May 1, 2019

like it's 1999

The staple nourishment
of impoverished youth.
She threw a map and a tube of lipstick
in an old Winn-Dixie sack
She pulled her Firebird out of the driveway
without ever looking back
By the time she got to Georgia
it was nearly half past eight
She bought a ninety-nine cent breakfast
at the Stuckey's by the interstate ....
--Kate Campbell, See Rock City


I think about a couple in their sixties, a man and a woman reclined side by side in sun chairs on a beach in Mallorca, wearing sunglasses and straw hats and sunscreen smeared on their noses.  Their arms are on the armrests of the chairs.  They listen to the ocean and they don't speak.  They do this for hours.  They're on vacation together.  They come here every September.

P.J. and I don't vacation together.  Her idea of vacationing is quiet and peace in a beautiful setting.  My idea of vacationing is people.  Each of us would slit her wrists if trapped in the other's idea for more than a day.  I'd die of boredom and she'd die of exposure.

(Am I allowed to make wrist-slitting jokes?  I mean, it's my blog ....)

I'm itching for a road trip or two.  There are people I want to meet and I'm feeling inaccurately romantic about all my memories of interstate driving and changing scenery and subsisting off of Little Debbie snack cakes obtained at gas stations because that's the financial league you're in when you're in your early twenties.

My ex and I drove everywhere, because we could.  I did a lot of screaming.  I screamed when I sat up from a nap and we were driving west on I-10, right under the Mississippi River, into a deep, dark tunnel.  There was a ship directly over our heads.  I screamed when I sat up from a nap and we were driving west on I-70 through western Kansas and a huge tumbleweed hit the windshield.  I'd never seen a tumbleweed before and didn't know it would go "poof" when we hit it.  So I screamed.

Things like Manhattan and the arch in St. Louis didn't make much of an impression.  I saw the lushness of western Wisconsin and elk in the field across from the world's largest gas station in Wyoming.  I felt the thrill of being all alone in downtown Ann Arbor and the wrenching heartbreak of Gary along I-80, the decayed factories and rust.  I remember waving fields of brown grass in Oklahoma and the architecture of churches in upstate New York.  I drove across a time zone line on New Year's Eve 1998 and got to hear Prince on the radio twice.

I lived through how long it takes to get to the Rockies once you can see them.  I picked up a fake twenty-dollar bill that was really a gospel tract on Beale Street in Memphis.  I got my hair cut in Paris, Texas by a very confused stylist, and I had my car turned around by frozen mist just west of Kansas City.  I learned about eternity while driving through Illinois.  I found an exit in Kentucky where you come off the ramp and end up at an intersection that has four dead-end signs all around.

Yeah, frozen mist really is a Thing.

My mind has glossed over the part where you know exactly what it feels like when you have one hundred miles, then seventy miles, then forty-five more miles until the next marker or your final destination.  It's completely ignoring how gripping the steering wheel now causes some pain in my bum shoulder, and how my low back isn't twenty any more.  It dismisses how much coffee I'll need and how frequently I'll have to take bathroom breaks.  It's drumming up enthusiasm for staying in a shitty motel room because I can't drive sixteen hours straight any more.  Clearly the road is calling me.  There are people I need to see, in their places.

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