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Dec. 30th, 2008 | 10:30 pm

 It says here if you write an essay you might get to go to the inauguration.

You should write one too.

A Piece of History.

By Darren Ohl

I wanted to see George W. Bush sworn into office. I wanted to be there for a piece of history. 

I remember watching on television as president Bush’s motorcade sped past the crowds of people. Headlines scrolled across the bottom of the screen. There was no ticker tape, no marching bands. It looked like such a cold day as those Lincolns sped past angry mobs. I didn’t quite understand what was happening. If all these people had voted this man into office then where were they on that day in January, 2001? And who were these people, where were they on that Election Day?

I wanted to see George W. Bush sworn into office, or at least be there for the parade leading to the inauguration. I didn’t want to throw food at him; I didn’t want to hold up some cardboard with a message about my childhood spent on welfare. Watching my parents let the food rot in the refrigerator, choosing to pay rent instead of electricity during those hot summers in post Reaganomics Iowa. 

I believe in our country in a deep way. Growing up on welfare many Americans claimed that I would end up on welfare myself as an adult. As if my parents chose welfare, as if I were born of, or deserved it. No one says, “I want to be on welfare when I grow up.” I was proud to have defied those odds. Finding small success in my life, making my small contributions. Following my father’s simple advice:

Don’t be ignorant.

Get off your ass.

He didn’t say it with anger; he didn’t mean it as a punishment. He said those things quite plainly. Short speeches where some fathers might have given a longwinded lecture. 

Eloquence matters in the tasks of life. Those that do not feel the importance of eloquence cannot make it their task to lead.

My father led me with so few words on to a life that afforded me to achieve the goals I set for myself.

I was in a bar in New York City. An old man’s bar. I’m pretty sure the dishwashers were smoking in the kitchen. The bar was quiet except for the television and my friends in a wooden booth in the back corner. They weren’t interested in politics. The bartender looked as if he’d been sixty for the last 30 years, white eyebrows, sagging forehead, wrinkles and scars. 

His knuckles and the wall behind him were decorated from a glorious Olympic boxing career during the late fifties and early sixties. His medals, awards, and accents were fragile Russian decorations.

He answered drink requests in nods and never took his eyes from the TV while filling orders. 

People were walking in from the street to watch the coverage. It felt as if the whole city were staring at that small color TV hanging from the ceiling. People stopping on the sidewalk outside. And I swear to god the traffic stopped to stare into that tiny bar slightly below street level.

My friends laughed loudly and the old man turned the volume on the TV up. 

Tomatoes and trash flew at the motorcade, signs and banners, anger and tears. The crowd seemed to swell as the cars drove by. I wonder: If the old man had muted it, would we have been able to tell the difference between a celebration and the protest? 

My friends laughed a little louder. He reached to the remote again. I told him, “I’m sorry, they’re with me, I’ll tell them to keep it down.”

They didn’t like it much, but I didn’t want to get kicked out. The old man leaned on the bar directly across from me. A forearm the size my thigh creaked on the bar. He wanted to watch this. 

I wanted to watch this. I had wanted to go to that inauguration. I wanted to see George W. Bush sworn into office, or at least be there for the parade leading to the inauguration. 

I didn’t want to throw food at him. 

Dad wasn’t watching, he was working. I was watching on TV. Al Gore was watching. Barack Obama was watching. I couldn’t believe the headlines scrolling across the bottom of the TV. So many people, we’re told, voted for George Bush, Jr. It did not seem that CNN could find them. They must have been hiding among the throngs of people lining the streets of Washington, D.C. with their own life stories written on cardboard. Later, in my friend’s apartment it seemed that ABC news and NBC news and Fox news could not find those people either. They must have been inside. It was a cold day.

The next eight years were full of emotions. A lot of American people died... A lot of people lost more than loved ones. A lot of people lost homes, lost jobs, lost hope, they lost interest, lost faith. 

I watched the election alone. Working at a bicycle shop. After hours and after everyone had gone home, I stayed to lock up. I turned on the television, all the lights off and I watched states changing colors. 

I should have been working, making overtime to help my parents pay that Iowa Mortgage with compound interest. But I wanted to see this.

When I saw George Bush re-elected in 2004 my friend Trevor said of the election results, “This is a message for the people like you and me, Darren: Our beliefs are not welcome here.” 

I had not lost faith. As our country continued to lose money and people and trust, I still hoped that somewhere enough people still wanted good things to happen, or that they wanted to fix these losses.

Barack Obama did not run for office. He reached out, he put his hands to the people of America and said, “There are young and old, rich and poor. They are black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American.

We are tired of business as usual in Washington. We are hungry for change and we are ready to believe again.”

I want to see Barack Obama sworn into office, or at least be there for the parade leading to the inauguration. I don’t want to throw food at him; I don’t want to hold up some cardboard with a message about my childhood spent on welfare.

We will all be watching on our televisions. A bicycle mechanic in a darkened shop after hours. A boxer behind the bar in Chelsea. My father working the overnight shift on a cold autumn night. A war veteran who gave it the try of his life. A father of two, dead set on making it right again. 

I imagine it will look like the warmest day in January. I bet if we mute our televisions it will still look like a celebration. On that day the traffic will stop, the crowds will hush. Those who have lost might momentarily feel relief; the masses will pause in their motions and see one of the greatest days in our nations history.

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Our Big Snow

Dec. 15th, 2008 | 01:02 pm

Posted by: Darren

So about once a year it snows in Eugene. This year the snow stuck. Krystan's mom had flown into town with her friend Barbara and we'd been showing them the best Oregon experience we could. Then on Sunday it snowed. We decided it would be the best time to hike up to the top of Spencer's Butte to show them the view and hopefully see a little snow fall.

Luckily it was just the right time for a little more than a slight snow fall. With a couple of inches blanketing the top of the butte in a powdery but packable white silence we made a snowman, threw snowballs at each other and enjoyed the view.

Eugene has been wonderful and with every new experience it gets even better.

The Pictures...Collapse )

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This Quiet City

Jun. 15th, 2008 | 09:23 am

So we've been in Eugene a full two weeks now.
I've started work. Krystan has been trying to keep busy waiting for school to start. The drive was amazing every part of the way.
Just after we left the Midwest it seems the whole damn place has flooded.
I'm waiting for a taxi right now. I'm about to get on the train to Portland. It's a two and a half hour ride. I hear there talking about putting a speed rail from here to Portland and then Seattle. That'd be swell.
I went to a party last night, one of my co-workers is celebrating his graduation. I rode my bike home in pitch black and as I crested the hill at 23 (about the same size as Sugar Loaf for you FL people) I had a great view of the city. To my right a small downtown, lit up and moving well into the night, on my left the first sign of civil service I've seen since I got here. A lonely fire truck wailing off in the distance. I realized then, that I hadn't heard any sirens here. Even when that kid got hit by the car down the street from my shop. Only flashers for that one. There was no traffic in the way. There weren't a couple hundred thousand people trying to push there way through the street to get home on their evening commute. Just a couple of cars that were rerouted around the block. They closed that main street for the whole night. I miss my friends, but I really like it here.

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St. Louis and Iowa

May. 26th, 2008 | 06:41 pm

So we promised to put photos and video on the website and as you can see we haven't yet. Let's just say that where we are in the Midwest right now that it's not exactly "connected".

St. Louis is a great city. Beautiful architecture, fantastic sights and a great mas transit system. No people though. Krystan and I walk around downtown St. Louis and didn't see a single person.

St. Louis looked as if it were an exhibit in a long forgotten worlds fair. Everything was there to have a great time. Just no evidence that there were people there to take advantage of it.

We stayed with Krystan's Aunt Pat and Uncle Ken. Two of the sweetest people I have ever met.

Technically I guess they are Krystan's ex-step-grandparents. Krystan's father had been previously married before marrying Krystan's mom and having Krystan. Aunt Pat and Uncle Ken are the parents of that previous wife. Though the strange relation Pat and Ken remained very close to Gary and his new family, including Krystan.

Ken was diagnose with Alzheimer's about ten years ago. Which is about the last time Krystan had seen him. When he arrived he didn't remember Krystan at all. It was a tough first day for Krystan but a happy one all the same seeing them both again. Even if Ken couldn't remember her.

Ken in spite of his very serious and downright heart wrenching affliction is the kindest man I've met in a long time, and he's really funny too. Making it all that much harder when you take a step back to realize the implications of his illness. His wife takes care of him in their St. Louis suburbs condo and has been taking care of him since his diagnosis. One day he won't remember walking that woman down the isle. He wont remember the birth of his children and one morning he will wake up next to his wife and not know who has been sleeping next to him for the last half of his life.

I think a lot about that. I'm really happy that it doesn't seem to ruin his spirits at all, he is always smiling and starting a conversation and joking. I imagine Ken as a younger man was the type of young man that let nothing get in his way or ruin his day, I also like to think that is a quality that even this disease will not be able to take away from him.

This stop and the Iowa stop are where I imagined we might find the most difficulty with Krystan's lifestyle. She's vegan. Not vegetarian, vegan. That's important to note because the availability of food that goes along with that lifestyle becomes pretty scarce. Surprisingly we've done well. Both Pat and my parents have not only been very accommodating but also pretty damned accurate in making sure the dishes they've made were vegan.

Krystan and I definitely notice the great difficulty that can be as the most recent visit to the grocery store (the only one for ten miles for my parents) showed little to no vegetable options let alone any special vegan foods such as tofu, or... carrots.

We've been in Iowa for two days. Our first was dramatic to say the least. We arrived to a back yard party of sorts to celebrate and have a small reunion. It was a nice time. A bit much to take on after a six hour drive. Especially for Krystan.
There was a gathering of about fifteen or so relatives there to meet her for the first time, to give her hugs, and kisses and squeeze her cheeks and ask her when she would be marrying me and popping out kids.

To keep up with my sister who has three already.

At twenty-two I can imagine those sorts of questions being a little intimidating. They are to me at 28 that's for sure.

After the dust had cleared from a whirlwind of relatives and friends, all the paper plates and plastics cups in the trash the sky gave way it's first slight rumble.

I had seen this storm system come off the Rockies into Colorado. It had put down six tornadoes before leaving that state, I thought it might be a problem.

We watched the sky for about an hour before the first alarms went off on TV. Tornadoes had touched down about 12 miles north of us.

Soon after the power went out in the house. On the battery powered radio we heard alarms for every county around us.

We spent the next couple of hours going up and down the basement stairs as tornado warnings were announced and called off.

The next morning as we watched the news we saw town after town destroyed by the previous nights storm. A tornado a mile wide had swept through three counties leaving death and destruction in it's wake. As many warnings as we heard, as much of a stress as it was retreating to a dark basement corner over and over again it was worth it, because we could come upstairs the next day and cook breakfast.

It's definitely been the most stressful part of the trip so far and I expect now that the worst of the drive is behind us.

We have a couple more days left in the Midwest. It's no secret that this is one of my favorite parts of the country and I'm enjoying my time in spite of some distress and near disaster of biblical proportions we've both had a good time.
Next is Iowa Falls, then Lincoln, Nebraska and then on out west and after that on to Oregon.


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High Speed Sightseeing

May. 22nd, 2008 | 10:03 am

We arrived in Nashville at around 9pm last night, Nashville time. We're staying with Ashley's parents at their country music star house. Today, Sherra is going to take us on a lightning speed comprehensive driving tour of Music City, replete with trips to Opryland and The Hermitage. We will post pictures later.

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It's the end of the world as we know it.

May. 21st, 2008 | 05:46 am

We're leaving St. Petersburg in a few minutes. I'm really going to miss my parents and my cat.

Last night we went for a "farewell" dinner at Grassroots in Tampa with Jess and her fiance. My dad is generally skeptical about vegetarian food, so I was surprised that he agreed to go there.

Jess: So how did you convince your dad to come here?
Me: I'm sure it had something to do with a guilt trip.
Mom: No, worse. I had to promise him something for afterwards.
Me: What? Steak?
Mom: No, worse....McDonalds.

She said this so dramatically, like it really was the end of the world.

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Rollin rollin rollin keep them iPods rollin

May. 19th, 2008 | 03:09 pm

Here's a picture of Darren uploading music onto my vintage iPod for use on the trip.

This is the setup for the car. Bicycles go on either side of the hard shell topper thingy.

Here's what the weight of all the stuff does to the back end of the car.

Today, Darren reorganized the stuff packed in the car while I turned my bedroom at my parents' house into an office for my mother. She starts working from home this Friday. This sort of finalizes the whole being an adult and never living at home again thing.
After PicturesCollapse )

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Climb every mountain along the way...

May. 19th, 2008 | 08:29 am
music: Sleep Station

Krystan and I are in St. Pete, Florida for a couple of days with her parents enjoying a little relaxation before the long drive. We head out Wednesday morning for Nashville where we will stay a couple of days and then it's of to St. Louis.

After that we'll be in Iowa for three days and then out through Nebraska where we'll stop once overnight before visiting some friends just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Then the last two stops: first in Burns, Oregon for an overnight rest then we arrive in Eugene on the 31.

I'll post updates and pictures along the way. Maybe even some video?

Take care and for those of you who we'll see along the way we can't wait to see you again!


Darren and I left Orlando two nights ago. While Darren was participating in his last day at Orange Cycle, I spent the day doing all of the last minute things like cleaning bathrooms and giving microwaves to old men in Goodwill parking lots. When Darren got home he did a kickass job of cleaning the kitchen. He made a 60 year old stove sparkle. Then we did the final packing and sweeping and leaving.

A bunch of our friends stopped by to send us off. That felt really good. During our goodbye session, I got my first ever hug from Butch, which is a big deal to me as I consider him a close friend. (That probably sounds ridiculous.) As we drove away, I cried a little because I'm going to miss everyone.

The drive to St. Petersburg was very quiet until around the Champions Gate exit when Darren realized that he couldn't find his cell phone. We were very frustrated for a little and taking it out on one another like couples do. Sometime after that I put in one of the five mix CDs that Ashley made for us and turned the stereo up loud. The first song was a really silly Disney tune about road trips. It was perfect. We smiled. We found the cell phone while pumping gas at the Clermont exit. Crisis averted.

We arrived in St. Pete around midnight. Since then we've been doing a lot of sleeping and riding totally gnarly waves and watching movies. Last night we watched Eagle vs Shark (unanimous vote) and Becoming Jane (Mom and I overrode Darren's veto).

Today we have to figure out how to get rid of even more things because the car is so full that we can't see out of the rear view mirror.

We haven't filmed anything in a while because we are lazy bums.


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worn out prose?

May. 14th, 2008 | 10:52 pm

Krystan and I are winding down our time here in Orlando. A comedy short that I made with my good friend Butch (http://www.myspace.com/deathrayshort) showed at the Enzian last Sunday to a pretty good crowd in spite of Mother's Day.

Tomorrow night (Thursday) I'll be participating in Tod's Poetry Vending Machine at Orlando's Fringe Festival.
Basically he has a booth at this local independent stage theater festival.

At the booth people will pay a poet five dollars, then fill out a slip with a title and three words and in return the poet will write them a poem on the spot containing those words!

I will be participating. The event starts tomorrow at Orlando's Festival headquarters near the Museum of Art on Mills Ave.
We'll be there from 5 till about midnight.

Krystan asked me to demonstrate. She filled out a piece of paper with the title:

Darren Ohl is a Butt Spelunker

Her three words were: banana, octopus, orangutan

Below is the poem I wrote for her:

Take down the shelves.
Pack away the pictures and give away all your best friends.
The house has never looked cleaner and your acquaintances have never been kinder.
Soon enough our lives will be decided by banana yellow lane dividers.
Semi trucks with more wheels than an octopus has legs
and dawn and dusk seem to simply fade into each other.
Keep marking off the checkpoints and put the past behind you one more mile at a time.
Your hair turns from free flowing and windy
to a matted mess of orangutan fur.
Your friends turn into the grass blurring over
and the snow falls and covers them up
and the waters of spring wash any remains away.
But there's still those thick patches of grass you can't explain
that always seem to bog down the push mower.

For Butch. Bogging the mower down.

Here's a photo of the moving progress:

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The House on Friendly Street

May. 12th, 2008 | 09:34 pm

We have a house! It's 2 blocks from a health food store.

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