Columbia, MO to Stillwater, OK: 445 miles.
Music for this leg: Joe Ely’s ‘Letter to Laredo,’ Johnny Cash’s American Recordings 1, 2, and 3, and a sample of The Cure.
What I read before bed that night: Umberto Eco’s ‘On Literature.’
Okay, so first of all, before I got to Columbia, I discovered Mark Twain.
(yeah, yeah, I should have written this part yesterday, but I got my geography all fouled up so bite it, okay?)
I’m bopping along and I look to the right.
And see Mark Twain.
A really big Mark Twain.
That little plaque between his legs is just about gut high, so you can see he’s tall.
Seeing that, I had to whip around on the highway and snap some pix. But what’s funny, at least to me, is that he was connected to nothing. It’s not like it was a park or a memorial or anything.
To the east is a trailer that had its best days fifty years ago (and they weren’t all that great). To the west is a mechanic’s garage that is, I suspect, where the husband hangs out after the wife in the trailer beat his ass and hits him in the head with a can of Lucky Lager.
So, once I left Columbia, I motored west into Kansas City. On the way, I had a massive sneezing fit that very nearly left the car in the ditch. I’m not talking about your Aunt Sally’s polite little sneezes, I’m talking about industrial grade, blowing chunk outta my nose kind of sneezing.
[Well, too bad for you. I recorded some of the fit on my phone, sent it to my computer, but can’t get it to load in the blog. If you’d heard it, you would have heard a monster of a sneeze, then a moan, and then, “Ahhhh…fuck.”]
It lasted a half hour? Maybe more? Got so bad I had to pull over.
Apparently, I’m allergic to Kansas.
Then, when I get driving again, I discover the road is waaaaaayyyy longer than I’d realized. I drive and drive and drive and there is nothing but more and more Kansas.
Flint Hills, this stretch is called. More than 212,375, square miles, just about 200 miles top to bottom.
Holy Balls, Batman. Really? Nearly a quarter million miles and that’s what I’m driving through?
(Yeah, I stole those off Google Images. If you took those pics, let me know and I’ll absolutely post credit.)
So not only a billion miles of nothing, but also filled to overflowing with…
Hundreds and thousands of cows. Hundreds of thousands of cows. Mile after mile; cow after cow.
Reminded me of Stephen King’s ‘Children of the Corn.’ I kept waiting for Malachai to show up and slit my throat.
Call him Cow-achai, I guess.
And all those frakin’ cows stared at me.
Cuz they knew. They knew I’d faced off with their brethren in Bureau County. I know they sensed that I’d herded, and then made fun of, their spiritual brothers and sisters in Illinois. They knew that I considered them – basically – pre cooked barbeque.
If those fences hadn’t been there, I don’t know…it would have been ugly, and I’m pretty sure I would have come out on the losing end of any bovine altercation.
(you wanna read any of those stories…they’re all under CopStories on the blog)
Finally, long looooonnnnggg after Rapture and Armageddon and the Aztec end of days and whatever else might be coming down the pike, I got to Oklahoma.
And at the first rest stop?
Way back when, I wrote a story called ‘Tom Mix Wept.’ It was about a woman who could heal people simply by touch but couldn’t find anyone to love. I still think it’s a great story that got overlooked (man, ain’t a big ego a wonderful thing?)
Anyway, Tom Mix was from Oklahoma, which I knew but hadn’t thought about. I mean, come on, how much Tom Mix trivia are you going to have at the front of your brain?
So they have him as art at the rest stops. Sort of oddly cool, I guess.
When I got to Stillwater, my Grandmother was waiting and it was wonderful. I hadn’t seen her in probably 17 or 18 years and it was fabulous to be able to sit down with her again. She is a wonderful woman who’s volunteered at a library for something like 418 years, raised five kids, and who bops along in life reading her books and listening to her classical music.
We hung out for a while and then my aunt and some of her chi’drens showed up. Then some library people and it was a party!
The reading – which became about not reading the book but instead talking about it – was great. I sold some books and signed some books and ain’t that what all this driving and a-pimping is about?
I think my Grandmother has some pictures of the soiree, but I haven’t seen them yet. When I do, if I look like an authorial stud, I’ll post them. If I look like a wuss begging for money, you’ll never see them.
Afterwards we ate and then she and I looked at old pictures and I found some baby pictures of mine I hadn’t seen before.
There you have it. More Baby Trey than has ever been gathered anywhere. And yeah, it was a cool Halloween costume, but man oh mama, could it have been more racist? And I think the back said, “Frito Bandido.”
After copying the pix, we stopped at the library so I could check email. Nothing quite like a dear friend sending you a fairly racy picture while your Grandmother sits RIGHT NEXT to you. I have no clue if she saw it or not, but I’m guessing this blog post probably busts me pretty hard, huh?
Then I crashed because I was exhausted. The trip had been longer than I’d thought and tomorrow wasn’t shaping up to be much better. Damn, next time I’ll have to actually look at a map before I leave, maybe plan a little better.
But of course I couldn’t hardly sleep. By 4:30 in the morning, I was ready to go. I piddled around until about 5:15, got up and was ready for the road at 6.
Grandma wasn’t quite done with pictures yet. So we went through a few more.
And then she wanted to feed me, bless her heart. A big breakfast. I passed.
“How about a muffin?”
“A glass of orange juice?”
She snorted, but let me go.
And thus began the leg of the trip that would see me face to face with the police (not the last time that would happen), face to face with a jail, and be within shouting distance of where ‘The Last Picture Show’ was filmed.