He ripped open the smaller than normal top to the energy drink, that years later they, meaning those energy drinks for the ADHD of the sort digging into my now meaningless diatribe, would be the same size, if not bigger than regular soft drinks, would have come as a complete shock to both of us, but then again, nothing is as it appears 30 hours into the ultimate "return", having left Wyoming, and the grand tetanus, now somewhere on I80 nearing the border of two north eastern states--those of which I can only hope are virginia and pennsylvania…I digress, and seem to unwillingly, witty faux phrases that keep coming to my head when I look over and see what I can only imagine is hallucination coming to the being of someone who probably hadn't seen it come naturally, hallucination that is, in quite some time: His Ultimate Road Trip did start at a hippie festival, revolving around one band, in some hilly-billy meth inspired, back yard-religious compound of a portion of the north north east. So you know, and I disclaim but once, I do not intentionally mean that there is meth being manufactured, or pseudo-zealot pagan cults being convoluted. Though people do scheme, and a lot of drugs, meth included-but do not count out ketamine, Palniuk's lipstick red seconal, MDMA, thorazine, nitrous, LSD, Psilocibin, or your every day run of the mill crystal laden marijuana-cause a sort of paranoia, painstakingly heavy price of loss of personal mental privacy type of paranoia, and the formulation of a distinct secular outline, I am sure, but cannot factually verify, has come springingly from the drip that is a midnight ramble. But again, I digress. He looks awfully into it, for 30 hours in. And there again, another click clack, paddy whack, give the brain a dose, of caffeine and that smaller than average head of a can of energy drink is spilling into the drainage ditch around the top, where the piss colored liquid subsides, when it doesn't make it into the mouth. This is Matthew.
I yearn for words to be formulated, calculus style, as a formation of thought an jargon into brief moments of genius, let these formations, much like the universe itself, still plague those trying to understand it's birth, it's construction, it's meaning. These words mumble from his mouth, at 75 miles per hour, drafting a Semi, down route 80, or 90…god knows where we are right now. Words like springingly; the delightful verbosity of the under achieved, and sleep deprived. Yakima; as in Ah, Yakima, (within it's use, the realization as the second word comes from the mouth, of it's inherent connection to the first!) These gifts brought forth by over indulgence, and under the influence of caffeine, and solely caffeine, are the gems of our trip, of this other wordily resurrection of understanding, that this country we live in, is sometimes more alien and foreign than countries we have never stepped foot in.
Take for instance, Iowa. Little is known about Iowa; and I mean little in the sense that in my recollection of geography, of history, of topography and all the other graphy's that were bundled together into a nice little sixth grade ball of a class…mind you, taught by a teacher that you sort of like, and hope to get to know, only to realize that his disinterest is not just in the subject that he teaches, but in those he attempts to teach it to. Digression of sorts! Iowa, that's where we are, and now what I learn about Iowa is that they put up signs on the highways, just like other states, where there seems to be road work. The signs are diamond shaped, orange, held up by stands that seem to waft in the wind of the minivans, and other assorted vehicle-americana that pass: But, oh and this is one of those but's you place in the beginning of the sentence, capitalizing the first letter, and maybe all three letters for all to see; for all to think you are going to write BUTT, but don't: BUT in Iowa these signs pertain to a drug check. Yes, sir, yes ma'am, yes yes yes, a drug check. Now, I am sure we are far away from any borders, except that one going into Indiana, the one that now cannot come fast enough though I cannot speed, as State Trooper after State Trooper patrol the area, some scouting for possible victims, some with dogs, sniffing, growling, grunting, seizing the paraphernalia of a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, as kids and parents wait on the side of the road, with their mutt in tow; that "mutt" watching as another of it's kind, who has prospered and been put to real use, searches, sniffs, marks, seizes! Matthew's eyes are straight ahead. It's as if we are walking through a crowd of people, trying not to be too obvious about our billboard signs around our necks stating "We have drugs, whoo hoo!" But when you are driving in a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, adorn with Thule Rack and Storage Bin, denoting each and every state, as well as band you travel the country yearly to see, like a "dunce cap", a dunce cap that once seemed such a singular monumental token of achievement, now just down right dimwitted and the eventual down fall of your existence, when you are in this portal to the penitentiary, this vehicle to your demise, this, highway to the great divide, this…uh...wait did we just make it to Indiana…holy motherfucking shit was that a close call.
Those motherfucking cops didn't even think to stop the walking billboard…our bearded protagonist amped on Sobe Adrenaline, leg bouncing heavily to the beat of some unknown music that seemed to be formulating, in tight staccato licks, somewhere between both his ears, this dreadlocked young lad, in shambles from a twenty hour jaunt with highways and byways, flirting with veers and curves of the road--from Montana, now into Indiana, only part way through what will be a record setting ground attack, just flirted with the first real brush, the stroke of heavy paint laden brush…but the only ones stopped were the minivans, relatively un-obscure, normalcy of Americana, scattering a family of five, their "not pure bread, and their gear (check, 1 family size tent, CHECK, 5 his-hers-kids-matching camping chairs, CHECK 4 kids sleeping bags, adorned with their favorite cartoon character, Dora, Diego, Dark Wing Duck, CHECK 1 double sized, cushioned and insulated adult camping back DualSleeper, CHECK 1 doggy kennel with false bottom hiding 1 kilo cocaine?!?!, CHECK 5 matching short cut straws with red stripe piping used to…) Matthew's hair is adorned in a less than fashionable dread-tie up (see accompanying image), tendrils of loose hair standing straight on end, and occasionally, as the waft smell of smoke ceases, escaping as it floats toward the cracking window, smoke shutters in it's drifting cloud with the winds entry through the now-open window, and is pulled from the vacuum of the vehicles cabin, occasionally, sometimes we are treated to the faint smell and subtle nostril singe of dried, dying fetid hair, lost in the globule that is the dread. He watches the road as he reaches, somnambulist, sleep walker (these are his words, that Philosophy/English Major getting good use at least in his vocabulary) and grabs for another heater, that energy boost, Mario's Blinking Bouncing Star, leg shaker of a beverage.
Side note: we have two coolers in the back seat; like passengers themselves, one stocked with a myriad of beverages, Sobe Adrenaline (akin to red bull, but the taste is welcomed), stocked too, with Beer from far away lands, land seeming almost foreign, even in their most down to earth, back country american ways; lands where subtitles would be of benefit to some of the slack jawed, hootenanny, hound dog, rock-a-billy-jargon being pushed past the gap of missing rotted teeth, with complimentary rotten teeth breath thrust forth through our nostrils.
Our dreaded chauffeur's idea of careening the country lends itself poorly to those who want to get out and explore. In marathon pace, we have had more liquid meals from the cockpit of this now claustrophobic, part home, part vehicle, part food truck, part camping accoutrement, part hospital bed, part smoking section! His hair is as hard to follow as my thoughts as I cling to one like the deep brown facial hair that adorns our protagonist. This cooler, hand now inserted and scrambling through what is left of ice, dirt laden water, comes across an empty energy drink, then, EUREKA, another 8 ounces of, quite possibly, Cancer Causing Agents! Matthew's eyes are not quite blood shot, as we approach a Wendy's parking lot, they are glazed over, marbles distinct now with use and wear, that he needs glasses but does not where them (instead wheres others...see accompanying image) should be of concern, but when in a situation like this (what situation you ask. On a cell phone hunkered down between the passenger seeting, in the cup holders filled to the brim with smoked cigarette butts, cause the mother fucker won't litter them (littering your lungs, think of that lately) the cell phone, turned to silent has missed calls from the passenger's father begging for us to stop at a hotel, paid for the passenger's father's credit card, so we may be safe, may rest, may make it through to another day.) That parenthetical situation; with another parenthetical situation tucked neatly between the sheets of the first parenthetical situation. But let's get back to the beginning!!!
The invitation arose for Phil Martin's being wed to Janelle Smart. Cloaked in the warm glow of early summer, stuck in the gaze of infinite possibility, plans were made, and stuck to. After careful, drunken thought, and haphazard, sober consideration, we were going to drive to Santa Barbara. Innocence, or rather ignorance, became the saving grace. Matthew was attending a Phish Festival, a few miles south of the canadian border, the weekend before the "Wedding Weekend" Tightly woven at first, the plans quickly unravelled, single string style, to a loose consensus; and in a time when cell phones were not the preferred method of communication and interaction, I only had what I thought was going on, and telepathetic smoke signals rising from the northeast New England area to guide me as a map towards our westward road trip. Matthew, dread locked and furiously approaching wookie status, navigated the southward route, down from the rural areas surrounding Limestone ME, and after rendezvousing in CT, was in McLean VA on Tuesday evening, the eve of our Santa Barbara road trip. To the son of a West Point Graduate, "Colonel" as my traveling companion loosely titled him; a handle that would certainly fit, tailored tight as the suits adorning soldiers on their graduation day. Unsure of the state in which my partner in crime would arrive, only that, come hell or high water, which he would be dressed to endure, high watered patchwork and all, if the floods of Noah's time were to rear their meteorological-mythical multi beast heads our way, he would do just that: Arrive.
Let's skip to Kansas. Until recent years, when heat has, with it's burgeoning side kick, humidity, adorned the summer months blanketing it's sweaty palms from Noank to Westchester, I was not acquainted with it. It might have been a topic of conversation; In a reality that I did not perceive, a sequestered jury of a trial I didn't know was deliberating…nor what the trial was about! Back then, years from my cushy couch culturally, convenient computer coursing commitment to cultural creation, whence youthful exuberance teaming with energy, sometimes caffeine, and certainly any substance we substantiated was worthy to be coursing through our blood streams, back then all was fair game, and my mind did not "make quandary" the lamenting of little things like humid intemperate and farcical heat. Now that introductions are aside, to be quite to the point, hinting towards a brevity I often lack...it was fucking HOT.
Amidst 400 plus miles of veiled heat, albeit dry heat, from Kansas City, MO to Kanorado, that little town, that like it's name, teeters the mythical state lines of the two states, that sandwiched together, and melted from scorching weather combine to create, we drove! We drove, and faded off, conversing for minutes on end before silence interjected, and packs of cigarettes were simultaneously packed against palms; beyond that repeat thudding of cardboard enclosed tobacco, the quick click of the lighters initial embers, of flint thrust to fluid, the flame would commence, nearly invisible and shuttering in the heat entering from the now lowered window. The gusts were heat clusters, entering willfully from outside the confines of our black flying saucer.
As Keller Williams wound his way around track 5 again (the bounty hunter epic) and our cigarettes neared their most poignant and satisfying half way point, I would look over at the driver, hands just over the steering wheel, a semi perfect ten and two lean, and his eyes, piercing straight ahead, then lurching below his outstretched arms, aware of the road though they made no direct contact with it, instead fixated to the cup holders to the right of his knee. The Yellow Pureness of his American Spirit Lights (No Additives) as if, calling to a duel, the pack and its contents, testing the patience and minutes that past until he might legitimize having another.
Exit sign after exit sign careened by, and each number embossed and shinny metal white shone the miles we needed to surpass in order to get out of this hell heated, hole of a state. We were both silent, and Matthew, shaking his leg feverishly, as he did so many times before, now slowed his leg to a near stand still. In the distance, a distance our black coffin of german engineering flung us towards was pure darkness; as my eyes drew up, away from my sloping companion, lightning struck from deepest of the cloud structure and hung in the veiled heat for what seemed like minutes. We didn't speak for a few minutes, but in that antagonistic silence, where one of our words was sure to slice through the air, akin to that shriek of lightning, silent as its thunderous roar was much to far to be audible, I knew we were both thinking; "this road better fucking turn!" He said.
This road...btw...wtf...IDK...was Interstate 70. The nid southern East West portal to Rockies and Beyond. And Beyond was our destination of course, but for now, hunkered down, like flies in caramel colored fly paper, our Goodyear's seemed to be melting into the gray-peekish pavement below our souls, and solace was no where to be found, save for a formidable lightning storm and soon-to-be-forming funnel cloud. Tornado Alley! (Music, as will be explained later, was a constant source of not only frustration, but calm soul soothing introspective healing along our trip. That being said, Volkswagen decided for a design that I know one architectural genius in the room, the day it was presented, debated against it...and lost. The vents of the vehicles climate control run directly above the CD Player. I am not scientist, business all the way, but something tells me the friction of a spinning metallic disc will create heat...couple that with vents that, when prompted by plastic knobs, dispense heat at the User's command, and you have got disaster mashed up and written on the side of the pancake mix ready to be concocted on the dashboard of this car. Now, previous to this Kansas Segment of the great western sojourn, I watched once as the Track Number of the CD player and Elapsed time were replaced with a single Capitalized and Lowercase Electronic Font forged itself on the head unit stating one tragic and ill-fated word. That word, in the midst of a Blizzard somewhere deep in the catskills would have spelled some relief as snow pelted the windshield in kaleidoscopic amazement...that same word, which now adorned the Panasonic Head Unit was thusly Devil Sent and spoke of the condition of our Kansas Situation. What was that word, written in Devil's font: HEaT!
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