At the beginning of the DIVINE COMEDY, a dispirited 35-year-old Dante finds himself lost within the shadowy forest of life:
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
It is here that Dante encounters the Roman poet Virgil from Antiquity, who has been sent by Dante’s love Beatrice to guide him safely through Hell. And so the two of them pass beneath the infamous words of woe and into Hell’s vestibule and across the river Styx and downward through the nine concentric circles of eternal suffering on Dante’s long journey to Heaven and ultimately to God and his own salvation.
Well: I’m also 35 and I’m also lost in the shadowy forest of life, and I’m going nuts sitting around staring at the walls here in Berlin, and finding no meaning or purpose in my life any longer . . . so I have decided to embark on my own descent into the underworld (the United States of America) in order to expel the darknesses in my heart and find my own piece of salvation.
And behold, I have plotted the
STARSAILOR US TOUR
. . . coming soon to YOUR city! I am funding my excursion using the king’s bounty of airline miles I have accrued with my travel credit card. Which is to say that with the exception of a few modes of transportation I will use to cross the vast and dying lands of the United States, I’m doing most of it for “free.”
Thing is, I am an embarrassing loser with very few marketable skills, but I do have very good credit and it weren’t no accident. When I was in college, one of my professors told us that credit card companies are just vampires that jab a needle in your arm and suck you dry. But if you’re smart about it, you can outmaneuver them and stick the needle right back in their arm. The trick of course is to never spend outside your means if you can help it. So what I do is put 100% of everything I ever buy on my credit card and then pay it off immediately. That way I never hold a balance while syphoning airline miles out of their veins like Coca-Cola. During the pandemic I was able to absolutely obliterate those bloodsuckers to the tune of three of four round-trip international flights what with my not being able to use them. And now I’m cashing in.
Anyway: I have no Virgil, and so I will guide myself from city to city, some of which I have not seen in a decade or more, to stay with old friends and new freaks. Knowing of my great despair, a dozen or more of these fine people have graciously offered me their couches and futons and spare bedrooms and clean linens and clean towels, as well as the promise that they will introduce me to their friends and take me out in these places so that I don’t have to be alone. They are all of them lambs among wolves, if not the closest equivalent to earthly angels as one can be.
So here’s where I’m going and what I’m going to do on my journey through the past:
30 AUGUST – 5 SEPTEMBER
and 12 SEPTEMBER – 13 SEPTEMBER
On August 30th I will fly from Berlin to Amsterdam to Washington, D.C. Altogether it’s something like ten hours. I’m going to swallow as much Trazodone that my body can handle and then enter the Dark World until the plane crash-lands on the tarmac at Dulles Airport. My friends Bethany and Chloe are picking me up, and we’re going to dress up and go to a bar and then get a (free) hotel room using my travel credit card and have a good ol time drinking crappy champagne and jumping on the beds and swimming in the pool. Bethany has also promised me that the next night we’ll get Waffle House to-go and then watch a bunch of movies at her place. And Caroline, the goth barista I befriended during the pandemic—she and I are going to go on a few Night Walks as well. This is the kind of comforting suburban America mundanity that I desperately need right now. I have been craving it for months, even prior to the great tragedy in my life. Now it is my only path to salvation.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
5 SEPTEMBER – 12 SEPTEMBER
First week of September I’ll take a bus up to New York City and stay with Monty and Molly and Tracey for a week or so. Katie and Nina from Chalk Talk will be there so I’m gonna see them as well. I was last in New York exactly one year ago then, because I remember the spooky feeling of being in New York on 9/11. I guess I’ll get to experience that for a second time, for whatever it’s worth. And then I’ll just bum around Brooklyn visiting everyone I know there until I realize I’m spending too much money, and then take a bus back down to DC to hang out with Bethany and Chloe again.
JOHNSON CITY, TENNESSEE
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
14 SEPTEMBER – 20 SEPTEMBER
I’ll stick around Northern Virginia for a few days so that I can drive around drinking gas station coffee, and go on some walks with my friend Caroline, who was a barista I befriended in my hometown during the pandemic. I wish I could stay longer, but I just got to go. So I’m going to rent a car and drive down to Johnson City in Tennessee to stay with my friend Emma O. and her four cats, who I also met during the first pandemic summer. She has promised me we can make food and play video games all week, which sounds so good I want to scream until I die. And I’ll go hang out with my dad and his animals, who live one town over. Hopefully at some point I can get Emma or my dad to drive me to Asheville so that I can see my friend Maddie, who was Bex’s mercenary bassist when they toured last summer and stayed at my place in Oakland. I remember making her a little bed on the rug in my living room (she insisted on sleeping on the floor (I usually do as well (lol))), and I kissed her on the head before she went to sleep. So now a year later I’ll see her again and we’re gonna go to a show together or something. OK!
20 SEPTEMBER – 24 SEPTEMBER
In Asheville I’ll rent another car and drive down to Savannah, which takes about five hours. That’s the perfect length of time to drive someplace, in my opinion. You’ve got time to hang out by yourself and drink coffee and and get through a few albums and maybe a long phone call with someone cool, and eat in a parking lot at the midway point . . . and there’s no real rush to get to where you’re going, which in my case is Savannah. There I’m staying with my friends Fia and Rory from Chalk Talk. They’ve promised to take my mid-30s ass to some SCAD parties. Who cares anymore? Of course I’ll go. And also that week is Fia’s Golden Birthday, so my arrival will be a blessing (unto me) because I love going to other people’s birthday parties. I’m going to make everyone do shots of fireball. I wonder what Savannah is like now. My aunt and cousins and I used to pass through it on our way to Mobile, Alabama when I was a kid and I remember it being real nice, what with them big oak trees hanging over the streets. I just hope it’s still warm enough to swim at night . . .
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
24 SEPTEMBER – 26 SEPTEMBER
From Savannah I’ll fly to New Orleans. Originally I was going to drive, but it’s ten whole god darn hours through either the wide northern stretch of Florida or else cutting across Alabama and Mississippi, both of which sound equally miserable, and I don’t own a gun. The drive from Oakland to Portland is ten hours, which I’ve done two dozens times, mostly on my own, so I could definitely do it . . . but I’d rather be in New Orleans than rip through the bumfuck nowhere abyss of Florida in the middle of the night. And anyway, I need as much time there as I can get because I’m staying with my good friend Leila, who I haven’t seen since December 2015 when I drove out of the Ninth Ward in the most hideous rental car I’ve ever seen, and her in the rearview mirror. It bums me out to think about that. I only thought I’d be gone for a little while. I almost moved there even. However: soon I will right all that by visiting her again. I wonder what New Orleans looks like anymore, or if anything of the place I knew are still there . . .
26 SEPTEMBER – 28 SEPTEMBER
. . . because after New Orleans I’m flying to a place that has absolutely been decimated and stripped of life by yuppies and developers, being my former home Austin, Texas, which I have not visited since July 2014, just days before I met my best friend Laura Rokas at Oakland Airport when she flew in from Montreal to live with me there. So with great sadness I will gaze upon a place I had loved a long time ago that is now little else than the ghostly residue of the Once Was. But then that is the fate of many places anymore. Still: I have been told that some of the old things have survived, and so I will visit them while I still can. I don’t have much of a curiosity of the newness of the place outside of there. I’m going to walk many miles alone at night like I always did, and swim in pools of apartment complexes where I do not live like I did back then too.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
28 SEPTEMBER – 30 SEPTEMBER
And then I’ll take a flight from Texas to New Mexico. New Mexico is a weird place. That’s where they tested all them NUKES, so there’s something off about everything, even the people in a way. Incidentally, my friend Cecelia will be in Santa Fe on account of her running away from her life in California just like I did . . . and since I’m headed to Santa Fe, she has agreed to pick me up at the airport in Albuquerque, only an hour away, as Southwest does not fly directly to Santa Fe. I told her I’d buy her lunch there before we head back south. And once we get down to Santa Fe I’ll stay with my good friend Mikaylah. I met Mikaylah many years ago in Portland. We used to watch movies together every week. When I skipped town and went back down to Oakland, I was very sad to leave Mikaylah. I haven’t seen her since 2019 when we shared a cigarette behind Sandy Hut when I was in town visiting Monty and The Pink-Haired Girl. And so it was that years later I will see her again in a strange place and at a strange point in my life. I have not been back to Santa Fe in over a decade—not since I drove from Texas to California when I moved to Oakland. Mikaylah has warned me that it is small and boring, but that’s OK with me . . . I’m only going there to see her anyway.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
1 OCTOBER – 6 OCTOBER
At noon on the last day of September I will board a train in Santa Fe and ride it fifteen hours through New Mexico and Arizona and Southern California to get to Los Angeles. Amissa is going to pick me up at Union Station in LA at 8 am on October 1st and then I figure we’ll get the hell on with it. She has told me she has squirreled away some acid, so we’ll get ripped on that and then hang out at this bar in Reseda where she took me to many years ago. This place seems to only be populated by Old People, which means it rules. I got a few other people to see as well, so I’m gonna putz around for a week and go to the beach at night and eat at diners, and on and on, until I head north to the Whatever, Man capital of the world, which is Oakland.
BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA
6 OCTOBER – ???
I have a dark suspicion that visiting Oakland and the Bay Area is going to fill me with utter dread and make me want to rip my own head off, but what choice do I have? Most everyone I know is there, so I’ve got to go. I don’t yet know how long I’ll be around, but I reckon I’ll probably bounce between Oakland and San Francisco and Vallejo for three or four weeks. I know enough people in the Bay to rotate around different floors and couches indefinitely, so at least I’ve got that going for me. It’s just bearing witness to the nightmare ruins of the place that is going to be rough as hell, though at least I can get actual Mexican food that isn’t made by dudes named Fritz and Sven or whatever.
After that I don’t know where I’ll go. I might go north through Portland and Seattle and then cut across the northern route to get to Detroit and Chicago and back down to the East Coast. Or I’ll go back to Europe. Or be lowered by a giant into the final abyss which swallows up Judas and Lucifer. I haven’t decided yet!!!
If I wanted to be obnoxious, I would say that I am cursed with the relative invincibility of someone who doesn’t have anything left to lose. Maybe there’s some truth to that. At any rate, I have absolutely nothing else to do with my life other than to travel around and hang out with people. So if you live in one the places I’m passing through . . . tell me!
I’ll write more when I get to where I’m going. OK?
For now. . . .