Friday, June 04, 2004


This was my first ever road trip, and I soon discovered I was doing it by myself. Shea couldn't drive a standard very well, and didn't do a very good job of map reading. To round things out he was more or less nightblind. Oh, and he was stoned the whole time.

So it was really no surprise that we missed our turn in Indianapolis. If I remember correctly, there was some construction, or they were in the process of changing the name of the highway/interstate, or I was just too zoned out to notice, but we were out of the city to the east, instead of to the north, when I stopped for directions. The map didn't make any sense, and my eyes were pretty well fucked from the pot smoke and driving all damn day. To his credit, the gas station attendant gave good directions, although he didn't like how we smelled. We did buy a lot of oatmeal pies and sun chips, though. And a big bottle of coke.

I can't drink coffee. I mean, I try, mostly to be polite to Zora (who makes a fine cuppa joe, BTW)...but my body's not made for stimulants. Tea is OK, but coffee is just too much, too quick. Since it's hard to find tea with any sort of caffeine content, I stick with coke and suffer the effects on my bowels in silence. It keeps me going, barely, without turning me into a raving madman (quiet in the peanut gallery).

Thus begins the surreal part of our narrative.

We drove east for a while on the interstate, then turned off on a state highway and headed north. What began as a four lane divided highway shrunk to four lanes with no medians, then two lanes. The houses in the towns we passed were all dark, and they all seemed narrow, and too tall, with steeply pitched roofs. They crowded the road, like some sort of Dr Seuss drawing, and I didn't see any more cars on the road. Time passed--or didn't pass. When we weren't being crowded by houses, we were being crowded by cornfields (or some sort of crop--it was dark). The whole thing was very Wes Craven; 10 years later, when watching "In the Mouth of Madness," I was struck by how similar the driving was. The radio quit working, for chrissake.

We were both awed into silence for most of the trip. This was Middle America, after all. I think we were both under the impression that everything east of the Mississippi was one big metroplex. WE came from the states of wide open places, after all. The hush that was on this place at midnight on Saturday night was eerie, almost alien. I felt far away from home for the first time, and not nearly close enough to our destination.

We drove for hours, almost all night. I worried, as I always do, that we'd misunderstood directions, or had missed another turn, or were on some sort of funhouse loop of dark, abandoned towns and ghostly cornfields. I worried about our sanity. I worried, most of all, about whether the girls would let us stay there, after missing our own party. Of course, I hadn't called them before we left, for some reason I can't really dredge up now (probably something pertaining to my selfish, disrespectful nature, if you'd asked Alethea). I wasn't sure what sort of reception we were going to get. Frankly, I wasn't sure if we were ever going to get off that fucking state highway.

But we did. Sometime around 3am, I think, we hit the interstate, and I nearly cried when I started seeing cars and big rigs again. Lights, any kind of lights, made me giddy. I spent a lot of the time driving to Michigan admiring the patterns of lights at rest stops, as we sped by them in the darkness. I quit trying the radio. I quit fucking with Shea, who fell asleep the instant we merged onto the highway. I drove, thinking about what it would be like in Michigan. I knew, after my encounter with the highway, that it would be a lot different there.

[I'm resisting, with great effort, the urge to write something like "we weren't in Kansas anymore." See, Gentle Reader, I respect you!]


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