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We stayed in Beatty on Thursday night. I decided that I needed to do a little work on Friday from the hotel, so we stuck around the area. We only trekked as far as nearby ghost town Rhyolite.

Rhyolite is a superb little ghost town. Many of the ruins are quite intact, yet it's not overly touristed.

Best of all, there are giant, weird statues nearby. I don't know what it is about the desert, but it seems to bring out the weird in artists. In addition to many awesome, ramshackle buildings (including a jail, brothel, bank, saloon, and some unidentified three-story ruin), Rhyolite is home to some offbeat modern sculptures. My favorites are a two-story-high bright pink nude woman made from giant Legos and a giant steel penguin-and-miner duo.

Everything looks better in the desert, whether it's art, non-ironic Christian billboards, collapsed buildings, or the rusting skeletons of old American gas guzzlers.

I love the way the desert frames things. It makes the most meek—the most banal—seem majestic. Forests are too cluttered. The coast smells terrible and is covered with sand. But, the desert—oh the desert!—it's just right.

Claire pointed out that I tend to only photograph decrepit works of human hands—manmade stuff that's losing the fight to entropy. Maybe that's another reason I love the desert: it absolutely defeats anything mankind puts there, leaving beautiful skeletons for me to enjoy, photograph, and catalog.

By the time we saw Rhyolite and I did a few hours of work it was pitch black—at the late hour of five o'clock. We walked around in the two open shops: the candy store and the general mercantile. The candy store was stupid because the candy was already in sealed bags—you couldn't sample any of it. The mercantile was better than I expected. Their proprietor had a subtle sense of humor: I found a big, grey Motorola Flip Phone for sale in their antiques section. The tag read, "ANTIQUE CELL PHONE. WOW! $18."

The shopping district of Beatty took about 20 minutes all in all. So, we went to the bar. I had a soda; Kate had Grand Marnier and Sprite. She tried to get me play pool with her. I enjoy pool the same way a cat enjoys being stuffed into a some old yellow pillowcase and thrown into the Dough Boy swimming pool.

"What, don't you like playing pool?" Um, no.

"Ya see, I grew up with a pool table. It just never interested me. Not one bit. All the men in the family played but me. I was more interested in playing guitar and working on my little Fiat." I could see in Kate's face that she thought all I needed was more convincing. So, I continued, "It's like fishing, Kate. Some people just like it. I don't."

I tried harder and harder to justify my dislike for playing pool without getting adversarial. Then I found myself wondering why I had to justify not liking something in the first place. I don't justify my dislike for coleslaw or reggae or marijuana or long hugs. Why was I doing it for a game of pool?

Why? Because it's more fun than playing pool. And, as far as I can see, there isn't much to do on a Friday night in Beatty, Nevada besides playing pool, talking about how much one doesn't like playing pool, or taking pictures of Kate playing pool and wishing I was taking pictures of NOT pool. If there were other exciting activities awaiting us there, I wasn't finding them.

Don't be fooled just because she is cute. Playing pool still sucks.

This is one of the funny things about not drinking alcohol anymore: I am so much more acutely aware of how mediocre things can be—and I'm really OK with this. Instead of drinking to numb myself to how uncomfortable or bored I am, I have the clarity to see that life at that moment is not to my liking and I decide to go home and go to sleep.

I get a lot more sleep now that I don't drink. I also read more books, write in my journal more, and write a lot more thank-you letters.

I've been pretty consumed with my thank-you letter project lately. I'm sending hand-written notes to every person that worked on my Just Go Out With Me movie and on the production of Brainpool's Junk - A Rock Opera. Forty-eight people that I can remember worked on my video project. And, forty or so worked on Junk. Nobody writes letters by hand anymore, which makes it so much more rewarding to do it.

I got some great new stationery that I've been using for these notes. They're these custom 5 X 7 flat note cards with matching envelopes. Embossed across the top of the card are the words:


Everything is better when it comes from a spaceship.