Thursday, 26 November 2009

θάνατος (day seventy one and seventy two)

Down the stairs, across the sand, down there, below the lighthouse, where petal waves splash down gently, hushed flops onto the sand, that's where the Atlantic is. Two months ago the Pacific was hugging the right hand side of the car. Now it's 10,000 miles behind us on a hundred different roads. Hours spent contorting beneath a steering wheel, chin rested in redundant left palm, thumb, index and middle fingers steering, rested on my leg, mouth howling a caterwaul of half remembered lyrics from none of your favourite tunes. Through cities and interstates and intersections, highways, curves and corners over and over until my shoulders ache from hauling a tonne if aluminium around the mountains. Now we contemplate an ocean, a continent behind us. Two speeding tickets the only red marks in the jotter. Silence but for seagulls and children.

Martha's Vineyard remains unsighted - the car parks were too hidden so we missed the boat (you always miss the boat). Economic calibrations lead to a tasty lunch; sandy crunch of onion rings and a panini. When did I become so predictable? The moustachioed hipsters say I'm losing my edge. My tae kwon do jacket says they're wrong. Falmouth wants to be so much more than it is - the shops die after a couple of hundred metres of sidewalk. Ran out of puns - Sundae School, Dog Days A-Rover... They're needed to add the quaintness they so deserve. Past a million mini golfs we stop counting everything (these blank paragraphs are nothing but numbers and whimsy) and go to Chatham, the elbow of Cape Cod. The Tap N Tin and Billy Childish and centuries of ship building never felt so far away. Name filching pilgrims. Keep your mitts off or I'll send you down me own bleeding self. National pride was restored this morning when Britain retained its binge drinking world champion title. Our teenagers win, once more. They stay within their designated parks, swigging and swilling, for dearest Blighty, swinging fists and snogging. These are our boundaries. My suitcase is overpopulated and the borders are closed. High rise living is bringing me down. Take me to my cottage, darling, I feel a little faint.

Farewell to Oscar. Just another Hyundai Accent that rolled off a production line last year. Undramatic, cantankerous silver car. Not a groan or a complaint for 12,581 miles. The whole journey was undramatic -two parking tickets, a couple of near miss bumper swipes, and hundreds of hours of plain driving, plane driving through every different American landscape. Our hands wave at the Alamo lot, as we leave him behind. Evacuees. The keys were nearly locked in the car... this is the closest we came to an incident. Our possessions lie behind us in a kilometres long Where's Wally? picture. Awkward goodbyes got left behind in Cape Cod. They are our last hosts. Yoga and weed in the forest. They all bemoan the drugs culture - what else is there to do? Stare at tourists or fish or putt. Visitors fill the guesthouses and youths chase dragons over the dunes. The final drive curves is round to Boston and one hotel from home. The dead autumnal cape is behind, some leaves red already, before the sun sinks down to a low arc.

Two buses and two trains to haul our luggage on and off of - heavy weights carried round a continent. The frat houses are putting up their Greek emblazoned signs. Papier mache entrances are being created, ready for keg parties. These town houses were built for the merchants of Boston to grow old in - now they youth wastes away in hurried brewer's droop romps and weak ale binges. Back Bay is flooded with college kids emptying their minds, in high fashion clothing, skinny and lithe. Stand outside bars and in cafes drinking coffees. Nostalgia for the university days is stalling my every step. Snatched conversations talk social engagements and homework, we sit in the park and ignore them all. Red brick churches hide in the shadow of blue monolith towers - juxtaposed ancient and modern. Trees line the pavements and malls by the designer boutiques - wealth is everywhere, the homeless denoted to the 7/11 stoop, heads bowed. They can't bear the eyes that stare and judge. Mani is ashamed of it all - he can only think of how he ended up here, alone, outside, a cardboard sign and a cup. Back in the public gardens businessmen perk their walk home with tinges of manicured green, watching the bored tourists on their slow pedalboat swan rides round the pond, getting close up views of ducks and algae. Lysergic horticultural preened, police mounted horse clopping around to administer justice to the coffee drinkers and the geese feeders. It all zings and sleeps at the same time. Everything is moving, everything is stationary.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars (day sixty nine and seventy)

On every road trip one must pay their respects to the master. In a quiet cemetery, south of town and away from it all, rests the plaque of John Kerouac. Ti Jean, Duluoz, Jack Kerouac. The self denounced 'King of the Beats'. A small turquoise Buddha sits atop a hidden note. I nod my head, wishing that one day I shall be as successful a writer as he. There is no posing of photographs, just that quiet contemplation your brain always sinks to when it enters a graveyard, overcome by the masses of dead and damned underneath Massachusetts soil. The skate kids in the memorial park don't know who he is. Think they've heard of him at some point. They film grind tricks, jumping over the benches and falling, skateboard sliding off at angles. "At least my cousin did one thing right with his life." There is no telling how much of a porky pie white lie fib this is. Speaks of a family not to sad that the boy pickled himself to death, alcohol taking him at 47. Lowell still looks the same. The Merrimack, black flowing past the redbrick mills, some abandoned, old Boott still commanding the riverfront, some historic landmarks, national park service run. Walked here as a boy, splurging words into a typewriter rattle ding and throwing pigskin. We near the end with his end, reading his final chapter. You never read your own.

Persecution blues make a tourist industry make a destination make preservation of old houses make child friendly. There are books about the Salem witch hunts. Volumes filled. Tonnes. A history graduate wants to write an essay. I left all that behind in another country. Hanged the afflicted girls, accused by a child playing power games, hysteria driving it higher and higher. What happens when good men stand by and do nothing. Wars. This is what happens when the good men lose any sense of perspective. Research equals complex social causes and elaborate academic sentences of multiple clauses. The beech panelling of a library has not been on my retinas for months. These cheap dioramas haven't taught me anything.

The Super 8 sidewalk is a domestic scene and we are the audience. Hurry hurry, back to your separate beds - 'Cereal Bridges II' is on and they're carving rice krispie cakes into the most impressive shapes. My palms are sweaty in anticipation for the conclusion of this trilogy.

This is the eastern extent of our journey - out on an eastbound spit, whispering into the breeze. The road won't take us any further, only backwards, homewards. Flick to rewind on the remote control. Atop a giant sand dune, basking lizards, shoes down the slope. Grass holds it all together. We skitter down again, feet plunging deep into the viscous thick grained sand, dampcool between our toes. Provincetown is gayer than San Francisco - rainbow flags strung across the street. The minority of couple are heterosexual. Most are all male, ticking off the stereotypes - bald, tattooed, over preened. That they can be so openly together makes me muchly glad. An overweight Midwestern family stand amidst the human traffic, staring all around them - a lost and vacant gawp stuck on their faces, They look at the sexshop, posters for masturbation, lube proudly emblazoned. Nobody knows how they ended up here. Sold a lie in a travel brochure. "Provincetown sounded so nice, but then it was full of fags. Couldn't stand it. We lasted half an hour. Linda felt sick."

Independent shops dominate, clapboard wrapped houses in varying shades of grey, silver and white and guesthouses proclaiming their vacancies to the cycling contingent. Trellis separates us from the leather shackles of next door, eating vegetarian cuisine under the whitegrey clouds. The Karoo Kafe feeds us up. The Atlantic is away in front of us, an ocean that separates us. Heart strings stretch over waves.

Another ball hooks right, a rusty swing sending the ball low and lost. Head came up, feet too close, bent too much, knees too rigid. Never going that far, but some glorious middle, straight to the hundred metre sign. The child in the next booth does not take to the teachings of the driving range owner. He can do it if he wants, could hit it to the two hundred mark. Just doesn't want to, Papa, my golf lessons were wasted. Stuart taught me well. I've still only ever crashed one golf cart.

Rachel's house burnt down so we are staying with Sarah in a pothead hideaway - Kerouac would be proud. The basement has to be deep cleaned before it is habitable, fragments of herbage spotted onto every surface. House party sweatstains / smokestains / drinkstains - a ballyhoo old ruckus sweet vibe goodtime. You can feel it. The space is quiet now, bar the cricket chirrups sounding outside in the sandy forest, far away, chirrups, and everyone gazes at the same stars from different telescopes, sighing, whispering hushed tones and scrawling into notebooks, empty chirrups, staring upwards at old constellations, twinkling arrangements they all named ages before, before Galileo and everything going wrong, when he scrawled into notebooks, on the sun and the moon, where the crickets hid underneath in the sandy forest, chirruping.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mistwreathed wraiths (day sixty seven and sixty eight)

Playing spy games - stealth and creeping back to the room on sideways tiptoe footsteps. I listen in to your conversations. I make notes of your lives. I know your movements. I have a dossier. I will use it. Over coffee I learn you are sending your daughter to UVM. She is a transfer student, this is her first time. Your booking at the Sheraton fell through, dearies, so you had to drive through the night time blank space Vermont to arrive here. I know how you each like your coffee. Papa is English, isn't he? Looks it, and the accent gives it away. How's life back at the farm? The owner of the inn comes from Cape Cod, bases his rules one experience. One choice at breakfast because of the New Jersey folks exploitation. Set down for the day. He encourages toiletry thievery - it's all branded. (I am not a creeper) (This is what happens when you eat breakfast alone).

Cosmo used to ply his trade on Johnny Carson in the 1980s. Now he's on the street in Burlington, performing his slick routine on a fold up table, hiding coins and guessing cards. Patter still has conviction, a thousand run throughs later. Passes the hat around, fills it up with bills. He's never had a $20. Liar. What happened? Why is he not in Vegas? The radon shirt speaks his loneliness, a sadness passes across his visage rapidly every time he pauses. How did he get the signed bill in the lemon? Double U. Tee. Eff. And the disappearing wand. Cosmo has got the beat down on the one man band, and the hippie lady with the guitar, sitting cross legged on the sidewalk. Burlington waterfront is quiet grassland, volleyball and couples straddling each other under a tree. The Adirondacks lie across the lake, yachts cruising in the breeze, sails tumbling round, tacking portsternaft rudder. We were there once, now we watch boats drift over there. It lies behind, everything behind on a long ribbon of crooked tarmac.

Painting everything in gaudy cartoons does make your company ethical. Even when you sell yourself to the man. Ben and Jerry do other things now, they're too rich. The company churns out pints of 'super luxury' ice cream, all day/every day. Whitewashing with cuteness. The Flavor Graveyard (where are your 'U's America?) etc etc. Commercialism has never been so much fun.

Insomnia is taking me captive. Sleep eluded me, the pillow blocking out the light suffocated me. Noises jerked me awake. Thoughts never ceased. The only thing more boring than insomnia is reading about insomnia. We spend all day half asleep, drifting over mountain ranges, a woolen blanket of cloud hanging low. All is green, or white. They are your only choices.

Montpelier covered the dome of their state capitol in gold. This is their only concession to bling culture. Only 10,000 people live in the small city, in timber framed Alpine houses. The chocolate and the cheese is letting everyone down. The state buildings are two storeys high, closed for the weekend with the shutters down. River flows idly by under rusted iron bridges. Autumn will be over in a month, crammed into a few weeks of redcrunch leaves spiralling down and blocking drains and gutters. Snow burying the sidewalks, glaciation in miniature, frost heave on the roads. Verdant shades don't last for long.

California is burning, but Vermont and New Hampshire are veiled in permanent drizzle, spattering the windows to wipe away the pale smears that mark the countless graves of the night time bugs that launched their attacks at our glass walls, impenetrable. You can't see the White Mountains any more. Fir trees extend upwards until they fade into misty white, away on a mountain peak we can't see. Mount Washington is somewhere above us, the cog railway sounds a desolate ghost horn far away down the valley, whistling to nothing, travelling a rising bed, then sinking back to the floor.

New Hampshirites see the numberplate and stare. Yes, we are a long way from home, just further than you think. Hostile glares from their pickup trucks. They hurl your sandwich at you. Live free or die. I prefer my mottoes to be passive aggressive, it helps keep me perky through the day. Low budget movies fill the night, CGI sharks limited to two second cameos in their own film. The actors who thought they would never be in a movie. Now look at me, mother. You said I'd never succeed, but I'm in Spring Break Shark Attack. My name is on IMDB - a sure sign of success. We practise our mean faced laughs from beige duvets in a cold motel in Manchester - every place name stolen from a better place. Lebanon is everywhere. This town brought the red brick factories and the mill chimneys. Tarmac takes us south, with Boston a finger's stretch out of reach, lean further and you're there, further, further, done.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Dive bar remedies (day sixty five and sixty six)

A breeze blew in my face all night. I couldn't sleep, the air bed deflating slowly underneath our combined bulk. Slow pace morning we race at Mario Kart to unlock the circuits and Homer tells tales of heroes long gone from the rose fingered dawn.

This indie coffee house is helping my self image, collage of art styles and photos hodge podged onto the wall anyway they'll go, hipsters with hipster tattoos and thrift store junk clothes $10 outfit an odd angular face like a clock tower or the Guggenheim razor edged. The mocha tastes fine out of a plain white cup while we talk politics, incessant politics. Old bluesmen look down from 12 inch record covers, missing New Orleans or Chicago or Memphis, or wherever, but not Utica. Never Utica. No one misses Utica.

Father stares off middle distance, splurging out his throat with raspy phlegmballing coughs. He'll pipe in with the odd portion of advice from his considerable archive, but his interest is the cat he rescued. Let the women do the talking, it's what they're good for. We must pop by if we ever come through this way again. He only says it because he has to.

The camera charger is in another state so I'll never remember any of this. My mind's eye reached its capacity back in Memphis. New York State is nowhere. Vocal mannerisms will never convert into typed out words, too flat and repetitious and never getting anywhere in too many words, surrogate and surfeit. You know, I'm sorry y'all, you know, like, in a way... Realism is not accuracy. I write through my teeth. And I never finish off my thoughts.

A dead aim arm wins beer pong, from hours on the oche firing darts into hog hair compacted down down. Rome is a working man's town and my hands are soft and unblistered. Their fat heads are baseball capped, hair cropped short. Barrel bellies pull their T shirts, or polo shirts taut, top heavy bodies tapering down to skinny legs. They holler and whoop at the lacquered local girls, tight jeans and JC Penney going out tops, day's dirt left in the shower cubicle, to be covered by make up dirt and fake tan in the morning. The karaoke man has tucked his T shirt into his shorts and pulled his socks high, and he has no idea how to marshall the hordes, soaking abuse like a damp sponge. This is their night out, where they cut loose, and sing away the factory day, still lit up across the way, monoliths in metal visible through the frosted glass windows, industry fading out in a wheezing wheedling asbestos fed coughspluttercough. Peanuts half fill a barrel in this divebar, brick exposed walls bestriding a wooden floor with sawdust stains. The men rattle the table football, twirling poles. It's all in the footwork. Girls yowl along to the tuneless tunes, and you only listen to your friends, because that's who you're here for. It's some kind of community.

Another car passes, its rearview mirror blocked out with the pillows and the duvets and everything a college kid needs. Every parent's least favourite weekend. The University of Vermont is filling up with hormones and empty minds (morals?), loose limbed teens ready for sororities, societies and beer pong. We should have read this omen in yesterday's tea leaves (coffeegrounds). Every motel is full in Burlington, sad parents and excited sons and daughters, flush and nervous. The sky is streaked, looks like a daytime galaxy, clouds radiating outwards and outwards from a pulsing ball of yellow incandescence, blurring out in dark blue and white striations. It's still August, but it feels ominous in Vermont. Above, it seems other worldly, and the air is chilled. Kentshire rural shire farmland, wooded and verdant, fields of Friesian cows just like on the ice cream label. It might as well be the caricature it has become. Ben and Jerry sold out years ago, shipped out and died in Americana museums.

Dubstep booms its clubshaker subwoofer lowdown bass, throbbing the air, vibrating so slow you can see the rubber speaker oscillate. This is the only way to drive in the dark. With a sense of doom, as if a giant or a wolf were chasing you. It is dark here. Nowhere is lit up, and nobody advertises. Billboards are prohibited, and the signs can only hint as to where you should go. Pssst, there might be a gas station to your left. It is a hidden consumerism. I like it where I can see it.

The Thatcher Brook Inn is a hunting lodge, weatherboarded with fireplaces in every room, logs piled up in readiness for the forthcoming autumn snows - the sun shines briefly. Your skin gets thicker here, furrier hide, solidified, frozen. There is no television so what are we to do - talk... or older past times. Pinning wraiths with fountain pen nibs to thick cartridge paper (0! the romance of stationery - cedar pencil crayon / pastel / quill), conjuring sentences from withered wrists, filling pages in a journal (so rudimentary).

Albany is passed in a minute, odd looking mimicry skyscrapers bunched together, hiding Troy, where the poor people live. We ate omlettes in a diner in Rome, chrome glinting round laminate counters, overweight staff walking round with dentist's crying after them. They didn't have dentists in the 50s. The grease is antiquated, left over from a hamburger twenty years ago, or a hash brown from 1967, when hair was longer and you didn't care so much (you were never here, or there, or anywhere in particular). Waved goodbye in a Utica sidestreet, car rolling on soft tires, everything deflating.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

At the honky tonk badonkadonk (day sixty three and sixty four)

I'll tell you about the night sky - a million pinpricks of light travelled a million lightyears to be here with us tonight. You can see the Milky Way and Cassiopeia and all the constellations we don't know the names of, parked up on the hard shoulder by the roadkill, with bugs swarming in front of the headlights. We stared until our necks were sore, and drove on, no brakes, on curveswooping bends through the Adirondacks, after a sunset over Lake Tupper, cloud hidden. Before that we sat by a lake, facing Canada, waiting for the sunshine to emerge so we could photograph in better light. Amish children rode their horse and cart to the bait shop and stared back at us as we overtook. A yacht cruised past in the breeze, in front of the castle (old mansion) treeshrouded and far away. This was a slow moment of calm, lake stilling my heart into slumped beats.

Andi left us to put in another shift, filling the boxes, fulfilling the orders. Another parking ticket is stuck under our windscreen wiper. Facing the wrong way on the street. Watertown sheriff's department are short of money.

Everyone stares at you. The teenagers in McDonald's nursing Coca Cola's, bending straws, the pick up truck drivers as you turn in the road from another wrong right hand bend, the neighbours when you make the dogs bark returning back to the apartment with pizza to fill my empty stomach too full, far too full. Patrol cars sit at every junction with radar guns. They all get suspicious up in the mountains.

"At the honky tonk / Ba donk a donk /Keepin' perfect rhythm / Make ya wanna swing along / Got it goin' on / Like Donkey Kong / And whoo-wee / Shut my mouth / slap your grandma."

"The banana slug is my sense of adventure. Let's go to the forest - This is your top 9 at 9 with Dave Valentine - Frog FM. Ribbit - You say this is an O'Reilly-ism, but you won't appear on his show? - My best friend Lesley says 'Oh, she's just being Miley."

The radio is our only company this far north, an empty ghost filled highway. There are no glowing eyes in the pine trees to watch out progress. We race away to be watched, back to the squat houses, the condemned houses, where the drug parties roll on the weekend noisy trash filled kitchen raves, pulling off the cupboard doors for firewood, needles in the garden and tinfoil in the bedrooms until the cops arrive, or don't, and the crackhouse flophouses, clientele oscillating wildly, until the cops arrive, or don't.

The playground kid is left behind, sitting on a doorstep, reading books cos it's all she ever did. Here she spent recess, with friends in the far back corner, reading books silently together, ignoring the footballs that come their way, studious. City Hall is a bureaucratic sham in gleaming marble and aluminium, but the staff are friendly and overpleased that someone is paying off a fine. We flee to the dairy farms, a half sphere topped tower and gabled barns surrounded by yellow speckled green meadows, rolling farmland each way to the horizon. All the settlements feel western, terrace fronted tall narrow stores line the main streets of Copenhagen and Lowville and Boonville. The landscape repeats over; until Utica emerges. A scrawny lady stares bewildered at traffic, unsure when to cross, tentative baby steps across the asphalt, as we turn into the Bagel Store for lunch.

You can tell everything about a person by how they eat. Gobblers - guarded, suspicious, paranoid. Slow eaters - thoughtful, relaxed, saviours life. I smear hummus around my chops - what does that say? Ryan Jenkins has been found dead in a Canadian motel. He married a glamour model in Vegas, killer her, removed her teeth and her fingers, sailed north on his boat to the border and hold up in a fugitive motel. They identified her by her breast implants. And now they're cancelling Megan Wants A Millionaire- how will we know who she chooses? At least Real Chance Of Love is still going. God sits above, smiling faithfully.

Brad Pitt is killing another Nazi on the big screen carving a swastika into their head. The dialogue is very Tarantino- it always is. The Jews have their vengeance, everyone leaves happy. They sneer at Watertown - all it has is the claim of being the originator of the scented tree - every state needs its whipping boy. Jennifer offers us all and acts the perfect host. She dreams of Europe like we dream of America. Everyone looks across oceans, full of hope. Then you make it across, by ferry or plane, and it is all the same, or different in minor ways, and all you learn is more self absorbed rhubarb about yourself. Should have kept it locked in the attic along with everything else, staring out of a telescope at distant objects, conjuring words from the dust and the ash.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

"Hello, and welcome to the Talk of Akron" (day sixty one and sixty two)

"Hello, and welcome to the Talk of Akron on WNIR, I'm Howie Chizek, what do you want to talk about?"

"Hi, Howie. My problem is with the police."

"What exactly about the police is bothering you, caller?"

"The way they look, you know? They go walking round with their shaved heads, it's intimidating. Look like jailbooted thugs, ready to bust your head in. Got them dogs, like wolves, snarling."

"Well, this shaven headed business comes from immigrants, you know? White guys saw how successful the black guys were with the ladies, how they thought it was sexy, so they copied it."

"I don't know, they look like some damn alien, or something. Then they got tattoos, some going up their necks. They're meant to protect us, you see, but they just scare us, Howie."

"Let's not get started on tattoos. The young are crazy about their dirty tattoos, and I can't understand it. They'd rather mark themselves with horrible ink designs than get a job. Let me tell you, this country is going downhill fast. Anything more you want to add, caller?"

"No Howie, I'm done. Just wanted to talk about them ugly police, intimidating me in my neighbourhood."

"Well I think you got that across. You have a lovely weekend. Hello, and welcome to the Talk of Akron on WNIR, I'm Howie Chizek, what do you want to talk about?"

Niagara Falls leaves me empty. So much smaller in real life - like actors. Water pours over the edge, gallons of murky green plunging downwards onto rocks and spraying up, drifting over to Canada on the breeze. The Maid of the Mist bobs like a cork underneath, drenching us blue poncho wearing folks in thick drops of water. Everyone damages their cameras snapping through the drizzle. Cormorants and gulls float above, breaking through the sun refracted spectrums. It's all over in 10 minutes, like bad sex. On our magic quest we must cross the Rainbow Bridge to get to the land of maple leaves to vanquish the portly gatekeeper. Canadian immigration is friendly, we wander the other side of the gorge for a mildly different perspective on the falls, Horseshoe hidden behind a misty veil. Niagara Falls town is the same as the other side - tacky and tourist driven. Half an hour is not enough time to judge Canada, just to observe the other side, removed. Back on the steel arch span all the cars are leaving America. The US border guard questions us closely. Suspicious of anyone entering the country. No wonder everyone wants to exit.

Buffalo is collapsed industry, old factories antiquated in the way they are, faded, paint peeling on the edge of tottering down into rubble. It is impossible to tell whether they are still in operation or not. Pipes and electricity run in and out, feeding it all, like the kilo of pasta that sits on my plate rapidly cooling. That mattress factory looks doomed. Another family is fearful over the dining table. The old trades are dying. No one wants sprung mattresses any more, they want Tempa foam. No one can save the high windowed brick walls, flat roof, chimney sprouting square and tall from crumbling down, down, down.

The light doesn't shine so much now we're up in the north, past Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes and the Thousand Islands. It could be Canada. Pine trees and waterways. Darker and cooler. Quieter. The border is 30 miles away from Watertown - closer to Montreal than we are to New York City. Strange little place where the locals hate the army and the army hates the locals. The soldiers go COW (citizen of Watertown) hunting - for the fattest local girl to screw and take to the parents. The girls compete to be the fattest. It gets dark early - what more is there to do? The bars aren't friendly - framed by the everlasting conflict. In winter ice storms shut everything down and shut everybody in. All the babies are born in the fall and for years after every federal emergency hibernation lock in the kindergartens are all full.

They work in a tree shop, making the scented pine tree shaped cardboard hangers for deodorising your car. It sounds like the premise for a Palahniuk novel. First the strippers punch the pine trees out of the moulds. Then they're dried, to absorb more of the smell. Then the whirlwinds punch the holes and string the trees. When you're working the whirlwind you count to 24 for 10 hours. The banana nut (discontinued) was the worst smell - you wouldn't get it out of your nostrils for days. Some dusty lingering of scent attached to the hairs within. You seek emancipation through the internet and your pets. Work is not what defines you - hopefully. Existing or existence - where is that fine line now?

Another storm is rolling in while we play putt putt golf. The guy behind the counter is full of enthusiasm for everything - talks like the Californian surfer stereotype - awesome - depression is an attitude problem. "Are you getting a ship or a plane back to England?" The clouds are monstrous billowing up - we beat the rain through handicap 18 style putting - holing out from five feet with a satisfying rattle as it bounces into the cup. A drink and we all sing - badly - destroying the tunes with offkey hushtone warbles. None of us are street enough for Baby Got Back. It swelters in here, a weedy fan nudging us with breeze. I sleep with no covers, exposed.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Soft porn Bible studies (day fifty nine and sixty)

The race started an hour ago and we're still sitting on the suburban sofas talking to Katie's grandma. She bought pineapple cheese for the bagels, didn't think about cream cheese. I cannot wait to be old, when my actions will raise mild exacerbation and bafflement. Sunny mews constantly, worrying for attention. I cannot wait to be a cat, when I can sleep most of the day, and spend the rest being petted. Katie turns her back as we reverse out the drive- tears were appearing in her wide eyes- I'd have been the same. It's left to Grandma to wave smiling farewells at us. Farewell to Illinois. The flat plains are replaced by more flat plains as we cross into eerie Indiana. This prairie is never ending. The only entertainment is the place names. Slight alterations in the orange sign, green sign, blue sign hegemony. Jamestown, Lebanon, Farmer City, Belgium.

The truck stop is a true truck stop. Portly men with hubcap thighs (only on the right leg) and stick shift biceps. Inevitably bearded, distended bellies full of corn dogs, and juju fruits, they make use of the facilities, laundry and showers. They check out the radios and steering wheel covers, looking for ways to make the dirge slightly less dire, even if it's only for a day of novelty, before it doesn't even stand out as new anymore, it's just part of the whole cabin, something that's always been there, unchanged. They clear out the detritus of food wrappers and cups, layers built up, archaeology. There's that Junior Mint I dropped a week ago, crisp crumbs coating. "Professional drivers only." 10,000 miles has to be the qualification mark, right? I swagger to the restrooms, ballooning my stomach and nonchalantly rubbing my three year stubble. I pass the glances from the trucker in a sideways squeeze. All I need is a CB radio.

The airport at Champaign is empty and smaller than all the others- twinprops land occasionally. The only activity in the terminal is someone replacing the towels in the bathroom. The Alamo lady looks half asleep. She only wakes up for the once a week customer. Otherwise she sits on standby, decommissioned and waiting in her cradle. Sleepwalking eastwards, drowsy eyes faltering- I want her naptime.

If the distance divides in half each time you move closer, you never reach your goal. Infinitesimally small infinite divisions of time until the end of time. This is the way it goes on road trips. Talk to you never.

Hallelujah. I think I had an epiphany five minutes ago. And on the sixth day, they went to the Creation Museum. And they observed, and they saw all, and proclaimed that it was bad. Never has so much willful misinterpretation and distortion of true science been concentrated in one place. This is by far the most lush and luxurious museum we have been to. There are a thousand better ways to spend the money, and none of them involve associating evolution with genocide. On my trip to the museum I learnt that cavegirls sat eating carrots next to velociraptors, and that penguins wandered freely in the Garden of Eden with chimps and dinosaurs, iguanadons were allowed on the Ark, and that life descends from a creation orchard, not an evolution tree. Ranting is an unappealing habit, i will stop....NOW.

Everyone was unfailingly polite, and held doors open, and the children were seen and not heard. I am going to hell, straight after I walk through the gritty urban realism exhibit with siren playing over tannoy system to show what happens when you sin. And here endeth the lesson.

Cincinnati airport is our third in two days, and like a claustrophobic, we never get on a plane. Alamo maintain their incompetent record with enviable success. They do not allow long term rentals. Shirt patterns hug sandalled holidaymakers in their travel wardrobe - we escape as Oscar growls the pedal surges, cornering onto backroads at Columbus as Times New Viking pour fuzz headrush riffs into our speakers. This is Amish country. Do you have an image in your mind? Rolling hills, barns, and bearded fathers driving bonneted mothers and daughters and son in horse driven carriages, in simple garb in simple lives in simple homes? Big tick, smiley face in red pen on your paper. Cows wander the fields- Ohio is green and wooded, all shades of green, verdant, buildings places perfectly for photographers and paintings. It makes me think of a quainter version of Kent, or Devon. The only vague nods to tourism, and commercialism, are the cheese factories and furniture shops- centuries old industries. The Amish live the simple life I desire. One day a fashion designer will appropriate their look for a collection, and it will all be ruined. For now we pass through, neck crushing into shoulders on reverse camber overbrow hillbends. I've missed these sweet curving roads, straight into my heart.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A saturnine disposition (day fifty seven and fifty eight)

My shorthand skills are the only interesting thing about me. Watch me bamboozle you with my useless hieroglyphs. Your open mouth speaks of amazement, and I am smug. This is my proudest achievement of the past year and it means nothing, other than my determination to complete. We never completed Chicago. By the end, onward galloping, but three and a bit weeks now away, I will have completed America, but I won't have finished. NYC is a Russian winter and too many waysides fell by like waysides fall. All the sideshows were missed.

Is this anything more than an accomplishment, one too tick off that endless To Do List? Identity destruction is not something to be proud of. This is no spiritual quest for a self I can hold on to, and it was never meant to be. All my old selves are dying out, though, and crocodile tears won't bring them back. The road trip is a demarcation point, a placer to the future, a lighthouse. I mistook truth for accuracy, sketching false words on gold leaf pages. Trust these words at your peril. All I know is - I am alone and I always will be. A romantic blueprint for my future that I already knew.

The tidemarks on the toilet and the drool patch on the bathmat speak of a night spent caressing the tiles. Bacchus' fingers are rammed down her throat. We never made it out of Arlington Heights - sprawled around on sofas until we head to the golden glow of the projector. District 9 is the same plot told in an interesting way and for that it is to be congratulated. Script needs some work. Only eating Frosted Wheats means I pour popcorn into my mouth until my stomach starts to protest. I am empty and I am full. The synthetic butter flavour has turned my tongue into jerky- salty and dry. Old arcade games give me an RSI, flicking my wrist to reload and destroy the endless zombie hordes. Time Crisis has a broken gun and Mario Kart is loose. Jurassic Park, Star Wars, shooting games. Such choices, such little time. The first McDonald's is no longer open, just a historic relic, a glass fronted neon lit little hut. The only history in America is corporate history. The same ghosts every night.

I have run out of relevant photos for Illinois. So here's a stained glass window...

When we grow up we won't laugh at the Jiffy Lube stores. The Gaylord Indian restaurant will raise n'erry a snigger. And Normal, Illinois will not seem as quaint. The cars ahead flick their lights on - the sunlight has disappeared behind a thick marble of grey clouds. Wipers cajole the water away too slow and we have to pull over, hazard lights flashing. The sky is flashing purple every 10 seconds, thunder following too closely behind. Storm is near, above us, low hulking rainsmothering all around. I have no idea why I'm not scared, sitting on the hard shoulder hoping everyone else can see me, wind whipping horizontal water and rocking the car. Further on and the sky is split, a flat high black line dividing, blue and orange sunlit land off to the east; the deathly marble westwards. Barns and masts are silhouetted against, a wind farm looks doomed. The twenty metre high corporation signs mark the town out. We can't see anything more. This is my favourite weather. Storms calm my soul, balance. Sixty miles per hour we emerge the other side, splatter splash descending into spitspot drizzle.

They wave goodbye from a congested parking lot as she leaves to meet other friends. A large part of me knows I'll probably never see most of these people again. I am a minor ripple in an overlarge pond. The pebble sinks to the bottom, never to be seen again, mixing with all the other mottled greysmooth stones.

Illinois thunderstorm from jim on Vimeo.

A startled stare is being pointed at me. Curly haired wide eyed - they're supposed to be having a romantic meal - so why can she not stop looking at our table? Let us eat our fajitas in peace, darling. Conversing in Dairy Queen and comparing and I tell the same old facts I tell everyone we meet. We were all bored the first time I said them. Like these towns I see again and again, ribbon development spreading outwards - no one needs infill. The alcoholic drank our beers so we collapse under blankets in the teenage basement; dreaming aspirational dreams. School starts again tomorrow.