Posts Tagged ‘Great American Road Trip’

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

Leaving the rez again, I went back to Sioux Falls to re-visit my friend and Native American Rap artist Gabriel Night Shield. We went out for pizza and talked about my visit to the Rosebud Reservation, where I used to work years ago. I mentioned how the reservation, or rez as they say, looked a little better these days.

Then we reminisced about the time someone made a whole website dedicated to hating on Gabe. Night Shield, as I said, is his last name. One day, years ago when I lived on the rez, Gabe was surfing the web and found someone made a website called Bight Shield. At the time we both thought it was hilarious. Whoever made this basically copied the website Gabe made on Angelfire and wrote a bunch of stuff on it to mock him. There were pictures of Gabe with dicks drawn around him and fake interviews where he talked about how much he sucks. Gabe must have been doing something right for someone to go this far out of their way to make fun of him, and this was before he even released any albums; before he even did anything. Over pizza I asked if he ever discovered the identity of the mysterious Bight Shield. 

“Yeah, I did his girl!” We both cracked up and high fived each other as he told me how one time he nailed some random chic, and afterwards she revealed that her ex-man was this Bight Shield clown. Revenge fucking at its finest.

That evening Gabe had a get together with some people he worked with. There I met John, a fellow comic book fan and YouTuber via his show called A Comic Book Look. Naturally we hit it off, and months later he interviewed me on his show about my books. 

On my last night in Sioux Falls, Gabe opened for Cappadonna of the Wu Tang Clan. It was awesome for him to meet and perform in the same show as someone he looked up to as a kid, before he even thought about being a rapper. That was a good time and a nice last night in Sioux Falls.

From there I headed back to my home state of Pennsylvania. Before going home, I stopped to see friends in Penn State, Bloomsburg, and the Lehigh Valley where I briefly lived after teaching on the rez. Before actually heading home I wanted to go to the New Jersey beach. On this trip I had seen the Pacific Ocean in California and wanted to see the Pacific and Atlantic in the same trip. I decided to go to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the first place I ever saw the ocean. Once I got there, I was thinking about all the places I’d been since that first summer I walked those sands as a teenager. I thought about how I went to college and made lots of friends and had a nice girlfriend, and how I went to teach in South Dakota and then lived in Bethlehem. Then I remembered going to Korea, Japan, Australia, India, China, and all these other places, and how I’d finally done this road trip that I wanted to do years ago. I recalled that day in Venice when I looked out over the Pacific, on the other side of Korea, and now I was looking at the Atlantic. I finally got back to South Dakota, partied with Gabe, read poems in Rapid City and finally saw the West Coast.

The Atlantic Ocean,
so I saw both oceans
on my trip.

It’s interesting how in the midst of accomplishing your goals you can still be afraid. When starting this trip, I almost didn’t go all the way across the country. There’s always that fear in the back of our minds that tries to stop us from doing stuff. Sometimes the things we are afraid of are the things we must do.

In conclusion, the road trip was a success, and was one of the best things I ever did in my life. While most of it was fun, being around South Dakota was a lot for me to take in. In a way I was seeking some kind of forgiveness and redemption, and really didn’t find it at all. Months later, I was in my bedroom looking through a bunch of old letters and pictures of old friends. It was then I realized that we must forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know. For what will we know tomorrow? If there’s any lesson to be taken from this trip, maybe that’s it.

Props to my car for making the whole trip.

To purchase my full account of this trip, click here.


Just over a year later, I did in fact go back to the rez. In the summer of 2013, I got my old job back at Saint Francis Indian School. Once I got back, I was like a machine, I completely threw myself into my job. I was on the path to redemption. To read this story, you’ll have to buy my book when it comes out haha. Peace out.

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). This specific piece is part two about aa cross country road trip I did in 2012. On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

After a few days I’d done everything I’d wanted to do in Rapid City, and was about to head back east. Mike and I had a mutual friend who moved to Billings Montana. She was pretty busy, having had a few kids since I’d seen her last, and wasn’t sure if she could have me for a visit or not. My last night in Rapid she got a hold of me and said come on out, so I headed west the next day. That was the furthest west I’d ever driven. I spent the next few days with my friend and her family, and once I was that far I thought I might as well go all the way to the west coast. My friend Alex, who I knew from Korea, lived in Long Beach California, and we arranged a visit.

After a few days in Montana, I made the long haul to Las Vegas, mostly because I’d never been. Vegas was actually kind of boring because I didn’t know anyone there. I did see a few shows, such as Absinthe, which they say, and I can believe, is the best show on the strip. I rode the roller coaster at the New York Casino, saw the Hoover Dam and the Atomic Bomb Museum. Still, I had more fun hanging out with friends I hadn’t seen in over ten years than I had most of the time in Vegas. 

Long Beach was fun. One day I made the short trip to Venice beach and saw the Pacific Ocean. Alex took me into Los Angeles where we saw the Sunset Strip, including the Rainbow Club where they filmed a few Guns N Roses videos. We also saw Mann’s Chinese Theater, and the Walk of Fame where I made a point to find the stars for Ozzy Osbourne and Sylvester Stallone. What was really surreal was driving through Korea town. We didn’t stop anywhere but just rode around. It’s this huge neighborhood with signs in Korean. They even had a CGV, which is a chain of Korean movie theaters. That was really trippy to me. I joked, what if I fell asleep in Alex’s car then woke up in Korea town and started freaking out, like we drove to Korea.

            One night we went to a place in Long Beach conveniently called Alex’s Bar, which occasionally appears on the HBO series True Blood. That night they had heavy metal karaoke, during which a live band plays on stage and anyone who signs up can belt out a metal song. It had been about a year since my friend Adam passed, and while watching the band play Metallica and AC/DC, I remembered all the shows he and I went to and knew he would have loved a place like this.

I decided to get up and do a song myself. While the band was tuning up, I talked to the crowd a bit and mentioned Adam, how he would have loved this place and that I wanted to do this song for him. While explaining this the crowd responded and cheered really loud. I really appreciated that, especially since they didn’t even know Adam and I was a stranger to them. Soon the bar rocked to Breaking the Law by Judas Priest, and I knew Adam would have approved.

Heavy Metal Karaoke Breaking the Law by Judas Priest at Alex’s Bar

Once I was done in Long Beach it was time to head back east. I was happy to leave California and its $4 gas. My next stop was the Grand Canyon. I made it to Grand Canyon Village in the early afternoon. I could have seen it from Vegas but it would have been a little more out of the way, and where I was at now apparently was the spot really worth seeing. I was at the south Rim of Arizona Highway 64. Right on the edge of the Grand Canyon Park was an area with hotels, restaurants and stores. I got a map at the information center and saw a busload of Koreans. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually see the canyon that day, but I had time and got a two day pass. 

Sometimes going to so many places can be jading, but the Grand Canyon is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. I remember parking my car and walking up to it for the first time. When your eyes first see it you’re instantly taken back by the enormity of the sight. Photographs can’t possibly do justice for how massive it is. I’d just missed a snowstorm the night before, and now the Canyon and its trees were blanketed in white snow, making a scene I’d never envisioned. I was oblivious to the cold biting at my hands and face because the sight before me was mesmerizing.

The next morning I walked around some more of the canyon, making small talk with Japanese and Korean tourists. After lunch I took 64 out of the park. The thing is once you leave the official park area there are still a few spots you can park and get a view of the canyon, so I ended up stopping a few more times to have another look. 

It hadn’t occurred to me to see the four corners spot, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico meet. I saw a sign for it and while stopping for gas I looked at my map and considered it. My plan was to take 64 to 160 to 191 North to Utah where I’d get on I-70 East.  However, 191 would take me right through the spot. I was still unsure, but one of the turns I had to make came up real quick and I missed it, and off to four points I was.

Or so I thought. I got to some little town then there was a turn to the left for four corners. Another left off the road was the spot, but the gate in front of it was shut. The four corners spot was closed. It was 5:15-5:20 when I got there, and they closed at 5. How does a spot close? 

Over the next few days I continued east and made my way back to Saint Francis South Dakota, where my teaching career began. I briefly stopped here on my way out west but didn’t get a chance to see my old school. This time I did. My old classroom was now an elementary room, as a whole new middle and high school had been built since I was away. In the new building the same secretary from when I worked here worked the front desk. When she looked at me she asked if I was from Office Products. I was confused until I realized she thought I was a delivery guy. We had a good laugh as she remembered who I was. Then I got to check out the new building, which was pretty nice.

A handful of teachers I’d worked with were still there. They were surprised but happy to see me, and we reminisced about the crazy old days. They told me things were a lot better than they used to be. I briefly saw a few students who seemed nice enough. While I deeply regretted leaving this school when I did, I wasn’t 100% sure about actually coming back. My former co-workers did mention what teachers they would need that next school year. Social studies was not one of them, which in my mind took that option off the table. 

That night I got a hotel and went down to the Derby bar in Valentine, Nebraska. By random chance my old coworker Nick sat next to me. Nick used to be a counselor at Saint Francis, and now works at Todd County. Once again, I had someone to catch up with about the old days and he asked me about living in Asia and such.

A few Natives also sat at the bar, one of whom told Nick he knew me. I felt bad because I didn’t remember him, but it was another one of my old students. As we had a beer together, he looked me right in the eye and said, “We told you not to leave and you fucking did anyway!” Oh man, I didn’t remember that at all. I asked if he said that to me himself, and he said “We all did!” 

There was a woman my old student was with; we didn’t know each other, but her brother had been a student of mine from my second year of teaching. I remembered that he really liked me and called me Mur-dog. On his first day in my class he said out loud in front of everyone that he heard good things about me. His sister told me he was in jail up by Rapid City, and I said to give him my best. Before leaving that night, I told my old student that I was sorry, and I told him that he was right, I should have stayed, and I paid a price for leaving. While Nick I had a good time that night, I also came face to face with what I did wrong.

To purchase my full account of this trip, click here.

Almost forgot to post this. Four years ago today I started the Great American Road Trip. With my now departed car (my Pontiac) I spent five weeks on the road traveling from Pennsylvania to California then to the Jersey shore then home. Saw both oceans on this trip. Some of it was a lot of fun, but some of it, specifically going back to South Dakota/the rez/Rapid City was real heavy for me. It was one of the best things I did in my life. My friend Tom encouraged me to write it out once I got home while I could still remember everything. So last year I self published this piece. I decided to do a 40% of sale for the 4th anniversary and in honor of my old car I just got rid off that made the whole trip.

You can buy the book here.