Tulsa, OK to Princeton, IL: 620 miles
Music for this leg: again, Brad and I wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen to music.
What I read before bed that night: nothing. I was too exhausted from driving.
Up early Monday morning and off we went. I was so full of sunshine and good cheer. I could hear the birds singing and the frogs a’froggin’. The sun was up and so was I and it was going to be a great day.
Twenty minutes after I got in the car, I was thinking about the Seventh Circle of Hell. And that circle, we all remember from English Lit, is about violence.
Thinking about violence cause I wanted to blow my brains out.
By Monday morning, I was the road. I was permanently transfixed by the passing yellow lines, by the passing mile markers. And I sure as hell felt like the car had driven over me about a hundred times.
(sort of like that video of ten or fifteen years ago where the woman in Houston repeatedly ran over her husband in the hotel parking lot? yeah…here’s a tip…don’t commit murder on video tape! Takes all the fun out of investigating it)
It was a great trip, don’t get me wrong, but my ass was permanently shaped to that bucket seat. I’ll take the shaping because it was such a good weekend, with great friends, lots of sales, but enough was enough.
There was nothing interesting on the Tulsa to Princeton leg. It was nothing but miles and miles and then more miles.
Well, except for the donkey.
Not a real donkey, mind you. A picture of a donkey.
A crime donkey.
Brad and I stopped for lunch at a Jack in the Box in the middle of nowhere. That wasn’t so interesting because Jack in the Box isn’t so interesting. In fact, this one was naaaassssty. Way nastier than the West Wind in Midland.
But it had this picture of Larry the Crime Donkey.
At the time, I had absolutely no context. It was a picture on the wall.
Ah, but through the miracle of the Intertubes (for that reference, see Senator Ted Stevens, once from Alaska, now mostly a joke) I now see Larry the Crime Donkey was an actual ad.
Wow. Good one.
Not being much of a Jack in the Box fan, I guess I missed the whole “Let’s parody McGruff the Crime Dog ‘cause that’ll sell hamburgers” bit. Too bad for me.
After lunch, Brad and drove. Mile after mile after mile…until we finally reached Illinois. It was sort of a celebration because we were now at least within shouting distance of Princeton. So in celebration, Brad snapped a quick pic of the Arch.
And no, I didn’t stop because that would have kept us on the road longer. I told that boy, “Shoot it while we drive, bitch, I ain’t stopping for nothing. I’m a mad man with nothing to lose.”
Or words to that effect.
I love the abandoned parking garage as a foreground visual. Not sure why.
…and then more and more and more driving and finally…ultimately, we were in Princeton.
So this nightmarish drive, during which I had such a ball and so many laughs, was how many miles total?
Two-thousand, five hundred…and four.
What? I can’t even get my head around a number that big. No wonder my back and my ass were broken.
But it had been a great trip. Set aside all the books I sold, and that I discovered a type of reading and signing that I like much better than bookstores, and I have just the friends. It was incredible to rediscover them all. To walk where I’d once walked and see if my feet still fit in those footprints.
Mostly they did.
I was sad to see the state of my town, but excited to see the state of my people who still lived in that town. They were vibrant and alive and exciting. They were exactly who they’d been lo those many years ago.
So I want to offer a giant thanks, as I wrap this up, to Chris and Lori, to Grandmother Smith, to Sassy and my mother Alison, to Bryan and Rachel and Cary and Nicole, and to the gang in Midland. I’ve written about them so much you’re probably sick of them, but they are me and every once in a while, I think I should remember that.
Brad, Amy, Debbie, and the Federale Harvey Bangwaller. You guys are why my trip was so great.
I’ve not read much Thomas Wolfe, but his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, is quoted (and misquoted and misapplied by miscreants) all the time. Let’s look at the actual realization George Webber has at the end of the book, shall we?
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
George Webber looks back in bitter disappointment and I understand that. There are slices of the past which leave me bitter, too. But as I get older, I’m learning to leave those things by the side of the road (under the heels of a Texas DPS Trooper no doubt) and get the fuck on with life. I’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had cancer. I’ve got a bad back. Life is too frappin’ short to worry about something I might have done to someone 35 years ago. Apologize for it in your heart, promise to treat people better from here on out, and move on, bitch.
And while this trip left me melancholoy at the changes in Midland’s face, it left me revitalized at the stableness of those in Midland I love. Yes, time has stomped on down the road, but memories of my people, and our collective expectation of what each of us can and should accomplish, filled the well of my soul.
Maybe Wolfe is right. Maybe you can’t go home again, but you sure as shit can go whizzing past at 79 miles an hour and get an eyeful!
I took Brad to the airport in Chicago and then I was back at work. Rested. Recharged. Ready to face humanity.
My first speeder of the week.
“Ma’am, is there any reason you were driving 91 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour zone?”
“I had a leg cramp.”
It was all I could do to not laugh myself into a coma.
I was home. And I was off and running!