Wind Generators and General Windiness

My car's inseparable friend.

It has been quite some time since I wrote the previous post. No doubt some loyal readers were wondering such things as:

  • “Did Zach just stay in Utah forever?”
  • “Did Zach ever install his carputer or did he only assemble it?”
  • “Did Zach actually, in fact, die?”
  • “If I had a nickel for every blog post apologizing for not updating frequently enough, how much money would I have?”
  • “Is this project ever going to be finished?”
  • “What’s for lunch?”

I apologize first for making you ask those questions, second for waiting so long to answer them, and third for not giving you a single nickel for this very apology. Because these questions do have answers. Answers such as ‘no’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘more than enough to pay for the rest of my gas’, ‘definitely’, and ‘delicious sushi with a glass of Oolong tea!’

U is for Utah!

Which ties in nicely to what I was wondering about as I drove out of Utah, very alive and full from a delicious lunch, to continue my amazing project: wind generators. It so happens that I ran across a couple of them on my way.

And behold, the wind generators were spread out before me, as ripe fruit to the harvest.

Okay, it so happens that I ran across a friggin’ slew of them.

You may wonder, were they generating a headwind or a tailwind? When they are all turned up full, they can reputedly generate hurricane-velocity winds. WHOOOOOSH! Just think of how much change this wind farm causes! WHOOOSH! Tote that pail, generate that wind, pitch the council tent...

What was the world like before we had wind generators? What was the world’s weather like with so much less wind? Did we have clouds or only fog? Was the Midwest still windier than the rest of the US?

There they are standing in a row.

Most of the world’s wind generators are located on “wind farms,” huge wind-producing complexes of wind generators, which are also often located close to actual farms. The reason for this is that wind farms, with their ability to generate wind in just about any direction, can effectually control the weather – of course, their direct influence on the weather fades quickly with distance, but the effect is, of course, worldwide (a la butterfly effect). Amazing, what mankind has wrought.

Then I thought about Chicago, dubbed “The Windy City” long before the advent of these marvelous weather-influencing machines. That was a different type of wind, however.

And I felt inspired by both types of wind. Wind. Wind carries the seeds of life from one place to another. Wind makes waves, affecting even the underwater world it cannot directly touch. Wind pollinates plants, carries whispers, lifts the eagle high into the sky, fills a boat’s sails and gives it motion. Wind turns the weathervane of change, and blows the dust from the old and stagnant. The wind completely shapes the unplanted desert, and can wear down even rock with its persistence. Wind.

And wind generators, though manmade, are one source of this wind, this agent of life, transportation, and change. And I too can be a wind generator! I will blow my trump and sound my horn and smack my drum to the beat of a different drummer, drumming together with 100 different friends from different cities and cultures. I will carry the seeds of music to places they have never been carried. I will blow a wind that has never been blown. I will bring music around the world and bounce the music of one man off another’s until all the world has connected their ideas in one big celebratory web of human experience.

I believe strongly that music is a language common to all humanity (one of very few such languages), and is therefore something remarkable and unique. With my Recording Tour of Love, I want to promote inter-cultural dialog to an extent impossible using traditional languages. With the wind of this project, I will blow the world together in a collaborative effort heretofore unseen.

Things like this go through my head all the time, I just don’t often write about them because I’m too busy doing something about them.

“Um…”

What is it, Attractive Girl?

“You know that wind generators don’t actually generate wind, right?”

Yeah, so?

“Okay, just making sure.”

Wind Generators: Not Really Generators of Wind

Soon I was out of Utah and on my way to Fort Collins. I was happy to say that getting out of the cattle region of Montana/Utah/Idaho also put this behind me:

Grisly scene of carnage.

NEXT: Carputer… PART DEUX!

State of the Project: 12/23

It’s been over a month since my dad took this picture:

The triumphant return!  Only about 17 steps to go!

In fact, now it’s the day before Christmas Eve (a.k.a. Christmas Eve Eve) and here I am, writing about what I did back in the beginning of October. But there’s a method to my madness: if through some miracle I finished writing about the tour today, there would be months of nothing but “well, I’m still mixing…” posts. Not very exciting. Instead, I’m timing things so you get a slower but constant stream of actual, exciting project news.

“Bah!” grumbles Mr. Yerfulovit. “You’re just telling yourself that to make yourself feel better about not updating as often!”

Maybe partly true. And hey — welcome back Mr. Yerfulovit, we haven’t seen you around for a long while. Anyway, while slowly bringing the travel bloggings home, I will occasionally mix in current project news so you also know what’s going on now.

Current project status

Mainly, I’m waiting on my visa to go teach ESL in Korea again, and start climbing out of the debt this project has already put me in. The wait is far longer than expected, evidently due to lots of changes to the visa process in Korea. Because I needed a week or two where I wasn’t thinking about the project and 10,000 related details every day, I had been planning on waiting until I was in Korea to really buckle down and get things edited, mixed and recorded, but as the wait drags on I’ve had to reassess that plan. So, I have been working on making sure I have everything recorded in the States that I need. I’ve been doing a good bit of mixing, and recording a handful of people in Omaha.

But to be honest, I’m experiencing a bit of a “down” after the constant hustle and bustle of traveling and recording. Certainly I needed to crash a bit, just to recover from the exhausting tour. But I still don’t feel like doing anything, and it’s been about a month since I got back to HQ. This constant waiting for the visa and not knowing when I’m leaving yet has also got me a bit frayed. But it’s been more than long enough and I need to get back on my feet.

I’ll be taking a very stripped-down version of my studio with me to Korea, so I’ll be able to finish up the project over there. But I won’t be recording anyone (besides myself) in Korea. It’s a kind of project rule: only US Americans on the project. I know some great Korean musicians, but I’m saving them for later. This particular project is about Americans from all over playing American music from all over. As it turns out, even limiting it to the USA is diverse enough for at least three albums (Amazing!). I’m not generally very nationalistic — I don’t see why any country is necessarily better than another, when every person on Earth is equally valuable — but America is my home and the source of a lot of my musical upbringing, and the best context for my first album. A kind of foundation, from which I can depart but never permanently (I’m applying that to both my geography as well as my music).

In exciting future news, I have both a really great painter and a really great graphic designer both on board to help out with album artwork and jacket design (!!!!1!!11!!), and a handful of musicians ready to collaborate with recording online should I discover a hole I’m not able to fill myself in Korea.

There’s a new version of Sonar out. It looks shnazzy.

And now for our regularly-scheduled travel blog.

South Dakota, Part 1

Due to the aforementioned delays, I was behind schedule for Leaf 3 and I had to compensate by booking it out west at an uncomfortable clip. I did about 8-10 hours of driving per day, and sadly I had to skip North Dakota. Sorry North Dakota! Nothing personal — just maybe try and get a few more residents, OK?

The first day, a remarkably friendly Couchsurfer by the name of Teresa Dzieglewicz gave me a call while I was driving aimlessly through South Dakota, and offered me a couch. She was in Mission, SD.

“Where the heck is Mission, SD?” asks everyone. Answer: here.

You might also notice that it is smack dab in an Indian reservation. What you may not notice from the map, however, is that Teresa and her roomies are all teachers with Teach for America, which places teachers in under-resourced areas to make the world better.

“How could we have noticed that from the map?” asks Attractive Girl.

Well, you couldn’t have, of course.

“So why… you know what? Never mind.”

Whatever. On the way there I saw tons of signs for South Dakota’s famed Corn Palace! There were tons of signs, saying such things as:

ONLY 15 MILES TO GO! CORN PALACE

and

SEE THE CORN PALACE! MITCHELL EXIT 332

and even

WE’RE ALL EARS! MITCHELL CORN PALACE

so I thought I may as well. It turns out those signs were a tad misleading.

The Corn Palace is only partially either corn or palace.

See? It’s just a regular building, covered in corn. I was expecting a building actually made of corn. They totally should not have hyped it so much.

This is pretty neat though.  It's corn.

“Ooh a fresco!” says the unattractive passerby.

“No, its a bas-relief!” argue several of the teenagers. “Frescoes are done in paint!”

Wow, how did you-

“Actually,” points out one of the nerdier teenagers, “since the entire ears of corn are protruding it would be more of an alto rilievo.”

Um, guys. It’s Mount Rushmore, depicted on a wall using ears of corn.

In Mitchell, George Washington is all ears.

I arrived late and Teresa and her roomie Sara Kock were busy preparing their lessons and such for the next day, along with another teacher friend who had an awesome name.

“Was his name Attractive Guy?” asks Attractive Girl hopefully.

No, those sorts of names only exist in the bizarre narrative-devices-with-personalities-infested world of this blog. His name was Zach.

“That is a pretty awesome name,” you agree insightfully.

We spent a pleasant evening hanging out with our laptops, arguing about interesting topics, reading about life-changing inventions, and suddenly

MPM: BUT ALL THAT WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE…

Wow. He totally interrupted me. Anyway, suddenly, it came up in conversation that tomorrow would be the day when all the kids sang the Flag Song around the flagpole after school!

I was highly interested, and upon inquiry they informed me that the Flag Song is roughly the Indian equivalent of the National Anthem. They sing it in Lakota, the primary language of the Sioux being spoken today. It is a song of national pride and identity. I ask you, is there anything that could fit better into a nationwide recording of all of America’s many peoples?

“Pretty much nope,” says one of the teenagers.

Um… you weren’t supposed to answer. That question was supposed to be rhetorical — it’s an obvious no.

“Whatever, dude.”

I mean, seriously. That answer was so inappropriate.

(Here is where I go get a drink.)

So I figured an hour early would be plenty of time to introduce myself to the powers that be and clear it with them, set up my equipment, and give it a go. Nothing formal, you know, just some dude recording an off-the-cuff song sung by students after school. So, one hour before sing time, I headed over to South Elementary, where Sara taught.

Attention lawyers!  No students are recognizable in this photo!

This is where America, land of liberty, made me sad, as I was unable to record these children’s singing as part of my project.

The school leaders did not object. They thought the project was a great idea and were very helpful as I tried to get it to work. In particular, one of the staff named Carmen Eagle Pipe went around with me introducing me to people and trying to help me make it happen.

The song was public domain, available for recording without permission. Carmen called somebody in the know, and was told that the Flag Song has been recorded both informally and formally many times. People at their powwows over in Sioux Falls were always recording that song.

The parents and students didn’t object.

But. But. One of them might. One of them might object strongly and bring legal action against the school. And one hour was not enough time to ask all the parents. Had I shown up a week ahead of time, the school could have sent home permission slips with the students, and those students with signed permission slips could have participated in the recording (which was audio only, by the way, no video).

So the problem was lawsuits and fear of same (I actually heard the phrase “lawyers breathing down my neck”). The problem was parents solving educational dissatisfactions with litigation rather than discussion. Ensuring their child’s safety with threats rather than trust. Taking from the educational system rather than contributing.

I am not talking specifically about the parents of the children at this school. Nor am I even talking about most parents. I am talking about that vocal minority of parents and organizations who sue schools over ridiculous issues and cultivate an attitude of fear among educators.

What happened at South Elementary is a very small, rather insignificant example of a large problem. I’m not sure if there is a good way to remedy a situation that has been reinforced by judicial precedent. But I do know that something is wrong when American teachers cannot even give their students side-arm hugs.

Note to American parents and “concerned” organizations: suing a school is a socially irresponsible act. If a school does not deliver the education you want, I assure you that taking that school to court will not help it improve. How can teachers share knowledge confidently when there are thousands of things that could make them lose their jobs? How can students learn in an atmosphere of fun when teachers teach in an atmosphere of fear? In this particular case, students lost an opportunity to know that the larger world values them and their culture because of that fear.

My teaching experience in Korea was highly gratifying. I helped students learn skills that would be valuable to them in the future. My greatest triumphs were those students in whom I helped instill or reinforce a love of learning itself, an engagement with life, a joy in discovery. But the atmosphere there was one of pressure, not one of fear. I felt like I had to take many steps where a normal mortal would take one, but I never felt like any step might be my last. Rather than walking on eggshells, I was trying to leap buildings which were a little too tall. Neither is the best environment for a teacher, but I know for a fact which one gets more done. When I asked Korean teachers about discipline issues, hitting the students was the most recommended solution. But, they explained, that is what the students understand and expect. I even asked the students and they told me I would have better results with them if I hit them when they misbehaved! (I never could quite bring myself to do it though.) When teachers and students had difficulties, the parents would thank the teacher for their patience in dealing with the child. Students and teachers would freely exchange hugs. Students would come climb on my lap while I was preparing lessons. In fact, students would occasionally mug me. I could talk with students about my religious beliefs. I could post pictures of my students on the internet. I could have email and phone/text conversations with my students without fear of it being monitored.

Not so America. American schools as dictated by watchdog organizations attempt to keep the educational environment unnaturally sterile, which in the end leads to greater vulnerability to the world’s social ills.

This particular situation absolutely did not warrant my lengthy reponse. If I were responding just to my inability to record kids singing without permission slips, I would be completely overreacting. Permission slips are not that big a deal, and help make sure everyone is OK. I understand why I couldn’t record them and I’m OK with it. But I don’t think I am overreacting to the fearful attitude I felt there and elsewhere from other friends who are teachers in the US.

As an excercise, let’s imagine a school made parents sign this release form before enrolling their child:

In signing this form, you agree to the following treatment of your child. We will discipline your students as they require, including the possibility of corporal punishment and/or public humiliation. We may publish images of your child in news, personal, and nonprofit publications. We may take your child on educational day trips which will be listed on the school calendar. We will allow frank discussion of issues about which people have varying beliefs, such as intelligent design and evolution, racial backgrounds and different cultures, the history of western civilization from various vantage points, and religious beliefs, so long as one view is not taught to the exclusion of others. If you or your child are offended by the existence or presentation of any of these views you may voice your disagreement but not take any further action against the school unless the view is itself represented inaccurately. We will not treat your child as special — all children will be encouraged and disciplined following the same guidelines. Teachers may use their judgment to resolve teacher-student issues. Teachers may hug and otherwise show normal adult-child physical affection to your child. Teachers and students alike are responsible for their actions. We reserve the right to fire teachers who violate laws rather than be legally liable for them. We reserve the right to expel students who continually refuse to adhere to the school’s policies.

I wonder how many parents would put their children in such a school. One permission slip at the beginning, minimal lawsuits. Would you? Why or why not? If you’re agreeing in principle but not in method, which sentence(s) would you change? Discuss.

But I digress. I digress hardcore. Sorry about that.

I would like to thank the staff of South Elementary in Mission, SD for their willingness to help out and their friendliness in trying to work out a solution for me. They are making a positive difference in the lives of students despite the world’s system not working for their benefit. I would like to extend grateful thanks to Teresa and Sara for their incredibly positive and hopeful outlook and their genuine caring for their students — and by extension, all the teachers of Teach for America that share those qualities, which I feel most must.

I’ll leave you with a shot of the flagpole around which I almost recorded lots of students singing a song in a very old Amerindian language. The person has been blurred out because even though he looked older he may be a student and he did not sign a permission slip and the staff asked me not to publish any pictures that included students.

The flagpole around which many awesome unpictured children sang an awesome unrecorded song.

Frustrations in Omaha

After two very long months on the road traveling and recording and scheduling and etc. every day, I was more than ready to take a break. I looked forward to my week in Omaha between Serbian gigs with eager expectation.

Not that I could afford to only rest. I had the next Leaf to plan, some car maintenance to take care of, songs to mix down, other songs to scratch out, etc. ad nauseum. But I wouldn’t have to worry about where I would sleep that night and I could unwind a bit without the pressure of daily travels.

Unfortunately, I could neither rest nor take care of business.

“Oh no!” interrupts Attractive Girl sympathetically. “Whyever not?”

My computer had been acting up more and more since installing Service Pack 3 somewhere around Georgia. It is a very nice HP laptop which I got in Korea. It originally came with Vista but I wouldn’t go near Vista with a ten-foot pole if it were the last OS on earth, among other idioms. So I asked the shop if I could get it downgraded to XP, which they were magically able to do. I say magically, because as you will see I was not able to do the very same thing.

By the time I was in Memphis, it was so bad that it was interfering with recording. Constant BSOD’s are annoying when you are trying to record musicians in a limited time frame. This problem needed to be fixed, ASAP, or the Tour would be cancelled.

So I spent my entire week in Omaha trying to get my dang laptop working again. After hours and hours on the phone with HP support, it became apparent that I could get no help from them unless I installed the original OS, the name of which I have used too many times already in one day so let’s just say it loosely rhymes with Batista, and seems to have similar dictatorial habits.

“Are you talking about Vista?” asks the unnamed, unattractive passerby.

DON’T SAY IT!! Saying it gives them more power. It is the OS Which Must Not Be Named.

“Oh OK. I’ll call it You-Know-What then.”

Fine. So after getting little help from HP’s friendly tech support staff in India, I was on my own. I have had some luck previously doing a repair install of XP. But when I popped in my XP CD, I discovered that it couldn’t even recognize the hard drives; in order to see them I would have to a) buy a USB floppy drive in order to provide SATA drivers during the install process, or 2) burn my own XP install disc which included the drivers. Option 2 was free, so after downloading nLite and SP2 (didn’t want to risk SP3 again just in case), I made my own XP SP2 disc with SATA drivers using my existing XP disc and nLite, which is by the way a marvelous tool for XP users when they face the (inevitable?) reinstall.

This process (phone calls, research, burning) took six days (and six nights). The burner in my second computer crapped out along the way so I had to get creative with a live Linux CD (yay Knoppix) to be able to burn CDs from a nonworking computer. The planned departure date for Leaf 3 came and went.

Two days and three installs of XP later, I had a semi-stable XP SP2 up and running. I had tracked down various drivers from Intel, HP, an online guide, and even a Korean online guide.

Maybe I didn’t get the right combination of drivers, however, because I’m still getting random blue screens, even with non-crucial devices disabled. Java in particular seems to provoke a crash of either the program (Opera is guaranteed to crash on the new Facebook, and another Java tool I use will occasionally disappear mid-use) or the entire OS. Anytime I do anything disk-writing intensive, I’m guaranteed a crash, which is great fun when I get a BSOD while an install program is in the middle of writing to the registry. Downloaded files are sometimes corrupt and I have to re-download them. Other times it crashes seemingly randomly. The event log provides no clues.

ARGH. If only there were an alternative to Windows-only Sonar that I could seamlessly transition to. But I love my Sonar — it’s the best “total package” audio production tool I’ve used, particularly from the usability standpoint. You don’t need to read a manual just to get simple things done, because it’s so intuitive (yes, I’m talking to you, Pro Tools). The development team responds to the needs and requests of its userbase, and it fully supports both DX and VST plugins. I only wish they made a version that ran on a different OS.

Since it was stable enough to record and I had been delayed almost too late to even do Leaf 3, I hit the road anyway, despite the instability. But I have another break in mid-October, where perhaps I’ll try different drivers, perhaps even the XP BlackEdition that these Korean sites are recommending. I’m wondering how the shop did it, since I have tried a number of combinations of drivers with no success.

Thankfully, my stay in Omaha wasn’t all frustrations. I enjoyed regularly sleeping in a bed. I beat all my friends at ping-pong.

The Omaha Asian Ping Pong Championship underway.

I made and ate some soft, chewy cookies. I watched as my friends worshipped Rumiko.

Oh great Rumiko, we are not worthy...

I played a couple games of Age of Mythology. (I hadn’t played computer games in like half a year!) I enjoyed some fine Fitz’s root beer and cream soda that I had brought with me from St. Louis.

The Verdict
I’m on the road again. My computer is not on the fritz, but it’s certainly not on the level either. HP and Microsoft should hire local support help. The WINE people should get Sonar running stably in WINE. Everyone should be on my album. My friends should all spend a year teaching in Korea with me. Soft, chewy cookies should be available worldwide. The US Presidential elections should start over from scratch — we still have time! People should only pay for outgoing calls. Bars should throw out that awful “Mojito mix” and buy some real limes and fresh mint. People should stop suing people over ridiculous things. Children should spend some time playing outside. A Taco Bell should open in Seoul. A Dr. Fish should open in Omaha. Everyone should recycle and live greener. People should stop putting strawberries in rhubarb pies. In a nutshell, the world should be as I want it.

But it’s not. So why not make some great music?

Nashville, TN

Nashville! One of the three biggest music cities in the US, Nashville is positively brimming with musicians. I expected a great response from the playaz here.

But life is full of surprises. I only got three people interested in the project, and one of them decided he wasn’t interested when I couldn’t pay his full fee. Another one didn’t work out schedule-wise, so I was down to one person. That person was Don ‘DC’ Chamberlin, bassist.

DC, bassist.

I spent a pleasant morning/afternoon with Don laying down bass parts for several tunes. Don in particular was all over one of my older jazz/blues tunes, playing a part far better than the part I’d imagined. He also gave me a banana for breakfast. Thanks Don!

And that was that. Nashville.

“Why do you think the big cities seem to give you the littlest response, Zach?” asks Attractive Girl inquisitively.

My theory is that in the big music cities, most of the players are busy working, so they’re not out hunting for more work. Thus, they miss my ads and never even know I was there. I have no proof of that, but it seems to make sense in my head.

“Do you have any other interesting observations about Nashville?” she continues inquiring.

Why, yes. One other thing. Everywhere I’ve gone, the response from musicians has been one of excitement, mixed with a little bit of awe. They think the project is unusual and awesome and they are usually happy to be a part of it. Some pro players who usually play for money even donate their time. Nashville players, on the other hand, responded differently.

“How much does this gig pay?” asked one of them.

“Does this thing pay?” asked another. In fact, that was the entire text message. No introduction, just that.

This is not a judgement — I don’t think ill of musicians trying to make a living, in fact I rather think ill of people abusing musicians by asking them to pay for free since it’s just “having fun.” If I had backing for this project I would pay all the players. But since I’m paying for this project myself and I’m already going broke buying gas, I have to rely on the awesomeness of the project, involvement with lots of other great musicians nationwide, convenience of participation, and the publicity the project will generate to draw in the musicians. And that was not enough for some of the Nashville peeps.

“Hmmm, interesting,” muses Attractive Girl. “Will you pay me for being Attractive?”

NEXT: The ham is birming!

“Hey, you didn’t answer me.”

New York, NY

Spread the news — these vagabond shoes went to New York City! Rather than foolishly driving my car into the city and trying to find parking, I intelligently parked my car a good distance away and took the train in to the city. As it turns out, I could have still found parking a lot closer, but that’s as good as it got for my unresearched trip.

I had originally planned on three days in the city. But we couldn’t line up a host (for some reason my friends in NYC were all not checking their facebooks, and NYC Couchsurfers are booked year-round if they want to be), all the hostels were booked, and without a car as an emergency backup bed, I wasn’t going to venture into the city. I’m risky, but not hobo risky. (T-shirt idea. FRONT: I’m Not Risky; BACK: I’m Hobo Risky)

So the modified plan was just to take a train into the city, stay late seeing all the sights, then head back and sleep in the car. I was not happy with New York. It was not playing nice like all the other towns. It was separating me from my car and equipment. It is known for people being hasty and brusque. What’s to like?

So I arrived, bitterly, at the WTC.

Former site of the twin towers of the WTC, known in newscasting circles (and therefore everywhere) as as Ground Zero.

Well, so much for a pick-me-up once I’m in the city. In our efforts to get downtown, we inadvertently arrived the site of a great tragedy.

But I was determined to make the best of it. No host? No problem! Friends not reading their facebooks? No problem! Witnessing the site of a tragedy? No problem! Bitter? No problem! (If you don’t already know, ask me sometime about a superhero I invented — “No Problem Guy.”) So we set out to see some great NYC landmarks. First, the Statue of Liberty.

It's not 24 hours?  But this is New York!!

Yep, that picture is as close as we got. So much for that. With unsinkable optimism, I decided to give the Empire State building a shot. We set out from Battery Park on foot for a while and saw some fun sights.

NYC doesn't take bull from anyone -- they already have one. Mankind really got to work in this place.  Like little ants, or beavers. These buildings were so cool.  Also, so much bigger than this lens. Now I know how Gimli feels.

Things were starting to look up. Especially me, apparantly. (WARNING: I intend to use that bad pun repeatedly in this post.)

Finally we found a map and realized we would be walking a long time if we intended to walk to the ESB. So we hopped on the subway (that’s how you get on and off, by hopping) and made a shorter trip of it.

There it is in all its splendour.

I had been informed by the interweb that we should wait until late to go in the tower, since the lines would be much shorter and the view by night was just as good as the view by day. So we got some pizza.

Movie Preview Man: THE DAY WAS PERFECTLY ORDINARY…
JH: Good pizza.
Me: Yes.
MPM: BUT ALL THAT WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE…
Phone: buzz. buzz. Bleedeep!

Suddenly I got a text message from a Couchsurfer who figured there was no way we would still need a host, but was offering just in case. Elated, I promptly called her to confirm. We were finishing up —

Me: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much.
Angie: Of course, I’m awesome so it’s only natural that I do awesome things.
Me: Cool. Bye.

— when suddenly —

Phone: buzz. buzz. buzz. Da da da dumm dummm da da du–
Me: Hello?
Dude on the phone: Hi, this is Josh Homer.

Josh Homer! One of my non-facebook-checking friends finally checked his facebook. So now I had a place to stay and an old friend to meet. Yes, things were definitely looking up.

And heading up. While Josh was en route to rendezvous avec us, we thought we’d better quick hop up to the Empire State Building before he arrove. Unfortunately,

If this is a short line, I don't want to see the long one.

.
That’s right, I used a picture in a sentence. But I didn’t forget the period.

The line was about like this, except in four separate places. Buying tickets, taking souvenir photos, waiting for the elevator, and waiting for the second elevator. We kept thinking we were free, only to discover another line. But we had fun on the way.

TRUE FACT: The line was so crammed that I went through a turnstile with another person! I started walking through and there was some unusual resistance from the turnstile. I discovered that the cute Latina girl behind me was so close on my heels she got gathered in by the rotating arm of the turnstile. It was the perfect premise for a romantic drama — awkward situational closeness. Until her boyfriend walked up to her and put his arm around her. Make it a romantic comedy.

Peace amid exciting changes!

When we finally got to the top, it was one of those rare moments when everything was looking down and things were still looking up. (Note: for those of you who think I am overusing this pun, I will use it at least one more time in this post.)

No lightning in this one.  It was a beautiful night. The lights, the lights! Back to looking up for a bit. Sweet.

And my personal favorite:

When the moon hits New York, like a big piece of pork, that's... terrible.

Here are some pictures of us so you know we were actually there.

Jong Hun: really there. Me: really there too.

Besides us, there were also other people up there.

A view of people viewing a view.  Ooh, meta!

We were quick up there because Josh was waiting to hang out with us. I hadn’t expected four long lines to wait through. But I did see this on the way out:

It's made from LEGOS!

Then we met up with Josh. He was a bandmate and fellow architecture major when I was back at Wash U. He is now doing architect stuff in NYC. It was great catching up with him. He gave me a mini-tour of the immediate area, including some interesting architectural background of several of the recent and not-so-recent buildings.

Tourist zappers. These are a bunch of giant LCD screens that light up the whole block! I caught it right when the world was scrolling past. Like one of those cell phone advertisements. Fiber optic cables!  Just kidding, actually water.

And now some important “I was in New York with Josh Homer” pictures.

Josh Homer in Times Square! Me in Times Square!

If I may be serious for a second. Seeing sights is great, and I have enjoyed that tremendously on this trip. But as a friend of mine once said, in her second language, “It doesn’t matter where I’m, what I’m doing. The matter is people whom I’m with.” True that. And that’s what I have loved the most about this project. Through Couchsurfing I have met some of the world’s best people, I have been shown the little treasures of the places I visit, not just the grand touristy sites. The major tourist attractions do have some appeal (and obviously, some intrinsic merit), but I feel like tourism is more about self-gratification than self-enrichment. It’s a difference of focus, but a significant one. By staying with locals and asking them about what they like to do and the places they like to go I experience a place on a personal level, through the eyes of another person, and I am the better for it.

For example, we spent a good bit of time chatting with our awesome host Angie Han and some of her fellow CS friends. I got an inside perspective on some of the NYC goings-on that I could never have gotten from a map or a tour guide. They recommended (and took us to) some great local restaurants. When talking with Josh I got the inside scoop on the construction of a lot of buildings (which I still find highly interesting), as well as a lot of information on his church (Times Square Church — over 100 different nationalities represented in their congregation — an amazing, unusual, and commendable achievement for a church). This, my friends, is the way to travel.

Here is a great picture of our host warily eyeing a hamburger about the same size as her head.

Looks like Angie is experiencing genetic vs. societal tension.

INTERESTING TIDBIT: Angie’s Korean name is one vowel away from JH’s name! Compare:
JH: 종훈
Angie: 정훈

Next, morning, we hopped on the train, then hopped over to our car, hopped in, and then the car itself hopped down to New Jersey.

NEXT: I look up and hop to it!