Two Point Five Days Across America
Two Point Five Days Across America
By the time I hit South Dakota, my car smelled like there were homeless people in the trunk having anal sex on a pile of urine-soaked pork rinds. By the time I hit Indiana, they’d worked necrophilia, three ponies, and a burlap sac of rotten raccoon snouts into the mix. By the time I got to Pittsburgh’the stink of Pittsburgh overwhelmed it all.
Bring the stink, Pittsburgh!
Actually, the driver’s seat of my car smelled far worse than Pittsburgh, courtesy of the one-pound burger nearly swallowed whole at the Oxford in Missoula, Montana. A hamburger log served on Montana toast delivered through the tobacco drool of foamhatted octogenarian poker zombies banging their canes on the split-parquet floor as they splintered their elbow joints howling for fresh coffee under the glazed-eyed wall of smokestained deer heads. Paired with a $1.50 pint of vodka, plopped right in front of you and then CASH UP FRONT BEFORE you get to eat the sandwich (I wouldn’t trust me, neither)’it’s possibly the best meal I’ve eaten since 1998, Missoula, and the night’s ensuing meat sweats that kept me blue and hallucinating under a veneer of papery Motel 6 sheets were merely toughening sauce for the rest of Mark Driver’s Cross-America Tour 2006, where his ‘ask the night clerk if she wants to fuck’ success ratio is now down to an all time low of 3 for 39. It’s the cowboy hat, isn’t it? No? Oh. The beer gut? And the raccoon breath? And the dead moths in the teeth? And the lazy eye? Two lazy eyes? And the halo of fruit flies? Jeez. I get the point.
Unreceptive overweigh 40somethings aside, this is one beautiful hunk of land. There’s no two ways about it. We’re gorgeous, America! Open road, rolling brown hills, broken-faced mountains, ruddy rivers, desert wheat, collapsing barns, bucktoothed kids waving from broken big wheels, corn pone queens, chicken mayors, pigs that moo’it’s enough to make a patriotic tear water in the corner of the most jaded eye’especially when you’ve been drinking all day. Sparks, yer roadfuel is pretty good, but ye need to start making vodka.
Eastern Washington State: There has been talk about you splitting from Western Washington to form your own state. I now have no objections. Seriously. Good luck. Be sure to telegraph us and let us know how it all turns out.
Idaho: I always cover both eyes when I drive through Idaho, so there’s nothing to report.
Billings, Montana: Hey, here’s an idea: you should maybe have one fucking RESTAURANT that serves FOOD to PEOPLE at LUNCHTIME. I coulda hit Taco Smell easy, choked down some Kentucky Fried Seagull but noooooooooooo! I’m on a fucking no-fast-food-chain hippie fuck kick so I mosey into town lookin’ for some local grub, you know’support a LOCAL ECONOMY. How about a diner? A pizza tavern? A burger stand? No sir, but look! A Subway! And an Arbys! Welcome to Billings! We’re total dicks!
I finally found some shit 50s burger joint where, as I picked up my food, the walrus behind the counter huffed, ‘I never served no guy wearing black toenail polish before.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘I bet most everyone just drives right past this place.’
Wyoming: Here’s a New State Motto. Wyoming: Nothing That a Little Soap and Penicillin Couldn’t Fix. I wish someone would have told me that Wyoming had been hit with a nuclear bomb, I could’ve brought supplies! I feel bad. I could’ve done something to help all those packs of dirty people gathering in the blown-out truck stops and deermeat drive-thrus. God’all those mutated children, those marauding mustaches’but they may be able to breed Wyoming back to life. I think I saw some women’but they may have been shaved woodchucks. Or inflatable shaved mailorder woodchucks. I can never tell the difference.
And lucky me, the radio in my car told me that I was passing through Wyoming during its most prolific gonorrhea season on the books. Dude! You got gonorrhea all over my Family Values! Timmy, we’re going to church and praying for the burning in your urethra to stop! AS A FAMILY!!!
South Dakota: Thank you for putting things in perspective. As I passed through Sturgis, complaining to Sean Hannity’s Adult Diaper Comedy Hour about the worst cup of coffee to ever slide out of a truckstop tailpipe (don’t remember ordering extra chunky), you managed to serve me up, in this order: 1) Pack of deer across the highway. 2) A pack of WOLVES across the highway. 3) Sideways rain that yields all mortal windshield wipers null and void. 4) A hailstorm tough enough to texturize my car into the poxmarking of a golf ball and leave a veteran metalhead’s ears ringing. 5) Two hours of deadly, deadly lightning. 6) Weather reports that warned of a 20% chance of thunderstorms more or less drowned out by, you know, THUNDERSTORMS. South Dakota, hats off to you. You win.
Minnesota: You’re so cute, but you never write. That’s okay’I wouldn’t write back anyway. I know. But we have fun when we’re together, though. Right? Oh, don’t be like that. You know I was just passing through’I told you that on the phone! You knew I was only staying the night when I came over! No, I don’t have time, I told you. I’ll catch breakfast on the road. I dunno, Lacrosse or something. I don’t have time for this’I’m on my way to Pittsburgh. Grad school. I told you that. You were drunk? What’s that you used to say”Big surprise, no excuse.’ No, I don’t think I’m better because I’m going to school. I just don’t wanna be in an office anymore. What the fuck are you doing with your life? Sitting here, drunk all the time, getting older, waiting for the world to walk into your living room and entertain you, crying when your little boys get what they want and ease on down the road? Oh, spare me the fake tears. Fake fucking tears, like you fake every fucking emotion that comes across your freckled little face. God, listen to me. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Look. I got to go. I’ll call you when I get to Pittsburgh. I promise. Really. It’ll be different this time. Yeah, I know it’s weird. You can come visit. No, I mean it. I want you to visit. I dunno, whenever you want to come. Sure. Unless it’s finals. It might be finals then. Like I said. I’ll call you when I get there. Or at least when I’m all set up. Have you seen my car keys? Gimee them. Okay. One more kiss’and then I’m totally leaving’
Wisconsin: Baraboo to Madison is the WORST stretch of AM radio in the nation. Golden Oldies and ‘Praise Da Lordy Cos I’m Uh Sinnah’? Badger State, are you actually promoting suicide? Are the Wisconsin Dells secretly fueled by tourist road-rage collectors hidden on either side of I-90? Has Tommy Bartlett’s Robot World gone feral, run amok on a killing spree of Biblical proportions, and programmed the human race to doom? Wisconsin? Hello? Are there any humans in charge? Where is everybody?
Chicago: Love ya! Wish I could stop and say hi but I’m just cruising through and’oh. Look at this traffic. Well, I guess I’m here for a while. For like 4 fucking hours. And I bitched about Seattle traffic. Okay. Hmm. You read any good books lately? No? Yeah, I don’t watch much television. No, I’m not one of those kind of people. I just get bored easy. Except for the show where they switch the wives. I like that one. Oh, there’s two shows like that? No, I don’t know which one. Heh. Yeah. Wow. We’re really stuck here for a while, huh? Well, we might as well have a drink. What you think? Too early for whiskey? A double? There’s a boy!
Indiana: Look, it’s nice to be back, sorta, but I gotta say: You’re not worth the $6 in tolls it takes to drive across you. There. I said it. The only thing that justifies $6 is an exit fee. $60 even. I’d pay that much to leave Indiana. It would be totally worth it. Why? Look. You’re falling apart. You look like shit, you smell, you lost your jobs and hey’I’m being tough on you because we’re tight bros from way back when. If it was me, I’d expect you to do the same and’wait! What’s that? You just sold your toll road to a foreign government? To cover tax cuts? Dude, you’ve changed!
Ohio: Cute girls at the rest stop! Wish I could hang out for a bit but’oh shit. That’s your dad? How old are you? Oh? Oh. Cool’well I’m on my way to Chicago. Yeah, my motorcycle’s parked over there. Anyways’good luck in high school’the first year’s always the toughest…
USA, America: Stay in the right lane unless you’re passing. When someone driving faster passes you, you aren’t ‘losing.’ So you don’t have to speed up. And if you, feeling beaten, speed up and pass the car that just passed you, don’t pull right back in front of them and return to the speed that got you passed in the first place. And stop eating so much. You look TERRIBLE.
Pittsburgh’jury’s still out. Been here like a weeks. Yesterday I walked a lap around the city. 12 miles, 7 blisters, 0 fights, 17 drinks. I dunno. Good dive bars except for the one where Oldylocks and the Three Bores stared at me until I left. I went to the famous sammich place and some bald guy in a Penguins jacket (outside temperature, 89 degrees) whipped out his phone camera and started showing me pix of him nailing some girl from behind. ‘I’ve totally got her hair in my fist in this one.’
‘Yeah, that’s great’could you pass the ketchup?’
I found a couple decent Polish bars. A solid fish-sandwich place. There’s a beer store across the street from where I stay. Mom bought me a polar parka for my birthday (Thanks Mom!) and I just got a Costco crate of Ramen in the mail from my little brother’who’s some bigshot hospital administrator now. Dude! Happy Ramen? At least spring for the Bowl Noodle Hot!
It’s rained a bunch since I’ve been here. I like that. I like the blown-out buildings. The broken tusks of dead industry are nice. Weeds growing up through traintimbers, stretches of fried streetlights, an appalling lack of street signs. The parts of Pittsburgh they tried to spiff up are sorta depressing, like make-up day on the terminal cancer ward, but I don’t live anywhere near there. I’m back to living in one-room squalor. Feels like an old pair of greasy chaps’
And the Pittsburgh lady barometer? I was expecting caved Appalachian faces underneath yellowing Sears gorilla wigs with stray gray teeth growing through blistered piglips like an old man’s toenails spilling over the stained edge of a sticky slipper’but everyone’s just sorta cute and big. Like a fraternity petting zoo. Christ, I look like Dolph Lundgren compared to these kids. He’s still alive, right? Wait’not Dolph Lundgren. Who am I thinking of?
I still got me a girl in Seattle. No temptation means smooth sailing.
Housekeeping tip to newly solo guys: Outside of the bathroom, Kleenex and Lotion should always be separated by at least 15 feet, lest visitors suddenly become afraid to sit anywhere in said shitty apartment. Conversely, an addition of the latest issue of ‘Golden Showers from Golden Oldies’ to the Lotion/Kleenex combo will prevent most future visitors from ever returning to your shithole and let you get some serious drinking done in peace.
Class is tough. Big words. Go bifurcate your own ontological episteme, jerk. Crap, I just spilled ego remover all over my new school shirt. Apparently, there are some people in the world who are better at faking smartness than your humble author. Deadly donut poison, do your work…
UPDATE: Beware! Pittsburgh has a FUCKING DRESS CODE! I was kept away from alcohol BECAUSE OF FLIP FLOPS! I been a’ drinking in New York, I been a’ drinking in LA, I been a’ drinking in Chicagee, I been a’ drinking in San Francisco, I been a’ drinking in Seattle, and the only time I was ever refused bar entry was once in LA for ‘gang attire,’ which was fair, because a Tec-9 fell out of my Raiders jacket, but SUP, PITTSBURGH? Way to class things up, ‘Hell with the Lid Torn Off’! Lemme swing by Old Navy, buy a sweatshop sweatshirt, grow a Mario Bros. mustache, gain 400 pounds, slap a gravy-stained Steelers hat on my head, and surgically remove my brain with a shotgun! Then maybe I’ll be worthy to eat your onion-ring-and-fish-stick sushi and drink your Coors Light FunBukkket longneck gamenight specials! WOO HOO I’M IN PITTSBURGEE AND THEY’RE KEEPIN’ DA RIFF RAFF OUT I’M JUST LIKE A BIG FANCEE YINZER MOOVIEE STARRR!
UPDATE UPDATE: I’m not here for even a week and the mayor dies. Sorry!
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Pittsburgh rules. More to come…