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Craig DelBonis
18 February 2017 @ 12:21 am

Here's an interesting thought that I've come to realize very recently...

We, as children, are not taught how to properly strengthen our mind like we do our bodies. I'm not talking about book-learning... I'm talking about mental health. Mindfulness, acceptance, and empowerment. Knowing what I know now, and fighting what I have been going through for the past four to five years... it strikes me as short of maddening that schools don't employ some sort of regular mental exercise for kids at school. Or even tell them about the need for it. Someone like me, and I'm sure many millions of others, absolutely needed it growing up, but had no idea such a thing WAS necessary.

I grew up completely oblivious to the benefits of meditation until seeking it out was mandatory to turn myself back from mental illness. People don't deserve to learn this way... it'straumatic, and even scarring. I think many end up being medicated before they can find it comfortably within themselves to fight off whatever it is they ail from.

Which leads me to another thought... I'm of the mind to wonder how many mental illnesses are actually symptoms of nothing but a weakened mind. Imagine, being your age now, if you never worked out your body. If you never gave it the attention it deserved. I'm sure you would be suffering from some chronic pains, twitches, ticks, or the like. Your muscles would be so weak and incapable of performing to any livable standards.

Now substitute that with your mind. A mind that you've never really sat with, and studied. Learned from, came to terms with. Took time ritually to understand the nuances of. People need to know how their minds work. They need to do it often, and they need a guidance and a good set of tools to help them know how to do it. I'm just realizing now that my mind has been on autopilot almost my whole life. I've always been a pretty analytical person, but only outward, onto problems and situations that I see and can interact with physically. When my mind started failing and mistrusting my body, I panicked, because this was something I could not see. I realized I was completely unfamiliar with how to deal with a problem that came from inside. I think, had I not acted, I would be something of an agoraphobe. Chronically suffering from social and situational anxieties that would have made me almost incapable of normal existence.

It makes me wonder how many mental ailments could be stopped with early prevention via a mental regimen of mindfulness...

Lately, because of all the work I have been putting in, I find myself suffering from 90% less unprovoked panic and palpitations. I have more hurdles to overcome. Working out can still be a mental debate... I have to reaffirm to myself that the stress being put on my body is a good stress. That I'm doing this willingly, and the result of it is and will be positive. It's hard to have to do this sometimes, as I feel sort of... inept, and broken. But we all have our problems, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to identify and work through mine here, in my room, on my time. My heart goes out to those who have much more complex, and financially burdening issues...

If I could impart one piece of advice to anybody who reads this, it would be this: Meditate. Really. Our brains are not built to be subject to what we have made our lives into. We create so many forms of stress that our minds and bodies cannot identify with, fight and resolve. What is a body supposed to do with the anxiety of your uncaring boss, deadlines, political views, time management, undesirable living situation, or anything else we come up with to make life an adversary? These things are left unchecked, treading paths and circles in every backburner of our minds... just beyond our perception, but there enough to make a difference.

It is our job to portion out time, and learn how to unravel our worries before they unravel us.

Love your mind, everyone.

 
 
Current Location: Echo Park, CA
Current Mood: sympathetic
Current Music: Boards of Canada
 
 
Craig DelBonis
28 January 2017 @ 12:52 am

I write this from my newly organized room. With my normally stand-up workstation of a desk now at only a foot off of the ground, which I sit indian-style in front of. I did this on a whim. I woke up and thought to myself, "I really enjoy being in my room, and not so much out in the rest of the apartment." Almost immediately I found myself acting upon it, throwing furniture about in transitionary piles for the next three hours, and throwing the lives of my cats into disarray by proxy.

I'm taking a risk here. My room has become a very comfortable, healing, sacred place to me lately. I love being here in it, learning more about myself in my bed while I meditate. Laying or sitting on top of my covers for an hour or two out of the day for no other reason than to just be. Cultivate my thoughts and energy, or not. This room has been great to me. It's only natural that I'm wont to stay in here for as long as possible. Lately, though, I've been feeling a bit guilty at the hit other aspects of my life have taken because of this isolation. I know the isolation does me much good... but real life is going to come knocking very soon. My unemployment funds are running out, my scooter is not running so well, and my lease is up in about a month. It's time to make some decisions.

So, I decided to have it all, and move my computer setup in here. This is risky to me, because I believe I've been benefiting from not having a surplus of electronics in the bedroom. Keeping myself out of the bedroom for any other reasons than to sleep, or use the bed recreationally, gave me a great foundation to help repair my chronic insomnia. So, I'm a little nervous at the thought of undoing some of that work. But only a little. Because I know I can be stronger than that fear.

The past couple weeks have been amazing for me. Feeling a real sense of strength in my mind. Fighting, and winning, battles against anxieties and fears, using the training methods and tools I've learned since August. I cannot relate how empowering it is... how addictive it is to finally be able to win your mind over from it's dark, sickening habits. To be able to train new habits against all of your irrationally conjured odds. It works, in spite of all of your bullshit. And then it starts to really work. And then it just clicks. Life is, for the most part, back in my own hands. And I say Fuck Yes to that.

I say for the most part, because one of my last demons to battle with is cannabis. I've still got some pretty deep seeded fears with how it alters my mind. It didn't always used to be this way... and that makes me want to win the battle all the more. I honestly don't even care to smoke all that often. I just want to regain everything that my fears have taken hold of, and this is a big one. My anxieties ruined cannabis for me. I have developed fearful habits whenever I come into contact with it... really all drugs for that matter.

So, in the interest of not allowing myself to close any doors, I'm going to take the keys back on this one. It's been difficult so far... I found myself high last night off of one puff on a pen. At least I think I was. I could have created a powerful placebo of a reaction. Honestly it could have been either or. Almost instantly after coughing, I started to enter the mental contest of keeping myself happy. My hands were suddenly very sensitive to the cold, and I ended up in a curled up child's pose in my bed, on a see-saw of good trip/bad trip.

I went through a very methodical, analytical series of internal interrogation in that pose for about a half an hour. I then forced myself downstairs to talk to my roommate, Drew. It went well, for the most part. I was able to distract myself from unhealthy habits and check-ins with my body most of the time, and ended up in a sleepy comfortable lull when all was said and done. On a whole, I would rate the experience a 6 out of 10. Which is really saying a lot actually. I think just about every time I've gotten high in the past two to four years have been 3 or less. 1 being a panic attack. So, I'm very optimistic. This was a great test of mental strength and clarity.

That all being said. I'm going to get back to my little fortress of solitude, and start my night-time routine. Because life is all about habits and routines. We are simply and plainly, habitual creatures, for better or for worse. All we can do is make sure we have good ones.

 
 
Current Location: Echo Park, LA
Current Mood: serene
Current Music: None
 
 
Craig DelBonis
02 January 2017 @ 10:26 pm

Boy, I feel a little guilty for letting this linger unfinished for that long, because that was a lot of stressful stuff to dump without much of a happy ending!

I write this after coming back from a workout, a walk, and a good few articles from Calm and Courageous. Just a few things I make sure to do as often as possible, if not every day, to ensure that I'm on a path of wellness. Like all things, it's work. And, aside from the actual physical working out, it's ridiculous to say, and admit, that it feels like work sometimes. Meditating... calming down... identifying negative thought processes and using mindful tools to create positive habits instead. It's work. It is actually WORK to make my brain think happier. As if I have an aversion to happiness!!

It can be easy, and hurtful, to say that is what I'm dealing with. It can feel downright comfortable sometimes to go for an easy, depressing answer, and curl up in it's thick puddle of tar. But that's only because I allowed it to become a habit at a point in my life. Some point, not completely definable, but most likely a sum of smaller points that came to a head, I accepted being on the other end of an emotional see-saw. And didn't try to push off again. I got my feet stuck in the ground underneath me. After time, the see-saw itself started to sink in. I only started to realize how bad it became when the effects started to physically hurt me. I had never thought of the possibility that depression could hurt me. After all, I'd dealt with it as a shitty, angsty teenager and coped just fine. Something I still kind of struggle with the logic of nowadays.

That all being said, I knew something had to change, and that it had to come from me. I've never quite had any credible form of health insurance, and I was slowly being worn away by the thought that I was going to die from some unseen internal horror that I could totally avoid if I only got checked out. But I still held on to the shred of rationality that I KNEW it was psychosomatic. I could feel my thoughts driving my body to feel this way. So, the decision that I made, was that it was up to me. My brain is my own, and it's my job and duty to take care of it as I would my body. I just had to learn. Something I'm still doing, but just like the body after regular workouts, I can feel my mind strengthening. It's just as addictive and empowering!

I'm on a slow, but steady uphill climb out of a place that I before thought was impossible to get out from under. I want to share this powerful journey with everyone around me who may be feeling the same. Some I know do, and those people help me all the more, because sharing our strife is an absolutely crucial key to recovery. Someone who feels they are suffering alone will always feel those symptoms tenfold. People need people, to relate and love and share with. I bottled up and hid my anxiety for so long, and I firmly believe that's what's escalated it to this level. I felt like I was so alone in the severity of my negative thoughts. Some people weren't the best to share my feelings with, admittedly. And I don't begrudge them for it... I don't think anxiety and panic attacks can easily be related to a person who just isn't built for empathy, and that isn't their fault. You have to find likeminded friends, or others on the same arduous journey.

So, let this be a call to arms. For anybody looking for a leg up, or a helping hand out of a hole.. I'd like to offer myself. My past experiences, and the tools I've been using to guide me back to a happier life. I feel like I've developed a wide range of approaches and tools, and it's only getting better the more I share and talk about them.

Case and point, this journal. And the one I have by my bed. It's so soothing and beneficial to be able to write all of these things out. The less I keep inside, the less that stays there to peck away at the work I've done.

My slow rise to a happy life has me meditating and writing nightly, working out daily, and most importantly, being satisfied with what I do or don't do with my time. I've taken the past two weeks to almost literally hermit inside my own room, acclimating to the notion that I don't have to push myself to make every day outwardly productive. It was a tough first few nights... but I slowly came to adore the time I spent in my room, and I still do. Long, lazy days of self reflection and careless indulgence on the simple things I like to do. Puzzles... sleeping... being with my cats... watching my favorite YouTube series. I've always had a bad habit of feeling some level of guilt if I wasn't actively working on some path to a successful future. I've had to enter a forced hibernation of sorts to re-align my thinking, and it's worked wonders.

I could ramble on, and maybe I will again. But right now, I really want to get to work on my new puzzle. It's 4,000 goddamn pieces!

 
 
Current Location: Echo Park, LA
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Sigur Ros - Ny Batteri
 
 
Craig DelBonis
26 December 2016 @ 10:38 pm

I've been experiencing some changes in mental health for the past three... maybe four years. It started as something relatively subtle and unnoticed. As the months went by, I began losing ground. And with it, my confidence in my health. My mind started conjuring up all of these ways my body could, and will, betray me.

Then these thoughts became habitual.
Then these habitual thoughts became mantras.
Then the mantras started manifesting themselves within my body.
This is where I was at, at my lowest point.

I believe it first started at my computer one day... living on Avon Way. I was making some music. I was either recording a song from Where I Stand, or the chiptune dubstep thing that never got off the ground. Either way, I was the recipient of a rather startling heart flutter. Startling because I was a bit drowsy at the time, and also because I was hunched over. The flutter jolted my body upright as it trembled it's way up through my check and to the base of my neck, knocking my shoulders back and chest out a bit. There was no pain, rather it felt like a static shock from inside of my body.

This jarred me a bit for the moment, and I felt like that's all it was. But at that time in my life, there were a few other odd occurances that got the snowball rolling.

My job at the Rumour Mill, a locally run coffee shop, was entirely too stressful. I'm used to a fast-paced service industry job, but this was something else. It was battering me down, dealing with a morning rush every day by myself. Dealing with unhappy, impatient customers. Dealing with a shortage of product, malfunctioning equipment... all of it compounded within me. I came home exhausted, but still restless. Still in a subconscious fight or flight response.

The first time it manifested, I was sitting on the couch, about to play Pinball Arcade on my PS3.

I suddenly felt like I needed to stand up. All the blood was rushing to my head, and if I didn't stand up and do something about it, I would most definitely pass out. It was so sudden and jarring, I almost didn't react. I stood up, baffled, until instinctually, I walked out of the house. I then proceeded to walk for maybe about an hour... I don't even remember what was going through my head. But the walk took it all away. I started walking a lot more often after that.

Around the same time, when falling asleep (which at the time, as always, is still a come-and-go-affair), I would suddenly gasp and snap awake while on the brink of sleep, with the oddest sensation that I hadn't been breathing. It didn't happen that often, nor have I had it since those few times... but it was enough to shake my sense of inner well-being.

These symptoms, and occurances, over time, nourished a toxic seed in my brain. One that believed I was sick. Dying. Rotten. That I needed help. Help I couldn't afford. So all I could do was live with the fear that this unknown virus would continue to spread and hurt me in frightening, unseen, internal ways. I didn't know who to talk to, or what to do. I sat with it, and worried.

It took hold, found a place to grow in my brain, and grew roots.

For about another year or so, things maintained rather normally. I don't recall any particular troublesome moments, because other than those symptoms being triggered all at roughly the same time, my life had been stable since. Even if pressed to try and explain why those events I just mentioned happened in the first place, I wouldn't be able to come up with a solid answer. Relationship troubles? Maybe. Life goals not being met? Possibly. But nothing jumps out.

But, things escalated when my stability was uprooted.

Breaking up with Ender had me on unsteady footing for a long period of time. Literally and mentally. I had nowhere solid to live. I bounced around from couch to couch, went back to Rhode Island, came back to Kyle and Ariel's house, tried living with Tom, lived in Kyle's van (in a garage), and then finally rested at a room in Doug Lopes' apartment. Someone I met through Ruby.

Ruby, who I'd been dating. Ruby, who I'd had (and still have) a very unique relationship with. Someone I've learned much from. For better, and worse.

Living with Ruby, while at Doug's place. This became the catalyst for something extremely ugly in my life. The stress of being together with somebody so different from you, is something I now know I cannot do to myself. It will physically alter my state of being.

Not to say that it was definitely the only cause... but all things considered, it's the one thing that comes ahead of all others.

Anxiety. Heart palpitations. Panic attacks. The one, two, three punch that slowly took hold of my entire life, morning to night, for almost a year straight.

It started with just a little flicker in my chest. I would notice it. "Hey... what's that. Why did that happen? Was that my heart?"

And so I would stop whatever I was doing, and wait for it to happen again.

Focusing on my heartbeat. Trying to feel it. Until - -

"There! There it is again! Why....?? Why is that happening? Am I alright?"

"What's wrong with me?"

"This can't be good."

"What's wrong with my heart?"

Sometimes, this was it. In the early days, that was perhaps all it was. At a few points in the day, maybe.

The more it happened, though... the more I focused on it. The more I thought about it. The longer it happened. The longer it happened, the more time I had thinking about it, the more time I had focusing on it. The longer it happened. The more time I had thinking about it. The more time I had focusing on it. The longer it happened.

I would go for at least half the day checking my heartbeat. Feeling my heartbeat. Which meant feeling it flutter. Which meant I wanted to keep checking it, keep feeling it. And then it would flutter again. I was unable to let it go.

Imagine that. No matter what you're doing. Hanging out with friends. Watching TV. Anything you do. You can feel your heartbeat. And you feel it fluttering. Maybe once a minute. And then once every 30 seconds. Then once every 10. Until you're counting actual beats in between. Still trying to live your life at the same time. Talking to your friends. Paying attention to the show. But you're not fully there, not by a long shot. You're skimming the surface of day-to-day life. What's really happening is your heart. That's what you're really doing. Making sure it's keeping you alive. And what you feel isn't reassuring. And what you're thinking isn't reassuring.

Those days... it used to be that, no matter how bad my day was, I could wake up in the morning and be alright, for at least a few hours. I could count on that. But I started worrying about how long that would last. I started to get nervous that I only had one point in the day to look forward to, and how terrifying it would be to lose it.

And then I did.

And then that's when I got my first panic attacks.

I now know all too well the horrors of a panic attack. Something I used to make fun of as a kid. Something I had no real world connection and experience with.

My first panic attack was about.... let's say two years ago. How many I've had since then is hard to say. I do remember the worst ones, and I'll say I've had about three of those. Three panic attacks where I was convinced I was going to die. I had convinced myself, in my mind, that each breath I drew was going to be my last, as they happened. This one. This breath and then I'm dead. Okay no, this one. I'm dead after this one. Here I go. Here it is. This is the one. This one. I'm dying. I'm Dying. Here I Go.

Seriously. That's what I thought, word for word.

And then there was another one, where I convinced myself that I was speaking a dead language in my head. A dead language that was going to kill me. I'm going to admit at this point that I was high on an edible, and though I can smile a bit at this story now, I can also remember with frightening detail the sounds I was making up in my head, and how each one scared the shit out of me, because I felt it doing real damage to my psyche. I felt my heart and lungs working themselves to the point of some inevitable explosion, one that I would reach if I just thought of the right word. One I didn't ever want to know, but kept trying to think up anyway.

I swear to God, sometimes I think, if there's anybody who can think themselves to death, it'll be me.

This, so far, is my story with anxiety, and a slowly mounting threat against my mental health. Something I thought would never come under fire. I always thought myself as a pretty sound, stable, and easygoing person. I worry, of course. But who doesn't? I'm analytical, sometimes to a fault, but it never worked me up into some kind of panic. Why now? What happened?

I came up with the answer that my body was failing me, and that's why. Surely it couldn't be my brain. My mind is amazing, I'm great. I'm smart and funny and witty and creative. My brain is perfect, it wouldn't hurt me. So it's my body. There's something wrong with my body and it's going to kill me.

That's what my mind said to divert the blame. And I bought it. To an extent, I still buy it. I'm doing a lot of work, but I'm not finished.

To avoid writing a full on novel, I'm going to split this topic up into two entries. The next one will focus on the better half of things. I hope this has given you, and me, some feeling of reassurance. I know I'm not alone in this. But sometimes I need to actually see it, and hear it, from others. And in those times, it's the only thing that helps.

 
 
Current Location:
Current Mood: happy
Current Music: Pandora - Philip Glass
 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:11 pm

A good deal of time has passed since my last post. A good deal of events have happened, as well. My only reason for not keeping this blog up to date with said things is a lack of motivation. It's hard to write in a blog when you don't have a job. It's an odd state of mind. I have tons of spare time, but indulging in something that isn't industrious, proactive, or working towards being employed seems like something I should be ashamed of doing. Watching TV or loafing about, also oddly enough, seems less of a crime, being that it doesn't involve my active consent. I just sit, and it happens.

So obviously, I am typing this from bedroom, in a cozy suburb of Los Angeles known as Mar Vista. It's about three miles from the beach, sandwiched in between Santa Monica and Venice. Getting here, as you have read so far, was no small feat. What started off as an optimistic sightseers paradise quickly devolved into a desperate struggle to break free of the hellish claws of Wyoming.

I fully plan on catching up on things. So we will pick up where we left off, right? Right.

 

Our week and a half relationship with the mechanics of Ames Automotive and it's backyard was a love/hate affair. The owner was a dick, and his loyal sidekick was a saint. Thank god that the sidekick was the man working on my van, because if not, I would not be here today. I would be penniless and carless in Wyoming. No joke. I will briefly review everything that happened since my last ever-so-hopeful post, because it was a novel's worth of material, and it only happened in a three day span.

So this is what happened: The oil pan gasket was fixed on the day I posted my last entry, on time. In the process, however, some bolts were so rusted, that when removed, they simply sheared and became stuck where they were fixed. These screws went towards securing exhaust pipes to my engine, so that the exhaust and noise an engine makes goes safely to the tailpipe and away from my car. The manager, not wanting to fix this because it was closing time, simply tied hose clamps around my exhaust pipes, trying to secure them to my engine that way. The result was a horribly loud running van. Loud like a Harley Davidson driving flooring it inside your ear. He shoved it out of the shop, charged me $700 for repairs, and wished me luck. I wanted to badly to leave that I attempted to take it out of the shop despite my complete fear of the way the van now ran. After three minutes, I heard a distinct rattle (over the deafening engine) and stopped the van. With the shop closed, I was in for another night.

Cut to the next day. First thing in the morning I catch our assistant mechanic, Rob, and tell him the problem. He is not surprised, and genuinely sorry his boss pushed me out like that. He's going to make it right on his own time, free of charge. Thank god there are still decent people in the world. Catch is, we have to wait until Sunday. Fuck.

Cut to Sunday, (by now you know how sad and monotonous our days in Casper are) Rob begins work on the van at 2:00. He says it should only be about four hours. Four hours go by, it is not finished. I can't get angry at Rob, because he's doing this for free, but now Rob leaves. He has a family matter to tend to, and promises to be back around 9:00. He offers to take the van down for us so we have somewhere to go. I decline because I don't want anything to take more time than it should.

This is the worst thing I have ever done.

Casper, Wyoming is a desert city. It gets up to 90 easily during the day, and goes down to 40 easily at night. It's also a Sunday, so everything is closed. We spent four hours in front of Ames Automotive in t-shirts and shorts, in weather so cold that at one point we took refuge in a nearby excavator's BUCKET to get out of the breeze. All this while the business of the movie theater across the street passes by us, obviously watching and thinking how homeless and sad we are.

Rob arrives late, at 10:30, apologizes, and gets back to work. What he's doing is rethreading the screws that are stuck and sheared. He has to drill through the stuck bolts, make a new thread, and then make new screws (all by hand), to secure my exhaust pipe properly on. The process is taking him much longer than he thought. It takes him until 1:30am to finish. He starts it up. It is still very loud. STILL VERY LOUD. I want to cry, but he assures me that it's a completely secure seal. The reason it's loud is because my exhaust gaskets crumbled when taken off. The gaskets are solely for muffling noise. I am reassured by this. We spent one last night in Casper before taking off and never looking back.

Not.

I am going to recap this ever so briefly.

Cut to the morning. I start the van around 6:00am, not wanting to stay one goddamn minute longer. Ten minutes on the road and the van shuts off. I lose control of steering. I start screaming. I get a tow. I call Rob, and he tells me I threw a belt. He tells me to get towed to the closest place, so I do. This place I get towed to checks it out.

This is where it gets real funny. Try to follow along.

In front of my engine, there is a fan called a clutch fan. This fan spins at amazing rates, keeping my engine cool. This fan has four bolts that attach it to the rest of my van. Only ONE of these bolts were on. There is no way these bolts would come off from use because of the way they are mounted. The mechanics were surprised it was still on. Even more so that my van was still in one piece. If that fan were to come off, which it SHOULD have, it would have tore right through the hood of my van, easily ripping through everything in the way. I would have had no more van. No amount of repair would fix it.

Yeah.

So the fan, running on one screw, was terribly off-balance and wobbling as I drove. It tore through my serpentine belt and caused my van to stall. Incredibly, it survived, and the belt was replaced. Ames Automotive paid for the damages. I was back on the road. Freedom!

Not.

Ten minutes down the road, I get a check engine light, and smoke starts coming from the hood. I pull over. I cry. I call the new shop I had just come from. They arrive in a truck to check it out. Turns out that when the fan raped my serpentine belt, a strand of the belt whipped across one of my coolant tubes so hard that it cut a hole in it. The man left quickly to get the part I needed from the shop. He came back in an hour and replaced it. He shows me a repair bill. I tell him to put it on Ames' tab. The van starts up again. I was back on the road. Freedom!

Sort of.

I get out of Wyoming. I get all the way to Cedar City, Utah. It was somewhere around 500 miles away, because I drove like a goddamn madman all night and stopped only because my bowels wouldn't let me keep going. As I come to a stoplight off of the highway, my oil meter goes crazy and wobbles around empty. "Oh hell no," I think to myself. "THE OIL SHOULD BE FINE. THIS IS WHAT I KNOW HAS BEEN FIXED. YOU CAN;T DO THIS. NOT THIS. NO." Sure enough, I stall, and have just enough momentum to roll into a Wal-Mart parking lot space. We spend a night there before getting towed to a local shop. The shop tells me it sounds like something electrical. Ender is sure that the van is damned, and is about to call a U-Haul. I remain frighteningly optimistic, bordering on insanity.

The man goes to test a few things with a voltage meter, and comes up with a dead fuse. A dead fuse! $30 in labor, a new fuse, and I am on the road again. Freedom!

What do you think?

About 700 miles separates me from California at this point, and I plan on making it a two day trip. At most. To sum things up, I only took one break in Baker, CA to eat. Probably not the smartest place looking back, as it was a stone's throw away from Death Valley. The town's defining feature was a giant thermometer about 120 feet high. It read 102. I took another small break in some other California town, where the van came close to stalling again, due to the same electrical problem. But it didn't, and I arrived safely in Mar Vista about an hour later.

So here I am. A resident of California, and the proud owner of the loudest, sketchiest van on the block.

Thank you all for reading. I assure you that my blog is not over. Just because I have stopped driving, doesn't mean I have stopped experiencing. I hope to share with you my continuing adventure to become successful in California.

 
 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:11 pm

In three hours tops, god willing, we will be on our way.

This will probably not be a well thought out post. I've pissed twenty minutes of my alloted time away being a dork and trolling twitter, email, and craigslist for prospective jobs, even though I have no resume to send on this computer. I just need to voice my anxiety. I need to vent my hope. I need to get to California.

Wyoming will hold me no longer. I have a belief that nobody plans on living in Wyoming. People just... stop here, with all intentions of it being just that. But something happens. Car problems, maybe? And it just takes too long. And you just don't have enough money. And you just end up getting a job to pay for everything. And you just get a place for the time being. And you just.... get.... settled in. And you live. You live in Wyoming, forgetting your dreams.

I'm probably wrong, but it's fun to think that way. To look at everyone here, and imagine their life story. How they came to be here. Why they came to be here. Take my mechanic, for example. Just yesterday he offered me a ride to the Showboat (for the third night). In passing conversation, he revealed that he was born in New York. New. York. What happened? How do you go from New York to Wyoming? What could be THAT prospective? That alluring? Granted, he might have come from foresty, farmlandy New York... but that's still a stone's throw away from modern, civilized, NOT WYOMING New York. I just.... can't fathom it. It hurts the head, it does.

These people here... some of them seem normal enough. But most seem like the dregs of society. Maybe it's just because I'm that far away from my home, and therefore I'm studying people more earnestly. But I doubt it. Mouthbreathing, awkward, oddly shaped, and just plain weird... these people make up the majority of Casper. There are some who seem out of place. Some I could relate with. Some who maybe just flew in, and are making their horrifying transition from normal folk to Casper folk. It's scary to think about, and probably terrible of me to have thought up. But who cares, it's all in good, honest, stir-crazy fun. I can't help but entertain these thoughts. They're all I have in this place.

That and the library.

 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:10 pm

I'm in the library again, on what should be my last day in Casper, Wy-Fucking-Oming. After being falsely given a due-date for Sadie's release, and booking an extra hotel night at the National 9 Showboat Motel, I'm more than ready to leave this godforsaken place.

Things have been going smoothly, if boringly. We have piddled our days away by living at the library, living at coffee shops, walking four miles to K-Mart for a blanket, living at a corner market, living in the van, and living in a parking lot. There isn't much to do in the "Free" column of things here,  so I'm basically resigned to reading books, playing on the DS, and reflecting. After a while, all three of these can get boring, and that's when things get desperate.

We had arrived here Thursday, and it seems miles away at this point. In the days up until now, we were living in Sadie... parked in the backyard lot of the shop. Not the most proud days to remember myself by. Fortunately, the mechanic had been loaning us the bathroom key for when the shop is closed... so not all was bad in the world. Things were going as well as can be said about such a situation until Monday morning. I was headed back to the van from the library, when I noticed the mechanic inspecting Sadie from under the hood. "Great!" I thought excitedly, "We're two days ahead of schedule!" I rolled up to the man and asked him what the story was.

He told me that he was going to take Sadie into the garage toda to have her lifted up so that they could get to work on her first thing in the morning, and that I would have her back by the end of that day. The relief was palpable. He told me to book a hotel somewhere nearby, and I was all too happy to agree with him. I headed back to the library to deliver the good news, where the hotel was booked shortly after.

The Showboat motel is not going to win any awards, but it meets the necessary standards to survive by. Itchy blankets, undependable hot water, rude housepersons, and a slightly stinky room are but small inconveniences when the alternative is a 3'x3' living/sleeping space. I slept comfortably, soundly, and happily, knowing that tomorrow would be my salvation. My rescue. My freedom from Wyoming.

Cue said fateful day. Checkout 11:00. Library shortly after. Hours of anxious half-reading, eyeing the phone every 5 minutes. 2:00 rolls past. I can no longer wait idly by. I take a walk to the shop and scope things out. Sadie is up on the lift. Nothing looks changed. "Maybe they're finishing up," I think to myself, brimming with optimism. I walk into the office and prepare to deal with payment, only to be confronted with the manager wiping his greasy hands as he walks in from the garage.

"Can I help you?" he says.

"I'm here with the van."

"That van? We just put it up. I hope you're not here to pick it up."

"Uhh.... well, you see, I was told it was getting worked on today, and would be done by the end of the day."

"I'm sorry, but we just goti t up. We had to clean the undercarriage and take it for a ride to make sure your gasket was the only problem. We'll be taking it apart within the hour, but it won't be ready until late tomorrow."

"Well, you see, I had to book a hotel room because the van got taken in last night. To get lifted up. And to get worked on in the morning. I can't afford another room tonight. I'm on a pretty fixed budget."

After the manager repeated the same three sentences with different wording order, it was apparent to me that there really wasn't any point in continuing the conversation. I booked another room reluctantly, stayed the night, woke up, and arrived here at the library to do it all over again. This time, if the van is not ready, I honestly don't know what my reaction will be.

That being said, I have five minutes left on this computer. Wish me luck, because I'm going to need some godlike negotiating skills to finagle myself a good price on these repairs. Personally, I think I should be reimbursed for the hotel night I booked needlessly. I could have just as easily "driven" the van in this yesterday morning to have it cleaned and taken for a spin...

Here's to hoping this is my last day stuck here.

 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:10 pm

I am typing this at Natrona's National Library, in Casper, WY. It is here that I will stay for the next week, while I wait for Sadie to be fixed by a local mechanic. It seems that three days ago, Sadie decided to be an incontinent little bitch, and started barfing oil at an alarming rate. Naturally, I got it checked out at a local reputable mechanic shop in Sheridan, WY. The man there told me that my van has an oil pan gasket leak. No little thing.

To put it simply, imagine that my van's engine is an oreo cookie. The engine block is the top layer of cookie goodness. The bottom layer is my oil pan, and in the middle, we have the creamy goodness of the gasket. The gasket's job is to create a delicious seal between the engine and the oil pan, so that you may enjoy your oreo as a whole. What is happening to my oreo cookie is that the cream is getting squished out of one side of my scrumptious baked good, as if the schoolyard bully is pressing his index finger on the top, laughing at me while I cry my skinnyboy tears. This creamsqueeze is breaking the seal between my cookie halves. Now the oil cannot go into my engine properly, and is literally spraying out as I drive. Even at a stop, with the engine not running, thick, black oreo lifeblood is oozing out of my van's carapace. It makes me sad. Oh, by the way, it's going to cost me $800. At least. Apparently it should be an easy fix, but Sadie doesn't like to make things easy, and there is a ton of shit in the way getting to my oil pan, whereas normal cars have them easily visible and accessible.

Myyyyyy life, everybody.

Anyway... I have seventeen minutes left on this computer. I might as well make them count and tell my tale up to now.

I'll start with the Badlands.Needless to say, they live up to their expectations. A picture viewed online means nothing when you're up close, feeling the vast emptiness of it in person. The whole place looks carved out of another planet, scooped up and then plopped onto the Earth. The clay feels like drywall, and it looks as brittle as an eggshell. Climbing it was a truly unique experience... I grabbed tons of pictures, and spent about three hours there, just drinking it in as much as I could with it being so dry... hup hup.

After the Badlands, we made a short stop at Wall Drug. We were a bit dissapointed by it's curfew. You would expect it to be open a bit later on into the night, assuming that they know a good deal of their business comes straight from the Badlands. But sadly, most shops and areas close at seven. SEVEN! How backwards is that?! Wall Drug itself is pretty amazing, just from what we've seen, however. It's a huge indoor network of buildings, ranging from gift shops to restaurants, grocery stores to outdoor digging sites. All of it built from an amazing, glossy wood, giving it a wonderful western feel. We even got free donuts from the burger joint manager! Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute of this unique and awesome place.

Mount Rushmore was next on our trip. Everyone says it's not worth it. They're smaller in person. Not very impressive. Yadda yadda yadda. I was still pretty entertained. The drive up there was great to begin with, save from Sadie's wretched pace, being in the ailing state that she was. Rolling blankets of soft hills, thick with tall, healthy pine trees greeted us on the trek upwards. It all looked so vibrant and alive compared to the five days we had spent in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and previous South Dakota. What else can be said about Mount Rushmore, though? Everybody knows what it is... I saw it, and I was not dissapointed.

Let me say one thing before I go on. South Dakota definitely beats every state in the US, Hands Down, in the billboard race. If you have the wood, and the paint, you can make a billboard. They, are, EVERYWHERE. And they're all hilarious and kitchy and handmade. There were at least 50 for Wall Drug alone. It made the otherwise boring, repetitive landscape much more bearable.

I've got six minutes left on this thing... so I'll have to make it quick with some more bullets:

- You have to pay $10 to see Crazy Horse. It's only a head by this point. WTF.

- We fed donkeys from our van at Custer State Park. :D

- Wyoming is a curse. Nothing more.

- 1880 Town is awesome. I rode a fake bull and fed a camel.

Our trip from here on in is straight to LA. No sightseeing, no nothing. It sucks, but it has to be done. My finances took a huge hit, and I need all the money I can get when I arrive now. I don't expect there will be too much to post about. I still have tons of pictures, and a few movies I plan on making when I get there, but as of now... it's looking like the end of our trip. From a leisure point of view anyway. I'll probably stop into this computer another day and make another post from lack of anything else to do.

Sorry everyone. Shit happens!

 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:09 pm

I write this sitting in the house of a wonderful long time friend whom I've never met in the eight years knowing her. This trip has become a fortunate excuse for doing so, and I couldn't be happier. It's an amazing feeling, meeting somebody you've only talked to through a computer screen. Someone you've only seen in pictures, or a small, fuzzy box in the corner of a chat window. At first it can be a bit awkward, but then you fall into a rhythm like you would with anybody you would have known for that long. So far, this has been the highlite of my trip. Sometimes I still can't believe it's actually happening.

On the way up here, we traveled through miles upon miles of flat farmland. Indiana is no different from Ohio, with two exceptions. Gary, Indiana can easily be described as the oddest, deadest, and creepiest town we've ever driven through at this point. It's more than a ghost town, because it alternates starkly between rows of abandoned ruins and rows of occupied housing. Driving down the main street in the grid-oriented roadways, you can look to the left and see a coumn of stereotypical ghost town style architecture. A row of conjoined, flat fronted buildings, all spilling out into the street in various stages of ruin, all varying shades of brown and grey. Vegetation thriving on the walls and rooftops. Then, the next street over, not even 50 feet down, you can find residential housing. All occupied, though still in some degree of ruin, but nothing near the previous street. Every now and then you'll see a house that is all but leveled, with tenants on either side, as if it's completely normal to live next to such ruin. And then the next street over repeats the first, as if it's in a crazy state of dimensional flux.

East Chicago, Indiana is the second exception. By far the worst town I've driven in. Stressful like a big city, but abandoned and dirty like the previous cities we've been through... it's the worst of both worlds. The traffic of East Chicago is just like the real Chicago. Nobody has concern or consideration for anyone but themselves. Fast moving, hard turning, self gratifying traffic, with cracked and potholed roads. It's nothing short of mayhem. There were a few times where I thought my tire would fall off after hitting unavoidable, beachball sized holes in the road. There was nothing worth stopping for in this town, and if there was, I was blinded to it by my stress. Avoid East Chicago at all costs.

Illinois was to be expected. We hit Chicago for only a few hours, due to lack of parking, a place to stay, money, and a previous negative experience with the city. It was just a stop for the city's sake. You can't drive into northern Illiinois and pass Chicago. It's not proper road trip etiquette. We stopped in for delicious sandwiches, extremely hipster coffee, and a good old fashioned walk. No pictures were taken, unfortunately. I drove into Chicago, and so I could not take pictures. Ender is not the shutterbug of our team. I also didn't want to bring the camera into the city... due to previously stated bad experience. All in all, Chicago was nice to us, and I feel less bitter.

From Chicago we drove through the southwest corner of Wisconsin for the sole reason of detouring into Minnesota. All I can say about Wisconsin is that they have an impressive amount of indoor water parks, something of which I am entirely too jealous about. Powering through Wisconsin, we stopped in the southeastern corner of Minnesota to rest for the night in Beaver Valley State Park. This was the start of an amazing learning experience...

We arrived in Caledonia, Minnesota, at around ten o' clock. Caledonia is an entirely sleepy farm city, and being such, was not well lit by any means. To say the drive was eerie would be a vast understatement. The road dipped and swerved, rose and tightened at whim. Not to mention the insane flash rain and lightning storm we endured on the way. The sky put on quite a show for us. After twenty or so minutes of pitch black, headlight lit terror, we arrived at the park and made our way to the campsites, only to find that a portion of the road was overflowed with water from a flooded river. A perfect cap to a frightful, stressful night drive. Exhausted and defeated, we turned and parked in a nearby parking lot in the middle of the woods... the pitch black woods... and turned in.

The next day, I drove back to the flooded river, only to find it still flooded... but with the daylight clearing my perspective, I saw that it was intended to be as such, with bricks on one side to control the thin sheet of water over what was now apparent as a very well built concrete bridge. A further confirmation by an amused park ranger, and I made my way over the bridge to our campsite, thoroughly embarrassed and slightly wiser.

And now, three days after our camping experience, I sit here in a wonderfully furnished house in the town of Plymouth, Minnesota. Dubbed the number one place to live in the US. A complete 180 from the rugged, barebones living we've had for the past week. It's going to be hard to detach from this and to say goodbye to one of my fondest friends. But the best stretch of the trip is awaiting. Badlands, Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, Black Rock Mountain....

I'm excited, I'm anxious and I'm ready.

 
 
Craig DelBonis
18 December 2010 @ 03:08 pm

I thumbtype this daintily on Ender's iPhone while laying shirtless in the back of Sadie, a can of Arizona Iced Tea close at hand and three quarters full of spit. I made the grave mistake of eating a taco salad in LaGrange, Indiana, half knowing that either the meat or salsa could quite probably be seasoned with cumin, a spice I am believing more with every experience that I am becoming dangerously allergic to.

It causes a swelling sensation in my throat; a feeling like I have a golfball lodged in my esophagus. It doesn't hinder breathing, but still makes me feel like I'm choking with every swallow, as I am forced to do often because of the ridiculous saliva flow it causes as well. This time was different, however. The swelling feeling extended to my stomach, and I started to feel feverish. There were points where I thought I would pass out. Points that I thought a hospital visit was in order. But I realized that my frame of mind was only fueling the reaction, and a calm state of mind and rational thought was in order. I am glad to say now that at this point, my condition is more than manageable. That being said, I shall begin the travel segment of this entry.

Niagara Falls. One of America's more talked about landmarks. It's up there with that big hole in the ground, those big faces in the mountain, and that big park with the geyser. And rightly so. Before the falls, the only rushing bodies of water I'd seen were either on TV or at Six Flags. It was pretty memorable. I nabbed some pictures, but spent most of my time just staring. It's amazing how close they let you get to something that can quickly become an easy way out. There are literally railings you can step over, if you're The Undertaker, and be in the rapids or over the falls themselves.

After enjoying the view, Ender and I walked down a small path and found an even smaller dirt path that led right by the water's edge some fifty feet away from the main attraction. It was pretty gorgeous. I snapped some shots from there, too. The town of Niagara... now there's a different story. A derelict, yet clean and modern business center, surrounded by beat up residential sidestreets and all but abandoned looking houses. It's kind of disturbing to think how a town can end up like this, especially one with such a great attraction as the falls. It was almost like Olneyville in it's seediness, but with that dusty Midwest vibe at the same time.

New York as a whole beyond that was pretty uneventful. Farmlands, grasslands, treelands, etc.. The crossing into Pennsylvania, and Ohio soon after, was equally so. The highlites of our drive through these states were watching the small towns get less and less colorful. More and more tired. Erie, Pennsylvania especially, and by far the creepiest town we've seen so far. It's akin to a ghost town, but the people either aren't aware of it yet, or keep their heads down and plod on knowingly. Every building was dry and dusty, yet still functional. Huge factories burnt down and disused, but still lined with rows of occupied housing. Just... (to avoid puns) creepy.

As we rolled into Ohio, we learned just what a small town really is, having noticed they were there, and in the same sentence noticing that they were replaced again by flat, vapid farmlands. I can't fathom imagining the life lived by one who lives in such a small sphere of a world. It's no wonder every other house has a truck with a camper or RV attached. Ohio's farmland housing gave me an image of a giant row of houses that were flicked by an equally giant hand into random directions, which rolled and rolled until coming to a slow stop. From there they were simply moved into. Some outgrew their use and were simply moved out of. The amount of abandoned and dilapidated buildings are stunning. I have built quite a collection of photos, which I hope to dump with everything else tomorrow.

To keep this post from becoming a novel, I will easily bullet the remaining highlites:

- My first Sonic in Sandusky, Ohio. Breakfast burrito and a vanilla malt. Delicious.

- Cedar Point is only open on weekends. Boo-urns.

- Wal-Marts become larger and larger as you go west.

- "People of Wal-Mart" start becoming the norm as you go west.

- Gas stations not only have bathrooms, but you don't have to ask to use them!

- Pitstopping in a quiet town's main street is often a rewarding experience....as long as you don't eat taco salad.

P.S. - Thanks to Sully and William for the wonderful and invaluable advice. We have/will put it to great use! -