Friends, I write to you from a random coffee shop in some town in upstate New York1 where fall has already hit (it’s 55 degrees and sunny at 2pm) and half the radio stations are in French. But despite the sweet small town community that’s coming and going around me, the world is dark today. There is tumult and terror in the world (as always, God help us) and I know I ought to write about Syria. And maybe eventually I will. But right now, I have nothing to offer but sorrow and a plea for prayer and fasting. So take a minute and offer a prayer for peace.
And now let’s just geek out a minute with a little update on my life.
Look at that cool map! You can see everything about it (or at least the parts I remembered to add) here. These are my travels over the last 15 months. Why am I showing you the map now? Because on Monday I hit 48 states!2 And not just 48 states as a hobo–48 states in 365 days, which is awfully exciting. So I thought y’all might like to see everywhere that I remember having gone.
And check out this map:
That’s a map of views of my blog in different countries, with a list of countries where I get the most hits on the left. Do you see that people are reading my blog in India? And rather frequently in the Philippines? What a funny thing the internet is! And my blog has been viewed in 158 countries! Now I can’t say if all those views were intentional or not, but probably each page view means a die-hard fan. And since Google tells me there are only 196 countries in the world which means I’m famous in more than 80% of the world!!
In the past 15 months, I’ve slept in at least 88 beds/couches/patches of linoleum and given at least 100 talks/retreats/conferences. I’ve stayed in 36 states and spoken in 22.3 I’ve been to Mass in 36 states, but not the same 36 that I’ve stayed in–one of the idiosyncrasies of the hobo life.
So thanks! Thanks to everyone who read or subscribed or shared a post. Thanks to those who invited me to speak or just to visit. Thanks for recommending me to your priest or youth minister, even if nothing came of it. Thanks for your prayers, without which I’d be even more of a disaster than I am. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this hobo thing, but I know I couldn’t do it without you all. To God be the glory!
And now, after 15 months of intense and systematic research, I’ve come up with some definitive judgments about the United States.4
- Most hospitable: the U.S. Military.
- Worst traffic: L.A. It’s constant and impenetrable. I don’t know how people live that way–and I grew up in D.C. I guess the beach and the constant sunshine are pretty good consolations for the gridlock.
- Coolest public transportation: Rhode Island water taxis.
- Most surprising beauty: Utah. I don’t know why I thought it was a flat desert (you’d think the skiing in the Olympics would have tipped me off) but I was stunned by the beauty of the green mountains plunging into crystal clear lakes. Incredible.
- Most ridiculous: New York. These people really don’t ever sleep! Add to that the traffic and the crowds and the noise and that topless lady in Times Square, and I’ll enjoy my visit but be happy to leave.
- Most responsive to my ministry: U.S. Military women/wives, western Kansas, the Georgia Tech Catholic Center.
- Best liturgical music: St. Benedict’s of Wild Rice in Horace, North Dakota. No, really.
- Worst cell reception: Montana. Honorable mentions: Wyoming, Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho, western Kansas, upstate New York. Maybe I just need a new provider….
- Hardest to find an open church: Las Vegas.
Most beautiful churches: Cleveland, of all places.
- Best liturgy: The diocese of Arlington and the diocese of Madison. And it’s a good thing about Madison, too–Masses in other parts of Wisconsin left me near despair.
- Most enthusiastic: all college students.
- Most beautiful homes: Mobile, Alabama.
- Most ridiculous weather: Colorado. Snow in May? 60 degrees the next day? Go home, Colorado, you’re drunk.
- Most exciting youth programs: St. John’s in Hollywood, Maryland. Kids evangelizing kids–it’s great! And they’re working on a way to spread their program to parishes around the country. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ll get you the information when it’s available.
- Favorite new food: fried pies in Texas.
- Most unpaved roads: Vermont. I drove 20 miles on unpaved roads to get from Mass this morning to tonight’s destination. Not because Google was stupid or because of construction. Apparently, that’s just how they roll.
- Most likely to have traffic for no good reason: Pennsylvania. Also DC, but that’s not news to anybody.
- Most likely to be under construction: Minnesota.
Most scenic views from the road: Oregon and Montana.
- Worst drivers: Boston. Why do they even have lane markings?
- Best grocery store: Wegmans.
- Highest tolls: NYC.
- Most obnoxious tolls: Orlando. If you don’t have Florida’s pass, you have to pull off the highway to pay a toll every 3 miles. Which brings me to my soap box: WHY can we not have a universal toll pass in this country? Surely my EZPass could work on tolls in other toll systems–why doesn’t it???
- Funniest: The little girl in Kansas whose “question” at the end of my talk was “Sometimes we puke in the sink.”
- Tied with YFL conference leaders–check out this amazing video they made for my evangelization talk. Spot on, and they hadn’t even met me!
- Emptiest: Wyoming. At least the southern half. Man, there’s just nothing there!
- Most likely to secede: Maine. They’re already using kilometers, folks. It’s just a matter of time.
There you have it–feel free to defend your hometown in the comments. And in case you’re wondering, the next few months look a little like this: New York, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Maryland, Hawaii…Illinois…the Cayman Islands…Virginia…California? It gets a little vague after January. For more details, check out the schedule that I sometimes remember to update. And if you want me to come speak anywhere to any group on any topic (marginally related to Jesus) for free, just let me know!
P.S. Need something to smile about? How about our fantastic pope?
- Well, okay, I started there. But then the owner of that little coffee shop in that little town wants to close up to go see a friend before taking his wife out to celebrate their anniversary. So now I’m in somebody’s house. [↩]
- Alaska and New Mexico. I’ve got something in the works for Alaska, but not till the summer. New Mexico needs to get on the ball! [↩]
- So you might not count my having driven through the others as having been there. But…well, deal with it. [↩]
- Even the ones I’ve only driven through a corner of for half an hour. Sorry Arizona–it was a remarkable 30 miles. [↩]