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The Longest Verse in the Bible Is…(Rolla, MO to Claremore, OK)


Jun 2, 2015 – Claremore, OK

Today was one of those days where my head was elsewhere. Not sure where. Well, I know where it was, I don’t know why. I had plans to drive a lot further than I did to make tomorrow an easier drive but ended up stopping and getting a room to get my head in order and it just got worse as the day and evening wore on. Feeling lonely and empty and unsure of the future just a few short hours after writing about how exciting it was to not have a plan. Once I start getting inside my head it’s impossible to get out and I act out with either humor or passive aggression that I generally keep to myself or use briefly and then immediately regret it. I have to keep reminding myself that even though I am out here with nobody, seeing friends here and there for brief periods of time the loneliness I feel was exactly the same in New England. They say certain smells will remain in your memory forever. The last couple of days my sense of touch has been with me, particularly my pets I left behind. I can feel exactly what the dog felt like to touch; I can picture just how he felt from nose to the tip of his tail. Same with the cat. I have great memories with the pets from the day I met them until the impossible tasks of letting them go to new owners. Before this turns into too much of a bummer, let’s switch gears.

 I am in Claremore, Oklahoma, which is near Tulsa. I could have driven a bit more but didn’t feel like tackling Texas today. I stayed here before, in 2009. There’s not much to do here aside from eat food that isn’t good for you, so that’s exactly what I did. It’s about three hundred degrees here today, everyone around here talks slower, everyone is friendly and says hello, or rather “howdy” I went looking for something to eat and for whatever reason thought it would be a good idea to go to a Chinese food buffet. In Oklahoma. The food was surprisingly okay, I’m not really a food snob and I know when I get depressed I will just eat whatever horrible thing you put in front of me. I feel like I’ve been eating a steady diet of sandwiches and French fries for this whole trip. My initial plan to “stop at cool small places” along the way was kind of thrown out the window to make room for a more relaxing trip. Just not putting too much thought into what I’m going to eat, and deal with finding places way off the route is not something I can get into. I am improvising this trip for the most part, but mostly to see stuff, photograph it/write about it, etc. Food is a secondary thing to me at this point. So this Chinese buffet. Anytime I have eaten Chinese food in other parts of the country that aren’t Boston or San Francisco I feel like I have some sort of chip on my shoulder like “yeah, you cowboys don’t know real Chinese food. I had to walk three miles in snow up to my balls to get a crab Rangoon” or, “I once sucked a dick for some scallion pancakes”, etc. There was the usual stuff at the buffet which is always slightly different and more disgusting than “back home” And then these was the seafood area. I thought to myself where I was right now: Claremore, Oklahoma. How far is the ocean from Claremore, Oklahoma? Like eight thousand miles at least. Okay, I’ll just try three of the ten different seafood things here. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick while sitting in the restaurant.


While in the restaurant, in between trips to the buffet I thought of an idea for one of the Facebook Reviews I was doing for a while on Facebook. Someone had mentioned me reviewing all of the rest areas along the way. Aside from when I first started doing them, I never actually went to any of the places I reviewed. I just randomly found them on Facebook. I thought of the absurdity of a rest area in this part of the country having bibles in the stalls and went from there. Eating seafood at this buffet and maybe getting sick so I’d be on the toilet for a long period of time. I don’t know a thing about the bible. Sorry, The Bible. So I looked up “longest verse in the bible” Picturing a guy on a toilet for so long he’d be able to read the longest verse in there. I found it, wrote the review surrounded by gigantic white people and Native Americans from Oklahoma. Made some folks back home laugh and left the buffet feeling much better than I did when I initially pulled off the highway.

Trying to find coffee on ice or a coffee themed drink on ice in Claremore, Oklahoma proved to be a task. I found a cool little downtown area, saw a little coffee shop, pulled into a space right in front of the shop and saw the hours on the sign “Closed at 5:00 PM” Clock on my phone literally said “5:01” FUCK FUCK FUCK. If I hadn’t have searched that “longest bible verse” I may have made it. In the name of detail in my comedy I missed out on a potential cup of coffee. I got out and walked around anyway, dressed as usual in pants, a baseball hat and THREE SHIRTS like always regardless of weather. It was disgusting out, I got a few good pictures and then drove up and down the stretch of Route 66 looking for a place to get coffee, heading back to my hotel defeated and thinking I would just hit the gas station across the street for a nice hot cup of coffee. As I was pulling up there was literally a coffee shop RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOTEL. Nice small place run by a bunch of women with Oklahoma accents, regulars streaming in and out as I sat there for an hour or so reading the paper. This is the stuff. I often make jokes or comments about people and I think people get the wrong idea. I made some jokes about people in certain areas of the country and my friends would jump all over it. The reality of it is, at least with me. I don’t judge people, ever. I joke about them, but I don’t know, these people out here, living their lives and doing their thing while I pass through and have a brief friendly interaction, there’s nothing better than seeing that. I could sit on the internet all day and make fun of people from Texas or Dave Grohl, or I could just go out and live my life and ignore people that are a detriment to my life, and embrace the different people everywhere. I don’t have to agree with their opinions on religion or politics but I find nothing wrong with experiencing people from all walks of life. If you can’t appreciate that or don’t understand that I don’t think I’d actually get along with you in real life. Anyway, Oklahoma.


I went back to the room and wrote some of that stuff there, read a little and then went back out when the sun went down. I wanted something “light” so I found some fast food taco place called Taco Bueno and got some tacos which I barely finished while what I learned was the pilot episode of “Friends” played on my muted TV. Tomorrow I will go to Texas, meet some friends in Austin and stay there for a couple days. I’ve never been and am excited to see familiar people and see the city itself. So far, splitting up the trip like this. Spend a couple days by myself, see people, drive by myself is working. I am fine by myself, and always have been. There’s really nobody I would ever take on one of these trips in the car for multiple days. I need the headspace, and after this Austin stop the rest of the trip is my favorite part of the country, the desert: New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. I’ll be alone for that and it gets desolate. I love it and I can’t wait to experience it, take pictures and talk about it. Unless I die or am kidnapped. If that’s the case this will be the final installment of this series. I should be okay though, I’m scary looking.

This Mid-Life Crisis Isn’t Gonna Suck Itself (Boston, MA to Rolla, MO)


May 29, 2015 – Akron, Ohio

I realized today the worst thing about driving across country is operating an automobile. Seeing things you’ve never seen before, talking to strangers for a minute or two, reporting back to friends and family are all great things. The basic operation and maintenance of the car and making sure you don’t crash into anything or anyone else crashes into you though, that’s my least favorite part. Worrying about if the car is going to break down, if you’re going to run out of gas, if someone is going to break into it and steal all your stuff. Anything revolving around the car, the very tool you use to carry you across the interstates and small highways drives me into an insecurity nightmare. Thankfully it only lasts for a few minutes. My head is in a good place I think. I should back up though.

 Leaving this time was the hardest. I’ve done this “move” twice before (okay, one and a half times) and neither times it stuck. I feel like this time I don’t really have a choice but to make it work. I’ll make it work. I need to sleep before I get into this.

June 1, 2015 – Rolla, MO

I can’t get too sentimental on this trip especially now, exactly 1551 miles into it, which is essentially halfway there. I can use a good amount of commas. Leaving New England again was bittersweet. The last few weeks there were particularly physically and mentally exhausting. I try to hide that stuff as much as I can as I don’t really feel like strangers or even casual friends need to know what I’m feeling at all times, or even every once in a while; this subject kind of came up yesterday in St Louis with my friend Mike. I’ve somehow invented some sort of persona on the internet that is certainly not me. I’m hardly a grumpy person (although I did just secretly wish every single person ever involved with Bank of America would die tomorrow night) but I guess it makes people laugh. Perhaps they are all grumpy and feel like they can relate to that person. It’s something I always have a little hard time with. First world problems, really. Who cares about this stuff, let’s talk about travel, where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going.

 Although it’s only been a few days into this trip I feel like this has been the best one so far. This being the sixth time I’ve done this drive by myself I’ve learned some things throughout the years of how to do this the right way, at least for myself. The one major thing is to improvise each day. Well, at least have a skeleton or idea of where you want to go and then just see what happens. There are a number of places I definitely wanted to see and things I wanted to do. One of them I wasn’t able to do yesterday logistically (go on one of those riverboats on the Mississippi) but it worked out, the day turned out great. Back to that in a minute though. I decided early on that if I saw one of those signs saying something was off an exit and it was in a reasonable distance, free, and remotely interesting I would stop it. I imagine for most people “World’s Largest Windchime” doesn’t sound that interesting, but I guess it beats the drive to work every morning, or going into the same coffee shop every day and seeing the same faces. That stuff is all great and everything but these kinds of stops, mixed with real “big stuff” like The Grand Canyon, The Alamo, etc fill in the empty spaces and break up the monotony of the long stretches. I’m not on any kind of schedule. As a forty-five year old man with no job or prospective job I guess I should probably be a little more responsible and have a schedule and idea of what I’m doing with my future but, this middle crisis isn’t gonna suck itself. Wait, is that the saying?

 My first day driving was long, I made it to Ohio at dusk and settled into a cheap but nice room up on a hill surrounded by malls and chain restaurants. As far as where I stay every night this is where I want to stay. It feels “safe” to me which I only really care about because EVERY FUCKING THING I OWN IS IN MY CAR. Granted I am taking the three bags into the room every night that have anything I would be upset about if stolen, but I feel like I’m better off than staying in the middle of a big city or somewhere dark and secluded. I felt like that first day I could have driven a couple more hours but I don’t like driving at night at this point, and even though most of the country off the interstates isn’t that exciting, especially east of the Mississippi, I don’t want to miss anything. I had dinner and discovered that Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home was nearby. I plugged it into the GPS (oh yeah, GPS. I decided early on I would not use the GPS for “general driving” I feel like you end up looking at it ticking away and if you put any destination in it you spend time in your head too much going “oh fuck, another 97 miles” the route is pretty easy, and with simple math you can figure out how long it’s going to take and that kind of thing. As long as I never go “east” I feel like I’m safe) his address and drove over there. It was pretty uneventful but I did feel a slightly creepy vibe in general but that was mainly because I was just thinking of the kinds of things he did not because I believe in “evil powers” or “bad vibes” and shit like that.

Earlier in the day I stopped in Elmira, NY, I had never even heard of it A friend let me know there was Mark Twain history here and I located the Mark Twain Study, which was basically a little enclosed gazebo type thing that he would write and smoke cigars in. The vibe in there was more my type of thing. I mean there was no vibe or feeling I felt other than just “wow he was in here and wrote ______ here” which to me is pretty heavy. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy most. Being somewhere someone famous once stood or did something years before.

I drove to Effingham, IL next which has been a stop every trip I’ve taken out here. At first I stopped here because of a sneaker outlet here, buying sneakers. Even once arriving too late and staying overnight so I could go in the morning. I did go in there this trip but did not buy anything. I don’t really need any more sneakers at this point as there are literally pairs in my car that I bought there in 2009 that I have never worn. NEVER WORN EVER. The drive to Effingham got pretty intense with rain to the point where I had to almost pull over to the side of the road but I fought through it and kept driving at a slow speed with my hazards on as others were doing. Visibility was about a car length.

Yesterday I went to St Louis again. I’ve now stopped here three times. The first time I went under the arch in the museum there, took pictures of the river and the arch and then drove on. The second time I met up with my friend Mike who lives there. I arrived late in the afternoon and we had dinner and he gave me a great tour of the city in his car. I was struck by how much I dug the place. This time, yesterday we planned ahead to see a baseball game. Mike is a diehard Cardinals fan and knows more about baseball than most people I know. The Cardinals would be playing the Dodgers, my favorite team as a kid. With me moving to Los Angeles we both acknowledged the light symbolism of that. Mike lives in this great neighborhood that kind of reminds me of where Cambridge and Somerville meet. I arrived a couple hours before the game, we drove down and found a cheap parking space ($5.00) as we were a little close to game time to get a free spot on the street. The walk to and from the game was great. Mike knows so much history of the city, names of all the buildings, what was there before, what is happening there in the future and everything in between. His passion and deep love for his city is intense and inspiring to me. And what a beautiful city, we saw some truly amazing architecture. I took some photos but like most large things like buildings it’s hard to capture it in a photo unless you’re a professional, which I am not. Busch Stadium was great; it’s nice to be at a field surrounded by passionate fans of the game. We sat until about the eight inning and then toured the rest of the park. The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the city with Mike giving me an amazing tour. Again his enthusiasm and knowledge of all things St. Louis is wonderful. I’ve always said I thought people having “circumstantial pride” in something like where they were born or their heritage didn’t hold much merit to me, but I feel like I’ve changed my attitude on that. You can have pride in your background and where you’re from and not be an asshole about it. That’s great if you think say, Miami Florida is the best place in the world and everywhere else sucks but you sound like an asshole. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. Well I do, but I need to get back in the car shortly. The one thing that stuck with me as I left Mike’s house was something he said “These experiences are the marrow of life” and it’s so true. Mike and I met online via what I’m doing right here, blogging. Years ago, in 1999 or 1998 maybe. We’ve remained friends since and having the ability to spend a few hours and have these real deep conversations and experiences with friends while in the midst of this big life change I’m going through makes it all worth it.

Okay, I’m on Route 66 in Missouri now and need to forget the disgusting hotel breakfast I had this morning and get back out there. I’ll post more pictures on the next entry.

North Carolina to Pittsburgh in Seven Hours

FireAlarm

 

I took one good long look at the rug of the hotel lobby, and realized I would be in for, at the very least, an interesting stay.

“Sir,”

She broke my concentration

“Your room is around the back, 113. Enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks” I replied and walked out into the thick pea soup air.

August was a hot month for North Carolina. I had already withstood a week of this nasty hot weather, but today was extra brutal. I walked by the pool on the way to my room and noticed an old white-as-a-ghost man sitting by the pool. We both made eye contact, and then broke when a young boy jumped into the pool screaming something unintelligible.

The smell of a new motel room is always nice, like a new car. After the stale ashtray of my car’s interior, any new smell is always greeted with a pleasant sigh. One time, I was in Pittsburgh, or rather outside of Pittsburgh. My reservation should have been changed weeks before, but I didn’t, so I stayed in some small blue collar town with all kinds of factories and Ford trucks, and men with mustaches, and white people with nice SUV’s and black people with dirty sidewalks, and fast food restaurants filled with acne covered Puerto Rican boys. This was the epitome of traveling to me. The people who lived in these towns I passed through. The people that live and breathe the towns always make me feel unwelcome. “People watching” is a favorite way to pass time when I have time between travel days.

So I’m in this outskirt of Pittsburgh and I show up at this run down motel that is in between a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a McDonalds, and about nine hundred other generic signs burned into your brain. I get the key to my room. Before I even open the door, I am greeted with an odor that makes me practically gag. It’s the smell of a room that apparently had someone smoke maybe a carton of cigarettes (in a row) in a room with an air conditioner blasting (with a dirty filter). Not wanting to deal with this for more than five more minutes I did what any smart traveler would do, I fumigated the room with steam. This was a trick I learned…that day. “Improvisational fumigation” I turned the shower, as well as the sink on full blast and turned the heat all the way up on both of them. The steam started pouring out of the bathroom swiftly. First little puffs of steam here and there, until eventually I had the Iron Maiden stage set (during the pre Bruce Dickinson era, Killers [Paul D’ianno, vocals] tour of course. As later tours seemed to have specific themes, like the Egyptian/Graveyard mood on the Powerslave tour, or the Blade Runneresque Somewhere In Time tour. The room started to get unbearably hot, so I opened the door, with a good weeks worth of facial hair, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth to discover a family loading into the room next to me. I made eye contact and said hello to the wife first, the young daughter, and then to the father, as what must have looked like a scene from a Fellini film took place behind me, and eventually around me. Smoke and steam can have a cool effect sometimes. If used in an original manner such as greeting a family from Connecticut in the midst of trying to fumigate your room from the smell of cigarette smoke (while yourself smoking), one feels like some sort of character. The smell did eventually go away, and I never saw the family again the rest of my stay.

I rested easy that night, as the stench was gone, and in a day or two, Pittsburgh would be a dim memory for me.

Back to North Carolina.

I get to my room and it smells wonderful.

“That new car smell!” I think to myself.

I throw the television on as usual, and go outside to get the rest of my stuff. A suitcase full of clothes, clean and dirty, a messenger bag filled with notebooks and journals filled with bad art, and worse memories, three CD cases filled with a total of 500 CD’s, and my trusty boom box. I can’t sleep in the dead silence, as my ears ring all the time and it keeps me awake, so I lull myself to sleep with anything from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal is easy to go to sleep to actually. I set up the boom box and throw in the Duke Ellington trio CD (definitely one of the best things the Duke ever did in my humble opinion. With Charles Mingus and Max Roach rounding out the rhythm section, how can you get a better trio than that?) and immediately skipped to Caravan (track 8, which when one looks at the history of Track 8’s from tons of releases, you’ll see the attraction to this sacred home in album sequencing history, check it out: Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World: seven tracks before getting to the title track, Van Morrison gives us the beautiful When That Evening Sun Goes Down eight tracks in on Tupelo Honey, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds boasts (arguably) the greatest song they did in God Only Knows eight tracks in, my favorite track on the brilliant Stones Exile on Main Street, Sweet Black Angel is guess what, track eight. Even the Beatles knew what they were doing when they put the creepy Happiness is a Warm Gun 8 tracks in on the White Album. The Smashing Pumpkins Gish offers the listener Tristessa at number eight, T-Rex gives us Telegram Sam eight tracks into The Slider. This is obviously not an accident. Track 8 will be revered for years to come as the key spot to hook the listener and make a classic record just that, a classic record. One example of this not happening is on the seminal Replacements record Let it Be, where the weakest track on the record Seen Your Video is erroneously given the coveted track 8 spot. The albums best song actually opens the record as I Will Dare, or arguably opens “side two” with My Favorite Thing. There are good arguments for both songs. I Will dare boasts the best pop hook in the history of guitar playing this side of You Really Got Me, where My Favorite Thing presumably filled thousands of mix-tapes throughout the eighties. Both are great songs regardless.), one of my favorite songs of all time, made most famous by Dizzy Gillespie. I turned the volume down on the television set and started to fade off.

I dreamt of this big mountain I was driving on. It felt like I was driving for hours as my eyeballs felt like dry golf balls whatever that means. I was hot in the car as I drove down this huge mountain, and it surrounded me. There was mist and fog along the sides of the mountain that made it impossible to see how high up I was. My ears were filled with hot air. I felt all of this vividly in this dream. Perhaps it was the actual long hours I had been driving in reality, mixed with a steady diet of caffeine, nicotine, and THC I was living on for days that made me have such rich, alive dreams. So I’m on this thing driving not really knowing where I’m supposed to be going in the dream. Just following everyone else for the most part. Everyone is going just fast enough to make it uncomfortable, and unsafe. I feel like I am going to drive off the mountain. In the dream I am with someone else, they sit in the back seat, each time I look in the rear view mirror to see them they turn their head away so I can’t see their face. They sometimes obscure their face without turning their head confusing me even more, as I try to concentrate on gravity and speed at the same time. I picture the car driving off of the side of the mountain into the woods. Traveling at speeds well over one hundred miles an hour, this is a very real vision within a dream. I picture the car tumbling violently over jagged rocks and tree branches breaking, and the contents of my car being thrown around like balls in one of those bingo things. I picture myself landing though, and walking away from the car. Nobody is in the back seat. A bunch of broken picture frames and empty coffee cups litter the area in and around the car. I manage to get the crushed trunk open with the help of a piece of the bumper (?) and retrieve my most coveted possession, the boom box, and the CD’s. I start walking through the barren woods, knowing well I can’t climb back up the valley and make it to the highway above. I go through the CD’s and find Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and put it in the boom box and begin my descent into the woods.

I awaken to what sounds like someone hammering nails into a giant aluminum silo. I look out the window, and the father from the family is actually packing things into his car. I can’t figure out what he was doing to make such a racket, but I keep investigating. Pretty soon the mother, followed by the daughter come out of the room and start talking to the father. What looks like an argument turns into a kiss on the cheek from both women as they leave the parking lot and walk towards the gas station across the street.

The family is a foreign thing to me. I can’t really imagine what kind of things go with being a family person. Here I am traveling around the country in my car to amuse myself. I have a ton of money to just waste on nothing but rare blues records and cigarettes, and this guy probably has an agenda each day. “Today we need to leave the hotel room at seven in the morning so we can make our way to Hershey Park by noon. At ten o’clock this evening we will go to dinner at this restaurant I found in the travel book. This is what will go down. This is how my family will spend their vacation” Me, I’m showing up in these towns and cities and grabbing the yellow pages and looking for used record stores, book stores, and whatever else to look at along the way.

I close the drapes in the room and walk over to the boom box, The Ellington CD probably stopped playing 7 hours ago. I press the play button and crawl back into my seven thirty in the morning bed hoping to hit the town later in the day. Wondering how I fell asleep in North Carolina and woke up back in Pittsburgh.DSC02435

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