Sunday, August 02, 2009

Russians, jail, conservatives & Methodists: Reno or Bust, Part 2

It's actually happening. I am actually getting to go to the 2009 Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh on August 14! Democracy for America, the convention's sponsor, just awarded me a partial scholarship, I can use the last of my frequent flyer miles to get there and I've been graciously offered a place to stay on my friend Heidi's organic farm. And this convention should be really interesting -- especially if irate Kos fans try to run me out of town on a rail after I complained so much about getting banned (see for details).

"But what does all this have to do with Reno, Russians, Methodists and jail?" you might ask. Well. Ever since I got back from Burma in January, I've been sort of afraid to travel again because of my knees -- and this trip to Reno has finally got me back out on the road. Me and Jack Kerouac. I'm just so glad to be traveling again and not just be home as usual, hiding under the bed.

In any case, as you may or may not recall, Part 1 of this Reno travelogue found me, my daughter Ashley and her boyfriend Hugo sleeping on a picnic table in the high Sierras while watching out for bears. But what happened next? Did we get eaten by bears or not? Happily, no.

The next morning I wandered over to the site's pit toilet and washing spigot to, er, brush my teeth, got into a conversation with some uber-conservative dude -- and was very surprised to find that we both totally agreed on a whole bunch of stuff.

"You notice that California is trying to balance its budget by cutting state funds to education," he said, "but I don't see them cutting anything that effects large corporations or the rich."

Not to be outdone by a mere Republican, I also threw in my two cents. "The ruling class wants to generate and encourage as much anger and conflict among the working classes as they can, turning working-class liberals and working-class conservatives against each other so that the ruling class can steal us both blind while we're stupidly distracted by trying to slit each others' throats." And the conservative actually agreed with me!

"And all the while they're busy trying to dumb all of us down," he added, "by taking away our chances for education." This was pretty heady stuff to be discussing with a conservative in front of a pit toilet. We shook hands and practically hugged. Doesn't this guy listen to wingnut talk radio? Why hasn't he been beaten into line yet by Limbaugh and Beck? Weird.

You know, us progressives are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we are extremely disappointed in Obama, feel betrayed and not wanting to defend him, not so much. But, on the other hand, he is currently under such all-out continuous total attack by radical conservative wingnuts and adulterous Repub congressmen that we are almost forced to defend Obama anyway because the alternative is just too scary. Who in their right mind would want Obama replaced by rabid and violent wingnuts who have just crawled out from under a Bush.

Then, as I sat on my picnic table and watched Ashley and Hugo go swim in the lake, four or five carloads of Russians arrived. There are a lot of Russians living in Sacramento, about 90 miles away, and they had all driven up here for the day. And here's me, out here in the middle of nowhere, with hardly anything to eat and contemplating having to eat stale marshmallows for breakfast -- but the Russians (not us) have come prepared. They've brought all kinds of bags and boxes and coolers full of food. They even brought a couple of warehouse-type dollies to move the stuff around with. They even brought lawn chairs. And a canoe! We shoulda brought lawn chairs.

And they even gots fishing poles. I was impressed.

Then we hit the road to Reno again and our GPS took us 60 miles out of the way rather than send us down three miles of new road. But that's okay. We got to see a lot of trees -- and smoke. Smoke? After we'd finally circled all the way back through Auburn to I-80 and were on a ridge overlooking our former picnic site from last night, we saw smoke. "I didn't do it!" Had I put our campfire out? Oh lord. But the smoke turned out to be from a late-model pickup truck on the freeway, totally consumed by fire.

Next we stopped in Truckee, went to the local museum and ended up in its jail. And I have the photos to prove it.

Then we had lunch at the Boomtown Denny's. I ordered the Senior Special and Ashley got bored and put ice down my shirt. Then I won ten whole dollars on the slots. Then we drove off to Reno and our GPS steered us wrong again and we ended up at a former Ramada Inn, not the one we had reservations at. "Forget about the freaking GPS. Just turn here."

At the real Ramada Inn, we arrived in time to be swarmed by a convention of approximately 500 female Methodist missionaries. Awesome. "I come from seven generations of Methodist ministers!" I bragged to everyone in the elevator, and the Methodists all looked impressed. Sort of.

"What's the focus of the conference?" I asked.

"Darfur." Good for them. And Darfur got me to thinking about death -- isn't it amazing that we ALL have to die. And I just found out that one of my friends in high school just died and I was invited to his funeral. Which got me thinking about MY funeral. Would there be enough people at my funeral to fill the Staples Center? Not. How many people can you even think of whose funeral would fill the Staples Center? Elvis. Michael Jackson. Princess Diana. That's about it.

Then I waded though all the Methodist missionaries in the Ramada and found an old-fashioned slot machine with cherries and bars and an actual handle, and spent the next hour playing ten dollars' worth of quarters while the guy next to me hit three (3) different jackpots. That's $7,500. That should have been me! And after he left, I reached over and played a quarter in his machine. Nothing. I lost.

To be continued....