Tuesday, August 17, 2010

9. Drive

Originally posted March 17, 2008.

The first time I drove from Chicago to San Francisco it took me more than a week. There was a crack in the windshield of our car -- a white Cavalier we called the Coyote -- and we stopped the first night in Iowa City. We left early and of our own accord, but later legend had it we were run out of town. It’s hard to keep straight which parts really happened and which parts were later inventions. I don’t think we really broke anyone’s windows.

Our next stop was Oklahoma City, gray and flat and depressing. There’s a few square blocks in town zoned as a whole other city, and that’s where they keep their porno shops and strip clubs. I wouldn’t go into a strip club in Oklahoma City -- the thought was too depressing -- but that was only putting off what would come later.

We passed through Amarillo, bought cowboy hats and ate regular fries. They don’t make them French in Texas.

We camped outside of Roswell, New Mexico, thinking we’d make up stories about aliens. Instead we were surrounded by (actual) coyotes, found bobcat tracks on the ridge in the morning, were woken up in the night by the headlights of rangers or wandering teens. We saw lights in the sky that got closer then farther, that made patterns like D&D dice. We slept with our boots on, a knives under our pillows, baseball bats in our sleeping bags.

Carlsbad has Caverns and bats that swarm through the sky at sunset. There might have been fistfights and gazes that lasted too long. There were definitely cockroaches in the bathtub.

The Grand Canyon is bigger than even you think it will be. There are no guard rails. Only rock, and then air, and then more rock. My partner waited in the car -- "I’m tired of this hole" -- and I walked the rim for hours. I thought maybe I’d go back someday, with someone who wanted to see it too.

In Las Vegas I saw a magic show. I walked the sidewalks by myself, passed through the casinos because you can’t walk around them, and spent a quarter on the slot machines. I didn’t win, but I gave it a try. I took pictures of myself with my shirt off, enjoying the tan lines on my arms. I may have sent the pictures to someone, thinking they were funny, but they didn’t find them as such. Back in the car in the morning my partner said, "Hookers are the path to a perfect relationship. You call a girl, she comes to your room, she dances for you, she has sex with you, and she leaves." And I thought, I have no idea who I will ask to go to the Grand Canyon with me.

We passed through Death Valley and drove to the sea. Bakersfield had the best radio station we ever heard.

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