Plea for 'Followers,' and Ruthless Self Promotion via Evil Cross-Marketing Strategies...

Hello my precious-es, glad to see your back already to check on my progressive study of our country, and the fine people and experiences contained therein. Its so nice to know that you care- it really makes me warm in the pants, and the heart and other such tender places of my anatomy, or emotions, or whatever. Anyhow, I'm not here to share my writing with you as I don't do nearly often enough, I'm here to harass you for a quick moment. I mean, c'mon, I put a post out last week for crissakes, what do you think I am, some kind of writing monkey here to amuse you? Actually, the reality is not too far off from that, depressingly enough... But that is why I feel justified to harass you a bit on two small points. I'll thank you in advance for taking the time to read this, digest the words remorsefully, and follow suit by doing what I am desperately pleading you to do for me.
1. New Direction for Art Blog (JOSEPH R. REEVES INTEGRATED ARTS)
   The first order of business, is really more of a self indulgent cross marketing scheme with the aim to inform you that I've made some changes to the way I am handling my formerly charming little art blog. In my devotion to delivering such riveting literary illustrations to you here at TLGaJ, I've really fallen off the wagon on managing my art blog, josephREEVES.blogspot.com. This would be okay if I had stopped making art, or if I had a consistent venue to be sharing my work with people- but the pathetic fact, is that I've been making art as madly and consistently as ever, and since I haven't had any time to put down quality writing about it on the art blog, I've been completely neglecting to share it with anyone. For an admittedly depressive and somewhat ego-maniacally bent artist who has come to terms with the fact that he desperately wants people to see what he is doing, this is an unhealthy place to be. So what I did, was, I went ahead and fixed the problem.
   What was formerly a thoughtful forum for my art, is now going to be re-shaped into a creative depository for any and all artistic endeavors I am pursuing. If I have time to write, I will, and if I don't, well, then I'll just be delivering the bare bones, and you'll have to suffer through seeing my work without my endless blabbing about such pretentious topics as "conceptual direction" and so forth. So basically, this site should be on point with delivering the actual products I'm working to produce, and will no longer emphasize the behind-the-scenes kind of commentary on such work, unless I have the time. I was simply being to "precious" with my posting, and it proved to be antithetical to my use of the blog as a format to showcase work. 

2. Become a "FOLLOWER" of this blog because you like my writing (but mostly cause you feel sorry for me).
   The implications of my asking you to become a follower of the blog here, are on par with asking someone for a compliment, which by the way, is twice as sad as fishing for a compliment. I don't know how I could be satisfied with the results of such a disingenuous action, but I'm done beating around the bush here people, cause it really comes down to an unflatteryingly professional strategy. Here's the scoop people. This is how it is. 
   I'm not only an unconventional writer aiming to publish a book about my adventures throughout the great states, I'm an unpublished writer. Both are serious obstacles to overcome in a pretentious industry. When I first set out on this journey, I though I could just write the book as I went along, which was nearly as silly as my thought that I could see and experience our country within one year. I wrote 120 pages or so in a span of maybe five months, and though it will still serve some purpose to me, I now realize that the beginning of the book can only be written when I have the vantage point of being at the end of the journey. I don't want to write a memoir, and that was good to learn. Since this realization I've focused on the blog here, taking avid notes, working on my short stories, and loosely composing an outline that will tell the story I want told. One of the best things about me having written so much in that first stint, was that it gave me the opportunity to test the waters of the publishing world, and see if it was indeed a realistic dream. I spent a month in the house researching the publishing process, and wrote an ambitious query letter so I could send to a bunch of publishers and see what kind of reactions I got. I sent twenty query letters out to a mixture of small and large publishing houses, and the cumulative results, were about seven requests for a "sample chapter." I sent a solid forty page sample chapter to these publishers, and from there, got a few rejections, and three requests to see a full manuscript. Two were from obscure little publishing houses, and one was surprisingly from a large publishing house. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. My travels thus forth were pursued with the notion in mind that I need to be creating fodder for what will at some point become a great manuscript. That's what I'm still doing, and I'm still convinced I can and will succeed. Call it part of my great "American Dream" if you will.
   I learned allot in my little experiment. Firstly, that I will need to work with an editor, because my passion for breaking conventions can work to my advantage, but must also be done with a certain finesse that I am willing to admit to lacking. Secondly, I learned that the more I can use the blog format here to prove to publishing houses that people do indeed enjoy my stories, voice, and writing style- the easier it will be for me to market this book in its final stages. What does that mean? It means it is time for me to put my pride aside, and INSIST THAT YOU BECOME A FOLLOWER OF MY FUCKING BLOG! It is free, you won't get bullshit e-mails from me or anyone else, and if I'm desperate enough to ask, then things must be getting pretty bad, right? Right. Oh, also, you'd like to help an aspiring young writer I'm sure too, right? Probably not...
   I was hoping it wouldn't get to this point, but the numbers just aren't adding up here guys. Out of the 20- 100 views I'm getting here daily (over half of them somehow coming from the U.K. oddly), I'm remaining entirely stagnant in my number of followers, and that is not cool. That is the one number that can potentially make publishers say, 'oh shit, people already like this kid- maybe we should give him a shot.' So do me a favor, and pleeeeease sign up. Not a facebook follower, a follower on "blogger." Though it says the word "subscribe," they are not charging you. I promise.
   I'll never be one of those deusch-bag blog nerds who starts selling crap on my site to blog full time. I'd rather kill myself. The only real reimbursement I get from this writing, is the satisfaction of knowing people are actually reading it. Please help me out here.
    More to come soon regarding the craziness of my jobs out here in N.D., near-future plans of using that money to get a van for this coming spring and the tentative NE tour, as well as my continued sharing of this last summers amazing experience in Trout Lake Washington.

Until We Meet Again...

Joseph R. Reeves 


STATUS UPDATE: "My New Life In Trout Lake, WA and a Crazy Weekend In PDX"

    Hello my wonderful friends, and thank you so much for keeping up with me here at TLGAJ!
    If I didn't have such a splendid forum and handsome audience to be sharing my hectic quest for the american dream, I'm not even sure where I would be right now. Lord knows I've struggled with the blog as a literary medium, but despite my troubles, it has served me greatly as a tool to share my stories and photography, expand my audience, and give me the much needed comfort in knowing that folks are actually interested in my aim of this vagabond study of our country.  
    Those of you who've been following along from the beginning, have seen me live a multitude of lives since my jovial post-college departure now over two years ago. I've somehow prospered, struggled, and survived simultaneously on a slimmer budget then even I could have fathomed, and the strangest thing I have come to realize, is that my achievements have largely been earned through my experiences of failing so relentlessly. All I can say with a crooked smile, and a deep sigh, is 'what a life!'
     What am I up to now?, is a question I can either invest my entire writing efforts toward today, or I can put aside for the time being. Since I have such a massive backlog of stories, experiences, and photography to catch everyone up on, I'm going to just put that inquiry to rest for now, and work on moving the blog forward since, unfortunately, I cannot seem to write at the pace of my living as-of-late.
    Where did I last leave off? is perhaps a better question to focus on for the moment…
    My last post left off as I was just arriving in Portland after a 48 hour greyhound trip from Milwaukee. As it went, I arrived Friday evening and had the entire weekend to blow off steam before I was to be ready for the shuttle arriving at the PDX airport Monday morning to take me to Trout Lake. Suffice it to say that I had one hell of a turbulent weekend visiting all my portland friends from the previous summer, killing off mass amounts of brain cells, and trying my best not to focus on drama in Milwaukee, or how nervous I was for my new life in Americorps beginning Monday.    
    For now, I'm going to hold off on sharing the bulk of my messy, blurry, punk-infused Portland weekend of grand delusions, strip clubs, good friends, and cheap wine. I know this is likely to displease you, but I really must keep things moving along. I assure you that this meaningful weekend spent between lives will be detailed further in the book, and possibly as a short story that you might see sooner than later… Anyhow….
Cameron and Sarah, quite literally, chillin' like villians in PDX. Don't be mad at me Sarah!!

    Though I really needed to let it all out that weekend, as I indeed did do on more than one level- by the time Monday morning came around, I was an absolute mess. Anxiety on an emotional and physical level struck me like lightning as I woke up to fly around the house and regain the order to my bags that I had spent the weekend dismantling. I felt as if there was a steady flow of electricity pulsing through my nerves, and as my trembling hands and scattered thoughts struggled to piece my baggage back together, I couldn't help but count and re-count all the items on the Americorps "required gear" list that I either didn't have, or that I had an inadequate version of.
    I was sure it would be like grade school all over again, everyone laughing at the "poor kid" who had to go shopping at Goodwill. I even had the audacity to buy an inflatable pool floating device, since I didn't have enough money to buy a real backpacking ground pad. I wish I could tell you that I was joking. (As it turned out, I didn't even have the guts to take the stupid thing out to float on the lake that summer, for fear someone might ask me why I'd had it in the first place.)   
    I cursed myself for assessing this scenario a week ago, and naively deciding it would somehow work out for the better in its own way. Why couldn't I just do things like everyone else and make life easier on myself for a change? I wondered to myself pitifully.
    My good friend Corey- one of the people from the house I was staying at, was kind enough to offer me a ride to the airport that morning, effectively sparing me a multi-transfer bus trip across town with a bulky 60 pounds strapped to my back. What a saint! I'd met Corey through the previous summer of yard-surfing in Portland, when me and Chassy had spent a month there in his back yard.
    After a frenzied series of pacing back and forth through the house, I got all my gear in one place, and decided I was as ready as I was ever going to be. With a good twenty minutes left to kill, I went to the Plaid Pantry to buy a vitamin water. I was fairly sure I was going to vomit, and I figured maybe the walk would get it out of me.
    By the time I returned, I still hadn't puked. Along with the sun-induced nausea I was now feeling, my stomach began fluidly grumbling with a diarrhetic groan of despair indicative of potential catastrophe that I needn't describe further. I spent a moment in the bathroom hovering over the toilet bowl, trying to figure out which end of me was going to erupt, but nothing was happening. I gave up on it, and one last glimpse in the mirror confirmed to me that I did indeed look as bad as I felt. Like a final blow to my already smoldering confidence. I wiped my dampened brow with my sleeve, and put my neon yellow shades on. Determined to continue fighting the good fight, I left the bathroom prepared to shit myself with style.
    It was time to go. Corey sipped his water casually, asking me if I was ready. Through desperate beads of sweat I said, 'giddy-up' with a meek smile, and grabbed my massive backpack. We made our way to the airport, and Corey dropped me off with my heaping bags and gave me a solemn goodbye. I told him I'd be no stranger to Portland, and assured him he'd hear from me every chance I got. 

    Though I was relatively unaware of it, my first steps into the terminal there signified the beginning of this next new adventure for me. I didn't really realize it till the end of that first day, but my feelings that I was about to vomit, or even shit myself- all the physical distress and anxiety I was experiencing, vanished from me as I began to simply search for the meeting point of a shuttle I was supposed to take. I suppose it was all an overwhelming crescendo of self-induced anxiousness the whole time. A tightly wound mess of emotions that I only had time to dwell upon in the stages leading up to the start. Now that I was actually there, and that this big new change was finally upon me- I only had time to react to my immediate concerns, which at that moment, were locating my new peers, and finding the place we were to wait for our shuttle to Trout Lake.
    It really is incredible what we're capable of putting ourselves through as human beings. The pain we create for ourselves can be real, and the suffering can be a tangible thing. In so many ways, it explains allot.

     Our shuttle ride from Portland to Trout Lake was between an hour and a half, to two hours maximum. To be honest, I always had a hard time remembering how long it took to get between the two, because it was such an absolutely gorgeous ride through the Columbia River Gorge. The twelve or so fellow NWSA members I met in the terminal were all extremely nice folks, and the ride to Trout Lake was spent holding casual conversation, and taking in the landscape.
     It was a meaningful drive for me, not only because I would later become so fond of the whole Columbia River Valley, but because after spending those months cooped up in the Midwestern winter, I had become somewhat out of touch with the whole premise of my "Journey" overall. The previous summer I had spent traveling up the coast from San Francisco was idyllic, and taking in all the new scenery was a charge to my spirit that I had nearly forgotten. We ran out of money and I inevitably got a job for a few months cooking in Portland, and since I returned to Milwaukee to participate in the "2010 Performance Art Showcase," I hadn't been any further North since. The simple fact that I was taking in an entirely new landscape, and seeing something I had never seen once again, was an immediate reminder of why I was out here in the first place, and if that simple notion wasn't enough to run with- the stunning allure of the Columbia River Gorge would certainly suffice. 

     So, as many of my regular readers already know, a six month commitment to a volunteer Americorps position is unlike any of the other highly spontaneous endeavors I've chased around our beautiful country. For a multitude of reasons though, it has surely been one of the most influential stints I've had. I'll keep myself from focusing on the infrastructural jargon too much here, and champion the many experiential aspects of the program, but there are some details you should know in terms of understanding the simple nuts and bolts, as well as the context of the experiences within the larger scope of things.
     The position I took was through the "Northwest Service Acadamy," which is referred to as the NWSA because it is both shorter, and closer sounding to the hip-hop group, NWA. Even non-profits understand that the closer you can get to Dr. Dre, the more success your going to have. Plus, the non-profit world, and the rap game are not nearly as far off as you might think. Anyhow, all fooling aside, the NWSA is funded through Americorps, which is a government program that helps fund and operate non-profits throughout the US with the aim to aid in issues such as poverty, disaster relief, education, environment, etc.
     In this way, a comparable analogy would be: Americorps is to Dr. Dre, as the Northwest Service Academy is to Eminem. Though both are essentially separate entities, they still operate within a generally co-existing financial framework, and under a common set of moral and ethical guidelines that are understood and agreed upon. Put another way: one may have love for the streets, and one may have love for the forests- but in the end, they still have each others back. (If your conclusion from my analogy's is that Dr. Dre funds the Northwest Service Academy, please either re-read, or give up on analogy's all together.)

     So, being that this was my first experience in any sort of government program, there was plenty of things for me to get used to. On top of just that, there was the added fact that this was also a program with the general aim of using the work experience to both facilitate, and contribute to a larger set of social goals; goals that are in line with Americorps principals. These principals tend to emphasize community involvement, team work, and the development of leadership skills. The immediate reaction in my head was: 'You mean working my ass off isn't going to just be enough?!' Well, in short, no. It isn't.
     In staying true to my general tone here, I might have to be a bit cautious, or even re-iterate things, because this program really was so meaningful in so many different ways, that I want to be absolutely sure my sarcasm doesn't offset the importance of what the folks at the Northwest Service Academy were doing at the end of the day. Many different people were in the program for many different reasons, and much to my surprise, not a whole lot of them were as intrigued with the "grueling physical labor" or "trail work" portion of the job as I was. In hindsight, I'm not sure why I was surprised.
     Anyhow, what it all essentially boiled down to, was that this program really made me grow a whole hell of a lot in many different respects. As socially adaptable and friendly as I really can be, I am quite an extreme personality in many different regards, and it took allot of effort, and communication on my part to make sure I was working towards a healthy team dynamic. Spending six months together living out in the woods, or on a ranger compound, on such close quarters with the same people is much more of a challenge then I'd originally assumed. I felt damn near blessed to have been surrounded with the amazing people that my team was comprised of, but as a person known to need to "do his own thing" sometimes, there was certainly many challenges I would face.
     Because of the intensity of such an experience, the first week was mostly devoted to a balance between team building exercises, ice-breakers, and government paperwork. Though I can now realize how necessary that time really was, weeks like these put me to the test nearly as much as weeks later in the season where we were camping among frigid craters in endless rainfall. As much as I despised cold wet clothes, I could be just as inclined to lose my mind doing paperwork, or throwing a beach ball around and having to remember the name of the person I'm throwing to. I know that seems ridiculous, but I'm just a certain type I suppose...
      One great thing about having some time devoted to getting to know one another- as well as the 600 person town of Trout Lake- was that we got to explore a bit locally with the rest of the members. After the first two weeks of training, paperwork, and social exercises, the 7 different teams all go off to their own sites scattered throughout the NW. Aside from occasional visits, teams are mostly on their own the season, and only ONE team stays there in Trout Lake to work the local Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Luckily for me, I was on the G.P. team, and Trout Lake would fondly become my home for the next 6 months.
The picture above, is a few of us blindly setting out toward the NAP (natural area preserve) after dinner, as recommended by one of the staff. We had no idea for the view we were in for.   

Just as we turned the bend down the old gravel road, and made it past a small handful of tree's, there she was in all her glory! Mt. Adams.

Coming from a city life in the Midwest, I'd never seen something so magnificent up close like Mt. Adams was. The idea of living right there, and even being assigned to work in the Mt. Adams wilderness often times, was nothing short of invigorating. I had no idea that this little spot on the lake known as the nap (natural area preserve) would soon become a social sanctuary of sorts, for me and Sean to come work on music, and have a few cold beers after a long day of dragging timbers and digging drainage's.  

Meet "Crazy Dave!" He's a gentleman, a scholar, and one hell of a fine singer. Dave was among one of my first drinking buddy's there from the academy, and being one of the few with a car, he facilitated the needs of fellow degenerates such as myself who were always looking to go out and cut loose a bit after work. When the local Inn wasn't open, it was a 45 minute drive to the nearest bar! We would show up early in the morning for work after long rowdy nights, proceed to work long rigorous days, and damned if we didn't do it all over again. Call it what you will, but we had ourselves a fine time, and I wouldn't expect any less of myself in taking in a fully loaded experience on all fronts. 

Often times, the end of the night at the Inn really did look as blurry as this photo! My first time going there, I knew I had found a special place. I won't even get into the mushy details at the moment, because I have much writing to do about the Trout Lake Country Inn, the saints who own it, and the important role it inevitably had in my life out in Trout Lake.

The current hipster craze of drinking PBR and other blue collar beers has brought the price of PBR's up in Milwaukee to nearly that of Miller High Life! I know, crazy right? Well the Trout Lake Country Inn is a place that knows no craze, or particular time period even, and thus forth, the Pabst's flow like wine at minimum expense. Thanks be to god!

     In my first few days there in Trout Lake, we were lucky enough to have found out about a storied point of interest called "The Cheese Caves." The local area is known to be riddled with mysterious little caves all over the place, some well known as attractions, and others only found via bar napkin treasure maps or intricate landmarks. "The Cheese Caves," are somewhere in between the two, but are certainly only told of through locals. After a mile or so into the "back 40," a few wrong turns, and a few strange landmarks, we finally found an enormous hole in the ground with a makeshift ladder poking out that appeared to be our destination. The Cheese Caves were named as such because at one point back before efficient refrigerating methods were developed, they were used by local cheese makers to store large quantities of cheese that apparently benefited in the stable temperature. Interestingly, when we went far enough down there, we actually stumbled upon a decent amount of old rotting wood which was apparently evidence of dismantled shelving used to store the cheese way back when.
     The Cheese Caves became a place to frequently return to and explore. People would have "monster wars" (I'll explain later), and once toward the end of the season, there was even a Cheese Cave Rave complete with glow sticks, i pods, bongo's, and other general implements of dance. Throughout the NWSA's history, an intense challenge eventually came about that entailed crawling back into the smallest rat-hole in the cave, turning your head lamp off, and remaining there in the absolute darkness for an entire 24 hours. I wish I could say I took the challenge, but I didn't.        

So in the next few posts detailing my experiences living and working in Trout Lake, you'll get a chance to better know the fine people of the fabled "G.P. Team" (Gifford Pinchot), and the trials and tribulations of our turbulent little family. In the meantime, I'll share some of the fun photo's we collected in the first week while exploring the local area together.

Here's Erin posing in the foreground of "Sleeping Beauty," a famous local hiking destination, with one of the most spectacular views in the area. "Sleeping Beauty," can vaguely be seen in the distance there, and is meant to represent Erin's pose of the fabled sleeping beauty as depicted. I didn't see it very clearly at first, but after spending the summer in the area, it strangely became more and more clear to me. The rocky peak directly above Erin's face is the face of sleeping beauty, and the rounded sort of peak just next to it is meant to represent her folded hands on her chest. The white line of snow running down the peak, is said to be a tear drop from the fabled princess. Later in the season, we would not only get to hike to the summit, but buck out all the fallen tree's in the way of the trail, and dig drain dips along the way. Talk about living the dream!  

Here we are in Pats farm. Pat raises chickens, and supply's the local area with delicious organic eggs. When raspberry comes around, she can always use pickers!
One amazing thing about Trout Lake, and the NW in general, is that folks tend to know exactly where everything they are eating comes from. I can't say there wasn't a dietary transition involved on my part, but I also can't say that it wasn't entirely for the better either! I got spoiled eating out there, and now that I'm in the mid-west living on ramen noodles once again, and my only source of protein is canned tuna- I can say that I absolutely appreciate the food culture, and the emphasis on sustainability, and eating local. Don't tell my vegetarian leader, Jen- but I even secretly crave tofu once and a while to replace my hot dog intake... Shhhhh!

There's about a total of three establishments in Trout Lake. The Post Office, the previously mentioned and highly regarded Trout Lake Country Inn, and the General store, fondly referred to by anyone who's anyone as "The G store." The G-Store is where you go if you need anything that isn't lodging, music, beer, or company (found at the Inn). I guess there's also the ranger station where you can buy maps or whatnot, and there is also Andy's gas station. Attached to Andy's gas station is an evil little cafe which serves burgers, but we will not speak of this place, as I consider myself forever a patron, advocate, and wandering employee of the Inn. In all fairness, I should just go ahead and admit to my prejudices. On my days off from the trails, I was a loyal employee at the Trout Lake Country Inn, and the owners, Christian and Danica quickly became beloved friends of mine. As I mentioned, I'll save my ranting and raving of the Inn for future posts that focus a bit more on my later life in Trout Lake.
Anyways, The G-Store is A-okay in my book, and if it wasn't, I'd be S.O.L. anyhow, because your in for a bit of a drive if you can't buy what you need at the G Store. Since there is a no alcohol policy on NWSA grounds, it didn't take much more then a few weeks for me and my fellow collaborator in music/shenanigans to profess an efficient system of stashing beer off campus so we could have a few cold ones after work and relax at the NAP. The G Store was good enough to supply us with an affordable variety of cheap beer that usually rotated between Hamms, PBR, Raineer, or Olympia. If we were really feeling ritzy, we went with sessions, but those were special days... 

Here we are at the... well, between the picture above and below, I think you can figure it out. Pretty sweet though, eh?

And here's the man of the hour himself, Mr. Sean O'Neill. I knew from the beginning that this guy was trouble, and being that trouble is pretty much my preferred medium now'a days, it was no surprise that we got along famously. There was a total of 7 or so teams, with 7 or so people on each (numbers aren't my forte), but Sean's unique role was "the ROVER," which was an appropriate title for this colorful Irishman. The job of "the ROVER," was to potentially bounce between teams who were down a person due to injury, or who had to leave the program for unforeseen reasons. I was glad that the team I was on, G.P., was supposed to be his home base when the other teams were in healthy order, but when we all grew attached to good old Sean, we knew it would suck to lose him to his roving ways.
Sean was also my room mate in the small two person rooms we were assigned, which worked out splendidly since we were both broke, smelly, Irish work-horses with irregular schedules and unconventional backgrounds. As close as I inevitably became with most everyone in the program, I'm frankly not sure many other people could have put up with living on such close quarters with me. I suppose I would have adapted to what other people expected, but you can only do so much. We drew a line down the middle of the room that my mess would most often times mark, and that worked pretty well for us. There was even a foul sort of undertone of amusement to the strange man cave, and the fact that the two oddest of the odd balls had been lumped together worked as a natural sort of dialogue.
I often wondered why Sean was able to put up with some of my ridiculous tendency's, but I guess with any other room mate, it would have been him in the position of having to work to meet someone else's expectations. With me, it was a constant reminder that you could be far, far worse off. Thanks for putting up with me buddy, and sorry for my ridiculous alarms, and the infamous CORE-4 sleep schedule!      

The Trout Lake CSA is a meaningful local institution of sorts that works off the premise of everyone contributing time and effort to the land and crops, and everyone reaping the benefits. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and the CSA puts out a hearty amount of vegetables throughout the year that are divided among the people who either pay a portion, spend a certain amount of time working on the land, or a mixture of both. The CSA is a great way to get involved with the local community in Trout Lake, and in the very modest amount of time I did put in volunteering, I managed to learn a good amount about farming and gardening. CSA's aren't only found in Trout Lake, they exist all over the country, and similar models are even popping up all over cities in the U.S. If you don't know anything about farming, getting involved in some of these local efforts is the best way to learn. It is highly rewarding!   

Despite T.L.C.'s popular advice, we went "chasing waterfalls." I don't see what was so wrong about doing so, and frankly, I find that sticking to the rivers and the lakes that I'm used to, gets rather boring... have you had enough yet? I'm done.

Erin and Olivia hanging out with good 'ol Ollie! Ollie is Christians loyal dog, and when he's not out exploring the town, he lives at the Inn. I'm generally a cat person, but Ollie has real charm, and he's treated like royalty there at the Inn. Dogs in Trout Lake tend to have there own lives, and get to do pretty much whatever they want. It isn't uncommon at all for a dog to disappear for days in Trout Lake, and wander back on home whenever the hell it so desires... What a life!

Although I wasn't always altogether thrilled with some of the activities the first two weeks of member training entailed during the day, it was all necessary to prepare us for what we had ahead of us, and we all had a grand time hanging out and exploring the area together during the evenings off. When the two weeks was finally up, we had all made some great friends among the various teams, and though I was ready to get on the trails, it was sad when all the teams finally went there separate ways. Of course it wasn't any final good-bye, at the half way point of the season, everyone meets back up in Trout Lake for a week of fun during the grand "Summer Summit," which I will be sure to detail to you.
Until then, our small team was about to have the unique experience of living in the small little town of Trout Lake, and working under the Forest Service in the beautiful Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was an experience that certainly changed my life and my perspectives, and I'm looking forward to sharing it.    

Good old James gets a bottle of wine in him, and not only does he get sentimental, but he gets remarkably photogenic- wouldn't you say? One helluva good fella, who has an interesting role in the scheme of this story.

Sara, an ex art major turned political-science, always had something interesting to say.  She was also among a handful of us rapscallions that with pure enough intent, didn't always do things by the book. I enjoyed her very much for that, and we always got along great as overwhelmingly sarcastic buddy's.  

Ellen was a sweetheart and a half reigning from the U.P., and boy howdy could this gal hold her own as only a mid-westerner could! The wonderfully quirky subtleties of her personality make her a remarkably complex character, and when you pair that with her golden laugh, you've got a winning combo! 

As it turned out, we all drank a bit too much wine this day, and though I suffered a bit of a pain in my head, James apparently went back to the commons and spewed red wine all over the floor. Of course this was all after getting into an overwhelmingly emotional argument about 9/11, crying a bit, and inevitably insulting each other... The next day, all was fine and dandy, and it was just another thing to laugh about, but maaan- don't mix those red and white wines, buddy. 

      Currently, I'm in a small oil boomtown called Minot, ND, currently welding live-stock fencing on my own schedule, and looking for a good paying job. Though I have nobody to collaborate with, I've been working on several new songs that I am excited to play around with once I find some willing participants. Since this leaves me relatively isolated from music- directly at least- I've been taking a serious interest in studying folk rhythm. I've been playing the spoons for a week or two now, and I'm starting to get pretty good at 'em. I also just picked up a washboard at an antique shop to play around on, and I've been steadily playing my harmonica's a bit each day as well. Here in the frigid winds of the central plains, music has really been a necessary, and therapeutic outlet. I've also been working on allot of video, and writing some poetry as well. I'd like to get going on more visual art, but it has been difficult to do so out here. 
     I'll leave you off with a raw recording of the first song me and Sean managed to put together for our music project "The Whiskey Economy." Its called "Okay Enough." Since we have a handful of these crude, laptop recorded songs, I figure I'll leave one or two with my next few posts so they can be enjoyed in the context of where they were created. I had a blast bringing music back into my life, writing lyrics, and collaborating with Sean, so I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoyed making 'em!

Until We Meet Again...

Joseph R. Reeves

"Okay Enough," The Whiskey Economy w/ Joseph Reeves, and Sean O'Neill


STATUS UPDATE: "A 48 hour Greyhound from Milwaukee to Oregon"

     Well well well, fancy meeting you here my fine readers! 
It's almost as if you've wandered over lackadaisically with the half-hearted expectation that I might actually be true to my word, and continue piecing together the wonderfully fragmented tale that is becoming known as the latter part of my youth, and The Last Great American Journey. Round and round and round it goes, and as for where it ends? Well, I'd be the last one to know. One thing has certainly become clear to me though, and that is how abundantly naive it was of me to have laid out the original formula of this journey in such a meticulous manner that might suggest I actually control the timeline, scope, or course of events therein. Such an effort only becomes meaningful in revealing the futility of our own preparations, and Steinbeck's assertion at the beginning of Travels with Charley holds truer than ever when he says: "you don't take a journey, a journey takes you." I'm pretty sure Jerry Garcia said something similar of a trip, but I have a hunch he was referring to something else.
As is usual for my blogging habits, I find myself itching with the urge to share all the most recent happenings of my life here in Trout Lake, WA while working on a trail crew for the forest service- BUT I still haven't had enough time to really fill you in with the amazing details of how I got here, as well as the enduring process of getting adjusted to an entirely new life in an entirely new place. Such growth, change, and development has been the true fodder of TLGAJ from the outset, and though I've struggled with a coherent narrative structure in the blog, you can be promised that absolutely every encounter, dialogue, character, and revelation has been noted in some form, and will be delivered at some point either through blog, book, or both. 
So as much as I'd like to introduce you to my charming trail crew family in the Lodge-Pole cabins on the Ranger station compound, tell you about my weekend job cooking at the Trout Lake Country Inn, recall my foggy shamanistic spirit dance at the annual Rainbow Family Gathering (a weekend adventure bound to compel short stories within itself), link some recordings of new folk-inspired songs me and my roommate Sean O'neil are working on, tell tales of my visits to the famed local "ASETI Ranch" alien spotting organization, and an overwhelming amount more-- as much as I would LOVE to begin sharing all that with you immediately, I'm going to have to get back to where I left off last…  

       My last actual "STATUS UPDATE" (Read Here) post was a self absorbed sort of re-capping of the creatively productive but socially dismal winter season I spent in Wisconsin. I don't do well with such extreme isolation, snow, and lack of sun, and though I managed to remain busy creating a series of documentaries and pushing my personal studio work, I was also reminded of why I fled from Wisconsin winters in the first place. After becoming increasingly active in the Madison protests of Scott Walker, I felt it was time to bring TLGAJ to a socially conscious environment, and I began looking into Americorps programs. My prospects were also enticed by the fact that such service based organizations would prolong my loan payments. At this point my family and friends are being harassed daily from those dirty-dog loan companies.
Through my experiences in N. California, and Mendocino County earlier that year, I knew I wanted to spend some serious time getting closer to nature and continuing my exploration of the value in work ethic. I also knew I would benefit artistically and spiritually from such an environment, and the fact that I was getting to a "point of no return" for my health as a 24 year old, sealed the deal in provoking me to seek out a physically demanding program that would show me a healthier way to get by, while also teaching me some better habits in conservation and self sustainability. Such details in my motives will be revealed at greater length when I catch up to telling about my time here in Americorps, but for now, all you need to know is that I got accepted for a 6 month position in the North West Service Acadamy (NWSA), and that that was my catalyst for leaving.

As is often the case, the setting for this latest departure was emotionally downtrodden, and my to-do list only promised to hinder any potential chance of leaving with a feeling of togetherness. I had committed myself to creating a 7 foot drawing, and substantial multi-media installation for a new gallery opening in Milwaukee, I agreed to help a friend make a promotional video for his website (Robb Quinn Video), and I had minimal cash to round up all the necessary gear I would need for my Americorps gig (which was a whole 'nother to-do list in itself). Needless to say, I was a tightly wound mess with allot on my mind, and ultimately, those circumstances were what kept me and The Great B.O. from departing Milwaukee together. For those of you new to the blog here, B.O. is a staple character from the earliest of my traveling endeavors, and if you don't know of him already, it shouldn't take you long to find out about him by referring to older posts. If you are already familiar with B.O., then you probably aren't surprised that we had yet another mellow dramatic fall out. This isn't the first time. 
Before we had our little tiff, me and The Great B.O. had concocted a grand scheme that involved driving down to visit "Brother Mark" in NC the day he came back from his military service overseas. Since we were short on cash, we would pick ride-sharers up all along the way to help pay for gas, and then after spending a few days with Mark, we would tentatively drive from the beach in Jacksonville NC all the way to the west coast. The primary idea was to have made a full haul from coast to coast, but I also needed to be at the Portland Airport by the 23rd to catch my shuttle ride to Trout Lake, and furthermore, I wanted to spend the prior weekend visiting some friends in Portland and blowing off some steam. It certainly would have been a stint worth bragging about if we had pulled it off. Unfortunately, the morning I was preparing for my big shoot/ performance piece, B.O. needed me to help him pick up car parts. When I told him I simply couldn't do it, he got an attitude and said he wasn't sure if he wanted me in on the trip, and since I had a plethora of other things to deal with, I told him it would be easier and cheaper for me to find my own way to Portland anyways.
From what I can gather, B.O. was pissed off that I was prioritizing my work for the art show in Milwaukee, and for the most part, I was. He was upset that I wasn't doing my part in preparing the Le Sabre (his car) for the big trip, and when he made the claim that I was always working on my "art shit" whenever we were about to depart for a trip, I quickly realized it would be better to just go my own way and avoid any potential cross-country drama. There was little merit to B.O.'s complaints, because the fact was that I had some priorities I had to put first. In the end I had a job I had to get to, and if B.O. wasn't already aware of the unrelenting dedication I put towards what he calls my "art shit," then he must not have been paying very much attention to my life in the years I've known him. His last words to me were along the lines of him considering me a disgrace to the journey, and we haven't spoke since. These things happen in life, and being friends with B.O., they happen a bit more frequently. Just today I heard he left a note at my folks house thanking them for putting him up, and informing them that he was heading out of Milwaukee. There was no indication as to where he was heading, and since he left a few debts to his name, Minnesota is always a good guess as to his whereabouts.

*(Since beginning this post, a whole lot more has revealed itself in the life of B.O., and some wrongdoings he has been so kind to have blessed me, my family, and my friends with. Unfortunately, I'm on a very serious break from B.O. for a while. Simply put, he has some things to sort out on his own this time around, and though he will always be family to me, I need a break from him for a while.)

This is where I was working for most the winter... Editing video, working on some 2-D pieces,  and even experimenting with animation. 

Since I was editing for such ridiculous periods of time, I began starting strange little sculptures that I could periodically work on when I needed a break from the screen. Here's some experimenting I was doing with hot glue... I see potential!

My art making got so out of hand that it consumed my bedroom as well. This was generally where I'd work on writing...

Yet another promising beginning to another spaghetti sculpture. I don't know why I can't bring myself to stop making these damn things, but they sure are fun... just not to store...

So without the side trip to NC happening, I had a few extra days to pack and gather my gear, and to make sure my work was where it needed to be for the gallery opening that would be taking place while I was gone. The remainder of my time was spent wrapping up meetings with folks in Milwaukee, stressing, and being dreadfully depressed and nervous. The realization that I was about to go through another radical life change was finally dawning on me, and I was particularly distressed about where my relationship with the lovely Miss Chastaine Tallon would go. We had been an item for some time, and I wasn't sure where the right place to leave things would be, or what the word leave even meant exactly. 
Though I love Chassy dearly, I didn't want to ruin any potential we could have in the future by doing the hardcore long distance relationship and failing. At the same time though, I didn't want to end a good thing simply because we were headed different ways. On top of that, Chassy strives to be working upwards as a graphic designer and therefore needs a consistent job, whereas I still have much of America to see, and I could very well end up doing my Masters degree anywhere. Basically, neither one of us really knows where we'll end up in life, so suffice it to say our relationship is "complicated," and thats never an easy thing to face with someone you love. I assured her I wasn't going to make my life any messier by trying to find another girlfriend out West, and that we would both simply have to follow our paths, and see where they lead us. It was, is, and has been immensely difficult without Chassy, but my hopes are that if we can find happiness in knowing that we love each other, then we've got a chance to hold things together in the future. 
Though I've been accused of many wrongs in the whole ordeal, selfishness is the major one for me to accept. The rest are circumstantial, unfortunate, and complex to say the least. I had my plans in mind for this trip months before I ever even met Chassy, so I was essentially pitted between my goals and dreams on the one side, and my love on the other. I concluded it was a lose-lose situation. One clear thing to me now'a days, is that I cannot live a life entirely for myself much longer or I'll rot just like the rest of 'em. I sincerely hope I don't lose Chassy in the long run.

* This is a raw recording of one of the more recent songs I wrote for me and Sean O'neil's music project, "The Whiskey Economy." It is a bad recording, and unaccompanied by music, so take it for what it is. The rest of the album is entirely different from this song, but I thought it was an appropriate one to share in illustrating just how difficult a time I've had without Chassy around. The vocals are pretty rough, but I'm trying my best to figure out how my voice actually works, so give me a break. I'm new to this... 

      The period leading up to my departure seemed to drag on forever, and after spending sufficient time and effort seeking out the cheapest way for me to get to Portland, I finally sprang 130 bucks on a 48 hour greyhound ride that left at 2 AM the next night. This left me with 70 bucks to get by in Portland for the weekend, and whatever I didn't spend in the city would be all I would have in Trout Lake until I got paid three weeks later on the 15th. As usual, I was cutting it pretty damn close.
With the immense weight of change grinding me down by the hour, and a two day bus ride in my near future, I wrapped up my packing while nervously drinking beer after beer. My folks dropped me off around 2 AM, drunk, at the greyhound station in Milwaukee to see me off. Neither myself or Chassy brought ourselves to say goodbye to each other in any formal manner, mostly because it seemed to reiterate the fact that I was leaving, and we didn't know when we would see each other next. Chassy was a soft, sobbing, little blonde mess of mascara when I hugged her good bye, and I'm not sure I'll ever forgive myself for not allowing my eyes to cry with her right there in that moment. There is a terrible and defiant order within the wiring of the male circuitry that doesn't allow us to cry when we really need to. I'd like to get it fixed, but there is also some faulty wiring in our systems that seems to prevent us from seeking such help. I promise, I'm working on it.

The epic two day greyhound ride was absolutely packed with characters, conversations, and serendipitous experiences that excited me for the big changes I was finally an the road toward, and it was an important reminder to me of why I had originally set out to experience america in such a way. After a stagnant and emotionally taxing stint of video editing in the frigid, sunless, winter months of Wisconsin, I was finally back on the road again. Despite my hang-ups, it felt magnificent.
I'm going to experiment a little with my prose here for the description of my greyhound experience, and perhaps dip into my notes a bit:
Milwaukee to Minneapolis and my last glimpse of the great forests, lakes, and farm fields of the upper mid-west; Minneapolis to Fargo N.D., where the golden corn fields stretch abundant and lax across long rolling hills on roads so straight and narrow they defy perspective. On through N.D., and the magnificent Cheyanne River Valley beneath a cloudy blue sky and ever expansive terrains. The people here are loved by the sun, and emerging triumphantly into being, a gallant steel armature of a painted steed cuts through the landscape. Into the great plains among Medina, and then Bismark, and then the Enchanted Highway among buffalo, wild horses, and eventually, our national grasslands. The gentle hills are ornately carved with old winding dirt roads, telephone lines, and the contours of the acres of a proud man with a greasy smile and a pair of Levis. Great truck stops with aging civilizations, soda pop, and tribesman lie somewhere ahead in the next few fleeting decades and unnumbered exits. Monumental silos are staggered restlessly among it all, and onward we blaze through the black hills of Dickenson, the infamous badlands, and the extravagantly colored "Painted Canyons" that begin to leak into the great state of Montana like raindrops on window in wind. Nightfall by Miles city beneath sheets of warm rain fall, and a soft shroud of darkness so expansive that our massive box of metal seems to fall endlessly forward through it with listless concern. The shadows among the roadside look like Cowboys and Indians. Bring your cap gun, this shit is wild...  

(taken directly from notebook/notes)      

This is it! I'm living my fucking dream!
Tony, Keny & Terry-Ann, Lars, Bob Harper; also suburban kid w/ techno and hair gel, ex hippy the hater, Minnesotan farmhand and unexpected guitarist… 
Driving through the night in the red light, drinking MD 20/20, passing bottles in the dark among strangers and friends, and new strange friends, and prodigy musicians, and lovers torn apart and patched together in the beautiful dance we live for…
Finally make it to Billings, half drunk and salivating from tobacco snus- Bob Harper transfers busses but joins me and the juneau-bound couple for a drink at an Italian night club. We have an hour and a half layover, Bob only has a half hour, and he buys me a shot and makes plans to meet again with me sometime- Bob departs, and as Teri gambles, Kenny buys me a Bud light and unravels his tragic and beautiful love story to me. We drink, we drink, we drunk, terry gambles, last call, attractive over-dressed skirts give me inviting eyes while brutish men not dancing with their girls give me eyes of despise, and the three of us drunkenly go back to the station where someone shares muscle relaxers with us… Feeling wonderful, I buy a ramen and microwave it at the station while talking to the ex-hippie douche about organic food as he eats cheeto's and I boldly sit on the floor near a trashcan and power outlet to charge my cpu. I get in line for the bus and chat w/ shy pretty latina bound for Seattle, get on board feeling F'd up, and a local mason named Will sits next to me. We talk excitedly and inquire curiously about each others paths and I wake up a bit. Will goes to bathroom, and I fall asleep before he comes back… Wake up in Missoula, Will and Minnesotan farmhand leave, and a new chatty character by the name of Tony comes to sit next to me...

"Bob Harper" on the greyhound. Via cell pic.

Strange Italian night club, getting drunk during the layover in Billings...

It was a long, strange ride. I was glad to have met Kenny and Terri.

"LARS" from the Greyhound

"Tony" from the greyhound. 

     So inevitably I made it to Portland, of course, and after my inspiring stint on the greyhound, I had the next two nights to spend with my wonderful friends in the city. After my weekend of cutting loose- which is several stories within itself- I was to catch a shuttle from the Portland Airport, to my final destination: Trout Lake, Washington.
And this, my friends, is where I will leave off. I have very much to share with you all about my life here in Trout Lake the past five months, and now that my trail season is coming to an end, its time to start sharing all that with you. Come November, I'm headed South with the money I've saved from my modest volunteer wages, my job cooking at the Inn, and the miscellaneous work I've done around town. I've got allot to catch  everyone up on, because more and more stories are going to be in the making with the upcoming stints I've got planned. Until then, keep up with me here on the blog, and become a follower so I can sleep soundly knowing one more person is paying attention to my senseless rambling.

Until We Meet Again…

Joseph R. Reeves