Monday, February 26, 2007

Tony Gemignani

Today at the pizza show Tony Gemignani walked up to me and initiated a short conversation. If you don't know who Tony Gemignani is, he is the guy you've probably seen on TV doing amazing tricks with pizza dough, from the Emeril show to Jay Leno to buttloads of other shows I don't even know about.

I wouldn't say I know Tony, but I did already know that he knows who I am, because he approached me at last year's pizza show after recognizing me from Pizza! The Movie (which I hadn't even seen yet). That was pretty cool because Tony is the "star" of the pizza movie. Hell, Tony is the superstar of the pizza industry. Not just the American pizza industry; the global pizza industry.

So, as I already mentioned, Tony walked up to me today and said hey. After maybe 30 seconds of talking to him, he said something to me about my trip. I suspected he was referring to Aimless, so I said, "You've seen my web site?" After confirming that he has seen it, he seemed pretty interested in what I'm doing, adding that he thinks some parts of my blog are pretty funny. He asked if I've ventured anywhere near his parts yet, to which I responded: "No. I've been to LA already, but not your area (Castro Valley, California--near San Francisco). I have thought about going up to your place, but I haven't really had the opportunity to do much yet."

I only talked to Tony for about five minutes, but I got the impression he thinks Aimless is pretty cool. He acted very interested in having me visit his pizzeria whenever I make it back out west. That is, he seemed interested in being in Aimless. (He loves attention.) And I probably will visit his pizzeria because it could be good for both Tony and myself. It could be good for me because Tony is the best in the world at doing something that fascinates a lot of people, and it could be good for Tony because it'll provide more exposure for him, his pizzeria (Pyzano's), and his competitive pizza team (World Pizza Champions).

Tony is a really nice guy. Even though his skills have made him kind of famous, he is still just a dude. You can bet I'll show up in Castro Valley sometime in the next six months.

Oh shit! It just occurred to me that Tony knows George Lucas. At least I think maybe he knows George Lucas. Seems like I've read something about it before. I'm going to Google their names now.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trailer update

I can't even begin to express how excited I am about the trailer I'm putting together. It's already four minutes long and I anticipate that it will be about six minutes once I finish it. It's hard to look at it from the perspective of an outsider because I have such a personal investment in it, but I feel really good about it. Sometimes I watch it about three or four times in a row. Every time it reaches the end I find myself wanting more, so I watch it again. Now, if I can create that same feeling with you folks and all the other people who still have not heard of Aimless, I'd say some good things will happen.

This is really fun. I'm so focused on what I'm doing and I'm constantly learning all kinds of new stuff. Unfortunately I will not be able to work on it Friday, Sunday, or Monday, though, because there is a pizza trade show in Columbus.

I really don't even care much about the pizza show this year because I'm just not chasing that dream right now. But Otis is coming to town for the show, so I'm going to hang out with him while he's around (except on Saturday). There are also some industry people I don't see often that'll be here, too, so I can sacrifice a few days of work. Maybe it'll even be good for my head to get away from the computer and the house.

After watching these tapes over and over I've realized just how good a friend I have in Jeff. Not that I didn't already know it or anything; it's just been reinforced a whole bunch through the tapes. Jeff, you're really a great guy and a great friend. Your friendship means a lot to me.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cutting and editing...

...And changing my mind and unchanging my mind and unbreaking my heart and teaching myself yet another set of skills and wondering and eating pizza and all kinds of shit like that.

Yeah, I'm finally making it real. Yesterday morning I didn't know the first thing about cutting or editing digital video (or anything else about post-production), but today I'm coming along. And I like it this way.

Remember the introduction I was talking about? Yeah, well it's coming together, and I've already cut out most of the words from the transcription. I may put it all right back in tomorrow. And then I may take it right back out. But no matter what I do, it's giving me valuable experience. Learning by doing is what made me good at the things I do well. Oh, and being my own toughest critic helps, too.

Well, all I wanted to say is that Quasi-Aimless has moved from the spreadsheet and into the Final Cut. I'll probably be very busy working on this for a while, so don't expect a lot of blogging in the near future.

One last thing... I'm thinking I'd like to ingest peyote alone in the desert sometime in the next year. Not that it's any of your business or anything. If I do, I'll make sure to get some good footage of me tripping.


Thursday, February 15, 2007


OK, so I'll have to come up with a name for the trial run video I'm currently working on. How about Quasi-Aimless? I mean, that's pretty much what it is.

Here are a few definitions for 'quasi': 1) Having some resemblance. 2) Having a likeness to something; resembling. 3) Signifying as if, almost. 4) Prefix meaning seemingly.

Any other suggestions?


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What's your son's name?

If you were reading the "California to Ohio" series of entries I had been writing (and may continue eventually), you probably remember that I was only as far as Quartzsite, Arizona when I left off. I didn't meet Earl Wordlaw (my ride out of Phoenix) for another few days, so I really shouldn't write about him yet. However, there is a moment from my travels with Earl that I thought was perhaps funny enough to share with y'all, even though I still have not introduced him to you.

After a long day of driving on December 20, Earl and I were sitting in the food court of a truck stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, just shooting the shit after we ate. I had the camera rolling, in hopes that Earl might share a good story with me or just say something interesting. Like usual, most of that footage was pretty boring. But when he started talking about his infant son, it got better.

Before I tell the story, some context might be necessary. First thing: Earl is black. I only mention Earl's color because it might help you "hear" the words a little better. Fact is, white guys like me speak a lot different than black guys like Earl, and sometimes I found it a little difficult to understand some of his words. I'm not saying Earl speaks like the dude from Fat Albert (Mushmouth?) or certain pro athletes; I'm just saying he sounds a lot different than Peter Jennings, just as my uncle in eastern Tennessee sounds a lot different than Peter Jennings.

So there we were in Las Cruces and Earl was telling me a story. At some point in the story he told me his son's name. I couldn't understand what he said. So Earl said the name again. I still couldn't tell what he was saying. And that's probably about when we get to this:

Earl: My son's name is _________. [Sounded like "McGeh" or something.]
Me: Mc...(?)
Earl: "McGeh."
Me: How do you spell that?
Earl: [To himself] Uh, how do you spell "McGeh"?
Me: You don't know how to spell your son's name?
Earl: She named him!

I didn't figure out what he was saying until I got home and reached that point in my tapes. That was probably a few weeks ago, if not more recent. After watching the tapes, I'm pretty sure he was saying "Miguel."

Anyway, Earl is a real good dude. It was fun riding with him. I hope someday I'll be able to do something really great for Earl.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Setting up a structure

A few days ago I began watching my tapes all over again. This time through is a lot different than the first time, though, for a lot of reasons. First of all, I made some pretty detailed logs when I reviewed the tapes before. That was very mentally draining and time-consuming because I'd have to rewind the tape every time I passed something that appeared remotely interesting, to take note of the running time and what was happening in the footage. Then I'd have to do the same thing at the end of each moment of interesting footage. It was really not fun; it's so much more fun to just be out there making the tapes.

This time I don't have to give everything my full attention. I can just watch the tapes casually (or sometimes just listen) and wait for the compelling moments to jump out at me. Then I take very detailed notes of what's going on during these moments. I can watch it from more of a distance, so the storyline is becoming more clear.

No, I'm not just trying to make a trailer anymore. I'm approaching everything with the intention of making a complete documentary, which might just happen. I mean, it'll take almost as much work just to make a five-minute trailer as it might take to make a 60-minute documentary, at least in terms of logging everything and figuring out which footage belongs in the final product. And there's just too much good stuff to set my sights so low as to only make a trailer.

The structure seems to be taking shape pretty clearly. I've already written an entry about the prospective opening segment, but now I have several other segments outlined pretty well. After the introduction, there's a segment (or scene) I've labeled "Richfield & Dennis Cox," which covers my first attempt at hitchhiking, as well as my ride with the first person who ever picked me up while hitchhiking.

Segment 2: "Cedar City to Vegas." Something interesting happened at a gas station in Cedar City. The next day I caught a ride to Vegas. (This will be mostly a short video collage.) My ride dropped me off on I-15, under the Tropicana overpass, then I started making my way toward UNLV, where I expected to find people I know.

Segment 3: "The Dude by the MGM." There was an older guy drinking a beer by the bus stop on Tropicana, east of the Strip. I talked to him for a while. He had a few interesting things to say. He didn't want to give his name.

Segment 4: "Hamilton's Drunk Ass." I met Hamilton at a bar on Maryland Parkway my first night in Vegas. He was rather wasted. Some of it is pretty funny. Hamilton let me crash at his place that night (or morning).

Segment 5: "Joe Sacco." I think this is the best footage I have. I'm not going to talk about what's on it right now.

Segment 6: "Transition to Leaving Vegas." Nothing real great here. I'm going to try to find a way to use this as a bridge.

Segment 7: "Boulder City and California." Most of the good footage from Boulder City will be used as audio in the opening. This scene is kind of a continuation of the bridge from Segment 6 because my two weeks in California wasn't really Aimless; it was a vacation with my good friend Jeff, who treats me 50 times better than he should treat me. Plus not much interesting stuff happened while I stayed with Jeff.

Segment 8: "Leaving California." This begins with Jeff dropping me off in Cabazon, where I met a couple interesting people by the highway. John Martin was holding up print advertisements next to the westbound off-ramp, as a favor for "Sinners Forgiven," and Walter Dexter was selling mistletoe to exiting eastbound travelers. After getting a ride to Palm Springs and subsequently trying to find another ride to Arizona, I had something interesting to say to the camera.

Segment 9: "Quartzsite." This is as far as I've gotten in my second round of watching the tapes, so I can only speculate what will be in this scene and the following scenes. I dislocated my ankle in Quartzsite on December 16. It still hurts.

Segment 10: "Phoenix." Haven't watched this yet. It may merge with the previous scene.

Segment 11: "Phoenix to Memphis." A lot of miles here, but there probably won't be a lot of good footage because I was with the same person the whole time, mostly driving.

Segment 12: "Christmas Eve." This was an emotional day. You won't believe the shit that happened to me on December 24, 2006. I'm not really sure if I have good footage of what happened on that day, but I do know how to write about it.

Segment 13: "Christmas." I'm not going to reveal anything about Christmas Day until I've finished the video.

That's pretty much the structure. Keep in mind, a lot of things are going to change as I progress. It may end up being nothing like what I've outlined here; I really don't know.

As soon as I finish my second round of logging, I'm going to start working on the trailer so I can get something up on this web site. After that I'm going to work on making something a little longer that will not be called Aimless. When I finish that, I'm going to give copies to libraries and people who want copies. When I give copies to people, I'm going to ask them to make a copy or two themselves to give to someone else.

This practice video will be much better than most of the crap we have to choose from on TV.


Sunday, February 11, 2007


I've baked a few loaves of ciabatta in the last few days and I must admit I'm getting pretty gosh-darn good at it. Gonna put another one in the oven in about 20 minutes. I started the pre-ferment (sponge or biga or poolish or whatever you want to call it) for this loaf at about 10:00 this morning, then left it alone for about 10 hours before adding the rest of the ingredients and mixing the dough. That was a couple hours ago. Since then I've knocked down the dough a couple times. It is currently on its third rise.

If anyone out there wants to give my formula (recipe) a try, here it is:

4 oz. All Trumps high gluten flour (by weight)
2 oz. 110-degree water
1 pinch of sugar

6 oz. All Trumps high gluten flour (by weight)
6.5 oz. 110-degree water
1 pinch of sugar
1 tsp salt

I'm not going to type the procedures for making the bread right now. I may do it some other time or if anyone asks me to. But my pizza-making procedures (and you can't buy a better pizza) are already available on the Aimless Pizza Page.


I don't like being ripped off

I'm going to send two similar letters tomorrow to a couple people who ripped me off after I agreed to do some favors for them that no one else was willing to do.

The first incident happened last June, after a 22-year acquaintance named "Stromie" (Ron Stromfeld) told me his friend John Hetrick was looking for some temporary help at his beer/wine drive-thru. Having already scheduled a vacation with his family for late June, John was looking for someone who could keep the place open while he was away for a week. Because I've always thought highly of Stromie, I stopped by the drive-thru and talked to John the next day. After talking with him for a little bit, I agreed to help him out because I had nothing better to do.

Not only did I agree to work for an insulting $7 an hour, but I also was prepared to work 60-70 hours a week with no overtime pay for a couple weeks. That is, until I realized this guy was a racist asshole who chose to make the job ten times more difficult than necessary. And yes, I eventually walked off. Before I walked off, however, I calmly returned the store keys to John and informed him that I would still be willing to help him out, but only if he'd start listening to my concerns.

His ego didn't allow him to contact me after that.

Because there was not enough time before his vacation to train anyone else, John ended up having to close the drive-thru for a full week while he was gone (unless he decided to cancel the vacation). Additionally, he decided he's above the law and chose not to pay me for the hours I'd already worked.

Bad move, John.

The second incident happened in November 2006. I've already talked about it in a couple recent posts, so I'm not going to retell that story here.

Here's a draft of the first letter:

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Hetrick (and Patrick Johnson, of course),

This letter is a reminder that you owe me $350 in wages for my labor at Arcade Drive-Thru in June 2006. Since it has become evident that you do not intend to pay me for my work, I have no option other than to enforce a concrete deadline for payment. You now have until February 28, 2007 to pay me the $350 you owe me.

If you fail to meet my deadline for payment, you will force me to contact the Internal Revenue Service and inform them of your extensive tax code violations. (Yes, I know enough about your business practices to get you into a lot of trouble.) I do not wish to resort to such extreme actions, but your noncompliance will leave me no other choice.

Ryan M. Powell

* * * * *

I'm 99% sure neither of these guys will pay me what they owe me, even after receiving this letter. It's an ego thing. But you gotta do what you gotta do, and I WILL report them to the IRS on March 1st if I don't receive the money they owe me by February 28th, even though I have nothing to gain by turning them in.

Something interesting occurred to me after I'd already written the letter: these guys have both spent time in prison. Interpret that however you want; I haven't made any kind of interpretation yet. I'm just pointing out a coincidence.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Again, what's the point?

I was just watching some of my video footage from November 18, taken several hours before I split from Patrick & Company. At 8:56 that morning, as we were screaming down a steep mountain incline, Patrick's phone rang. It was the lady we were going to meet in Los Angeles. She was calling to check on our progress, in an attempt to coordinate her schedule with ours.

Patrick updated her: "We are entering Utah."

One big problem, though: We were nowhere near Utah. We were still east of Vail, at mile 180 in Colorado. That means we were still 180 miles from Utah. It means we were at least 3-1/2 hours from Utah.

What did he think he'd gain by telling such a lie? Can anyone help me figure this out?

In addition to that lie, he started bullshitting her in other ways, making all kinds of excuses for the constant and continuous delays. Furthermore, he projected that we would arrive sometime that evening--early enough to meet up with her before she left town--even though he knew there was absolutely no chance we would arrive before about 3:00 AM.

I can understand why someone might stretch the truth a little in certain situations, especially if there is a chance that the little lie could become inconsequential. But it simply is not possible to drive a large Penske truck (that won't go over 70 MPH) from Vail, Colorado to Los Angeles, California in 11 or 12 hours. You can't even make it to Vegas in that timespan. So why dig yourself an even deeper hole by lying about your progress and promising the impossible?

Do you think that lady's ever going to deal with you again, Patrick? Well, she's not. The funny thing is you'll never learn anything from it.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The opening

I have now reviewed and logged all of the tapes from my trip, and some things are starting to take shape. The clearest thing right now is the opening. As I speculated a couple weeks ago, I think I might begin with excerpts from the conversation I had with Jeff when we met up in Boulder City. I've pretty much transcribed the whole thing and strung together a reasonably concise recap of what happened between Ohio and Utah. To accompany my Boulder City "narration," I have plenty of on-the-road video footage from a lot of places between Ohio and Utah.

I don't think my storytelling is exactly what I would have hoped for. There's some excessive use of "dude" and "I was like," but I think it will functionally introduce viewers to what everything is all about. One thing that may make things difficult, once I begin editing the stuff, is the music in the bar where we talked. It's not overpowering or anything, but it is very present, and it may cause my story to seem very fragmented. Hope not.

Anyway, here's a transcription of the story I told Jeff. It was a little tough to organize the stuff into paragraphs because it wasn't spoken in paragraphs and because I don't exactly speak how I write. I think it sounds better when I hear it than when I read it. (There will probably be a short pause between most of the paragraphs.)

* * * * *

[Video begins with Jeff in the bar. Don operates the camera, making for one of the very few moments where I am in the picture without pointing the camera at myself.]

Jeff: "...So back up. When you called me a couple weeks ago and I was in Maine… Um, what started this journey here, out west? Details, because I didn't get all the details."

Me: "I was helping out some dude I kinda know, I met in Yellow Springs in June. Not a friend or anything like that. Just a dude I knew.

"I was basically doing this guy a favor. He called me up, and um, he said he has this trip, that he's going to California. He buys old theater chairs and church pews and refurbishes them and then resells them. I think that's what he does, but y'know, he doesn't do shipping; he does it himself.

"So he calls me up, says he needs somebody, asks me if I can do it basically now: 'Can you do it now? Can you go to California with me NOW?' And I'm like, 'Let me get in the shower; let me put my clothes in the laundry. And while I'm doing that, I'll think about it.'

"I had to drive to Cedarville, which is about a 40-minute drive. He said he wants to leave tonight. Well, we didn't leave tonight, so I ended up having to drive back home that night. Should have been an omen, I guess. Then I drove back down the next day and met the two other guys.

"So we headed out I-70... Dude didn't tell me shit about what we were going to do, so I have no idea what we're doing. Basically we're going to... eventually San Jose--first LA, then San Jose--and then back to LA, down to Texas, and back to Ohio, with some stops in between.

"We get to Colorado--we get to the other side of Colorado--I take over driving in western Colorado. And I'm driving, we're barely into Utah, maybe an hour into Utah, which means we're in the middle of fucking nowhere, and we stopped at the rest area. One of the guys who was in the back of the truck came up front. He's someone that I guess has driven a truck before.

"Dude was really judgmental of my driving. And it wasn't like I'm a crazy driver or anything. He was watching my foot on the pedal; he wants me to flip it into neutral when we're going downhill to try to get better gas mileage... So he's like watching every little thing I do. And you know, even if that is a legitimate kind of thing, I don't feel safe doing that. I don't drive like that when I drive, and it's just not natural for me.

"So dude's getting all on my ass and shit, acting like he's the man and I'm just stupid, and I just didn't need it anymore. And eventually I started to say, 'You know what, dude: When we get to Richfield, I'm just gonna get out of the truck, get my stuff, and I ain't getting back in the truck.' And I don't think he believed me [laugh].

"We got to Richfield. I drove down the road looking for a truck stop where they could go to get gas while I get my stuff out of the truck. I didn't see anything like that, so I ended up driving to the other end of Richfield and parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot. That's the only thing I'll do at Wal-Mart.

"I'm gathering the stuff I had up front in the cab, trying to make sure I had everything… And then I got out of the cab and I went and I gathered my other stuff that was in the back of the truck… And when I jumped out, Patrick was like, 'Hey man, what's going on?'

"I said, 'I don't need this shit,' and I walked off. And that's the end of that."

* * * * *

So I guess you call that the opening or introduction or something. Somewhere before, during, or after all that stuff, there will be some intro music and road imagery. Then, after all the intro stuff is over, the story will begin with me along the side of Interstate 70 outside Richfield, Utah. Plus I'm sure I'll end up cutting a lot of the dialogue I've included here.

I've said too much. Goodbye.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Joe Sacco for Las Vegas City Council

For those of you who have read my recent entry, Looking for Joe Sacco, I have some good news: My attempt to contact Joe has succeeded. And bonus good news: Joe has decided to run for a seat on the Las Vegas City Council. (Coincidentally, he made the announcement on the same day I wrote the other entry about him.)

I urge you to check out Joe's campaign web site, especially if you live in Las Vegas. I have taken a look at the site already, and I was particularly impressed with his campaign's refusal to accept donations from corporations and political action committees. That's what I call integrity, and integrity is something I've never seen in any public office holder, although I'm sure a lot of politicians began their careers with the right intentions. Unlike nearly every other candidate for public office, though, Joe is not after power. He's simply trying to do the right thing, and I suspect he'll keep it up even after he wins and has to face the pressures of "The Game." If we stop playing The Game and stop electing people who play The Game, The Game dies.

So let's help Joe get elected.

Heck, I might have to move back to Las Vegas and try to help Joe win the election. Or maybe I should abandon Aimless and start a new project about Joe.


Some thoughts about liars

I've always been fascinated with people who can't keep their lies straight. You know who I'm talking about: the people who tell you a story about some grand event in their life one day and then tell you about it again sometime in the future, except it's completely different the second time.

Like Patrick Johnson, the guy for whom I was doing a favor when I left Ohio in November.

When I met Patrick (who wears an eye patch over one eye socket and likes to call himself 1-Eye Jack), he was quick to tell me the story about how he lost his eye. He said it happened when an elephant went wacko at a circus in Hawaii. According to Patrick, it was the incident we've all seen on shows such as When Animals Attack, where an elephant decided one day he just didn't want to play along with the circus people anymore. The elephant began rampaging around the small arena, forcing spectators to scatter before finding its way outside, where it continued to charge. Yes, Patrick told me he lost his eye to that elephant at that event.

Several months later, however, after I agreed to help Patrick transport some stuff across the country, he told the story again. But this time it wasn't an elephant that caused him to lose his eye. It was a car accident. So now the story is that Patrick lost his eye after falling asleep at the wheel of a moving automobile.

That's the story the other two guys already knew.

I just can't understand why people lie like that. And it's not the lie itself that puzzles me. The thing that really puzzles me is that they can't keep their lies straight. If you possess the ability to tell anyone such a ridiculous lie, what's the point in ever changing your story? Why tell one person the truth while telling another person the lie? What are you hoping to accomplish by telling the lie, anyway? And is it really that difficult to remember who you've already lied to?

I think the best question, though, is: Do you really think people are that stupid? I don't mean stupid enough to believe your story; I mean stupid enough not to realize that at least one of the stories is a lie, once you've told the same person two drastically conflicting stories about the same event.

That's not the only thing Patrick lied about to me. He lied about pretty much everything. To lure me into helping his pathetic, desperate ass, he lied about what my role would be, and he consciously neglected to mention a lot of conditions that he knew might cause me to turn him down.

And what did he get out of it?

Here's what he got out of it: Three days into the trip, he lost the person who saved his ass and made it possible for him to even begin the trip. He completely lost the respect of someone who could have become a very valuable ally. And if he doesn't pay me for my work really soon, he's going to learn that the IRS doesn't take kindly to being ripped off, which will cost him a lot more than the $350 he owes me. But if that's the way he wants it, well, he gets it.

Update: 02/09/2007 - I just registered on e-bay, solely for the purpose of leaving some feedback about "1eye-jack" (Patrick Johnson). I was going to say something simple and to-the-point: "I did some work for this guy in November 2006. He still has not paid me." But apparently you can't leave feedback about anyone unless you've actually bought something from them or sold something to them. That's stupid; buyers and sellers are not the only people involved in these exchanges.