i must say that i have a new respect for living in minnesota/wisconsin after going on vacation down to north carolina. when i finally got back to the midwest i wanted to hug every person in sight.

maybe some parts of north carolina are actually good, but there is no place up here remotely as terrible as the places i've been to down there.

so i left the great state of minnesota friday afternoon by airplane first to charolette, and then connect over to raliegh. for the longer flight i ended up stuck in an aisle seat. the guy who had the window seat next to me, had the windows shuttered the whole time too so i was unable to see the effects of traveling one hour in the future. i imagine it would be similar to that of the langoliers.

the guy sat in his seat and watched Stargate Atlantis on his laptop the whole time which put him directly to sleep. I glanced over a few times trying to figure out what he was watched until i finally saw the folder his files were in. I pretty much just stuck to playing my GBA though.

for some reason, as the plane descended into redneck country, the cabin pressure injured my right ear pretty bad. ugh.. it felt like a needle going slowly into the side of my head. i had to sit through about half an hour of the plane landing, until i was finally able to get off the plane and to let my head relax.

i'm not sure why my ear decided to 'burst', it didn't happen the last time i flew. i couldn't hear the flight attendent say how high we were in the air, so i couldn't ocmpare it to the 24000 feet of my MSP to ORD to CLE flight last year. on the way back to minneapolis i felt the same pressure as i landed back in this beautiful land, but my ear didn't 'burst' this time. i'm not sure why, though i'm glad it didn't. that flight was at 34000 feet.

anyways, once i got on my next plane over to Raleigh i knew i wasn't in the midwest anymore. arghgh.. that wretched, horrible, ear-piercing accent. why why why why, wouldn't you mind if you talked like that. why wouldn't you pay GOOD GOOD money to pay someone to unteach you to sound like a moron. of course, i was seated next to this teenage girl who would not stop talking to her friends across the aisle. a different yet equally painful form of ear torture.

the ominous quality of the trip thus far never occured to me.

before this trip, i had no idea what the enviroment of North Carolina included. so as we took off in darkness and landed in darkness i couldn't make out any details of the landscape. they were huge amounts of blackness without street lights, or any indication of civilization. in minnesota or wisconsin, those would be farms, or lakes. after visiting Cleveland last year, i didn't think they would luscious forests feeding from lakes and rivers.

my plane landed, and i was able to get away from the chatty southerners. it didn't take long to find good 'ol Justin outside waiting for me along with Jacki, his wife, and Alex, his kid.

the week's events got a little more complicated as we were to drive over to Hickory, NC to visit his mom's place for the weekend. "well how far away is that?" i asked. "oh about 3 or 4 hours.." thats just about how long it took me to fly down here.

the car ride wasn't bad at all though. Justin and I got caught up on things. games, anime, life, and the combinations there of. while Jacki and Alex pretty much slept in the back. It was still quite dark outside, so i was still very unable to see the terrain of the backwater state.

Off the beaten path, we arrived as Justin's Mom's house warmly greeted by her. i hadn't seen her in about 3 years, so she hadn't seen the slimmy body, longer hair version you all know and love these days. she went crazy, much like justin did when we met again last year at josh's wedding. "oh my goodness.. i just cannot get over your hair.. hhhuuuuuuuu" in her over embellished southern accent. funny.. she didn't have one in minnesota.

in was pretty late so we got to bed.. i slept on the couch out in the living room, as they used the guest room.

in the morning, i was woken up by justin's mom and alex messing around in the kitchen making breakfast. alex crawled into the living room to say hello. though it was really more like a "guu guu gaa gaa" than a hello. so i entertained his for a while. justin's mom said that i was a natural. i wonder where i get that from........... seriously.

after breakfast Justin and I jetted off to the commercial area of Hickory. my god.. North Carolina is beautiful. Trees everywhere, the occasional lakes, rivers and streams. This is magnificient. I couldn't wait to get the chance to walk around and take pictures and the enviroment. ya know.. during time that i thought i would have.

the shopping was pretty decent down there, except the horrible horrible accent. i picked up Gundam 0083 stardust memories and Firefly at Best Buy.

we got back in time for a planned dinner, where his entire family came over. something that i had no prior knowledge about. So i actually got to meet all the people i've seen in countless photograph displayed all over the house both past and present. UGH... ACCENTS!

Apparently his family has a southern military past that i didn't know about. Interesting... i guess it makes some sense why he joined up afterall. it fits in his family.

after everyone had finally left, and it was time for bed, i was informed that i was expected to attend church with them in the morning. "hmm.. church, eh? what religion?".. "baptist".. a southern baptist church, yet another crazy experience.

so that's exactly what we did bright and early around 11am saturday morning. his whole family was there, of course. Very very interesting, though not as stereotypical as kristina thought it'd be. It reminded me closer to my own 'ol church, rather than the type you'd see in a southern movie.

Their whole congregation was quite a tight group. everyone seemed to know each other. the priest diffinately knew EVERYONE there as he refered to many of the congregation during his sermon and also each person individually by their name as they left the church. as i shook his hand, he commented, "now i had noticed you in church earlier and believe i haven't had the pleasure of meeting you.".. "hi there, i'm jimi hendrix, rock 'n roll legend and good pal of justin. i'm.. uh.. visiting from minnesota."

after church it was time for some babysitting and fixing up the place for little alex's babyshower. yet another wonderous family get-together. i had no idea i was in for such an eventful occasion. it pretty much happened just like yesterday, except a few less men because a) it was a babyshower and b) apparently there was a nascar race on. :rolleyes:

so far the weekend was pretty fun. i had a bit more insight into justin's family and life. at this point, i was 2 days into the trip and it had rained 70% of the time. we left justin's mom's house around 6pm that evening because of arguments between justin, his mom, and jacki, unfortunately.

we traveled back east to their home within the confines of Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is nessled in between Spring Park, a keystone of civilization north of the east side of the base, and Fayetteville, a rundown gutter sucked dry of dignity south of Bragg.

Once again, i was unable to see any of the actual envirorment coming into this place as we traveled at night. though from stopping at taco bell, it was not the same as hickory. oh no.. from the crazy people across the street hanging out at the car wash, smoking and speechless, to the dilapidated 1980 vehicles with busted out windows and one wheel missing parked on the streets, i knew we were a far cry from what i would consider livable.

Upon entering Fort Bragg itself, we showed our ID and were randomly selected for a security inspection. yippie. good thing alex was crying his head off and our food was getting cold.

Once inside Fort Bragg, the enviroment changed drastically. It's amazing what the government can do to a particular region. They can put so much money into their own community with barb wire, and strict security to keep people out, and make a fully functioning base you never have to leave. And in doing so, destroy the neighboring communities by sucking all their resources dry making them into a fully functioning cess-pools for breeding lower class humans ripe for the picking and recruiting. brilliant.

i would have never thought it was possible or even that this type of incubating actually existed in this country. i wonder if this is how it works at the other military instillations around the country. like in colorado, washington, and florida (or was it kentucky..). it can't possibly be as bad as north carolina... can it?

uh.. anyways. inside the base was rather decent. justin and jacki's home was rather low income. not that i can complain about it seeing how it's on par with my current residence down in platteville ^_^. utilities completely included. they only needed to pay rent, phone, cable and internet. free long distance too, plus washer and dryer, PLUS dish washer. i should've asked how much rent was.

as i walked in the place, clothes were everywhere. on the couch, table, the corner, the floor.. baby stuff all over the place.. the kitchen was littered with dishes, food in grocery bags, food dryed on plates, baby formula, bottles, etc.. HHHMMMMMMM...... they pretty much dumped all their baby shower stuff on the floor.. and then went to bed.

in the morning justin woke me up, saying that it's time to buy some shelves for his 'massive' anime collection. "okey dokey".. i slipped on some clothes and we took off to target down in fayetteville, we also stopped at best buy to look around. I decided to pick up A Tree of Palme, so all 3 of us could have something to watch together.

when we got back, we started watching more firefly.. well, i did anyways. after the first day at this place, i was pretty much living off of fast food and mt. dew. my body could hardly take anymore. So i got him to take me to the grocery store so i could actually buy some edible food. We went to the Commissary on base which was the Army Grocery Store.

Apparently every place that isn't an official franchise on base, you need an Army ID to purchase things, and those that don't must be accompanied by someone in the Army. Good thing i'm Justin's cousin. :wink: :wink:

lets see.. eventually Justin and I finally went to the infamous PXBX that he always said had great deals on anime. It was the army brand department store. Much like K-mart of the early 90s, it was pretty small. Their video game selection was pretty good. They had a good variety of new games, almost all rare games in stock. But their clearance rack. MY GOD, their clearance rack.

Something i've learned while on base was the overall closed-mindedness of the army cadets, especially justin. one look at katamari damacy, and his opinion was set. "why the hell would i want to play such a stupid game." sigh... there were so many good games in this clearance rack that we obviously given similar looks by everyone that saw them. i picked up Street Figher Anniversary Collection on Xbox for $15, Fatal Frame II Director's Cut on Xbox for $25, and Zelda Four Swords on Gamecube for $20. Katamari was in there for $15, but i already had it.

I browsed their anime section as well. They had some pretty cheap deals. if i was into Witch Hunter Robin or Wolf's Rain, that is. I picked up Spirit of Wonder for $5. one of the dumbest anime i've ever seen ^_^. oh my.. perfect for mst3k night in the spring. I remember the first time i saw it. Jason KK was so excited about it (for some reason). man.. it was awful. ^_^

So far my trip was coming up pretty expensive. I spent WAY more than i thought i was going to.

After Bill found out Katamari was $15, i was instructed to go back there and get it. This second time at the PX there was another clearance rack i didn't see before. so i picked up DDR Extreme for $20 and Shin Megami Tensei Noctrune for $25.

after a week of video game playing, anime/firefly watching i was just about done. the atmosphere of the household had dragged me down a bit, and the whole enviroment of the closed-minded cadets and the rundown twin cities kept me in doors most of the time. i got a good 45 hours into Pokemon Emerald though.

as justin drove me to the airport, i was able to see the beautiful countryside of north carolina for the last time. the very same that i saw at the beginning of the trip, but was taken from the community surrounding Fort Bragg. But not before the endless strip of closed pawn shops and strip clubs nestled along Bragg Blvd. Sigh. It looks like fayetteville tried tiredlessly to regain some cashflow before the final wooden spike to the heart.

i am so glad to be back up here.. i almost wept when i saw the "Welcome to Minneapolis/St. Paul" sign.

so... lets see here. last year i went to Cleveland: full of fat people, adult book stores, and brown brown landscape. this year i went to N. Carolina: beautiful landscape, with an army base sucking up all the resource destroying the nearby cities into poverty.

next year i go to japan. this could be a "3 strikes, you're out" situation, seeing how my trips have gotten progressively worse. or, this could be a "3rd time's a charm" situation, seeing how everyone that has gone there LOVED it.

i'm probably just over thinking things though.

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