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Books set in North America that make you want to travel!!

There has been a great thread of novels based in Europe on "General Europe"
I'm going to start a similar thread here and invite you to join!!
Just finished "Nothing Daunted " a true story about two eastern "society girls " who became school marms in Colorado in 1916.

I need to reread Barbara Kingsolver's novel "the Lacuna" based in Mexico 1929. All of her books include lush descriptions of the countryside and era.

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21068 posts

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- Savannah, Georgia.

Loving Frank -- a novelized treatment of Frank Lloyd Wright's relationship with his mistress, Mamah Borthwick; perhaps a good kick-off to a trip to see some of his architecture?

Nevada Barr has written a series of mystery novels set in national parks. They are fun reads but not exceptionally well-written. In that respect the two books listed above are a lot better.

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The Tony Hillerman mystery series set in the four corners area of the Navajo Nation created an interest in visiting New Mexico and Arizona.

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I just started "Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon. Now, where are our camping supplies...

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Undaunted Courage about Lewis and Clark-I had a trip planned for July but had to cancel because of out of state quarantines.
Eugenia Price's novels about St. Simons Georgia-you can see many of the tombstones in the church cemetery. She also has a series about Savannah.
Tidewater Dynasty about Virginia.

Nothing Daunted sounds good-and sounds like the When Calls the Heart Series on Hallmark.

It's not exactly North America, but books about the Panama Canal caused me to schedule a trip there this Dec, which of course is also cancelled now.

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1778 posts

Bold Spirit - On May 5, 1896, Helga Estby began walking from Spokane, WA across the country in hopes of winning $10,00 to save her family farm.

It’s interesting to contrast her journey with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods

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I'll second Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose and also the Journals of Lewis and Clark which I read back when I was in high school and it inspired many of the stops on my western road trips.

Any of the Green Gables stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery for Prince Edward Island, the inspiration for my travel to the Canadian Maritimes many years ago.

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I'll third Undaunted Courage!
Also Ken Burns video series on the same topic.
It was the Voyage of Discovery, a quasi-military expedition ordered by President Jefferson--but you could almost say they were one of the first 35 "domestic tourists."
Things got challenging after they ran out of booze, with a year + to go.
And then went from bad to worse after their cell and Kindle batteries died.
And don't forget that 14-year old mother with her new-born! Gives a new meaning to the phrase intrepid travelers.

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Melville 's " Moby Dick " the quintessential maritime tale . Vladimir Nabokov's " Lolita " - If one reads this carefully , it is immediately apparent that the focus of the story is not how it is generally perceived . The central protagonist travels through areas of the States mostly with Dolores , but often alone , and Nabokov paints ( with words ) , a vivid picture of the locations he describes . John Steinbeck's " Travels With Charley " - In the mid sixties , Steinbeck traveled through the States , accompanied by his dog and records his reactions to the myriad cultures he encountered . Finally , " Marjorie Morningstar " - Herman Wouk's 1955 novel is the coming of age story of a young Jewish woman in New York City in the nineteen thirties and forties .

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Another vote for Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley."

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Acraven's got a great recommendation: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, showcasing Savannah GA. The book AND the movie.

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21068 posts

Some years ago I read, one after the other, three excellent books about or set in Alaska. Unfortunately, I only remember two of them:

Coming into the Country, by John McPhee: Absolutely anything he writes is worth reading, even if you think you don't care about the subject. (Example: La Place de la Concorde Suisse, which is about the Swiss military).

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer: This is more focused on the life of Christopher McCandless than Alaska, per se, but it is an excellent book.

And I have this recommendation for the Everglades:

The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean. This was made into the movie, Adaptation, which I think was rather strange.

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Pierre Berton is a Canadian author who wrote many books on various moments in Canadian history. The first one of his I read was a 2 volume set chronicling the War of 1812. Thanks to him, a bucket list item for me is a cross Canada trip to visit as many significant historical sites as I can.

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1958 posts

A book by a couple by the name of Freedman about the Canadian northwest , Mrs. Mike. Not a novel but a PBS series Alone in the Wilderness that was incredible.

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Allan , another great book by Pierre Berton , is " The Arctic Grail ; The Search for The Northwest Passage and The North Pole 1818 - 1909 " If one is interested in Polar exploration , this is a must !

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Gail's mention of " Alone in The Wilderness " is also worth seeking out . This is the story of Dick Proenneke , who hewed a solitary life in the Alaskan hinterland for thirty years , living life as a sort of hermit . Not for everyone , but a fascinating tale -

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I have zero interest in the life of someone who chose to live as a hermit, rather than having it involuntarily imposed upon him by the virus.

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Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. One of my favorite books. Also by Bryson: The Lost Continent; Travels in Small Town America. Both of these are great reads. Actually, anything he writes is fantastic. He’s one of my top 5 authors.

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One of the greatest novels set in North America or anywhere else, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (a lost talent). New Orleans.

Not far behind, The Catcher in Tbe Rye. New York.

Just finished a good read by Delia Owens, Where The Crawdads Sing. Set in the marshland of North Carolina.

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*daunted * was our march selection for the library book club we finally met by zoom 3 days ago.... Dunces was our April book, wonder if we will ever get to it or just go forward?

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Warning: Some of these books can inspire you to visit a place... and you might be disappointed!

Case in point: Prince Edward Island in Canada is famous from the Anne of Green Gables books. It is one of the most boring places I have ever visited. (I have been in all the Canadian provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Nunavut, as well as all 50 states.)

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Warning: Some of these books can inspire you to visit a place... and you might be disappointed!

A great novel illuminates a locality by stories, associations, and history, as well as the inner monologue of the protagonist.

I have been to many places which are completely prosaic and uninteresting, but which have historical significance. Valley Forge, where the Revolutionary army spent the winter, is nothing but some fields with occasional signs. Last summer, we visited Cold Harbor Battlefield in Virginia where my great-great-great uncle met his death in 1864. Again, a forest, a trench (preserved for 150 years), and a field of no significance whatsoever.

Many who travel in Europe take the time to visit a concentration camp. These places preserve the memory of those murdered by the Nazis, but cannot preserve the horror of the actual events. These are in the imagination of the visitor. Even well-preserved camps, like Mauthausen, keep only the buildings. They did preserve the ovens. I do remember visiting Dachau in 1960 as a child, and remember vividly the smell of burnt something in that room. It led me, through my life, to be interested in the willingness of people to participate in a mass atrocity.

The history in some places is in the imagination, not in the reality. The only place that somewhat preserves the moment is Gettysburg National Battlefield Memorial Park, which has a huge number of mementos and monumento mori which preserve the key actors and units who acted on that great battlefield. There is, however, no peach orchard.

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Not so much to travel but a different account of the "discovery" of America is The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami. A fictionalized account of a slave on the Spanish expedition in Florida in the vicinity of what is now Tampa Bay. Only four people survived and the slave was the only one not allowed to give his account to the Spanish New World viceroy.

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6484 posts

Prince Edward Island in Canada is famous from the Anne of Green Gables books. It is one of the most boring places I have ever visited.

Marcia, this just goes to show how different people are in their interests and their perceptions of places. I absolutely loved my visit to PEI - spent 3 days there and saw practically every inch of the place, it was one of my favorite places I've been. But then, it had so much to appeal to my interests. I'm a lighthouse 'nut' and had to visit all of the lighthouses on the island; I love islands in general and being on one always makes me happy; I love nature, pastoral scenery, quiet places - I was so impressed by the greenness (?) of the place and the wildness of the beaches and sand dunes and the whole rural vibe of the place. It was everything I expected from reading the Green Gables books. It was so relaxing and slow paced, in contrast with the rest of my hectic, fast paced tour of the Maritimes that it was like a breath of fresh air (literally).

I can certainly understand why it wouldn't appeal to a lot of people, even to most of my family and friends - which is probably why I went there by myself. :)

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2320 posts

The history in some places is in the imagination, not in the reality.

Well said. I've never been to PEI, but my Mom raved about the Anne of Green Gables house, probably because the books brought her imagination to life. I can't count how many times books have enhanced a visit.

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Allan , another great book by Pierre Berton , is " The Arctic Grail ;
The Search for The Northwest Passage and The North Pole 1818 - 1909 "
If one is interested in Polar exploration , this is a must !

Thanks Steven, all of his books are on my list. The furthest north I've gotten with his books so far is Klondike which tells about the Yukon Goldrush.

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1219 posts

Almost forgot. Mark Helprin's 'Winter's Tale', a teriffic bit of fantasy set mainly in New York. Anything by Helprin really.

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San Francisco:
Tom Wolfe - The Electric Kool - Aid Acid Test
Dashell Hammet - The Maltese Falcon
Amy Tan - The Bonsetter’s Daughter

Los Angeles
Michael Connelly - Harry Bosch series starting with
The Black Echo

Monterey, CA - Steinbeck’s Cannery Row
Salinas Valley of California - Steinbeck’s East of Eden

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Claudia, you have some really interesting choices. I've been meaning to read Cannery Row ever since my visit to Monterey last Fall. Thanks for the reminder. At first your pick of the Bosch series surprised me because it usually deals with the seedier parts of Los Angeles, but I've always wanted to take a drive along Mulholland Drive because of these books.

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A word of warning about "Mrs Mike." It is a wonderful book, but please remember it was written in the late '40s about a woman's memories of the Canadian back country in the 19-teens. The language and attitudes would appall today's reader. The story is beautiful, though, about love, loss, and redemption. The book - based on a true story - starts with the protagonist as a frail 16 year old Boston girl, who is shipped north for her health. She falls in love with a Mountie, and ends up making a home in what seem like desperate circumstances.

If I hadn't read and loved it as a child, I would probably not have been able to get through it as an "enlightened" adult; but when I do recommend the book, I warn people about the ethnocentrism, objectionable language, and racism evidenced by many of the characters.

One of the authors is Mrs Mike's daughter, who appears in the redemption section of the book.

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I always appreciate it when somebody reminds me of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

I would add Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series, for capturing not only San Francisco, but the 70's and 80's as well.

Another favorite of mine is The River Road by Frances Parkinson Keyes. Not the most politically correct book I've ever read, but a good read to capture the place and time.

Jane - About a million years ago, I saw the movie version of Mrs. Mike and loved it. I'll have to track down the book.

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I’m a native Californian who grew up in the Bay Area and have lived in LA now for nearly 30 years.

I work on the TV series BOSCH which is a dream job as I’ve read all of the books. The first thing I noticed when I moved to LA is that Hollywood isn’t at all what the images in your minds eye are. It’s a pit

Like every city you have a pre conceived concept of what it looks like. If you do come to LA, start in downtown and follow Sunset Blvd ( starting by the touristy Olvera Street and adjacent Chinatown) and go West to the Pacific Coast Hwy. Its a 15 mile ride through all the various neighborhoods from gritty thru Beverly Hill through the Santa Mountains to the beach.

And you won’t see much on Mulholland but walls encompassing homes. Lots of traffic as well.

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Allen-

My mom read the Anne of Green Gables as a child and her and my father went to PEI for their delayed honeymoon. My mom and dad both loved the tranquility and peacefulness. I confess I've always wanted to visit after reading the Anne series as well.

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Travels with Charley immediately came to mind. If you're anywhere near, it's worth going to Salinas to the Steinbeck museum and see the camper he drove across the country.

Michener's novels . . . Centennial (the Great Plains and the Rockies) and Hawaii are the ones that stand out in my memory, though I'm sure I read them when they were new.

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Has anyone been to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California? I loved Charlie Brown as a kid and became intrigued by Charles Schulz after reading his biography a few years ago, it had never occurred to me that he was Charlie Brown. It's made me want to plan a visit combined with other things in the area but I'm not a wine guy so Napa Valley isn't of great interest to me. Seems like a long way to go from San Francisco just for the museum.

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Yes and it’s very well done.

It’s also closed like every other public place in CA at the moment because of the Covid virus.

There is plenty to see and do in Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino other than visit wineries.

Jack London Historic State Park
Armstrong Redwoods
Petaluma Adobe State Park
Petaluma itself
Bothe Napa Valley State Park
Take a mud bath in Calistoga
Sonoma Historic State Park
Hot Air Balloon rides
The Pacific Air Museum In Santa Rosa
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue in Petaluma
Sonoma Train Town

And if you are going this Summer and have not visited a County Fair ( if not canceled because of the virus) both All 3 counties have County Fairs.

CA is a vast state with lots of places to go without visiting a winery...

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Thanks Claudia. I'm Canadian so not crossing the border to the US this year. I'm in love with California and been to the State many times as it's a quick and cheap flight from home to SF, LA or SD. Did the Pacific Coast Highway from SF To Laguna Beach last Fall. We're always trying to find new things to do and not just visit Disneyland and Universal Studios like when my kids were small.

I snickered at your comment about LA being a pit. I guess as a tourist I'm saved from the seedier parts except through books and movies and and the occasional wrong turn. We spent a few days of our trip in Glendale and loved it. One particular highlight that I'd never visited before was the Peterson Car Museum so I could see the Batmobile from the 1960's TV show-the 8 year old boy in me was in heaven. Also visited Sony Studios, not my favourite studio tour but the small Museum was fun.

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LA might have been "a pit" before the 1960's (a nice pit). When I was at Berkeley in the 60's, Bay Area folks felt so superior and would make fun of LA's lack of "culture" (whatever we thought "culture" was).
But in the last 60 years, serious money and effort has gone into creating an LA/Southern California scene that has its share of art and culture, IMHO. They're way passed No. Calif., IMHO.

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The Journals of Lewis & Clarke on the Voyage of Discovery.
Maybe the original domestic tourists?

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Kent no amount of money can change the reality that LA has the largest homeless population in the US.
You been to downtown recently? Yes lots of new condo dwellers but they still have to step over the homeless as they walk their dogs and go out for their lattes.

I live in Hollywood. Last night the looting at rioting was a block away from where I live.

From actual first hand experience and personal knowledge as opposed to conjecture I’ll stand by my original comment.

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Claudia - I hope you and yours are safe. I am so sad to read your words about LA. In the 50's and 60's, my grandmother lived in Woodland Hills; and coming from Oklahoma, Southern California seemed like the land of Oz. The one time we went to Olvera Street, a movie was being filmed there - it all seemed so glamorous. I'm going to enjoy the LA of my adolescent memories, with the understanding that it exists nowhere else.

Have you seen "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood"?

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3304 posts

Re: Charles SchulzMuseum
We took our grandson a few years ago. I’d give it a 4 out of 5. Some pretty interesting stuff about the man and his work, and there is some hands-on activity for kids. Did you know that Schulz was one of the first to include a brown-skinned kid in his work? You had better believe he took some flak from certain quarters for doing so. Lots of his books for sale in the gift shop.

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Estimated Prophet I work in the movie business and my esteemed colleagues did a stellar job recreating Hollywood in the 70’s for the film.

Was at Mussos and Franks for lunch the day before it closed due to the Covid virus. It’s been closed since.
They did announce however that within a short time they will be reopening!

However as I listen to the news helicopters hovering as more peaceful protestors march on both Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd where Mussos is located I’m hopeful with the very large LAPD presence that looters won’t try to stir things up as darkness descends in Hollywood tonight.

Woodland Hills is a monied neighborhood. Like Hancock Park or Westwood. Definitely not like West Adams, or Hollywood or the neighborhood by USC.

And once again a chorus of sirens from Hollywood boulevard. Guess peaceful protest no longer.

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1277 posts

Claudia, my thoughts are with you.
For anyone, on the theme of racial unrest I offer up Taylor Branch who wrote a trilogy covering the US in 1954 -68. It's footnoted history that reads like a novel, and helped me to understand a section of history I missed out on ( began kindergarten in rural iowa in 1969)
In terms of travel, it did help w my concept of southern geography. Perhaps it also makes me wish for time travel, so that many of our historic bad choices could be pushed in a different direction.

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2018 posts

Like others who have posted, this one was easy for me-John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley: in search of America". Always was, always will be one of my very favorites books. I must admit, I also love all his other books......

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10344 posts

Claudia, my thoughts are with you and the other people directly affected by all of this.

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Helicopters still hovering at 4:15pm. 2 different protest marches. One on Sunset Boulevard. The other on Hollywood Blvd. The streets parallel each other and my abode is situated between them.

I got our early to drive to the grocers at 6:30am. Love that in LA grocery stores open very early. Got what I needed and returned home safely.

Ironically while getting ready to watch the finale of the series Killing Eve because I didn’t get to see it Sunday night, my venerable Panasonic TV gave up the ghost. I kid you not. DOA.

So been streaming live coverage of the hordes protesting in my neighborhood on my smartphone and laptop.

Ever hopeful I’ll be able to get out tomorrow to:
1.pick up my vehicle which was in the repair shop that’s on Hollywood Blvd.
2. Return the rental car
3. Get a new TV
4. And not have to listen to helicopters hovering day and night

And so it goes...

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10344 posts

Claudia, you've got a full plate of "to do's" in front of you.
How disconcerting to lose your venerable TV, and car, in the midst of this.

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3458 posts

For a bit of a turn from the written word , this film from 1952 , will be perfect for inveterate readers . Five stories from the pen of one of America's most insightful , and prolific writers - O. Henry . " O. Henry's Full House " These tales are beautifully dramatized , and introduced by another great author - John Steinbeck - https://youtu.be/YPbgGywFiNg

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14911 posts

Napa/Sonoma -- It's been a few years since I was last there, so things may have changed, but the Korbel Winery tour was very interesting, mostly about the history of the family and, hence, of the area. Skip the tasting room if you like, visit their Italian deli for lunch before you leave. The Luther Burbank Museum in Santa Rosa is worth a stop as well.

Claudia - I wish you health and peace soon.

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3186 posts

Claudia I hope peace soon returns to your area-It's harder when you don't have any Confederate statues you can remove to help defuse tensions.

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Chani, The Korbel Winery is still there, the tour is still interesting, the location and drive to get there are still beautiful, and the tasting is still free. I much prefer Sonoma to Napa (less snooty, better prices, and beautiful countryside). Also, the drive to the coast from Sonoma County to Mendocino County (another great wine producer) along Hwy 128 is stunning. And when you hit the Mendocino Coast you won't want to leave. The drive north from 128 up to the town of Mendocino, and beyond toward Fort Bragg is great also. I hope you get there this year.

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2534 posts

I am with Pam , A Walk in the Woods By Bill Bryson, this book introduced me to his writings and I have read most if not all of his Travel books. I actually stayed in the same Hotel as him in Sorrento Italy , about 20 years after he did.

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14911 posts

Ah, Judy, that was almost a reality. I was supposed to be in the Bay Area for about a week this month - should be in Chicago today. I remember taking a cog train somewhere near Fort Bragg about 20 years ago. I agree Sonoma is much nicer. People seem to think that northern California is the SF area - there is so much to see and do north of the Golden Gate (and even more when you get to Oregon).

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6352 posts

Just a report to say all quiet on the western front.

No helicopters hovering.

Turned in the rental. My repaired vehicle looks great.

Safe and sound.

Happy Saturday!

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384 posts

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by the esteemed and mighty Hunter S. Thompson.

As a young writer, I wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson. Since I was already pretty crazy and ingesting massive amounts of recreational chemicals, I figured I had a leg up on the competition. Then I dropped what turned out to be a little too much high-grade blotter acid and went to a Furry convention in Orange County, California. Despite a promising start to my adventure, things went from "heh-heh!" to "oh, shit..." REAL effin' quick.

Right about the point when I was talking to a fox about the finer points of BDSM culture, I realized things were getting weird. It's never a good thing when you can't tell where reality ends and the drugs begin. I also remembered I was in Orange County and that the local constabulary wouldn't take kindly to some long-hair on a felony's worth of hallucinogenics freaking out because because he was surrounded by talking foxes. That's the last time I ever took acid that day.

Luckily, I met a pretty chill cougar who passed me a couple of fatties packed with Mendo green bud. At least, that's what my notes say happened. I also ended up with a three-figure bar tab and on the back of it was a phone number that I never had to balls to call.

Three days later, when my Southwest flight reached the crest of the John Wayne Int'l climb-out (if you've ever flown out of John Wayne you know what I'm talking about), I started reviewing my notes. There were a couple of half-mad word-associations followed by two pages of "OH, F*CK" written in various colored inks, and finally the most sage thing I've ever written:

"Never trust a talking fox."

Words to the wise, my friends, words to the wise.

-- Mike Beebe