Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who the Fuck Asked You to Validate Our Existence?

By Haley Gillette

I am, in fact, a woman.

Or, as they say in the medical community: I have an innie , not an outtie.



And, to top it all off, I am a feminist.


Don’t leave!

I swear I shave my legs!

Now, for those of you that are still reading, let me explain why I am a feminist.

As, I explained in my last post, in case I didn’t make it apparent enough, I grew up in rural Texas. That’s right, not just Texas, but rural Texas –  or “God’s great mistake,” as I like to call it. A simple land full of simple folk and their simple minds. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly had its charm. Like you could be missing most of your natural teeth and not a one would judge you. That’s solidarity. But it also had its drawbacks.

Being a liberal feminist here didn’t exactly make you popular.

In fact, I recall an actual conversation that took place at my high school with a girl friend of mine where, seemingly out of nowhere, she turns to the guy next to her and asks, “You know what I’m really tired of?” She then proceeded to turn towards me and continues, “Feminists.”

I then inquired why she would look directly into my visage as she said this (see, I was still playing my feminism on the DL. Not because of my lack of popularity, but because of my inherent fear of being lynched. I’ve had it since I was a small child).

The guy next to her then told me it’s because I was in fact one.

Guess that whole playing it cool thing didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.

After I had gotten over this initial shock of having been found out, it sunk in what had just happened. A fellow FEMALE student, a young woman, told me she was “tired of feminists.”

What the hell was that about?

What did that even mean?

And why was she tired of us?

These questions have haunted me since I rode out of school on my pony, wearing my school uniform of leather chaps and mandatory cowboy hat. But now I see that she isn’t the only one.
Caitlin O’ Donnell of Drake University wrote a very insightful article about the stigma facing feminists in which she states that when her politics professor posed the question of whether or not women should have equal representation in the Supreme Court, only 3 out of the 42 students raised their hands … in favor of it.


Let that just sink in for a sec …

How do you feel? Need a cookie or a hug?

I certainly do after that; that to me is just completely nonsensical. Why is that even a question and not just a foregone conclusion? Of fucking course we deserve equal representation! In fact, we deserve more representation!

I mean, what century are we living in exactly?

I didn’t realize Joan Cleaver was Secretary of State now and thinks it’s “indecent” to have women be represented in court, let alone even be in a court. “Egads! What will the neighbors think?!”

Of course, although still just a secretary (even of State), Joan probably wouldn’t even make it to that level seeing as women comprise a paltry 20 out of 100 senate members (being placed behind China, Rwanda and Iraq in women’s political representation).


 What does that tell you about the state of affairs we find ourselves in?

We’re being out-done by one of the least socially progressive countries IN THE WORLD as far as women’s rights.

And apparently my small-minded friend from school wasn’t alone in her tiring of feminists. According to a recent survey done by the National Survey Institute of Surveys and Survey-Related Studies (ok, I don’t know the name of the company, but every time I see that a survey has been commissioned, I use this default company as the ones who are responsible), only 29% of women identify as feminists.

This, to me, is the most heart-breaking statistic of all.

For, as if it isn’t enough of a crime that women are not represented equally to everyone else’s standards, or even the small things like not being able to partake in certain activities/groups because of our gender, the fact that this world has made women feel, intrinsically, that we shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else and that feminists are just a bunch of bra-burning, screeching lesbians; that they don’t want to be “lumped in” with the rest of them …

I honestly just cannot comprehend why it isn’t universally wanted among every single woman to have the same rights as men. Cannot fathom.

I myself, just for the record, am not a lesbian, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Nor, do I burn bras (have you seen how expensive those things are? We are still in a recession people.), nor am I constantly pontificating about feminism or “getting all up in people’s faces,” as they say … but nor am I blind to the fact that the world we live in today is not perfect.

Not even close actually.

It may don the appearances of one. Sure, we’re doing a lot better than most countries: no acid has been thrown on faces or clits being hacked off, as far as I know, but if you think that just because we don’t have these goings-on inundating the news that we’re ahead of the game, then I hate to inform you that you’re wrong.

Have you heard of the ads on Facebook promoting rape or abuse of women?

Or the two young women that I won’t name because I respect their rights, even in death, that were gang-raped by their fellow students while being filmed?

You probably won’t because those young ladies killed themselves after being labeled sluts and whores after that same video was shown to their school-mates, and their attackers haven’t been charged -- NOT WITH A SINGLE THING. 

Or the young girl that was gang-raped, then they all peed on her, leaving her in someone’s backyard. Like a piece of garbage.

The ads on Facebook saying “don’t wrap it and tap it, tape it and rape it” most likely have been taken down since the article came out but they were there – among other ads by companies such as Maxim that had a picture of a woman digitally sliced into 2 halves then used as a promotional tool asking “which half do you prefer?” to its male foundation base. The responses varied from “the bottom half so I don’t have to hear her talk” to “the top half so she can make me a sandwich.” Even as jokes, these are just some of the comments women have to put up with on a pretty regular basis; maybe not to such an extreme level, sometimes with just more seemingly innocuous things like cat-calling or inappropriate compliments.

Almost on a regular basis, I or my female colleagues have to deal with men we wait on ( I am a server) that give us creepy compliments or say things like “that’s a good girl,” and we have to just take it in stride.

The alternative? Get a new job.

And I feel like men see this as “just making us feel pretty” or “brightening our day,” but who the fuck asked you to validate our existence?

I wasn’t aware that I need a man’s opinion of how pretty or “adorable” I am in order to feel good about myself.

Thank God someone told me how good I look in this dress today, I was starting to think that I should just live out the rest of my days as a shut-in with my many cats!

And God forbid I don’t return their praise with an awkward smile or a thank you, and then I’m just a bitch or, in the extreme, met with physical and hostile acts.

So, I guess if the world is “tired” of feminists, well then yes, I am tired too.

I am tired of hearing stories of girls I know telling me that they were date-raped at a bar and can’t tell anyone because they are afraid of being called a whore. I am tired of not being able to wear certain things because of unwanted attention that I may receive. I am tired of having to “remain vigilant” at all times and using my keys as a possible weapon when I walk anywhere by myself. And I am most especially tired of the eye-rolls I get from people when I tell them that I am a feminist.

I will never tire of fighting for my equality.




Monday, January 7, 2013

I Did Not Pledge My Allegiance

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Confessions of a Six Year Old Texas Conservative

By Haley Gillette 
guttervox columnist

On this very special of days, the election days, I find myself rehashing all that has lead up to this most fortuitous event. Fortuitous you say, interrupting your daily political Facebook status to gawk at me in astonishment.

And yes, it is fortuitous.

For those of you unfamiliar with my work, meaning anyone but my family or English teachers, let me introduce myself. My name is Haley Gillette. I am a 22-year-old, lower-middle-class, higher class-class, Caucasian female political-science major.

In other words: your worst nightmare.  I have opinions. Lots of them. And I actually research them. Well, most of them anyways.

I digress.

Back to me again. I have lead a rather unorthodox life, being raised by a single-mother, essentially meaning being raised by my grandparents who were diehard Bill O’Reilly fans; I was a staunch Conservative Republican until the age of 6. Bill Clinton was the epitome of all that was corrupt and wrong in the world, and I would have taken my tiny, infant hand to his face upon meeting him. Then, as soon as I was introduced to the liberal and elitist environment of Doyle Elementary School, I began to see that my entire existence, brief as it had been, had been a lie.

What is all this trickle-down malarkey about? I would rant to my doll Amanda, who was such a great listener, although a little dim, I thought (always with this vacant stare in her eyes). As I began to spend more time with my militantly liberal mother, I began to see how easily I was taken in by all the glamour of the Republican Party, with their money and power and incredible hair! It all looked so beautiful to me. But my eyes were already opened at this point, and there was no going back, as much as the call of the Conservative party would try to lure me back. I was already listening to NPR.

Now let’s go back even further. Say, a few hundred years back, to some crazy kids with some pretty wild ideas. That’s right: the founding fathers. These starry-eyed dreamers were really fed-up with old mother England constantly givin’ em grief and making them pay taxes on stuff that they weren’t even getting.

Bummer, right?

Well that’s what they thought too. So, a handful of battles and some really aggressive tea-steeping later, we were our own country. Take that England! You said we would never amount to anything, and here we are! Free agents. We really showed them. We wrote up the Constitution so England would know how serious we were and would stop calling all of our friends asking when we would come back. Voila! A country with a written doctrine of rules was born!

As one of our founding fathers was leaving after having just put his own John Hancock on the document (no, it wasn’t John Hancock) a woman came up to him, asking what type of government they had just saddled us with. “A democracy, my dear. If you can keep it.” Boom. Just like that, and he walks away. Talk about a mind. Anyways. If there’s anything I have to give this current party of “Libertarians” or Tea-Partiers, or cat-fanciers, whatever they’re calling themselves these days, it is that they are definitely trying to keep it. Exactly, the way, it was. Exactly.

I mean, these rich, middle-aged, white guys that didn’t want to pay taxes so they created a constitution, and they’re still at it! They’re trying to do whatever they can to cut their taxes and keep all of that hard-earned money to themselves. It’s quite patriotic, really. And true, they don’t still have slaves like the good ol’ days, but we have been able to acquire a black man in the White House who works for white people. Close enough, right? Another digression.

The point is, this country is not in complete dire straits yet. We still have the right to vote, hold congress, petition, and freedom of speech. These are all things we take for granted that people are literally dying for in other countries. Seriously, in hoards, actually.

And this is where the liberal party comes into play.

Ah, the liberals. The hipsters of the political machine. We are highly-educated, poorly-motivated, and will make you feel like crap if you dare to have poor grammar or are rich. Or both. God forbid you should make the mistake of misspelling something on our watch! We’ll git ya! But we are also a necessary force in the political world. We keep the Conservatives in check (I guess vice-versa on that one). But we also LOVE to voice our opinions and in abundance. We have big hearts and big mouths. We are the Jewish Mothers of the Nation. So, really, you’re going to try to take our right to petition Wall Street, away? Just like that, huh? Well, suddenly I feel quite ill; so ill that I just might have to go on Welfare. Would you be happy then? Huh? We’ve discovered that the threat of taking away their money scares the Conservatives into pretty much doing whatever we want. It’s not a perfect system, but hey, neither is the government. Heeeeyoooooo….

Back to my favorite subject, me.

Growing up in the extremely conservative state of Texas, one would think that it would have rattled the very thought of liberalism out of me. It was a scary time to be a feminist, democrat, baked-goods connoisseur. Well, maybe not the last one, but scary nonetheless!  If anything, though, it made me even more steadfast in my beliefs. Almost ridiculously steadfast. And this is where I started losing friends. But fear not! I have since left that red-state stasis and have moved to Liberal Heaven, California! But living in Texas did incur on me a very important lesson. People are very polarized. And no matter what you do, you will not change this. Arguing with someone who has the completely opposite political beliefs is about as of much use as a Snuggie. It’s a blanket with arms for Christ’s sake! Anyways, people are very dogmatic and will just scream random facts that are almost irrelevant to the conversation just so they don’t have to hear your valid points (if you do have any). For some reason, politics and religion almost hold the same standing in people’s minds, and if you don’t hold the same beliefs, you’re wrong. Simple as that. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately.

But I have found people of an open mind (sort of), and when I feel secure enough and am in a well-lit public area with lots of witnesses, I let my political opinions spew. And when I do, I am astonished by the misinformed and downright ignorance of some people. I mean, it’s as if Bill O’Reilly is God , and the No Spin Zone is His Ten Commandments, and it is blasphemy to think otherwise. And while I am referencing certain public figures, I am just going to say Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. I am not going to list my grievances against them, but they know. Ohhhh, they know.

I find as well how people aren’t even fully-referenced in things like the Homeland Security Act, the Rendition Act, and certain propositions being passed right under their noses. It’s almost like if it wasn’t made into an app, people have no idea what the hell you’re going on about.

For instance, the Rendition Act makes it completely legal to interrogate and even imprison a person with literally the only basis being SUSPICION of terrorist activities. And I’m not just talking about “those foreign-types.” I am certainly referring those red-blooded, hamburger-eating Americans. Scary stuff, huh? Of course, now, this seems down-right crazy. Well, to me it always did. But keep in mind this Act was borne out of a time of extreme insecurity and paranoia following the 9/11 attacks, and people were in a frenzy to keep themselves and their families safe. There’s a saying that goes something like, “if you sacrifice your rights to gain security then you have attained neither.” Or something like that. I don’t have enough time to memorize quotes and shit. But you get the point. The government should fear its people, NOT the other way around.

Sadly, these more conservative types are the people most gung-ho about voting today. So I guess the White House stylist is going to have to invest in some magic-underpants soon enough here. But, I just hope those Tea-Partiers just take a little time away from their crazy ranting and ill-founded conclusions about Obama’s birth and just research BOTH sides. I mean, what tha heck, right? But seriously, have you actually gone to the official Tea
Party website? I felt like I snuck a peek into the diary of Ted Bundy. It’s just creepy. But in all seriousness, if you do vote, make sure you do just a smidgen of research.

I beg you.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Everybody and their Mother has a Podcast

By Talita Vinci

If you are unfamiliar, podcasts are nothing more than another online media tool accessible to the masses, except that they imitate a radio talk show formats, but without the scattered commercials, the formality, and the douche bags – all for your listening convenience.  Another selling point is, as you listen, you feel like you are sitting-in on an interesting casual conversation, or, in many cases, a self-examination session.

Now, the trick is you must find an interviewer whose personality you enjoy and judgment you trust so you can get the most out of the experience, regardless if you agree on the topic.

I am personally more inclined toward comedy podcasts, or at least the ones hosted by comedians. I find their way of thinking makes me comfortable, their interviewing style is less formal and it feels more relatable.

My friend told me, Everybody and their mother has a podcast.

That may be true (and maybe even a great name for one), but if you filter through all the podcasts available to you out there today, you might find a few interesting options that can definitely entertain you for hours and be worth your time and attention. Be sure to click the banner(s) if you want to check out the show being reviewed.

Let’s take WTF with Marc Maron, for example. His introspective rage makes him a great interviewer.  Not to mention he is funny all the time. On the other hand, those same qualities can come with a world of egomaniac observations and repetitive monologues, which, if you are willing to look passed, can make for a worthy hour.

Bill Burr, that angry redhead is such a crush of mine! I find in his podcast he has a way with rants, and he offers often blunt and humorous perspectives most of the time. Downside? His love of sports. He often gets deep into it, causing me (and the only other 2 females who listen) to lose focus. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a girl.

Speaking of being a girl, let’s talk Adam Carolla. If you enjoy amazing sound quality and frustrated guests that rarely get a chance to speak, it’s a great podcast all around. I kid. The guy is a master of rants and most of the time very funny.

Moving along to Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), I have embraced my “groupieness “ at this point, and the JRE has held the title for my favorite for a few reasons. The show brings up several different subjects and guests, and there is a great balance between silly stupidity and in depth conversations about meaningful topics – both equally entertaining.

On the same “network” as the JRE, you can find The Naughty show podcast, which is really funny and where the main goal is to make us understand porn stars are people, like us, with boundaries and podcasts of their own, believe it or not. By the end of it, you find yourself a little less judgmental, a little hornier, and a little too fat – all in one hour!

Another one that has recently captured my interest is Skeptic Tank, hosted by Ari Shaffir. He interviews surprisingly well, and all of the topics they touch on are either really interesting or moving, but always humorous.

If you are a Hollywood sucker and are into big names, try a taste of the 10 Minute Podcast, and you will experience 3 egos in a wrestleling match. Not really my thing.

I could name a few more, but podcasting is better when listened to by people interested in the subject.

There are great podcasts out there about music, politics, innovative thoughts and ideas (TED RADIO HOUR, if you enjoy TED talks), culinary, or whatever floats your curiosity boat.

I hope I offered a little insight. Whether you are into them or not, it is a thought-provoking pastime, where the worst case scenario would be self improvement or even change.  Guaranteed laughs are the cherry on top.

Talita Vinci is a Brazilian expat, living in the United States for just over a decade. She speaks three languages fluently (Portuguese, Spanish, and English), and her more recent formal education is in the culinary arts. Besides listening to podcasts, she is a voracious reader. She loves to explore ideas, no matter how controversial or unorthodox. My introduction to her came by way of music. She liked The Roots, and particularly their song, The Seed. It seemed like we were the only two people in our little circle who’d heard of The Seed. Well, that did it. We’ve been exchanging bands, ideas, podcasts, and horribly inappropriate jokes ever since. EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER HAS A PODCAST is Talita’s first post for guttervox.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Vagabond Dream, a Sturgis 2012 Tour Diary

By Thomas Ladron
All photos by author

Packed up, paid rent, and caught my plane to Denver.

Before I did, I checked the surf report, and the only Swell this summer is hitting while I'm gone. Can't win them all.

As the Black Keys flooded my ears, I surveyed the plane. A bundle of integrated thoughts quickly flashed through my mind: girls I'm currently pursuing, financial situations, and mixed feelings about stretching my comfort zone. The plane rockets into the air. Now there's nothing to do but let go and enjoy the ride.

Today we left for Sturgis, South Dakota (home of the famed annual motorcycle rally since 1938) from Fort Collins, Colorado. After a quick inspection, a couple test roars from the bikes, we were off. After we roared up the onramp to the highway I was immediately whisked away. The flat, ever-stretching plains lay out in all directions, bordered only by rolling mountains with kind faces. The magnificent prairies coaxed my mind to wander. Recent events washed over me. I rode for Aron, who lost his life to the road last week. I have never seen such open roads. Passing through Wyoming, we lingered at a rest stop. I took some photos, and then was offered coffee and snacks from some fellow bikers. Throngs of other bikers soon appeared. Groups ranging from two people to forty rode on. They either passed us or we passed them, but there was a feeling of comradeship on the road I've never previously felt. All was good, until the stop just before Sturgis. My dad put off eating. I was too hungry to concentrate, and so I zoned the rest of the way before we eventually stopped again. As I got hungrier and crankier, food kept getting prolonged. I drove around aimlessly behind my dad. He searched out a camp site for me. No success. This added another two hours to our three hour day’s ride. At this point I wish I would have stayed home back in Cali and surfed for a week straight. At this point, I still somewhat regret coming on this trip, but tomorrow we get to go for another ride through gorgeous country. Also, I observed something I can't understand. With no helmet laws in this state, we were among the minority because we wore helmets. I'm crashing on the floor of my parent’s hotel for the night. Time to grab a snack and sleep.

Today was spectacular to the literal meaning of the word. We are staying in Rapid Falls, which is about 20 or 30 minutes out of Sturgis. We rode into the west end of town to fuel up, and then we hit the highway. The Beast was hungry for asphalt, and I had my hand on its appetite. Every rev of the throttle sent The Beast howling with hunger, consuming pavement at ever increasing rates. The warm air wrapped around me as we sped out to Spearfish Canyon. As we climbed our way up the hillside, the air cooled off to perfect riding temperature – just cool enough to keep you refreshed, warm enough to keep you relaxed. It truly was perfect. A sea of bikers filled the road, and again provided that sense of comradeship unique to the biking experience. Nods, waves, smiles, handshakes, introductions, and small talk were commonplace. No cold shouldering, no stone walling; everyone was open, friendly and courteous … which surprised me about the Sturgis ride. The canyon was breathtaking: sheer walls of multicolored slate decorated with patches of evergreens that got thicker and thicker the deeper we rode the canyon. About halfway through, we stopped and walked to The Falls. The Midwest was in a dry spell, and so The Falls were more of a trickle. After a couple pictures we made our way back to the bikes and headed to Mount Rushmore. The forests grew denser and the road started to climb. Lakes and valleys started to appear left and right. Further we climbed, and the air turned crisp and the views opened up. Three quarters of the way to Rushmore we stopped on the side of the road and beheld the presidential mountain. All four faces clearly beamed out from the rock, presiding over the countryside they helped establish. Pictures were snapped and we continued to the top. The 11 dollar charge for parking pushed us away from the actual park. On the way back we rode through Needles, a winding green canyon with lakes in the deepest valleys. Washington peered out from one of the mountains before the final descent. Once out of Needles we headed back and started the trek to Rapid City. Once on the highway, The Beast again seemed to come alive with hunger as I opened the throttle.

Today we explored another sight around the Sturgis area. We left earlier in the morning, around 10 or so. Before long, the throttle was controlling the metal monster’s asphalt appetite yet again. This time we crossed state lines back into Wyoming (we made our way through the southern part of the state on the drive from Colorado) and headed toward the rock monument, Devil's Tower. After a couple quick stops at various biker attractions (a saloon, an old stone house, and of course, a quick refuel) we made our way to the natural formation. As we rode through Wyoming, red rock started to splotch the otherwise normal soil. With the array of line trees that covered the hills it was beautiful to drink in. Originally we parked outside and took pictures from a distance, but after we learned it was only a 5 dollar per motorcycle charge, we rode to the bottom of the tower. The tower itself is magnificent to behold. It's a pillar of hardened magma that has remained as other lighter and looser sediment eroded away. Hawks circled up at the top of the 850+ ft volcanic production. Once at the base we hiked about halfway around. The scenery was gorgeous, and on one side an entire valley view spread out in front of us like a post card. Fun fact: Indian mythology states the red soil came about because of a foot race between human and buffalo to see who was superior. Since humans only have 2 legs where the buffalo have 4, man was allowed to choose a substitute in his place for the race. The myth has humans choosing a bird as a proxy, and the race was off. The buffalo knew what was at stake, and they pushed themselves so hard they bled wildly. Legend has it blood leaped from the buffalos’ mouths and snouts. The blood then was trampled into the soil, creating the Wyoming red dirt seen today. Unfortunately for the buffalo they lost regardless of their effort, and humans were allowed to hunt them because of the mythical outcome. After tons of touristy picture taking, we headed back to Sturgis, but not before stopping at the meadow off the road back down from Devil's Tower to check out prairie dogs. Interesting creatures. Anyway, we fueled up once back in South Dakota and took to Sturgis. There, my parents grabbed a quick bite at the McDonald's, and I wandered on my own through the packed streets. What a sight to behold. I've never seen such a vast array of bikes and people. The bikers themselves ranged from old school Hell’s Angels types to first time riders. I saw all sorts of customized paint jobs, including Looney Toons, Snoopy, The Jetsons, and of course the classic American flag type. Custom choppers were plentiful, and I even spotted a couple of Boss Hoggs (V8 engines in custom bikes). There were topless women perusing the streets with their men, relying only on body paint and a good artist to obscure full view. Everyone was hanging out, shopping and checking out bikes. It was wild. After we left Sturgis we headed to Deadwood, a casino-based tourist attraction from a town further west. On the way to Deadwood we rode through Black Hills National Forest, another breathtaking nature scene impossible to fully describe. Lush forest covered every inch if landscape, igniting the air with a brisk scent. After we navigated the canyon leading to Deadwood, we tried to eat. The restaurant we stopped at, Wild Bill’z Steakhouse, was too busy with too limited a menu. After we realized there was nothing to suit our appetite, we headed back to Rapid City for dinner. We ate at a 1950s replication diner and had, overall, a good meal. After my dad ran a red to get on the freeway, and I caught up with him, it was smooth sailing back to the hotel, where pop and I grabbed a beer and unwound after a long day.

Today was our last day in the area. Tomorrow we head back to Colorado and wish Sturgis a fond farewell. We rode out to the Badlands. The ride consisted of plains that stretched as far as the eye could see. The only break from the flat landscapes was the occasional hill. As we neared The Badlands, hills appeared more frequently. The sheer openness of the plains was a humbling sight. The Badlands is a state park, and we had to pay to get in, but the fee was well worth the ride. Immediately, giant rock structures began to rise out of the distance. Once we hit the first viewpoint I was lost in the landscape. Slopes, peaks, and random rock formations cut by wind and water erosion painted the horizon. Majestic white limestone proudly wore red and yellow stripes, some even donned a prairie grass cap. The Badlands stretched as far as the eye could see. It used to be an ocean, and over time became marshlands, then prairie valleys and colored mountains. The Indians referred to the land as bad because of how difficult it was to cross. The 33 mile loop was astounding. As much as the Spearfish Forest and Black Mountain Forest made me feel vibrant and alive, The Badlands made me feel much more insignificant. The formations stretched and stretched, with different patterns, colors, and size. After completing the 33 mile loop, we grabbed some dinner and went into Sturgis. I left my parents and wandered the street. Every type of bike and biker imaginable was there. There was even a vintage 1940s bike with a pull break on the frame by the seat. It was a party, and everyone was out in full force. Bikes crowded the street, half naked women walked around flaunting their tits, ass, or whatever physical quality they deemed worthy of flaunting. After grabbing a couple beers at a Karaoke bar, I stepped outside and saw a man dump his Harley in the middle of the road. After running out and helping him lift his bike back up, I continued on, taking in all the different people. It was wild. I headed back to the hotel after three hours of checking out bikes, stores, and babes. I already told myself I'm going back at some point. Now it was time to rest up before a three state ride in the morning back to Colorado.

Today was our ride back from Rapid City to Fort Collins. We loaded up the bags, checked out from the hotel, strapped it all to the bikes and grabbed a quick breakfast. Once we were on the highway it was only a matter of gas stops before we would be done. The ride itself took us through three states: South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. Wide open prairies reached out towards the plateau topped hillsides. As we headed through South Dakota, evergreens dotted the red hills providing a breathtaking contrast of the earth and the life it supports. Once out of South Dakota the trees grew scarce and the prairies stretched further to smaller hills and bigger plateaus until the prairies were bordered by an almost uniform line that cut the across the horizon. We stopped to rehydrate and rest. Water was provided by some friendly bikers. We hit the road and made our way to the city of Lusk. It was in these last couple legs, of a close to four hundred mile ride, reality set in. Soon, cold routine would have me in its clutches once again. This trip affirmed my dream to be a biker vagabond for a year or two before I turn thirty. We were now in the heart of Wyoming. Cattle were grazing with occasional deer too. It was here my eyes wandered the landscape and I thought of what I was headed back to. I wasn't ready to go back. I wanted to keep riding. No stress, obligations or worries – just stay alive. I thought of all the friends I have lost in the last few years and how I shouldn't take anything for granted. I thought of the people I've wronged, the people who've wronged me, and everyone between. I thought about the gorgeous landscapes laid out before my eyes over the course of the trip, how long they had been there before I was, and how long they will stand after I am gone. Thoughts like those set me at ease and shook me at the same time. Nothing I do is significant, time will wash it away and, yet, everything I do is significant because of the limit of time. I wandered back to Spearfish Canyon and remembered the fresh, alive feeling of breathing in pine forest. I wandered back to The Badlands to dwell in the grandeur of the wind and water cut figures. Memories can't be stolen, so I decided I needed to make the most of the time I have with people worth effort. I thought of the cultural diversity I came across, from the New Zealand group of riders, to the amiable Texan, to the firey East Coasters, and how all of them, and myself, came together to celebrate the freedom that comes with riding. I thought of all my parents had done for me, and how I hope I can repay them double. But most prominent was the thought of myself in context to all this. I thought how one person, act, or place can influence my life and send me in a direction I never saw myself going. Before I was done thinking, we were in Fort Collins, and my ride was over. Mixed emotions overcame me: excited to go back and surf, work, and progress, … yet fully disappointed I could not escape to my vagabond dream early. Tomorrow I fly back, time to rest.


Thomas Ladron is currently finishing undergrad work in the growing field of Gerontology, the study of aging, at a southern California state university. He has a sense of inner decency, this command of basic human interaction, to immediately draw a person toward him. He listens. He invests in the conversation. At a very low point in my life (in a seemingly bottomless series), he intuited a need I had to just fucking relax and have a beer. He downright insisted. I found a million excuses not to join him, but he shut each one down. I knew then this was someone I’d want to get to know (I’ve not been able to say that about many people in recent years). While most are content to live the usual life in the usual way, questioning little beyond the thought poles of respectable opinion society has delineated (thus far, and no further), he pushes himself to dig. He’s insanely curious about life and his place in it, and when he explained he’d be joining his family on the above trip, I asked for his reflections. This is what I hope will be the first of many entries for guttervox.