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Back in the belly of the Beast
|| 11/29/2004 || 11:59 pm || Comments Off on Back in the belly of the Beast || ||

I touched back down in DC earlier tonight. I was a great trip, one that went perfectly. I planted my feet in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. In one week, I spent more time confined in a motor vehicle than all of the time spent in car the entire last year and a half. I took a 20 hour Greyhound bus ride to my hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri. I ended up reading an old college textbook I obtained called “Military Geography,” although much of the content was basic, there was quite a bit of historical military geography examples which made the book slightly more dynamic. I choose it simply because I wanted to become more aware of what might be going through military planners heads.

After arriving in Saint Louis, I met up with one of my best friends and picked up my sister Serena from the airport. The following day my sister, my mom’s fiancé, and I drove through a freak snowstorm to pick up my mother in Quincy, Illinois. I was able to see her new apartment in the historic section of Quincy. She lives in that part of town indigenous to nearly every ante-bellum river town, where the homes have wrap around porches, a carriage house in the back, and are at least 3 stories. If I ever rurally retire it will be in one of these homes.

From Quincy we began driving northwest towards the opposite corner of Iowa; my mom’s hometown of Sioux City. Located on the Missouri river, it was the place where the first person on the Lewis & Clark expedition died- Sergent Floyd. There is even a mini-obelisk (about 150 feet) marking his grave.

This is the 200 year anniversary of their expedition, and I find this pilgrimage back to see my ailing grandfather very poignant. I was in Saint Louis for the beginning of 04, New Years 2004, in STL, home of the Arch- the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and also the site of the 1904 World’s Fair (the 100 year celebration of the expedition!), and to close out 2004, I traveled back to the site of the expedition’s first death to see my dying grandfather.

In all respects he looked surprisingly well being that he had just had a cancerous growth the size of grapefruit removed from his colon, but due to the stroke he suffered a few years back he still isn’t the grandpa I remember from my youth. At the other end of the life spectrum, the pilgrimage back to Sioux City also allowed me to meet the newest members of my disconnected extended family, my two new cousins Connor & Rory. My mother’s brother Richard and his wife Kris adopted Connor over 10 years ago and this was first time we’ve met. He is your quintessential freckled red head with a good deal of wit and intelligence- I can’t wait to see him again. My aunt & uncle also recently adopted Rory, and he really stole the show for me. At just under two years old, he was just a buddle of laughs the entire 3 day stay.

Both my Aunt & Uncle work for Boeing and, from what I understand, work primarily with NASA and private companies making sure the rocket payloads get into space properly. It was pretty damn synchronous finding out that they are directly responsible for the artwork that I’ve been creating. It was also interesting that my uncle is working on getting Digital Globe’s next satellite in space- a satellite that has both commercial and military sensors- I believe it’s called “World View,” (you bet I am going to research this some!).

As for the Thanksgiving meal, I stuffed myself with my grandma’s creamy mashed potatoes and my mom’s special green bean casserole. It was delicious!

Friday, Buy Nothing Day was spent at the Siouxland Mall. I was not really protesting, but actually trying to find my cousin Steve, who works at a sporting goods store in the mall. Being my third Buy Nothing Day, I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t follow up with my original news garnering idea- that being sending a press release to the Sioux City paper about an activist in front of the mall wearing a gas mask with a sign that says “Debt Stinks.” Year One was the credit card drag (the best Buy Nothing Day ever in Saint Louis!). Year Two was me by myself walking around Georgetown with an Adbusters corporate flag cape, a suit, and Dan Quayle Mask handing out Gift Exemption Vouchers….and Year Three? What I did was find that Adbusters Magazine was stocked at the bookstore in the Siouxland Mall. It was even placed in same section as The New Republic and The Weekly Standard, however the magazines were still sealed in the protective plastic and none had been sold. So I took a magazine out of the wrapper and placed it in a different part of the shelf- so on Buy Nothing Day I not only bought nothing, I staged a magazine jam with the hopes that someone picks up the magazine and reads it. I waited until I arrived home to read mine, which had arrived in the mail during my trip, and I must say the “The Big Ideas 2005” is my favorite issue yet. If you haven’t picked up a copy, please do.

We left Saturday morning to drive back to Saint Louis by way of Quincy. Since it was the last leg of my travels by car I took notice of a few things more actively. First off, due to Iowa’s corn subsidies and over production of corn, all premium gasoline (the kind that gives you 2 extra octane and has a 10% ethanol mixture) was the exact same price as the regular gasoline! Gas prices were around $1.69 to $1.89, compared to the $2.15 here in DC. Secondly, I was flabbergasted by the number of “Support Our Troops” ribbons people had on their cars. After 911 the predominant car decorations were bumper stickers that said “Power of Pride” & “God Bless American” and oversized magnetic American flags. The “Support Our Troops” ribbons come in your standard canary yellow, red, white & blue, and even camouflage! 95% of them were place horizontally (instead of the standard vertical) so that passerby’s could read the “Support of Troops” text. I found it interesting that the message was more important than the actual symbol of the ribbon. I mean, what else could a camouflage ribbon signify? There were so many decorated cars that a few times at intersections I found that every card around me had one! Lastly, I only heard one police/ambulance/fire truck siren the ENTIRE trip. It was sonically amazing. When I got off the plane tonight here in DC, I was not outside for more than 30 seconds before I heard the first siren blare. I am going to have to readjust.

I traveled home to Saint Louis by what is known as the poor man’s carriage and I returned back to DC flying first class on American Airlines. In between, I sat in a car more than anytime one time in over a year. And throughout the trip I felt blessed that I was able to realign my fast-paced city perspective and ground myself in the slow moving rural lifestyle, even if it was only for a few days.

While I was gone Adam commandeered the DC Baseball press conference(well done!) and my housemate Jill helped take over a homeless shelter to save it from being sold off. So while I was off in my Red State bliss my friends were busy.

Wednesday I start my new job and I am ridiculously excited. In the past two weeks, I’ve had over 4 different dreams about it and I am anxious/nervous/excited/eager about moving into the 9-5 culture. I am so ready it hurts.

I am going to resume the near daily renderings. I got an idea for creating a “Mother Earth” series while in the middle of Indiana. Although untested, I am going to attempt to load 3D human “poser” figures and attempt to use satellite imagery as textures on their bodies or clothes. I hope it works out- it could turn out to be a very interesting progression in my renderings. As I end most of my posts it seems- We’ll see!

Post Title: Back in the belly of the Beast
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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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