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Joplin, MO to Amarillo, TX – 2006

9/11/2006

Joplin, MO to Amarillo, TX

In Amarillo,Texas after a mostly bland day. I didn’t do any site seeing today aside from what was outside of my window at 75mph…and then I got pulled over in Oklahoma City.

So there I am cruising through the city limits of OKC. It’s pretty hot outside, and of course it’s pretty boring. The only thing you can really do is smoke cigarettes, listen to music and smoke marijuana. In my messenger bag on the passenger seat I had an Altoids case with a tiny bit of marijuana in it and a glass pipe; one of those one-hitters that’s pretty much just a less sketchy looking crack pipe. That is left in the front little pocket of the messenger bag, usually zipped up when not in use. At this particular time, presumably because I just used it and well, marijuana makes people stupid and lazy I left the little pocket open. Out of the, erm, blue, flashing lights come up on the ass of my rental car with the New Jersey license plate. Three or four days into this trip and I am unshaven and dirty, and at this very moment high as a kite. This is as close an accurate description of the conversation with the policeman as I can recall. I think it’s pretty close.

License and registration…where you coming from?

Boston

Why do you have a New Jersey license plate?

It’s a rental

Where you heading?

Los Angeles

What’s in Los Angeles?

My father

Are you driving back?

No, I’m flying back

Do you have a plane ticket?

No

How are you flying back?

I am going to print the ticket at the airport kiosk

Where you coming from again?

Boston

You staying with your dad there?

Yes

In Boston?

Yes

I thought you said your dad was in Los Angeles

YES, I am staying with him in Los Angeles

 

(the policeman is leaning in my passenger side window…around this point I look down and notice my messenger bag flap is open and the pipe is clearly in view)

I’ll be right back, I’m going to check out your information

Okay

 

(I need to get the flap on my bag closed somehow while he is at the car so I lean over to shut the glove compartment door and nudge it with my elbow closed…phew?)

Well it looks like your stuff checks out

 

(oh yeah, in my suitcase is a much bigger bag of marijuana. Stuffed into the pocket of a pair of pants)

Okay, thank you sir

Oh, one more thing, do you mind if I look through your trunk?

Sure

 

(I open the trunk and then he tells me to step away from the car. He opens my suitcase and starts lifting things up, including the pants I had the bag in…puts everything back and doesn’t bother with the three smaller bags that could have easily been filled with hands or feet of my “victims”)

Well you’re all set buddy…so Red Sox fan eh? That Manny Ramirez, he’s a character huh? All that hair. I tell you, if he was on my team I’d make him cut it

Yeah, heh.

Well, just remember we do things a little slower down here in Oklahoma

After this I pretty much didn’t stop until I got here in Amarillo. I found this hotel “The Ritz” that was $39.95 a night. The billboard was promising, there was a chandelier pictured on it. Free HBO. All the good shit. I walk in this pretty big place and should have taken my initial feelings of uncertainty after noticing the sign wasn’t lit up. The grand lobby with chandeliers, and a creepy Shining looking ballroom made it seem okay if not a little odd. I pay my money and make my way to the room. I walk in and immediately notice these huge bugs that look like black cockroaches with wings on the curtain and leave the room. (I later learn these are called “Palmetto Bugs”) I tell the guy at the counter I’ve decided to drive through the night.

I find a Holiday Inn that is huge with a pool, courtyard, comfy chairs inside, big TV and all that good stuff for a little more money. No bugs. Aside from these pleasures it sounds like someone is moving a gigantic safe or a big dead horse body across the floor in the room above me. I’m not sure if this is a smoking room or not. It’s interesting smoking in this situation as it’s like you’re on a ski trip in high school and you’re breaking some kind of rule.

Initially I smoked a cigarette in the bathroom with the shower on so the steam would kill the smell. I then smoked by the little porch I have here and then realized it looks out upon a courtyard and someone might see me. Then I realized I was 36 years old and from Massachusetts and could give a shit less what will happen if they figure out I smoked in here tomorrow when I am already 292 miles away from here…and I paid cash.

I must say I am extremely glad I got to see a sunset here in Texas on the drive here. It’s obviously not as nice as a California sunset but it’s better than a Massachusetts one. The road here from Oklahoma City was so straight I forgot how to use my steering wheel for a minute at one point. With nothing in front of you, behind you, or on either side of you it’s impossible to even explain how huge the sky looks. I can’t imagine there is a camera with the ability to capture it how it really is. I took a couple pictures while driving and while at a rest area


Every guy I saw at a rest area, gas station, etc today looked like the kind of guy that would just punch you in the face after telling you how abortion stops a beating heart. That or they looked like the wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. Which I guess is the same kind of deal.

Car is at 2,071 miles now. Windshield and front grill of the car are dirtier than a landlord’s soul.

French People, Hippies and Bourbon

So I went up to upstate NY on Tuesday to see Allman Brothers and Bob Weir because, as much as I love Slayer, Venom and Exodus I am a hippie when it comes down to it. So I get to this hotel up there and I’m walking to the room and this gigantic man in shorts and sandals that looks like a cross between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Oscar Wilde is coming down the hall carrying a box of wine as well as a big jug of wine and muttering in French to his surrounding family trailing behind him. So he already has one strike against him which you can pick out of two:  a) He’s wearing sandals, b) He’s French. I make my way into the room and it looks like every other hotel room I’ve been in. I of course immediately turn on the air conditioning to the highest setting. I go to the desk and pull the chair out and there is some sort of dried up white stuff all over it (hmmm, milk? Liquid Paper? Queso blanco?). I decide it’s best to just push the chair back in and avoid it for the eighteen hours I live here. I survey the rest of the room, figuring out the often complicated configuration of the lights and their respective switches in any hotel or motel you stay in.  Bathroom is pretty small. Also any mirror in a motel or hotel is somehow made to make you look so ugly and disgusting; I’d love to know how they make them like this. Perhaps some weird trick or voodoo that adds fifteen pounds to a person and removes any kind of tan skin from your body. This reminds me, maybe next time I stay in a hotel I’ll grab a skinny black person off the street and have them look in the mirror in my room and see if it turns them into I don’t know…John Candy or Rosie O’Donnell.

I have two or three hours to kill so I put the television on and end up on some Vin Diesel movie that is beyond horrible. He is an undercover cop, he’s a badass, etc. I end up turning it off and read instead. Out in the hall I hear some commotion so I get up and look out the peephole and there is Mr. Philip Seymour Wilde with his family with towels in full on “we’re going out to the pool” mode.  They disappear and now doors start opening and closing out in the hall. That steel lock sound, like what classroom doors sound like, or doors in a very important office building. Literally the two rooms I’m sandwiched between and the room across from me. It’s like some bizarre video game where you keep going in one door but come out another one. This happens for the remainder of my stay at the hotel. With me getting up every third time to see what the hell is going on, running to the peephole only to see a quiet empty hall.  “Chick-chick!”…”chick chick!” every five minutes maybe.

I open the blinds and notice I can see down on the swimming pool, which is now filled with a dozen or so of what I presume are the French people opening and closing the doors as it has briefly stopped. The Oscar Wilde dude is swinging his arms and talking in a very animated manner to a man who looks like a cross between Vladimir Putin and Hunter S. Thompson. Like he was probably some sort of assassin in the French Army. The Oscar Wilde guy is like an inch from Putin’s face, and I can tell his breath probably stinks of shitty wine and rotten cabbage from three stories up. The children are all in the pool while the wives sit in the sun away from each other. They vacate the pool after an hour or so and the doors start opening and closing, with me jumping up each time, and never catching anyone in the hall. It was like when you try to jump on the head of your shadow and you just can’t.

Even though I don’t really drink alcohol, I’ve been enjoying taking a shot or two of hard liquor and that’s it…maybe some wine. I think my experience with beer is over at this point as I never seem to finish one and almost 100% of the time I feel sick if I drink more than two beers.  So while driving to the show I decide that I should find a liquor store and buy two nips of bourbon to drink when I arrive at the venue. There is a huge line of traffic going left into the traffic light in front of the venue, I pass it all on the right heading into downtown Saratoga Springs, and maybe a block up there is a liquor store. There is a woman that looks like a fitness trainer buying about twelve bottles of wine. The transaction takes what seems like about nine minutes. There is Grateful Dead music playing over the speakers of the liquor store, and it’s an audience recording, probably from the early 80’s. The woman behind the counter is wearing a shirt with Jerry on it so she’s obviously hardcore. I find this odd, as Bob Weir is scheduled to go on stage in about fifteen minutes and this woman is trying to figure out how to add these twelve bottles of wine up with a calculator. I have absolutely no idea what kind of booze is out there now. In the last ten years, I’ve maybe been drunk four times, and if someone says “let me buy you a shot” at a show I usually have no idea what it even is. Tequila? Whiskey? Bourbon? Are those the same thing? I have the nine minutes to think about what I want, trying to read the bottles and settle on “Bulleit Bourbon”, the bottles look like medicine bottles from the 1800’s. The tennis instructor lady struggles with her box of wine bottles and I make my way to the counter. “Two of those little bottles of boo-lay bourbon please”. “Bullet?” she replies. Now I think, “did I really just mispronounce that? Why is that spelled like that? That gigantic Oscar Wilde guy is in my head and making me believe everything is French now, great. I pay for my shit and ask the girl if she’s heading over to see “Bobby” (if you’re hardcore you call Bob Weir ‘Bobby’ and people know where you’re coming from). She says “the guy with the tickets was supposed to be here at six so I can leave…but he’s not here yet”. (6:45 and the show begins at 7:00). I say “cutting it close!” and leave.

Since the venue is now on my right I’m able to avoid that whole line of cars turning left and get right to the red light and turn right into the venue…well, a new line of traffic. While sitting in the line of traffic I wonder how I should deal with these bottles of bourbon. Should I park and then just down them one after the other? I pass a sign that says “NO ALCOHOL IN PARK” (the venue is in a giant beautifully wooded state park) and immediately take the bag on my seat and put it under the back seat, and then three minutes later decide I’m 38 years old, by myself and have worried about worse things than getting caught with two sealed nips of bourbon in a bag. I take one out and decide to drink half of it. I’m now “operating a motor vehicle while drinking alcohol”. Since I’m basically sitting in a line of traffic I don’t struggle with the morality of this for one second. Like I’m suddenly going to be completely shit faced and veer out of the traffic jam into an autistic boy. I now get to an area where there are guys directing traffic into the parking lot(s). I am paranoid that one of them may be a police officer who will smell the booze on my breath and I will be arrested in upstate New York. (I’m reminded of the time I was in Lynn driving along the ocean where there is often summer traffic, the state police had horses out and I briefly got scared the horses were trained like police dogs and would smell the marijuana I had hidden in my bag.) I take out a mint that I just bought recently that taste like RASPBERRY ICED TEA. Seriously. I almost think you could have one of these with a meal to substitute the drink and just eat one each time you would normally take a drink they are that good. I get up to the guys, neither of them are police, however there is a man sitting in a “Park Ranger” truck that could bust me so I should be careful. I am thankfully directed to the best place to park at the venue, in one of the grass parking lots. Driving over grass is one of those simple pleasures one can experience from time to time that is akin to I don’t know, watching a puppy roll around on the floor for twenty minutes, or eating a marshmallow. For some reason parking under trees on grass is one of those things for me. I pull into my “space” and as soon as no one is looking finish the contents of the two bottles, and transfer the two joints I rolled into my wallet where nobody will find them. The band has already started as I walk to the concert area. They are okay, nothing special, without Jerry Garcia Bobby is a bit lost. It’s nice that he does some of the Jerry songs and still sounds exactly the same, but something is missing. The song of the night was Creampuff War, which I obviously never saw The Dead play as they only played it seven times, the last being in March of 1967.

In between bands I walk around the park and find a bench. A grimy looking couple in their fifties come over and sits next to me. They are both wasted on who knows what. The conversation of course revolves around being fucked up/getting fucked up, and then they pull out a pair of binoculars. The woman unscrews the cap on the binoculars and drinks whatever is in it, offering me some. I decline and then ask them where they’re from, they are vague with “here and there…all over”.  After I tell them I’m from Massachusetts the guy tries to explain to me where he is from but I have absolutely no idea what he means “Where route sixty-six and one-forty three meet”. Oh there, right. I just say “I’m from Boston” and leave it at that. They decide to go get a beer and I decide to get an ice cream. I see two security guys walking by talking into their little walkie-talkie things heading over to the beer area where apparently a fight has broken out. I casually walk over to a group of security guys struggling with some guy writhing on the ground telling them to leave him alone, etc. Since I am addicted to any kind of “World’s Wildest Police Whatevers” television shows any chance I get to see something like this in person is a bonus. Since I’m carrying a little dish of ice cream with me it can’t really be any better. Also of note, this took place at an area where there is a tiny stage where they probably do poetry readings, or small plays. The mini-stage is surrounded by a dozen or so long benches, so I grab one of those to eat my ice cream and watch this unfold. I showed up a little late as the guy was restrained and cooperative when I sat down. To my left some “in charge” guys are tending to a guy who is explaining “he just came up and punched me in the face”. The guy has blood all over his face, and although I am not eating anything red I decide to leave the area. Nothing to see here.

The Allman Brothers come out and are great as usual. I’m still adjusting to them without Dickie Betts, but eh, not bad. They play a few of my favorite songs and I make my way to various areas of the lawn to watch it. The crowd is a mix of younger people as well as older biker looking men and women. They play the jam Midnight Rider, you know the one…”I got one more silver dollar” and some woman with a mullet says to her dude with the leather vest  “THIS IS THE GREATEST SONG EVER”, I of course totally agree with her, especially the harmony vocals Warren Haynes adds to these newer versions. They start what I assume is the last song of the night so I make a run for the parking lot. It’s dark and desolate out there and there is a girl walking alone way ahead of me so I change my route a little as I would probably be nervous if I saw me coming. I avoid all traffic getting out of the venue and make the thirty minute drive back to the hotel with no problems.

For some reason I decide that after eating at Fuddruckers for lunch (which included jalapeno peppers), drinking two nips of bourbon, eating a little bowl of ice cream and smoking two joints by myself going to Taco Bell would be a good idea. Fast forward to 7:05 AM. Not the best idea I’ve ever had, really.

In the room when I got back I looked in the nightstand drawer to see if there was a map in the yellow pages as I was maybe thinking of going to nearby Lake George in the morning and taking a paddleboat tour or going to the Frankenstein Museum they have there (!). The yellow pages are all cut up with a knife throughout the book. After watching a Chicago/Earth Wind and Fire concert I fall asleep around 3:30 AM.

I am up so early and obviously feel like shit. The air conditioner is on full blast still, so it’s about 50 degrees in the room, I’m surprised I don’t see my breath. I remember the sign advertising the free continental breakfast which usually consists of mini muffins and the worst coffee you can ever have. I walk down there after looking in the trick mirror and now look like someone who drank bourbon, smoked two joints and ate taco bell, but also someone who hasn’t slept in five months.  I make my way down and there is the French Oscar Wilde guy and his family as well as about nine thousand other people with French accents, British accents. Lots of young people around 12 years old in this line. I unsuccessfully toast a bagel in the toaster and make some coffee. I find a table for four that is empty. Soon after a British couple and their son come and sit down with me. All of the boys are wearing ties. Exactly how you imagine young European boys. I finish my bagel and coffee and go back to my room, realizing I need more coffee. I go back down now there are ATHOUSAND people down there, there is an awkwardly tall priest meandering around. I kind of cut the line and make two cups of coffee to bring back to the room. Unfortunately they only have what is basically the worst coffee ever, French Vanilla. Flavored coffee is bad enough as it is, but this could be the worst of them all. I ask the front desk kid where all these folks are from and what they’re doing, just remembering there are two large buses in the parking lot. “They’re from some choir group traveling to Montreal”

My last two hours in the room are spent listening to the Europeans open and close doors, as they are checking out now. I wonder how much of a mess they probably made in their rooms for the cleaning ladies to clean as when I looked out at the pool after the French people left there were drinks left on the tables. As usual I cleaned the room up as best I could, emptied ashtrays, threw any trash out, put the towels in one place, etc. On my way out there was an older cleaning woman in the doorway of the neighboring room wiping her brow as I walked by “It’s so damn hot in there” she says. I reply “Well, I left the air conditioner on in my room; you can go take a break I’m sure no one will notice”. As I walked away I meant to add “Oh, and I did NOT do that to that desk chair” but I didn’t.

Boston to Oklahoma City to Boston


We set out on this trip one Tuesday, at the worst time to set out on a trip, late afternoon. I should have seen this is a sign this trip would make me feel like Marlow in Heart of Darkness. It was hot and rainy and we were filling a U-Haul with all of her belongings. This was the end of a seven year relationship, and I was going to help her move back home. I was responsible for what would seem like difficult tasks like pulling a washing machine and dryer up stairs through a spider web and God-knows-what infested bulkhead out of the basement up into this U-Haul truck. I had this horrible pain in my upper back for a few days before this and all of this moving actually made the pain go away. I was slightly disappointed in this as I had kind of grown to live with being in pain every day of my life, at least when it comes to my back. My arms and shoulders felt nice and worked from all of this lifting as well. I immediately was reminded of how great it feels to have arms that feel like rubber from lifting heavy objects.

We would be driving from Massachusetts to Oklahoma City, OK. We would also have her two cats with us, which is a whole other world of shit; if you’ve ever driven with a cat in a car you know it’s probably the second worst thing to have in your car while driving long distances. The first would be another person. Driving with another person on long distances is definitely a test. A test I know I will always fail at. Like a test I didn’t even take a class for let alone study for. I think the only people you (well, me) could travel long distances with in a car is a person who just died and their body is stowed away somewhere and you are basically just transporting the body. I hate having to stop when I don’t need to stop, and thankfully she isn’t one of those people that need to go to the bathroom if a drop of water is ten feet from her. You ever meet one of these people? Every time they take a sip of a drink they have to visit a restroom immediately after. I couldn’t travel with one of these. I like to push myself and try to do things like drive seven hours without stopping.

I drove the first night. Of course it was raining, hot and we had cats making all sorts of noise in the car. Traffic in Massachusetts was for the most part a hot miserable rain soaked mess. At one point a person pulled next to me yelling and pointing at the car we were towing. Oh yeah, we would also be towing a car on the back of this U-Haul truck. I have never been able to back up anything with a trailer. From time to time one of those know-it-all types will say something snide like “Well all you have to do is turn the wheel one way and the tires go this way, turn it the other way and they go that way” This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re looking through these giant oddly shaped mirrors so everything is backwards. There is noise and sun in your face and the whole thing is a horrible experience. This situation would rear its ugly head the next morning. Back to this guy yelling at me to pull over: I pull over and can’t figure out what is wrong with the car we are towing. A few miles later another guy pulls up, this time I can actually hear him. Not sure if you know this but when you are going any speed over say….20 miles an hour and yell to someone at a car next to you they can’t hear you like in the movies. Now that I think of it I can’t think of one movie where this has happened. I hear “your ramps are down”. Turns out we were dragging a ramp. This was fixed. Six or seven hours later we arrived in Syracuse, NY. I would not drive this truck again until a day after we arrived in Oklahoma City because I apparently “follow people too close” to which I let her know “well, you drive too close to shit on the right”

I didn’t have a laptop at the time so writing for this trip would have to be by hand, which at this point in my life is not fun. I learned to enjoy it once I was on the train coming back. Here is what I wrote night one:

“Depressing motel, area of country and situation I am in right now. But with all things negative a positive always comes along and fixes that straight away. This kind of travelling where I am not relaxed isn’t really my idea of fun but, eh… The fun comes later. When I think of back home, and when I say back home I don’t mean ‘back home in Massachusetts’ I mean where I have spent ‘time’ the last few months and felt happiest, like myself. It’s nice to have people in my life that don’t owe me anything that I can feel completely comfortable around. I actually feel like myself. This feeling crossed with that mysterious feeling of the unknown and distance is an oddly satisfying feeling I’ve been spending time with for the last few months. I like this feeling much better than the uncomfortable feelings I sometimes feel in reality. I keep thinking I want to write a letter but then realize just living and being is good for right now. I have too much in my head to think about anything else, especially if I am happy the way it is now”

Driving through upstate New York, I have done it so much in all parts of it…well, all parts off of Route 90, which isn’t much. I like it up there. Some of it, when you start moving more west anyway, feels like it is five years ago, or even twenty years ago. There is this lonely and sad feeling of claustrophobia and emptiness that appears late at night there driving past orange lit parking lots for hours at a time. I love it and hate it up there at the same time.

From upstate New York to Oklahoma City, the trip was pretty uneventful, long stretches of road where neither of us talked for hours, I dozed off for a good chunk of the time. Other times we had the radio tuned to talk radio and everything there is right wing and/or religious. One show we listened to in Missouri had a show talking about how bad video games were. The woman prefaced the story with “Video games, like other horrible things like abortion, pornography and homosexuality…” The people calling in were worse. I briefly thought of calling in but realized even trying reason with folks down there is probably not even fun.
“I trust no emotion
I believe in locomotion
But I’ve turned to rust as we’ve discussed”

I caught a train out of Oklahoma City early Tuesday morning for a brief four hour journey south to Ft Worth, Texas. The night before I left, I slept about two and a half hours. Monday night. The next time I would go to sleep would be Thursday night/Friday Morning around 3:30 AM.

The double-decker train was an empty train, a pleasure compared to the rest of the trip which was back to back full trains. Arriving in Ft Worth it was hot as piss outside and although as the case with most train stations it was a shady area of town, I only got approached by one guy asking for change to “buy an ice cream”. I hate having tons of change in my pockets especially if I am going to be sitting for long periods of time. I handed him a handful of dimes and pennies and he made his way into the train station and did indeed come out a few minutes later with an ice cream. Who doesn’t love an honest beggar? I would also meet an honest beggar in Chicago who asked for money for “The Jack Daniels Foundation”, I of course gave him a crisp dollar bill. I did quite a bit of writing on the trains, and since I didn’t really have a full night of sleep over three days some of it made no sense. Here is some of it:

“6. If enemies are not close. You will automatic win any battle. For I will move far from.”

“When I reach California I will burn this book finally. Words in here from 1992. Some guy in 1992 wrote about long forgotten women. Such messy writing that I purposely used so no one could read it if they found. Who knows who all of these spirits are in here, I can’t imagine I will ever need to refer back to this to improve anything in my life. I will throw this book in a barrel. Like in Repo Man when they have the ‘Plate-o-shrimp’ conversation. You know, like dudes under bridges in Los Angeles burning shit in barrels. Having a couple of beers”

“Feel like I will start seeing things any minute now. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in whateveramountofdays now. I feel like ripping this map in front of me into a trillion little pieces. I stare at it and the schedule for hours. Not minutes, hours. This is all you can do here sit and wait sit and wait sit and wait. People are off sleeping, sweating and smelling up that car back there. This thick warm bad breathy hospital silence lit by a thin strip of lights on the ceiling as you sway to the back of each car trying not to bump heads and legs spilling into the aisle. You get good at this acrobatic feat by the end of the trip. Even in the shape I am in, like if I tried to operate heavy machinery, it would not be pretty. I can’t believe that this trip take 24 fucking hours to get from Chicago to Boston. It sounds like some sort of trap the Gods of confusion set. Let’s make this guy think something is true that isn’t true. Wait, what? Some moments here I blink my eyes but they don’t re-open. I enjoy sitting in these cars writing even though I just saw stars while writing that last sentence. I saw an Amish woman at a pay phone at the Chicago train station”

The first half of this trip was pretty depressing for the most part. The second half I met a number of people that I spent a good amount of time with and as painfully tiring the trip was I felt like I was having a good time and was able to keep my mind in other places other than where it actually was. This first group of people I saw for a couple of days walking around and hanging together. A young man about 22, but maybe younger. Big tall, could be menacing, but a baby face. At least 6’ 4”. Also, had one leg and was on a crutch. There were two other girls, around the same age. One was a nerdy looking girl, glasses with a jeweled chain on them to hang from her neck whatever those are called I have no idea. Other girl seemed young and sheltered, kind of an unfortunate look that I won’t go into but let us say she kind of looked like this bass player from a Canadian rock band I won’t mention the name of. I kind of got the vibe that this girl was sort of a pain in the ass and these other kids did not like her. When I did meet the three of them, at the end of my trip to Chicago, or about four hours left in that journey they were mean to her. Right to her face. The young girl did not understand sarcasm and was getting ruined and not knowing it. I felt kind of bad and then remembered this is how young kids are, they judge and judge and pick on and pick on until they eventually settle in on some set of standards which is: Be a dick. Don’t be a dick. I picked the latter when it was my time. On the other hand, these other two, the nerdy white girl who did in fact know things about Star Trek and asked me “is that Gandalf?” regarding a tattoo on my arm seemed to have been around, and this kid with one leg. He was writing in some little notebook. At first when I saw him I said to myself “jeez, fucking trench coat mafia over here”. Same sort of reaction you have if you see like a Juggalo. This kid though, here I am judging him the second I see him, meanwhile I looked like an even bigger asshole on a number of occasions from age 10 to say age….39 so yeah. He was a nice kid, the nerdy girl was nice but I could see was a little too “oh my god I am in art school, check me out” for me.

The annoying young girl would be on my next train from Chicago to Boston. She was going to Ohio somewhere with her mom. These people looked like they stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. The girl may have been annoying, but was 18 and probably never left the little town in Arizona she was from. She sat with me on the next train in the lounge car while a line of folks waited for food, coffee and drinks. She was very loud and told me a story of some young kid who ran his car into a metal fence at her school and blah blah blah eventually winding her way to September 11th somehow telling me in an un-ironic way “now that is a day I will NEVER forget”. I replied, “well yeah, you’re not supposed to forget that day”. She mentioned they had it on the television at her school when it happened and I told her we had a similar situation when I was in high school when the space shuttle with Christa McAuliffe blew up. She said “was that Apollo 13?” Ouch. The whole time the line of people can hear every word of this painful conversation until finally she leaves and people stop looking at me and having eye-rolling contests with me. I never saw her again.

I met some interesting artists and musicians later in the evening, a tall pretty girl from Portland, Oregon originally from New Hampshire. We both thought we looked familiar but I think she was much younger which leads me to believe we probably do not know each other at all. I talked with her and these two artists from the Oakland area, one also played guitar and trombone with Citizen Fish. Very cool down to earth people I enjoyed shooting the shit with for a few hours.

The last day of the trip my head and body were gone. I spent the better part of the day dozing off for a few seconds here and a few seconds there. I probably looked like I was on drugs. The last time I felt semi-normal on this part of this journey was for my long layover in Chicago where I left the station, went to the Sears Tower, shot up the elevator but the lines were too long for the deck so I just went back to the lobby and had steak and some sangria before heading back to a Starbucks to charge my phones and then back to the station to wait. It was nice not moving back and forth on a train. Had a couple of good phone calls and then back to hell.

The evening is when I met these folks above. The next day, the last day where I never even attempted to go to sleep until I eventually reached the critical/best point of being exhausted the “now I’m completely wired and don’t even know what it feels like to be tired”. From around noon on the last day until we arrived in Boston around 10:30 PM I was wired. I spent about three or four hours with this African-American woman maybe in her early 50’s. She was a writer and also a minister. We talked about life for a long time and it was great. She was an intense person and we connected on all sorts of subjects. One of those people you meet along the way that gives off a cool vibe. She has a book available online that I am going to check out. One thing I enjoy about taking these trains is you are trapped on this thing with these people and you are kind of forced to talk to them for hours at a time as long as they are willing to do the same. Most of the time it turns out to be a great conversation. As I was saying to the woman “everyone’s story is interesting on some level. If they have the gift to tell a story then that story is even better”

I spent the remainder of the day with a guy named Dennis. He was from Milwaukee and was heading to Dorchester to see his mother who was sick. Dennis, turning 50 drives a tractor trailer, and has been with the same woman for I think he said twenty-six years. He kind of looked like Snoop Dogg, which I’m sure he would take as an insult as he told me he didn’t like rap music. He had some great stories of driving trucks in different parts of the country. We both mentioned different parts of the country we enjoyed seeing. He clearly has more miles on me and more states but I feel like I have enough road experience to talk about a number of places in the US anyway. One thing I really like with sitting with some of these strangers for hours is how much you can learn about people if they are willing to tell stories and are as bored as you are with just sleeping in your seat all day. So hanging with him until the last few minutes of the journey was great as we were still swapping stories about areas of Massachusetts. Good times indeed.

There were a number of other people I spent some time with but most of them weren’t as interesting or were kind of messed up.

Best part of this trip was probably the last couple of days. It was a long mentally and physically exhausting trip that I still haven’t fully absorbed. If anything it was an exercise in patience and a preview of the lengths of road I would travel by myself a few weeks later. I forgot how long some of these drives get. A three hour chunk of driving through nowhere has the feel of a five hour chunk of driving. That second trip had an ultimately happier ending for the most part, and had a laptop for documenting that trip as I go with hopefully less stream of conscious than this. But for now, here this is.

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