a bleak day indeed.

It was a lousy day weather-wise, so I decided to bus it again. I'm looking forward to hitching again when I head south next week. Pasadena, Maryland is halfway between Baltimore and the state capital, Annapolis. David and Bonnie had invited me months ago, and I came quite close to their area about six weeks ago when I dropped down to meet up with my old friend David in Washington D.C. Then, I was on a race against time as my first US visa was expiring. This time I've got a few days to spare, and David and Bonnie said they've got some work for me to do, so maybe I can earn back the twenty-five dollars that !~"&%# hotel charged me for a one minute phone call. Stupid hotel...

David came to meet me at the Greyhound Station at about six o'clock. It had already been pitch black for the last hour, winter is well on its way. David was working till the early hours of the morning, but snuck out for a few minutes and took me back to the Baltimore Sun building where he works as the night metropolitan editor. The Sun is the local newspaper, in case you didn't figure that already. It's a huge office environment, and it was intriguing for me to observe how things operate and how people interact. It seems that everyone has their own very specific role, and when one person doesn't do their job properly, it impacts on everyone. David's been working here practically since the stone age. In fact he was first promoted to journalist the week before Nixon and Agnew were elected. According to David, this has given him a "front row seat for the decline and fall of American society". He does seem to enjoy the confidence that comes with such long service. The dilemma of the evening was that in one section, there were too many worthwhile stories and not enough space, and in another section he had the opposite problem.

David, deciding which photograph to use for tonight's story.

After I'd had a chance to soak up some of the atmosphere of the newspaper office, David phoned Bonnie to come and get me. I guess they didn't think I'd want to sit around there until two in the morning! Bonnie drove me back to their place and heated up some chicken motza ball soup that David had prepared earlier. We sat up late talking about travel, and it seems we both share a common philosophy. Bonnie gave me this quote by Mark Twain, that I think sums it up nicely-
'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.'

I was still working on my computer when I heard David arrive home from work around 3:00 a.m. That was when I realized how tired I was. Hey, I'm not as young as I used to be!

Oh, a P.S. Some of the hospitality exchange websites that I belong to have a section where you can leave references for other members whom you've hosted or who've hosted you. I'm in the process of writing references for those hosts I've stayed with recently- it seems the last time I sat down and did this was in Montreal, so I have quite a few to do. I think it's an important part of the exchange, and it gives you some credibility in the eyes of other members whom you may contact in the future. So if you've hosted me over my last four and a half months around North America, please check to see that I've written you a glowing reference. If I haven't, let me know and I'll get my ass into gear and write you one. By the same token, it's great for me if the people who've hosted me, leave a short note letting my potential future hosts know that I didn't steal your silverware, fart at the dinner table or torture your pets while I was a guest in your home. It would be much appreciated!

Couchsurfing.com - a new and unique concept in hospitality exchange. Attractive, functional and incredibly user friendly website. Run by a friend of mine, Casey Fenton in Anchorage, Alaska. Hi Casey!

Globalfreeloaders.com - A huge database, which I have had great success with, in spite of a slightly complicated website. Run by an Australian guy.

Hospitalityclub.org - Another great website, with chatroom. Huge group, from which I've stayed with quite a few members. If you join, tell 'em they should feature me on their 'ambassadors' page!

Place2stay.net - nice site, friendly feel, also with chat room and travellers' resources.

Stay4free.com - also offers home exchange, and has a gay page. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Travelhoo.com - quite a few of the less recent memberships are out of date, and I had dozens of emails bounce back to me when I contacted members. Still a large group and worth using as long as you sort the members by date.

Couchsurfing.com is a little different to the others. It's been designed by a friend of mine, with an extra safeguard that will encourage the slightly more cautious amongst us to go ahead and give hospitality exchange a try. You can't just join Couchsurfing. You must be referred by an existing member. That way every member is a friend of a friend of a friend... and you can see who referred whom and so on. Because of this feature, the growth of the group is destined to be relatively slow. At the moment, there are less than a hundred members, but they hail from fifteen different countries. I'd love to be able to help double that membership over the next few weeks. If you're interested to join Couchsurfing- and you're someone I've actually met- get in contact with me and I'll refer you *maybe*. As soon as you join, you can refer your friends from all over the world. Do it now, or I'll break into your house and drink all your beer!

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