Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

One-twelve

Posted by ilbebe on May 8, 2012

Out of anger and out of love, I got out of Oakland. It is occasionally necessary to get the hell out of town for obvious reasons, and after breaking up with someone in the first week of April, I was really glad that I’d outlined a three-week, multi-destination trip that started in the middle of the month. The original thrust of the trip had been to fly to New York, meet up with my soul comrade J Healey, and spend a hot weekend in the city before traveling west to his old hometown in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where I could exact various revenges on local idiots before we hopped on a train for New Orleans via Philly, Pittsburgh, Cinci and Chicago. After paying homage at the statue of IJR and a foreseen week-long orgy of pleasures, we were to continue west through several destinations in Texas, New Mexico, NOT Arizona, and Vegas before spending a night sleeping under the Santa Monica pier and then heading home to Oakland where J was going to resettle. How the journey was to be funded was highly suspect, mainly centered around several different violations of interstate commerce laws, and was only ever discussed in the most oblique sense.

Then J had a moment of clarity and decided that such a monumental voyage and radical relocation was unwise given his current state of mental and financial unease, so I said Screw It, I’ll Just Come Visit You For A Week Then. The newly truncated trip was almost immediately re-expanded when my Dad mentioned he wanted to visit Tombstone, AZ, in the middle of April. I invited myself, and he accepted, so the beginning of the 27-day voyage was set in stone: I would be leaving Oakland for San Diego by aeroplane, and after rendezvousing with my Dad in SD, we would take a four-or-five day road trip out to Arizona. After returning to SD, I would bum around there for another few days to catch up with some old friends before catching an early train up to LA, from where I would fly out to the East Coast. The initial East Coast agenda remained intact, with the significant modification that since J would be sticking around town instead of bolting, “Maybe we need to call off the revenge plots”. Undeterred by this new condition, I intended, after a week of subtle subterfuge, to travel to Philly and then take the train to Chicago to see my old pal Steph, then get home to Oakland by the cheapest option that presented itself.

May I humbly recommend the fine, soaring feeling that accompanies travel planning? Imagining routes, destinations, and itinerary items is free, like any form of daydreaming, but for me it holds a far greater therapeutic value. I suppose this could be related to my dust-gathering Bachelor’s in Geography…

The trip thus planned, I started selling things on eBay in a worried and sad attempt to raise funds for the trip. Despite my modest successes, a very rushed trip to the post office to mail in the hour before I had to leave for the airport left me thinking that perhaps when I returned, renewed vigor in my search for a job would not be a bad idea. In any case, I got the snow globe in the mail and made the airport on time, and a few hours later, my Dad and I were enjoying tall cans of Tecate at a pizza place near his apartment in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego and poring over a map of Arizona. After I expressed an interest in seeing the Grand Canyon, we decided to re-focus the voyage on northern Arizona to the complete exclusion of the southern part.

“Something tells me Tombstone ain’t changing” – my Dad

We hit the road the next morning eastbound for El Centro, where we talked merciless amounts of shit on that unfortunate place and its lackluster populace and unnecessarily disguised communication antennae. “Who gives a shit if the cell phone tower looks like a palm tree? They should focus their efforts on making that disaster of a waitress look more like a woman.” We cut north on a sparsely-traversed state highway and got nearer to the Colorado River as we passed through the bustling metropolises of Palo Verde and Ripley and stopped to view “Large Desert Figures”, also called intaglios, which were just that, large figures “drawn” in the desert by arranging rocks. The amusing thing I felt about these expressions is that we have no idea if they have been there for a hundred years or 5,000. It is hard to date things in the desert, and our waitress at a Denny’s in El Centro was no exception.

Shortly after viewing the intaglios, I was informed by a text from Shawn that Levon Helm had passed. R.I.P., Levon. Thanks for the tunes! I hope you feel like you got an adult portion:)

My Dad and I reached Laughlin, Nevada around five and got  a bargain room at the monstrous Harrah’s complex at the south end of town. I was pretty excited to return to Laughlin, having visited once before almost exactly ten years earlier on the final night of my post-college Southwestern Road Swing. The arc of that evening found me inadvertently separating from my traveling buddy due to getting on the best gambling roll of my life playing two-dollar blackjack at the Ramada, and culminated in me passing out naked under a blanket in the corner of our room after voiding the blackened contents of my stomach into the toilet and breaking a coat hanger in half trying to unclog the travesty. I hoped my return visit would be reflective of the trend towards moderation I had been half-heartedly flailing at for the past decade.

After a few beers at the hotel, we took an inadvisable shortcut through the landscaping at the edge of the parking lot to a huge roadhouse at the top of the hill on the main drag which advertised five dollar pitchers of Coors. This made my Dad dizzy with delight, as he has an unshakable lust for Coors which dates back to our family moving to New Hampshire in the early 80’s when you still couldn’t get Golden’s Finest east of the Big Muddy. That the bartender hailed from Keene, NH further enhanced his delight, and she indulged our curiosity about the Bike Run that would be descending on the town the following weekend with a few tales of casual violence that had occurred in years past.

A few hours later, we were strolling down the hill in search of the In N Out while I explained that the crucial oversight in my prior visit to Compact Vegas was a failure to eat dinner and regaled him with the disturbing particulars of that evening while we passed a guy fruitlessly trying to parse a schedule posted on a bus stop while fighting a clearly un-winnable battle against unconsciousness. I later gambled for several hours and came out even for the first time in years, which, considering the two dozen Heinekins I sent to their non-eternal reward, actually represents more like a twenty or thirty dollar advantage.  Ah, but Fortuna! How your wheel remains constantly in motion:

The next morning began with me walking in circles in the parking lot taking a dispiriting call from the Unemployment Bureau which questioned the validity of my ongoing claim and ended with me thinking I was screwed and would be best advised to cancel the New York/PA/Chicago leg of the trip. I slunk back to the room and reported this to my Dad, who, in as many words, said Fuck That and said he’d give me the dough to continue along. Thus it was with restored spirits that  we regained the highway and set our sights for Kingman, a section of Old Route 66, and eventually Flagstaff, the tale of which will be continued…

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