video. I scoped out the best places for internet access and checked out a few watering holes.

Oh yea, and there was a huge fire the first monday I was there.

Time to Do Something. (Kevin Moves to Colorado)

I hadn’t been on a plane, a boat or train for almost a year. I hadn’t been more than two hours from home for damn near 365 days and I could feel it rising up in me for months now. I could feel the winds of change trying to blow me along while I’ve held steadfastly to the Missouri soil that I cherish so much. And before I knew it, the soil that I had clung to so fervently started to turn me into soil; I was becoming a St. Louis fixture – a mobile landmark well known among the 20-somethings in the city area. The things that I loved about St. Louis were starting to suffocate me. I had become too familiar with how everything works and where everything was that I was not moved by life and it’s little eccentricities any further. This wanderlust has been building up in me for awhile and finally it took it’s huge weathered mallet and knocked me off of my moorings; ass deep into the Rocky Mountains.

I landed in a crevasse of civilization called Estes Park around 10:45 p.m. last Friday night. This was after having left Thursday at 5 p.m. Three and a half hours drive to Kansas City followed by 10+ hours to Boulder. And as luck would have it, I got sick right before leaving town. I didn’t have any going away parties because it would have felt retarded. I’m only headed out here to Colorado for the two months before Christmas and then safely nestled back into the loving love of holiday-family-time-warmth in the mighty midwest. It’s almost like an extended vacation. Which almost feels kinda selfish. Which almost feels like I’m a wandering youth with no direction or goals… well, that last one was a bit harsh.

So ya, here I am, Kevin Kelly, twenty-six years of age typing out my thoughts on this adventure in a small resort town in Colorado. This is how alot of my personal journal entries start as well; kind of like trying to remind myself that I do in fact exist and I am at an age where I could easily be painting the fence as my wife and kids play on the Fisher-Price swingset on the background. —- Okay this is getting ridiculous, you’re reading this because A.) You are bored or B.) You feel an obligation to humor me and tell me that you read my blog post. Not because C.) You’re not sure what you’re doing in life either but you’re doing it and you don’t need to hear some peer bitch and moan about the same feelings you are familiar with. YOU ARE HERE FOR THE STORIES ABOUT POOPING IN THE OCEAN AND COUGHING UP NASTY CRAP. Well friend, you are at the right place.

THURSDAY

I basically packed for two weeks. I used this trip as a chance to rid my life of tons and tons of shit that I would never normally throw away. I’ve been living in the confines of my parents rat cellar that stays nicely dank and cold with the occurrence of either a random cockroach or large ball-bodied cricket with huge back legs; both of which I’ve annihilated on a weekly basis. It was a total chick magnet. Really though, I figured there was a reason that all my roommate options had fell thru after leaving Kingsbury Manor and that helped point me towards CO in the end.

With the jetta packed to the gills, I peaced out to my mother and father and gave some hugs to last minute meetups with some friends. It was a totally shitty night to drive but I made it safe and sound to the Homewood Suites on the Kansas side of Kansas City.  My Uncle Bob just happened to be there for the night and let me sleep on the pullout couch. After some Family Guy, popcorn and cookies, I headed to bed to try and rest for the next day. I think I slept like 4 hours.

FRIDAY

Uncle Bobbers and I shared a huge breakfast of waffles, cereal, fruit, coffee and some square pizza. I ate like a holocaust survivor and stuffed some fruit into my pockets for the trip. I walked outside with my backpack hoping that my car hadn’t been broken in to and realized that it was still dark. It’s been awhile since I’ve been up that early. After replenishing my gas tanks, I headed out into the most beautiful place in the world – Kansas. Doesn’t ‘Kansas’ even sound nasty? It’s like melding two nasty words (Cancer & Ass) into one nastier word and using it to name an extremely flat and bleak looking place where people are supposed to live. No one I met in Kansas seemed very happy. I think this is because they subconsciously realize that their state sounds like ‘CancerAss’.

Speaking of life and living – you really start to think about life and death and happiness while driving across extremely flat expanses of land. Maybe that’s the benefit of Kansas; it’s devoid of anything too interesting so you can start thinking about your life without any beautiful landscapes to distract. While the blood in my body slowly started to pool in my butt I delved into fairly deep thoughts about what I am doing with my life, my current situation, wtf am I doing driving to Colorado, people that I care about, people that I don’t care about, girls, boys, friends, family, legacy, honor and everything in between. I can’t really say that I came to any earth-shattering conclusions but just a better understanding of what/who Kevin Kelly really is.

Finally, I crossed into Colorado. I decided to stop at the visitors center because it looked nice and welcoming and I had to urinate intensely. Inside I met the kindest old couple who offered me coffee and conversation. I don’t remember their names but the man told me that he had worked as a volunteer there for 20 years and had been a farmer before that. He married his wife 60 years earlier. He had lived 8 minutes away his entire life and seemed fairly happy (I wasn’t in Kansas anymore). He exclaimed to me that I need to find a woman while I’m here.

A few more hours and I finally arrived at the Boulder Rock Club and promptly fell asleep on the bench outside waiting for my friends. Boulder had suprisingly warm weather that quickly dissipated after the sun went down. Luckily, Patrick (Friend I am living with here) showed up with his girlfriend Katie and college friend Becca ready to get our climb on. For $20 bucks, we were able to climb and compete and enter a gear raffle party complete with pizza and beer. I was completely out of it but managed to climb okay and meet some more Estes Parkians who had traveled down the mountain to compete. The kids that were competing were amazing. One kid had an indians had cocked to the side and scrambled effortlessly up this route that I tried twice (on top rope!) and failed at. He was like a little hairless monkey.

After the comp, we headed up for some pizza and bitter IPA that made my lips purse. Patrick won a hat, Katie won a hat, Becca and Kevin won zilch. Wearily, I plopped into the passenger seat of my own car as Patrick drove us up the mountain to another new experience in Estes Park, Colorado.

Now there she goes again, the dopest ethiopian.

Oh’ great state of Ethiopia, what wonders would you unfold for my eyes to see….

Our main area of focus while we were in Ethiopia was to cover the lives of reformed prostitutes living in healthy environments contrasted against active prostitutes in the red light district of Addis Ababa. It’s right here where I would put some interesting facts about the sex trade in Ethiopia but I just realized I’m writing a story of travels for friends and family, not the scrutinizing subscribers of national geographic.

After a massive breakfast, which is in every hotel in the third world, we headed out to one  of the reformed hooker- homes. Before this trip, I entertained thoughts of driving around in huge, nasty Land Rovers completely caked with mud and surrounded by pitch black africans that had the bodies of olympians but wore aviators and chomped on cigars and betel nut while cradling AR-15’s. I couldn’t of been more wrong. Outside of the grandpa’s basement hotel lobby we were picked up by the most spotless little kia’s you have never been in. The insides looked like they had just arrived from the factory floor and I literally felt bad for putting my well-worn and dusty Merrell’s on the rug. The drivers wore suits and were fairly light skinned (for africa) and all of them were pretty skinny so I couldn’t really tell who the security was from the non-security. We quietly shuttled to the first home, deep in what you would call the projects of Addis Ababa.

Another fun part of these trips is what I call “Stepping Out”. This is when you pull up to some random ass area in a foreign country in these relatively ‘amazing’ cars that are not normally seen in poorer areas. You already get a bunch of rubber neckers driving in a car that was built before the 90’s and clean; especially with a bunch of white faces peering out the windows. Eventually you pull up to a place where children run shoeless and the smells that permeate the air are all at once intriguing, ethnic, disgusting, and gagging yet savory (It’s really indescribable unless you are there for yourself). I, myself, tend to be on what you would call the tall side of things and 6’3″ sticks out in ethiopia like a giant talking q-tip. This trip I learned a trick though, I brought along a bag of dum-dum’s (a lá Jennifer Garner in The Kingdom) to pass out to the kiddies. It totally worked. So instead of seeing a humongous scarecrow stepping out of a nice car that had 15-grand worth of camera gear around his spindly neck (that could be easily beaten down and robbed) i represented a fountain of sucrose-spouting goodness that had a strange yet friendly smile.

Another goal of mine on this trip was to fire a gun from one of the security personnel. The problem was that instead of the colorful guards I had envisioned, we had somewhat quiet government bodyguards with us that would be the equivalent of a state trooper mixed with the secret service. But wouldn’t you know it… the dum-dums worked with them as well and within in seconds i was chatting in broken english with a security guard about what kind of gun he had. The only problem with this was that he wanted my knife in exchange for firing a gun, which was definitely not a rational solution. He envied my knife like it had come from the right hand of God himself so I decided to go back to work, photographing every interviewee and the home they lived in.

Addis, for the fear of sounding like a douche “I’ve been everywhere”  traveler, quickly started to get boring. There wasn’t that much going on and the b-team that I was on was definitely set up for a more chilled schedule…

The Red Light District

(This is as far as I ever blogged about Africa. It has now been a year since and while I can still recall some amazing and beautiful things, I am on another adventure and will have to finish my thoughts on this trip later… hopefully.)