Friday, March 30, 2007

In Texas

even the coffees are HUGE!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


We stopped at the Prada store and the Hiway Café (closed) outside of Marfa. No really, there's a Prada store but the door doesn't open and you can't buy anything. From Marfa we took Pinto Canyon road to Chinati Hot Springs. It was an arduous drive on a rocky, unpaved road but we made it and the herd of Javelinas made it totally worth it. Not to mention the incredible feeling of sitting in a hot pool of water on the Mexico/Texas border listening to the wind in the in the canyon. There is real magic in those mountains and it will change you.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

El Paso

We pulled into El Paso right around 9 pm thinking that we would stay on the outskirts of town but changed our plan when we realized that the outskirts of town are the Mexican border. Not wanting to attract attention from the omnipresent border patrol or worse, the minutemen, (no telling WHAT they'd do with a couple of semi-legal Canadians like us!) we opted to find a place to park in town. I had a hankering for a cold beer and a game of pool so we headed to El Paso's surprisingly empty downtown. I figured that just east of the greyhound station we would be able to find a cheap and friendly Mexican bar and there we found The Tap. I really wish I remembered to take a picture of their sign so if anyone goes there, please take one for me.

We played a few games of pool (4-1 for me) and after our last one the waitress brought us two cans of Tecate complements of Luis, who was sitting at the bar and thought we were a couple of students. Luis and the bartender conferred when we asked if they could suggest a safe place to park. Luis suggested the parking lot of the Episcopal church. We looked for it but in the end we just parked on a random corner not far from the bar and had a peaceful night.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007


I picked up Brenndan at the airport at 8 pm and we had tacos and horchata at Pico de Gallo and went to look for a parking place. We stayed near 9th and 22nd and had a peaceful night.

The next day I had many errands to complete after spending 5 days on the Navajo Reservation. Not least of which was finding some grease. Brenndan and I took turns asking at different restaurants and got turned down by several. In the afternoon we went to Oro valley to use the public pool ($2 but the showers suck) and go for a walk in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Afterwards we drove towards Oracle and found a perfect parking place on state trust land. A dirt road, no one to bother us, listening to the coyotes whooping it up, then the growl of a nearby mountain lion and then silence. Spooky.

The next day we cruised the back alleys of a few restaurants and found one barrel of clean grease. The restaurant it belonged to wasn’t open but we took 20 gallons anyway, given that no one in this town seems to be recycling for fuel it didn’t seem like anyone would miss it.

There was a stop on the way out of town to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum and take some pics of the aircraft graveyard. Whoa. I never thought about it before, what do they DO with all those decommissioned aircraft?

That night we drove to Bisbee and found a spot out on High Lonesome road. The next day we had showers ($3 ea) at the Shady Dell and some breakfast at Dot's Diner. Charlie offered us his grease and said to come back and pick it up the next day. I love Dot's and the Bisbeeberry pie was DEEElicious!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007


I stopped in Globe to check out the thrift stores and it tuned out there was a classic car show going on. I talked to a few of the participants and they were really interested in the vegetable oil system and suggested I ask the event organizers for a parking place to do a demonstration. It was the perfect time to start filtering the grease I picked up in Window rock so I set up shop next to these guys. The kid with the hat built the lowrider bike with a hydraulic pump that makes it hop! Super cool!

A few people stopped by to check out the system, most who stopped seemed to have some previous awareness and interest in WVO. Some told me that they know people in warm parts of the state who are using SVO in their diesel tanks.

I had a great afternoon hanging out with the cowboys and talked to lots of people before hitting the road to Tucson. I met these folks on the road. This woman had a pistol strapped to her leg. I’m not even kidding.

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Friday, March 23, 2007


I am now truly blogging from the road. I pulled over in Snowflake, Arizona just after sunset this evening. I drove east and stopped at the first likely place I saw. Go down a dirt road and there’s a parking space next to a fence between two horse paddocks. The house looked welcoming so I rang the doorbell and asked permission to park overnight.

After I cleaned up and made some agedashi tofu (fried in nice, clean WVO courtesey of China West Buffet in Window Rock) with leftover steamed rice for dinner, I set to work editing some photos from Canyon de Chelly. Low and behold I was invited to join a wireless network. So here’s my first post from the van.

I made some tea and smoked a bit of the tobacco that I bought from Lawrence Namoki.

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I think it's funny

that a lot of the dogs on the Hopi Res look like Hopi clowns.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Navajo Nation, Arizona

I watched the sun come up this morning from the top of Second Mesa, Hopi Territory, which is located within the Navajo Nation in NE Arizona. I started out at 7 towards Window Rock, not knowing what to expect with the college in Tsaile where I was supposed to be teaching a self-publishing workshop and doing a demonstration of the vegetable oil system.

As I was driving across the reservation I noticed that unlike on highways in the rest of the country, almost every car here carries multiple passengers. I realized that I should have put up a notice at the grocery store last night to offer rides to Window Rock, which is 75 miles from Second Mesa. Just as I was thinking that I saw a family standing on the road, looking for a ride. I picked up Darren, and Teancujm who turned three on March fourth. I told them about the demonstrations and workshop and we talked a bit as I drove them 13 miles to Ganado so they could borrow Darren’s uncle’s truck to move their stuff out of their moldy apartment there and into Darren’s mom’s place.

Less than a mile later I picked up a man who told me that he used to herd sheep across the reservation as a 7 year old back in 1941. He said his Grandmother would follow him in the wagon. Back then the highest part of the country which is now covered with cedar and pine was all barren. The Cedar is more similar to the kind from the Middle east than the western red cedar I see at home. We talked a little bit and then he asked me what my nationality is I said “Canadian” and he raised his eyebrow a bit, then I told him that my mom is Cree and my dad was Irish. That seemed to make a bit more sense to him. He paused a moment and then said “I’m Navajo”. I laughed and said “Ya, I figured that.”

I would have love to have a voice recording of this man but even if he had given me permission and if I’d asked, he spoke so quietly that I wouldn’t have gotten much. He had a beautiful accent and white hair just down to his shoulders with a black “Native Pride” ball cap and a cast on his right leg from a recent operation. I dropped him at the Bank of America in Window Rock and then proceeded to the Navajo Nation Library.

Sitting in the lobby of the library this morning I met David Fanman who is a Cheyenne man married to a Navajo woman. We talked a while and he told me some things about Cheyenne history. His grandfather was Tall Bull, last of the Cheyenne dog soldiers. David teaches at risk teenagers and tutors them every day here at the Library.

I went to the local Chinese restaurant, China West Bufffet, and the owner was familiar with WVO as fuel and agreed to put his oil into clean containers for me to pick up on Friday.

Wednesday night I went back to the Hopi reservation so I could take a look around the villages in the morning. At about 2 am I woke up to pretty heavy rain falling. In the morning I talked to 21 year old Sahmie Lalo of the Coyote Clan at the Cultural center. I Thought the museum would be open but forgot that not only was I on Hopi time, I was on Indian time as well. Sahmie is plenty knowledgable about local history and told me about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the ancient prophecy that the Hopi would eventually settle in the area that is now their reservation, completely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, which is the largest reservation in the country. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Window Rock on the New Mexico border to Second Mesa, in the middle of the Hopi Reservation. If you visit please drive carefully and courteously, there is a lot of dogs and livestock on the roads. Also, people pass frequently so heads up when there are cars coming towards you. The Museum was supposed to open at 8:00 but by 8:45 no one had shown up to open it so I headed down to First Mesa to see the Villages. For those that don’t know, photography is strictly forbidden on the Hopi Reservation. In fact, all forms of recording are forbidden, even sketching, so don’t even ask.

I headed up to First Mesa and checked into the visitor center where I was greeted by Loretta, my tour guide. Before The tour began Loretta showed me some paper thin Hopi corn bread and let me comb my hair with a bundle of dried grass. A tour guide is required to visit the First Mesa Village of Waalpi. The Hopi are said to be secretive and reserved and you are not allowed to touch anything on your tour.

After touring the stone village I stopped in on Lawrence Namoki and checked out his pottery and bought a small amount of tobacco. Lawrence had lots to tell me but I can’t share what he said because he told me it’s a secret.

On my way back east Through Navajo territory I picked up a young hitch hiker named Tony and I asked him if he had any good Hopi jokes. He was reluctant to share them because "they're kind of dirty" but I got this one out of him:
Q- What Does a Hopi man give his wife on his wedding night that's long and hard?
A- His name

This morning I walked the 2.5 miles to the White House as the sun was coming up over the Canyon de Chelly. Three quarters of the way down there was thunder and lightning and rain. I can’t even show you my photo of the white house because it doesn’t do it justice. I Didn’t take any photos of people, as much as I wanted to, while I was visiting the reservation but I did take some pictures of dogs. Here are two I met at the White house overlook.

After my walk I went to Diné College to give a demonstration of the Vegetable oil system. Several of the faculty and staff came out on a wet, chilly day to learn about the system and processes of collecting and filtering the oil.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I stopped in Flagstaff for some lunch and some thrifting and these folks stopped and talked to me about my van. They were super friendly and supportive!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007


Spent the night on my way to Arizona.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Silver Lake

The day after Darin's show my van stalled while running on vegetable oil, in fact, this time it really seemed like I ran out of fuel but my gauge indicated a quarter tank. I figured that I needed to change the fuel filter and as luck would have it, I stalled right out front of Lovecraft Biofuels. I parked and went into the office to ask what shop they recommend, and they sent me to Hi-Tech automotive on Fountain. Hi-Tech happens to be almost directly across the street from Vincent Dow’s house so I stopped in for a cup of tea.

Vinnie was unhappy with the work that Hi-Tech did on Ma’s Cutty and recommended a VW specialist in the neighborhood. I called over there and decided to take the van in to Eddy at the Buggy House. Eddy was not too familiar with the conversion system but he helped me to change the veggie oil fuel filter and showed me how to change the engine oil. Even with the new fuel filter the van would stop when I switched over to Veg so I called Thaddeus, who built the system, to ask his opinion. He thought that somehow air had gotten into the system and that was causing the problem. He must have been right because after many hours and many trips to the parts suppliers to find a new fuel pump everything started running normally again.

I parked the next couple of nights in Vinnie’s driveway, my preferred home in the LA area. I love Vinnie’s neighborhood and house and company so it’s perfect! Of six pool games I won four but Vinnie was drunk for the first two.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Los Angeles

I love this town. I know you don’t believe me, but I really do.

I stopped in when I got here to visit Kyle McCulloch who is still recovering from back surgery. We sat on the porch and were treated to a visit from the flock of parrots which migrate daily between Eagle rock, Echo park and Highland park. When I stayed at Kyle and Mary’s house for a month last winter I would hear the parrots every morning at about nine o’clock. It was the perfect thing to wake up to.
Kyle and I walked down Figueroa and got great fish tacos (2 for $2.99 Wednesday special) and I got a side of beans and rice as well as a medium jamaica agua fresca, which was sour and dark and not too sweet. The fish tacos were so good and crispy that it inspired me to ask about their grease and a guy took me out back to show me the container which happened to be empty, but he told me they would be changing the oil the next night and to come back at 9 pm.

After my visit with Kyle I had a quick nightcap with Darin Klein and then parked by his house near Hillhurst and Prospect. I woke up the next morning to the sound of a jackhammer and thought “Please tell me they only need to do that for a minute” and they did! It was over right away!

In the evening I had dinner with Brenndan’s sister, Molly McGuire. She made fried veggie potstickers with green beans and peas and soba noodles and it was the best meal I have eaten since I was in Vancouver!

Afterwards we went to see the show that Darin Klein organized at the Billy Wilder Theatre at the Hammer Museum. I knew enough to expect to be amazed by what I was to see but I was truly dazzled by the whole show and the venue and the huge crowd of people lined up. I especially loved the performance by the New Energy encounter group. I’ll be reprinting the script in the California issue of my zine. Wow, it was amazing and hilarious.

Next it was time for a drink so Molly and I skipped the scene at the Eagle. You can only see a dude getting his ass whipped or dancing onstage in his tightie-whities so many times before it gets old. We proceeded to my new favorite bar called the Three Clubswhich was virtually empty, had a good jukebox and the bartender bought us a round! Wow! LOVE this town!

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Monday, March 12, 2007


I fueled up with a few gallons of diesel in Lompoc and then headed down highway one towards Ventura. Coming down the hill a few miles from town the van stopped moving and then stalled. I was able to start again and get over to the shoulder but not able to get moving. It was stressful, stuck on the highway, I climbed down to the beach and called AAA, I knew there was a chance that I was out of fuel but as great as AAA is, they don’t carry diesel so I had to get a tow into town. Luckily, Steve put me in touch with Lynne in Ventura and she called around to see where I could take it. We found Molnar brothers, European motor specialists and Paul took a look at things for me. He wasn’t too familiar with the conversion system but he took a look at my diesel fuel line and found fuel in it, which would indicate that I didn’t run out of diesel. Basically we flushed the system with diesel until it started running again. It was a little mysterious but I was thankful that it wasn’t more serious.

Last time i was in Ventura a year ago I ran out of money and almost ran out of gas but I knew where the hot springs were in Ojai so I parked up there for a couple of nights while I waited for some money to go from my paypal account to my bank account. I read the copy of the Painted Bird that I found by the LA river and soaked in the hot spring. Turned out to be a good thing in the end.

After I left Molnar Bros. I went to Lynne’s place, aka the Art Barn, to use her shower and meet Steve for dinner. We stopped in for a beer first at the local brew pub and I inquired after their grease. The manager directed me to the dumpster in the back. Steve and I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant and the owner said “No.” to my request for his used oil. Seems that they may have had a problem in the past with people leaving a mess.

In the morning I went back for 15 gallons of grease from the Brew pub while wearing my favorite new green sweater from Savers in Salinas.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007


I got up at 6 am to take pictures of the sunrise. I parked next to the river surrounded by citrus and palm and willow trees. Magical. The van ran great using the vegetable oil and I didn’t notice anything unusual. I spent a couple of hours with Andy and Anita and a variety plate of delicious cookies. They were a little shy and not really sure why I wanted to talk to them but I think it went well. I drove back to Berkeley for Nico’s first birthday party and to meet Will and Sid to move my furniture over to Mike Taffet’s House in West Oakland. I waved to Mike’s Neighbors as I left the dresser in his yard and they waved back.

I took a quick tour of my old neighborhood and met these girls when they asked if “that thing really runs on vegetable oil”.

I went to the city and met up with a few friends at the Latin. Mike Taffet had just returned from a 105 mile bike ride from San Luis Obispo to Solvang. Gibbs Chapman came out for a quick beer. Jovi Schnell and Christine Shields joined us for a drink and a chat. I played two games of pool with Ray and he won both. He was getting me back for Sunday night at the Make out Room. As you may know, the Latin is my least favorite table for many reasons, too close to the wall, no light, some jackass spilling his drink on you. We played a third, which I won. When I gave Ray, of all people, a hard time for not trying hard enough he said “I love you, I need you to get what you want though” Wow. How does he DO that?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Arrived at Chateau Vallejo just in time for dinner! I even got to have some left over birthday cake after. Mmmm..Princess cake with marzipan frosting for Keda whose new teeth are coming in and turned seven on March fourth.

The next day I was invited for lunch at Bob and Sosi’s house in Santa Rosa where we had a lovely carrot ginger soup and fresh greens. Bob told me that the local brew pub, Russian River Brewing made a beer for his other band, Huge Large called Huge Large pils. I went there after lunch but they didn’t have any so I asked for their grease, which they don’t even use.

The next five restaurants I asked had either already promised their grease to someone or couldn’t let me access the underground grease trap. It seems that a lot of the grease is being collected by a local co-op. There was a Japanese place on Fourth that showed me to the barrel in the back of the restaurant. I used my hand pump to take about 9 gallons away. It looked really nasty and I wasn’t sure if it was clean enough but I had nothing to compare it to so I took it.

I was finally able to get going filtering the grease so I left it out in the back yard in 5 gallon containers. It was foggy when I arrived but the sun came out the next day. I needed to take a trip out to the beach so on Friday I went North to Healdsburg for a trip to the world’s largest Sally Ann. Five separate buildings of Thrift on a big acreage with a men’s rehab center and boats and cars for sale and everything.

Found a few things and then took Westside road and Skaggs Spring Road to my former home town of Guerneville. A quick stop at the health food store for 2 eggs and some baby bok choy then La Casita for beans, rice and tortillas. La Casita has new owners since I lived there and they put up a new sign on the counter and took away the self serve salsa bar.

Took the bohemian highway to Monte Rio and then the other road west, to Duncan’s Mills. Made a quick stop in Jenner for the water that I forgot to buy in Guerneville. After that I went to south over the Russian River to Goat Rock Beach and made some tea and and my first hot home cooked meal.

I talked to this guy, who kept putting his hands together and bowing while we were talking. After the beach I watched the sunset from a bluff above the beach and then headed to Bodega where I had decided to look for a parking place.

The Casino in Bodego was open and since I had never set foot in there when I lived in Occidental, I decided to check it out. I bought a Miller high life for $2.50 and spent my change on a game of pool with Merle.

We played a few games and then played as partners against the most obnoxious guy in the bar and his girlfriend. All in all we had some good games but I still hate playing teams. It’s impossible to maintain any kind of rhythm and flow when you have to wait for someone to quit being an obnoxious asshole and get on with the game. Merle and I made a good team but it was more fun to play against each other.

The next day I woke up around the corner from the surf shop. I already knew that the owner of the shop is a grease car driver so I stopped in to see what resources are in the area but he wasn’t there. I took Coleman valley road back east over Irish hill. Coleman valley is just about my favorite drive in Sonoma County. Usually I would take it west and then take Bodega highway back but this time I started out going up hill through the eerie fog, through the trees and up to the part that looks like the English Moors. The road winds 8 miles back to Occidental, where I took a detour through my old neighborhood on Deer meadow lane.

When I got back to Boyes Springs in the afternoon I started filtering the grease with the electric pump into the five gallon containers. The end product didn’t look much different from the clean sample Thaddeus had shown me. I was able to start using it when I left that night for Winters to interview Andrew and Anita Anderson, married 70 years. Andy Anderson will be a hundred years old in April and Anita will be 91 in April.

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

San Francisco

Woke up this morning in my usual spot on top of Bernal hill. It looks like there is construction going on up here during the week so I don't think I'll be parking up here tonight.

I came over Siskyou pass yesterday with clear blue skies, running the van on vegetable oil, cruising up the hills most and down all of the hills in fourth gear. I arrived in Berkeley just in time to see Bermuda Triangle service perform at the Starry Plough, Carolyn Mark and Amy Honey played afterwards.

I found someone getting rid of grease on Craigslist and picked it up in Daly City. Afterwards Bill Daniel helped me start filtering it by straining it through a seive. It's hard for me to tell if this is going to be good grease or not. It looks pretty sludgy but the grease that Thaddeus showed me at his place looked pretty nasty too, before it was filtered.

I stocked up on much needed organizational supplies in Japantown at Ichiban Kan, the Japanese Dollar store. What a great selection of stuff that you need for living in a small space. Where would I be without the Japanese? I stopped in at Benihana to ask for their grease and they showed me a nice, full container in the kitchen and said to just ask for the manager when I come get it.

Who knew it could be so easy?

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Welome to California


After leaving Jeremy's Memorial service I took the 7 pm ferry and drove to Vancouver to pick up Brenndan and then drive to Portland. We arrived at 4 am and the next day we continued on to Ashland. We left late and then hit blizzard conditions (they SAY blizzard, but we are Canadian, we know better) at Sexton Pass.

By the time we got to the Wellsprings there was about 3 inches of snow. We sat outside in the hot pool with all the other hippie monkeys and tried to catch snowflakes before they melted from the steam. In the morning we woke up to about 6 inches of fresh snow, impossible to drive in and we were supposed to meet Thaddeus in Trail to get the new Van. I-5 was closed at Siskiyou pass and Thaddeus got stuck in Weed coming back from Napa. Brenndan and I killed some time drinking hot chocolate and playing in the snow and by 10 the roads were clear enough to get to Trail. Thad's mom gave us the keys and we set off with both vans back north. We planned to drive straight to Seattle and sleep there but I needed to crash by the time we got to Portland so we slept a few hours and got up at 4 am and drove the rest of the way to Vancouver so that Brenndan could pick his son, Sam up from school at noon. Luckily we had no problems at the border and pulled up to the school at 11:55. Phew, what a trip.

I bribed Brenndan and Sam into helping me take down my show by promising them ice cream at La Casa Gelatto, 218 flavors. 218 Flavors!!! Sam had Death by Mango, Brenndan had mango tamarind sorbetto and I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice cream. Not my favorite but after tasting 25 other flavors I made a snap deciscion.

Brenndan decided to come BACK to portland with me to help me pack and move my stuff into storage. What a sweetheart!! So the next day we picked up some bagels from the Mount Royal bagel factory in North Van and then hit the road again! This time Brenndan drove the entire way and I even got to sleep in the back for a while. Wow. I thought it was luxury to be able to brush my teeth while someone else drives but wow. Out like a light.

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