1. Canton, OH to Charleston, WV
    July 11, 2013

    You learn a thing or two when you get your driver’s license in Alief, Texas, and drive through Third Ward to get to school.

    My mom always warned me not to go on residential side roads because someone could just jump in front of the car and jack me. She also warned me of frequent accidents on small two-lane highways, and advised me to just stay on the interstate for this trip.

    I’ve been ignoring that last bit of advice, driving on state highways and country roads and getting stuck behind Mennonites on a horse-drawn buggy. America’s best seen slow and steady away from the interstate.

    Well, that’s until I got to West Virginia.

    Before I left NYC in July, a friend of mine warned me not to watch The Hills Have Eyes. The same friend then later photoshopped my face into the movie poster. I’ve seen the movie; I don’t even think it takes place in Appalachia, but I have seen the bad parts of Deliverance and that’s enough for me.

    I’d been driving around Ohio ending up in a national park and a hall of fame up until this point. Now it was time to take my mom’s advice and take the interstate all the way to Charleston.

    I filled up the Fiat one last time in Ohio, right on the border because I didn’t want to run out of gas and pull into some small Appalachian town. That’s how The Hills Have Eyes started.

    I crossed the bridge into West Virginia and went straight to the Welcome Center where portraits of Abraham Lincoln hung with travel brochures. When I came out, a man eyed the car and me.

    This must have been one of my mom’s fears: me getting jacked out in the open right after filling up the damn car, in broad daylight, in a small West Virginian town where brochures are promoting the state’s nature trails or whatever.

    "Is this your car?"

    "Yeah."

    "It must be real fuel efficient."

    "Yeah, like, 40 miles per gallon, I think. 45, sometimes."

    "Cool."

    And he slowly walked away.

    I haven’t been fair to West Virginia, obviously. I don’t even think Deliverance takes place in West Virginia. And if there’s a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Welcome Center, things can’t all be bad.

    (Source: nathanhoang.com)

     
  2. Canton, Ohio
    July 11, 2013

    In my quest to delay the inevitability of visiting West Virginia, I saw signs pointing towards the Pro Football Hall of Fame and followed them into Canton, Ohio.

    The name suggests that there must be another, less professional Football Hall of Fame out there, perhaps for some company’s flag football or fantasy league or whatever.

    I was going to find out. And I was also going to find out why on Earth there was a football hall of fame in the middle of Ohio. And I was also going to find out why the field outside of the Hall of Fame is only 70 yards long.

    Unfortunately, these questions either went unanswered or forgotten since I didn’t actually get to visit the hall, just the gift shop to the right.

    Money’s tight, so I couldn’t spare the $23 to get in, but I could buy a Tennessee Titans pencil for my Houston Oiler superfan and superfriend, copyrapper.

    Time’s also tight. I couldn’t spare the two hours or so it’d take to get through it all; I still had a three-hour drive to Charleston, West Virginia, so visiting the gift shop’s a way of getting the Cliff Notes of what the hall’s all about: Professional Football and not college intramural flag football.

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame didn’t sell rosaries though, but I said a few “Hail Marys” anyway.

    West Virginia scared me.

    (Source: nathanhoang.com)

     

  3. You’re a professional writer and you just came up with a clever “We’re Not In Kansas Anymore” headline.

    Now hit send and close your eyes. You deserve this short break for such a creative headline, after all.

    Minutes have passed and you open your eyes.

    Oh shit! The story was supposed to be about Houston and every writer in the country went with a clever, “Houston, We Have A Problem” headline.

    How could you be so stupid?

    Kansas isn’t even that close to Houston. That headline could have been yours, along with thousands of other writers throughout the decades (though theirs wouldn’t have have been as clever as yours obviously), but you fucked up.

    Damn it.

    There will be always be more problems in Houston, you say to yourself. It’s going to be ok.

    I don’t have a problem, Houston’s the one with the problem.

     
  4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
    July 11, 2013

    I ended up in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the way out of Cleveland, feeling a little bitter because hours earlier, I got a bag of useless shredded money which can’t be put towards either of the tickets I got in the last 24 hours.

    I wasn’t planning on going to Cuyahoga—I was originally following the signs to Akron, but I can’t resist a national park.

    Cuyahoga is Mohawk for “crooked river,” which is funny because the name of the day’s game was to take the most crooked path possible to West Virginia.

    Of all the states I was most concerned about, West Virginia was the top, so a quick stop at the park just outside a city where a former Clevelander told me to bring a gun, is welcomed.

     
  5. See you in Russia, 2018.

    (Source: nathanhoang.com)

     
  6. Cleveland, Ohio
    July 11, 2013

    The evening before, a couple ladies visiting from Fort Wayne, Indiana, were admiring the Cleveland skyline from a pier on Lake Erie. When they found out I was from NYC, they quickly suggested that maybe I wasn’t as impressed.

    I told them the truth: I kind of like Cleveland’s skyline. They have that thing and the other building sticking out. It wasn’t that bad.

    Before I set off for West Virginia, I walked around downtown Cleveland looking for that thing and the other building sticking out I was earnestly telling those two ladies but must have come off sarcastic.

    "That thing" referred to The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. "The other building" referred to the Horseshoe Casino.

    Personally, the monument was nice, but I felt duped trying to seek out a building only find out that it was a hotel casino.

    I dejectedly walked back towards my car parked near the Federal Reserve Bank and found the meter guy to put the finishing touches on my parking ticket.

    "I could have sworn I had a couple minutes left," I told him.

    "Nope," he told me as he handed me the ticket, sparing him the routine of lifting up the windshield wiper.

    And that’s how I got my second ticket, just a day after getting a traffic ticket, minutes from leaving Cleveland. If only I could pay the ticket with the shredded money I got from the Federal Reserve.

    Cleveland-Sucks-To-Rocks Scale: Cleveland Rocks but c’mon, man. 

    30 minutes prior: Cleveland Rocks
    12.5 hours prior: Cleveland Sucks
    16.5 hours 
    priorCleveland’s Rocky

    (Source: nathanhoang.com)

     
  7. Cleveland, Ohio
    July 11, 2013

    After a quick visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center next door in the morning, my opinion of Cleveland hadn’t changed much from the night before.

    Cleveland’s nice, sure, but I don’t think it defines itself by the Hall of Fame.

    I parked, paid the meter and walked towards East Fourth Neighborhood, a revitalization project in downtown Cleveland, in search of coffee and postcards, but detoured into a Federal Reserve Bank I saw on the way.

    I still can’t explain what a Federal Reserve Bank is, despite listening to a ton of Planet Money podcasts, and I can’t explain why there’s one in Cleveland, and I can’t explain why there are 11 other Federal Banks in 11 other cities, but I hoped the museum inside would clear things up.

    It didn’t. But at the end of the exhibit, I got shredded money as a souvenir, so maybe that’s one thing they do?

    I continued on and found Cleveland Clothing Company, a store that celebrates Cleveland in shirts, accessories and postcards.

    Immediately, I appreciated its mission of giving Clevelanders a way to celebrate their underdog city and show their pride, because if they don’t, how would anyone?

    Sure people started fires in the streets because the hometown kid spurned his hometown team to go to Miami (Florida, not Ohio). And sure, some people think you need to go into Cleveland with a loaded gun. And of course you can’t overlook the racist caricature used as a sports mascot.

    Every city has their shortcomings, but not every city has shops and residents who are so in love with their home that they’ll work, wear and tattoo it on their arm.

    So on the ongoing Cleveland-Sucks-to-Rocks Scale, after a visit and a chat with Clevelanders, Cleveland Rocks.

    12 hours prior: Cleveland Sucks
    16 hours 
    prior: Cleveland’s Rocky

    (Source: nathanhoang.com)

     
  8.  
  9. USA vs Germany Game Plan:

    1. Bring Ark of Covenant
    2. Convince Germans to open
    3. Americans, close eyes & turn away
    4. Germany’s face melts
    5. Win!

    Because we all know Germans (excluding our coach and several of our players) can’t resist a peak into the Ark.

     
  10. I believe that USMNT and I will win!