Tag Archives: Rivendell

1.Road Trip 2008, Day 1-2: WWJKD?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

I was sitting on my parent’s deck, enjoying the intermittent glow of the Iowa lightning bugs and the smell of brats on the grill when my mom came outside with the phone in her hand.

“I think it’s Paul,” she said as she handed it over. Paul is my eccentric friend I met my junior year in college at Northern Iowa. Just a goofy little freshman wrestler at the time, crazy Paul kept my roommate Tony and I entertained with his juvenile antics. Of course, our constant goading and assistance in the debauchery department didn’t help matters. Those were great times, but unfortunately he transferred the next year to some community college in Kansas.  I don’t know whether he left because he became homesick for his western Nebraska hometown or if it had something to do with failing most of his UNI classes (I take some fault in his failure, always urging him to skip class so we could play “Mario Kart” or watch “Men In Black” the cartoon).

Instead of receiving his MBA from UNI, Paul got his MIB.

He would go on to attend four different colleges in four different states. After an eight year college career that resembled that of John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky, Paul finally graduated the spring of 2008 with a degree in History and Spanish, hoping to become a teacher/wresting coach. His monumental graduation is what prompted the phone call on that calm summer night in mid-June.

“Dude, when are we going on this road trip? I finally graduated. We have to celebrate.” Since meeting Paul in 1999, he had been bothering me about taking a road trip through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. Two of those summers we weren’t able to take the trip due to Paul serving jail time for one of his many crimes: stealing cars, streaking, and of course a multitude of DUIs. These drunk driving excursions also led to several summers with no license, which would have resulted in driving the entirety of our road trip. Other summers I turned his master plan down due to prior plans or a fear of what unpredictable Paul would do. One summer I even passed up the opportunity to see Neil Young at Red Rock’s because I wanted to attend the wedding of Bobbi Bahr, a former high school classmate. To this day Paul curses, “I can’t believe you missed Neil Young for fucking Barbie’s wedding!”

Now that he had finally graduated from college, he found it absolutely necessary that this road trip come to fruition. He grabbed my interest by suggesting we visit micro-breweries along the way and go to a few concerts if possible (the key to my heart comes in a pint glass). These both enticed my nomadic side, but I still questioned whether he could actually afford the trip. I knew he owed Dana College $4000 dollars since he didn’t get financial aid his final semester, and I was privy to his mounting credit card debt, meandering just below the $10,000 dollar range. How could he ever afford a road trip with the outrageous gas prices?

I tried calming excited Paul down, saying, “Yeah, we can go, I just don’t want to make it too long. Maybe we should just hang around Colorado for a week or something, that way gas doesn’t kill us.” This was my nice way of saying, “You’re broke dude.”

“I want to go to Montana though! Montana!  Don’t worry about money, I just got paid $3000 dollars for being a lab rat.”

“What are you talking about?” I knew he wasn’t bluffing as images ran through my head of Loreal products being poured into Paul’s eyes.

“Yeah, I had to take Alzheimer pills for like two weeks and they monitored me and stuff. I’m good to go on money now. We can split the gas right down the middle; I’m not going to mooch off you or anything.”

"Now where did I put my razor..."

As we continued talking, I thought about how he should be using the lab rat money to pay off some of the money he owed. What was he thinking – a road trip amidst all this debt? Plus, being a newborn college graduate, shouldn’t he be using this time to find a job? I spent my entire first summer out of college lost in a sea of job fairs and applications.

I would have pointed these common sense ideals out to Paul if I knew I wouldn’t come across as a preachy douche. I told him I was all in for a road trip but reiterated the fact that driving to Montana may be a bit much. He asked me to keep thinking about it and we’d make a decision in a couple weeks when July arrived. I was off the hook for the moment, but I knew he wouldn’t forget about this trip; not with Montana dreams running through his head.

A few days later, he sent an email featuring a list of all the bands we could possibly see in Colorado and all the surrounding states. As I skimmed the list, I came to a sudden stop when I saw a name in the Montana section: The Dodos. Was this a ruse to get me to go with him to Montana? I had been raving to Paul about the greatness of the latest Dodos album “Visiter” for the past few months. To see if I was being had, I went to The Dodos MySpace and lo and behold, there it was:

July 4th- Bozeman, Montana at the VFW

I read it over and over again in shock. Dodos…Montana….VFW….4th of July…it was too good to be true. I looked up how many miles it would take to get to Bozeman from Omaha and the 1,000 miles didn’t settle well with me. I began to think about how we would pay for gas, which brought back thoughts of Paul’s money situation. Going to Montana and then down to Colorado would suck his lab rat money dry. What should a good friend do: look out for his pal by giving him advice on managing his money or aid his financial demise by joining him on a cross-country road trip? Is a true friend there for support or to join in on the irresponsible fun?

I mulled over this issue for another week. At one point, I wondered what my hero Jack Kerouac, the ultimate Bedouin, would do? WWJKD? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Paul is just like the character Dean Moriarty in “On the Road”, an athletic car thief who spent time in prison, has a mind jam packed with outlandish ideas, and is fascinated by raw, organic music that tests the limits (jazz in Moriarty’s time). Throughout the book, many of the characters around Moriarty find him offensive, rude, and mostly just trouble. But Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s alter-ego, loves Moriarty and his harum-scarum ways.

Sal could have told him it was time to grow up, settle down, and find a real job. But he didn’t, no matter what page of the book you are on. No, Paradise admired his childlike wonderment with the world so much that whenever Moriarty showed up on his doorstep with a big road-trip in mind, Paradise threw his writing to the wayside and joined his wild friend on another joy-ride.

Paul didn’t need me to be his mentor; he needed me to be a friend willing to hit the road without worrying about what lies ahead.

This realization came to me on July 1st, which meant we had little time to reach Bozeman, Montana by the 4th. I called Paul and let him know I was in on the Montana trip, but that we would have to heading out Thursday in order to reach Bozeman in time for The Dodos show. He was ecstatic. I figured out I could pay for the trip with the $600 dollars I got from my tax refund (Paul insisted the entire trip that I thank George W. for each beer I drank), and another $600 dollars from Paul’s friend Mando who bought my electric guitar. I knew with Paul’s lab rat money, we were both set.

"Beers are on me boys! Just put it on my tab."

The next morning I headed to Blair, Nebraska to pick up my comrade. We had planned to use the day for preparations, buying the necessary food and supplies. Once we arrived in Omaha, I took Paul to his friend Lindsey’s apartment where he planned to load my I-Pod with some of his choice cuts (Judas Priest and ACDC?!). After dropping him off I weaved through Omaha traffic to the Honda dealership to get an oil change. Then I had to go return to South O to pick Paul back up.  By the time we were at the grocery store searching for the granola aisle, I was fed up with all the driving and aimless wandering; I was ready to hit the road.

“This sucks dude. Let’s just leave now. We can get supplies as we go. I’m sick of all this traffic,” I complained.

“All of the camping food is going to cost more as we get closer to Montana. I’m ready to head out now too, but we have to get everything prepared.” These were wise words from a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type of guy, but I couldn’t take it any longer.

“I know…I just hate the anticipation,” I conceded.

“Dude, it’s like ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, you know, when there is like a hundred pages on the meeting in Rivendell.”

“Yeah, I hate that fucking part! I’ve never actually read past that part,” I scowled.

“Ahh!  You’re KIDDING! You’ve never even actually read the rest of Tolkien’s masterpiece?! YOU suck. Wow. That’s embarrassing. The entire Rivendell scene is there to set up the rest of the book. Right now, we are in Rivendell. We must prepare before heading out on our quest,” Paul answered annoyed. I didn’t respond. I guess I prefer The Hobbit with its simple premise of a treasure in a mountain. The dwarves arrive, sing a little song about a dragon, and they’re off. Simple, quick, painless.

By the time we did all of our shopping at various stores, we got back to Blair around 10 p.m. It was then that I realized I had forgotten my phone at Lindsey’s. Damn it! Paul called her up and she said she’d bring it over in the morning.

Completely exhausted from the day, I laid down on the couch, ready to pass out. Just as I was slipping into dream-land, the door to Paul’s apartment flew open, and a sweaty, stout little man with long greasy blond hair and a creepy moustache came bounding through the entry way like a Kramer stand-in, holding a giant can of Old Milwaukee.

In a crackly bark he shouted, “Where’s Paul?”

I sat up like a bolt. The room suddenly reeked like alcohol and cheap cigarettes. Why was there a strange homeless man in Paul’s apartment? Before I could answer, Paul walked out from his bedroom.

“Hey Gale! What’s up man!” Paul knew this guy? Before I could comprehend what was going on, the two had a conversation, none of which I understood, and then the homeless dude was gone.

“What the hell? You let that guy just walk through your door?! He could steal all your crap.”

“Nah, Gale’s a good guy. He lives upstairs and likes to stop by to hang out and drink a few beers,” Paul said as if it was commonplace.  I didn’t feel like arguing, but I did make it a point to lock the door after Paul went to bed. I knew better than to try understanding what had just occurred; Paul has always befriended a strange cast of characters (me included). I quickly fell asleep, cranky and drained from the long day of preparation. I still think Rivendell sucks.

The next morning Lindsey arrived with my phone bright and early, a sign that our day would be much better than the one prior. I started packing up the car while Paul cooked breakfast, when the door crashed open once again. Gale came stumbling in, now holding a giant can of Natural Light. “Wherez Pul?” he howled. He was still drunk or drunk again, not sure which. Without hesitation, Paul welcomed him in and sat talking to the belligerent fool for a while, even offering him a blueberry smoothie.

Gale took a seat next to Lindsey on the couch and began touching her hair. He whispered to her in a gravelly voice, “I like your hair…don’t ever cut your hair…I like loooong hair…it’s bootiful.” She smiled politely and scooted away from him. Like a four year old, his attention quickly shifted to our luggage. “Whar are ya goin Pul?”

Lindsey smiled wryly and said, “Him and Andy are going to Brokeback Mountain.”

“HA HA HA HA (cough cough) HA HA HA! BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN! HA HA HA!” I could hear the phlegm curdling in the back of his throat. Gale then stumbled toward the kitchen to kid Paul about Brokeback Mountain when he caught sight of me looking at him with both horror and disgust.

“What happ’nd to yer head? Where is yer hair? HA HA HA! (cough cough)” Paul began cracking up at Gale’s observation, which just egged the old drunkard on. “HA HA HA! Why don’t you grow sum fuckin hair man? Ha, ha, (cough, cough) Ha, HA! Shouldn’t he grow some hair Paul?” I put on a fake smile and went outside to continue packing the car.  I didn’t have time for this crazy kook.

I may not have as much hair as Gale (right), but at least mine is clean.

Paul later attempted to make me feel bad saying he thought Gale was a Vietnam vet. He of course had no proof to back up this claim; I think he just based it off the fact that Gale is always wearing 70s era clothing and seems to always be drunk.  If that’s all it took, Andy Dick would fit into the vet category.

After slurping up his smoothie, which dripped all over his already stained white shirt, Gale shouted, “I got something for ya Paul!” Two minutes later he returned with a carton of eggs and a handful of firecrackers. “Enjoy! These are for your trip to Brokeback Mount-tin, hehehe.” Paul tried explaining that we couldn’t take the eggs with us, but the lush didn’t understand and left feeling proud of his random act of kindness.

When he finally left it was almost 10 a.m. “Let’s get going!” I said in frustration.

“Okay, okay, okay!” Paul responded, setting the dishes into the sink. After filling the cooler with ice, we threw it in the back of my car and finally took to the highway. Our trip had begun. We had already hit a few bumps in the road, but I knew the perfect remedy for getting our trip rolling on the right foot: The Magnetic Field’s classic album “The Charm of the Highway”.

Soon the smooth baritone voice of Stephin Merritt filled the car as smiles crept onto our faces. With lyrics like “The world is a Motor Inn in the Iowa highway slum” and “Lonely highway, only friend, You’ve got me to keep you warm again”, I knew I had made the perfect musical choice. When “Sunset City” began thumping out the speakers, Merrit was singing for fools like us, throwing caution to the wind and hitting the road just for the hell of it:

Well I don’t care what people say
Life is too short to hang around
So I stay so long in a place
And then move on to the next town

And in the morning I’ll be gone
For other towns and other lives
I’ll catch the first train, bag in hand
And I won’t miss you, and you won’t cry

Oh Sunset City
I’ve got to see the world
Don’t hold me too tightly
Don’t whisper my name

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6. Road Trip 2009: Hobo Warrior

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
-John Wayne

Despite planning our trip for a month, we still had no idea where we were going.  One option involved speeding west to Salt Lake City, Utah to see Bon Iver in two days, and then heading up the coast to Oregon.  Our issues with this plan were that we’d have to make the drive in two days, and the Bon Iver show was a free Saturday performance at a down town park.  Free park shows always stink because anyone shows up, regardless of who is playing.  A few years back I watched Public Enemy at a park in Austin surrounded by hippies and baby strollers.

Although, I do think Flava Flav would play well with Utahs polygamy crowd.

Although, I do think Flava Flav would play well with Utah's polygamy crowd.

Our second option would be to stay in Colorado five days and seeing Bon Iver in Boulder.  This option was weak because we’d already planned to meet our college friend Tony Nath in Denver for the last week of our trip.  Although it is a state where mountains and breweries are bountiful, I didn’t want to spend 50% of our trip there when Oregon called our names. 

 Our final option would be to miss Bon Iver altogether, heading North through Wyoming, stopping in Montana, swinging down through Idaho, and finally reaching the promise land: Oregon.  It would be our own version of Oregon trail, minus all the snowstorms and cholera.  The weakness with this choice would be the lack of live shows until reaching Oregon, almost a week and a half away. Plus, my anticipation for Portland brews and ocean air would be placed on the back-burner. 

 Before making a decision, one thing was clear – we needed supplies: hiking gear, packs, and a tent.  As we ventured across Wyoming, we spotted an Outdoor Expo Outlet along the highway and decided to stop and take care of the Rivendell portion of our trip in one fell swoop.

 

Unfortunately, the outlet store stunk.  They only sold Hobbit sized packs, and their tents were over-priced. As we walked out of the store, murky skies greeted us once again. More storms were ahead.  Without a tent, where would we stay for the night?

 Not a problem.  A year earlier we stayed in a cave outside of Laramie, so we decided we would stay there again for the night.  The only complication would be finding the cave within Vedavoo State Park, and to make matters worse, the storm clouds were quickly attacking the remaining sunlight. 

 After a quick stop at a grocery store for hot dogs and soup, Paul drove us up a gravel road that led us up to the park. Once out of the car and roaming through the rocky terrain, we were somewhat lost, uncertain where we camped the year earlier.

 “Maybe we can just stay in a separate inlet,” Paul suggested.  But as we ventured further into the park, my memory of the area popped in my head like a flash bulb. 

“I know where we stayed,” I said with confidence, walking ahead. 

 “Lead the way,” Paul responded.  I knew he doubted me, and why wouldn’t he? My sense of direction is despicable.  It’s so bad that while working as a sports writer at my hometown newspaper, I once got lost driving back from Armstrong, a small town less then 20 miles west of where I lived for 20 years of my life.  When I reached the Minnesota border I realized I’d made a wrong turn.

  But for some reason, on this night outside Laramie, I felt confident I could find a cave in the dusk.  I methodically marched, ducking under rock arches and skipping over bulbous stones along the way.  Even with little eye sight in the dwindling twilight, I somehow navigated the area, all my sense at high alert, leading my blind march.  

 

I was like Daredevil, except in this case Hells Kitchen was a cave.

I was like Daredevil, except in this case Hell's Kitchen was a cave.

Then it hit me. “It’s over here,” I announced, turning left and heading straight into a patch of tall grass surrounded by tall rock walls. 

 As I headed up the corridor of rock, Paul called after me, “Are you sure?” Ignoring his question, I ventured on, climbing a familiar incline.  At its peak I looked down to see a stack of fire wood sitting upon a rock.  Instantly I knew it was our wood pile, created only a year earlier during our first stay in the cave. 

 “Paul, this is it!” I shouted, my voice echoing out toward Paul and the rest of the Wyoming countryside.  When he finally arrived, he couldn’t believe that I’d found our one time humble abode. 

Although we had left a bundle of sticks the year before, Paul decided we needed more wood to cook up our hotdogs and keep us warm for the night. After a quick jaunt around the area, our pile had doubled.  Soon after Paul had our first fire of the trip stoked.  We cooked up a couple dogs, chowed down, enjoying our uniquely familiar surroundings.

So easy, even a caveman can do it.

 Eventually, with the fire dying down and the cold settling in, we bundled up in our sleeping bags and went to bed. Despite my drowsiness, I couldn’t get to sleep with a chill in the air and a rugged rock floor beneath me.  Yes, I was back in the wild.

That smile is hiding the pain of a my bed-rock.

That smile is hiding the pain of a my bed-rock.

The next morning I awoke to find Paul already up, standing on a giant blouder, rolling up his sleeping bag. “Hey Ocean Man, let’s get going,” he said looking down.  I threw him my sleeping bag, then struggled to stand, cramped and sore from my bed of stone.  Knees creaking, muscles aching, I felt older than ever.  Maybe 30 year olds aren’t supposed to sleep in caves.

 

Paul referred to this process as the Rock n Roll.

Paul referred to this process as the "Rock n' Roll".

By the time I got my weary bones moving, Paul arrived with a breakfast comprised of homemade power bars. I forced mine down with a smile, cringing at the thought that I was eating a mixture of oats, nuts, and mouse droppings.

 

Once packed up, we headed to Cheyenne in hopes of having better luck with gear shopping. We would decide our trip plans from there. Once in Cheyenne, we drove around lost for a bit in search of a Sports Authority or Scheels.  As we drove, Paul noticed a pattern. Every bar (and I mean EVERY bar) had a Crown Royal banner hanging out front. We even spotted a couple Crown Royal billboards, something I’ve never even seen in the alcoholic city of San Antonio.  We contemplated why Crown Royal was so popular in this mountain town.  Did they make Crown in Cheyenne? Was it the whiskey drinking cowboy population? And if so, wouldn’t you think they’d prefer a more rustic whisky like Jack Daniels or Jim Beam?

 

Or maybe they just like things that come in velvety bags (this includes the scrot).

Or maybe they just like things that come in velvety bags (this includes the scrot).

Continuing up Crown Royal Boulevard, Paul spotted an army surplus store and suggested we get supplies there.  We pulled in only to discover it didn’t open for another hour.  Comforted that we had a back-up plan, we headed on up the road, eventually finding the mall, prominently featuring a Sports Authority.  Inside we were once again disappointed by a lack of man-sized packs and a weak tent selection. The store was empty, with the two of us being the only patrons.   The clerks followed us around suspiciously, while we scowled at their over-priced products.

 Fearing our trip would be stalled another day due to a lack of shelter, I sucked it up and purchased a two man tent that advertised that it only weighed five pounds.  After hiking the year before with all the heavy gear, I couldn’t argue with the five pound feature of the tent.  Leaving the Sports Authority, I quoted “Swingers” saying, “This place is dead anyways.”

 Paul dryly remarked, “Yeah, people in Wyoming hate authority.”

Back on the whiskey lined streets, we headed back toward the army suplus store.  With Paul driving, I looked through his I-Pod filled with black metal, lo-fi noise, and obscure 70s folk propaganda.  Tucked amidst these albums, I discovered an album with a “Lord of Rings” themed cover.  “What’s this ‘Lord of the Rings’ album?” I asked.

“Oh, I downloaded that for you to listen to while you read ‘Fellowship’, which we still need to get you.  It’s by some dude from the 70s named Bo Hansson.” 

“Bo Hansson it is,” I said chuckling and playing the strange music, layered with organs and strange renaissance instrumentation.  With Tolkien’s Middle Earth on the brain, I mentioned, “Do they ever talk about Gandalf having a home in ‘Lord of the Rings’? In ‘The Hobbit’ he’s basically a nomad.”

 “No, I don’t think so,” Paul responded.

 “He’s like a hobo dude.”

 “Yeah,” Paul responded. “That’s why Gandalf rules.  If I don’t get a job this summer, I might do the same thing.” Although the idea of living the hobo life sounds exciting, I think it has been romanticized a bit. I didn’t like the idea of my friend becoming a drifter, possibly losing contact with him altogether.

Back at the now open surplus store, we made our way into the entrance. A tall man in his 50s stood at the register, suited up in a camouflage uniform from head to toe, topped off with a crew-cut hair cut and black rimmed army spectacles.  He glanced up at us as we passed saying, “Hello gentleman and lady.”  We walked on with me holding in my laughter, knowing he’d mistaken Paul as a girl from behind.  I wasn’t sure if it was on accident or on purpose.  I wondered if he was one of those hippie hating Vietnam veterans, still taking jab at long haired tree huggers.

 Right away Paul located some nice army packs and handed one for me to check out.  As we tried them on with excitement, the stoic army clerk approached us.  “Those are good packs, but if you want the best, you want this version,” he said reaching up and pulling down a pack that looked familiar to what we were trying on.  “This is the most versatile pack you will ever find.” He said with purpose.  For the next 10 minutes he methodically showed us how this one pack with a plastic back frame could be modified to have a travel pack, a vest for ammo, a butt pack, side packs, etc, etc, etc.  There was no doubt, this serious sergeant knew his shit. 

It slices, it dices...

"It slices, it dices..."

He ended his presentation saying, “If you can think of it, you can do it with this pack.” Paul and I were sold. 

“Did you use this pack when you served?” Paul asked.

“No, I used an earlier version,” he replied.

“Well, you seem to know a lot about your gear,” I added.

He looked up at me from the floor, where he had performed his demonstration.  Finally, he spoke. “I served as a mountain ranger for 20 years, but still like to keep up on the latest gear. ” He paused and looked at the two of us with a steely glare. “”When you’ve learned everything you ever needed to know from someone, you keep up with your Army.”

There was a moment of silence as he finished setting up the pack for optimal mountain hiking, then spoke again. “So, do you both want to get one?”

“Yes!” we responded in unison.

“I’ll be right back. I have another one in storage.” He left us alone. Paul and I shared a look of “Holy shit this dude rules!”  We then began looking around the store for other gear. I found a mat that would come in handy if I slept on a cave floor again. Paul began scouring the nearby boxes for more gear. The first box featured used brown army shirts which Paul insisted we buy.

I agreed. “Yeah, these are pretty sweet.” Then Paul moved to another box, filled with brown used Army underwear. Once again, he tossed one in my direction. “No thanks.” He continued to insist upon purchasing second hand underwear, but I refused. Despite my disgust, Paul would end up purchasing three used, brown, undies.

You know youre not in high finance. Considering second-hand underpants. -Flight of the Conchords

"You know you're not in high finance. Considering second-hand underpants." -Flight of the Conchords

The Army master returned with a large pack announcing, “This is for the big guy.” I took pride in the sergeant calling me ‘The Big Guy’.  “Come here and watch this,” he said to me. I stood over him as he once again walked me through how to set up the pack. It seemed the soldier who originally received my pack didn’t know what he was doing. The Sarge complained while fixing former mistakes, “This must have been owned by an Air Force guy. Done all wrong. They get these guys new equipment they don’t understand for the one week they are in the barracks. Never use it. The field?  the air forces idea of the field is sitting in the barracks waiting to deploy.  they don’t know the field.” Although I didn’t like the idea of government money going into unused packs, I was happy to know mine had barely been touched. 

As he moved along fixing my messed up pack, he realized it was missing an important strap. “I have another one of these straps at home. Come back tomorrow and I’ll adjust your pack with it.”  This guy has straps at home? How dedicated can one be to the Army?

Fuck Air Force. GO JOE!

"Fuck Air Force. GO JOE!"

We told him we’d be back the next day, which meant our idea of heading to Utah for Bon Iver was probably out of the question. When we paid with our credit card, the sarge took the time to read our names and say after payment, “Thank you for your purchase Andrew Schroeder,” and, “Thank you for your purchase Paul Peterson.” Basically, what I’m saying, is this guy might be the biggest  bad-ass/most respectful fella EVER.

He was like Rambo, minus the douche factor.

He was like Rambo, minus the "douche" factor.

Outside by the car, Paul tried on his pack once again, giddy with excitement. He commented, “That guy ruled. I’ve thought about joining the military if the whole job search doesn’t work out.” Once again, Paul’s worries about finding a job resurfaced, with another option arising. Looking at my friend with his new Army pack upon his back, I selfishly preferred the idea of him using it to survive the streets of America over the streets of Iraq.

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