On the off chance they're not currently handing out free lakeside villas in Vermont or Maine, I thought a roadtrip would be nice. An extended, aimless roadtrip that avoided impersonal interstate highways. A backroads, backwoods road trip mazing vaguely towards Vermont or Maine or Quebéc in whimsical EEG spikes. An interstate'less interstate journey. The kind of odyssey they made bad road trip movies of in the 90s or good slasher flicks in the 80s.
So this morning after I dropped husBen off at the airport, I grabbed my trusty, weathered and worn (E)VAC(U)ATION AMERICA almanac and aimed towards the first café or fast food joint on Airline Hwy. where I might sip some coffee and flip through maps of states like Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and, since they included it, Quebéc.
While the concept of such a trip was already rejuvinating my frazzled brain, the throbbing pain of a pinched sciatic nerve which is exacerbated nowhere like in the driver's seat of my car was quashing the realism of my little dream. If driving to MSY airport and back is prompting me to perform lewd acts in trucker rest stops in exchange for a Vicodin, I seriously doubted a several week snaking backroads car trip to New England would be feasible, especially since the agonizing left leg is the one responsible for the clutch, and there's a lot of shifting in tiny burgs and hamlets.
Dreams nearly shattered, but still somewhat attractive, I spotted a place to have a coffee and read my almanac. I passed a slow-moving white pickup truck and made the turn into the parking lot.
As I pulled into a space, I heard a large crash close enough that I thought for a minute that I was hit, and the only reason I wasn't feeling the impact was that I was in shock.
The crawling pickup truck I had passed awhile back had been rear ended by a sedan, the latter's front half resembling a steaming, hissing accordian.
"There but for the grace of god…" I thought, and tried to gauge the omen, if this was in fact an omen—if there were in fact any such thing as an omen.
If I hadn't passed that slow-ass truck, I would have been the one rear ended by the now-hysterical sedan women screaming and darting around a busy Airline Hwy. like a crazed rabbit. So maybe it augers well for me, and I made the right decision, and the omen says, "Yes! Go on a road trip! You are impervious! See?"
Or perhaps more likely (as omens go), the smashed car and the hyperventialting sedan woman clutching her chest as cars honked and avoided her on Airline Hwy. was telling me that perhaps cars are not very good things to spend a lot of time in just at the moment.
The woman at the counter saw my voluminous, tattered Rand McNally and asked, "Where ya goin', baby?"
"I really don't know," I replied. "Away, maybe."
"Aw, I heard dat! We all just wanna get away," she said sagely.
"Where would you go if you weren't allowed on interstates?"
She looked at me and blinked. "Dat's $3.50, honey. NEXT!"
I sat down at a window where I could watch the shuddering sedan woman kneeling and panting in the median of Airline Hwy. and began mapping my stupid, aimless, apocryphal trip, starting with Hazlehurst, Mississippi because I loved the film CRIMES OF THE HEART which is set there, and Hazlehurst is technically off the highway, and on the way to Vermont-or-wherever. Perhaps Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton and Dame Sissy would be waving at me from the roadside, I thought. Or perhaps … not. Anyway, I'm going there.
I followed the squiggliest trail I could devise to Abingdon, Virginia where I once spent an afternoon 20-odd years ago when my car broke down there. The mechanic's daughter was thrilled to play with my two parakeets who were traveling with me. ("Where you headed, son?" "L.A." "Lower Abingdon?" "Uh, no. The other one.")
Once on the New England pages I could only choose my destinations by the superficial allure of the names since I am ignorant of the geography and topography. But what a difficult game to play! To have to choose between Moxie Lake (in the shadow of Moxie Mountain), or the nearby Pleasant Pond off rural route 201, BFE, Maine. Or North Randolph, Vermont, which is south of East Brookfield, which is west of East Corinth, which is west of West Newbury, which is east of South Northfield?
It doesn't really matter. I'm not going anywhere except home to take my old-man pills for my screaming leg and left ass cheek.
Pills gobbled and pain the tiniest bit abated, my road trip dreams remained rudely intact. Realistically, I figured I could only do a day trip until (if ever?) my back healed, so I texted a friend for a mini-trip to Grand Isle or Biloxi or some place. Might do that this weekend, decrepitude and mutual schedules permitting.
WHY this mad scramble for escape? I think it's because of Alan.
Alan lives at Krayzee Kornurzz next door. I think he's the one with filthy stringy hair and a weather-battered face like a dustbowl, flyover state serial killer, but I can't be sure. I don't want to be sure. He's already taking up too much real estate in the tiny parcel of land in my mind.
Alan lives in (one of the seeming hundreds of ramshackle apartments in) the back courtyard and is the proud owner of what Ben calls the Redneck Doorbell. A Redneck Doorbell sounds like this…
“ALAN!!!! ALAN!!! HEY ALAN!!!”
…at any hour of the morning, day, afternoon, night, middle of the night, dawn, dusk, gloaming, twilight, whatever, and shouted by about three dozen
Of course it's not just the stupid neighbor, but he's the straw on my back, and there are enough straws on my back to start a pretty nice blaze.
To list, this is what I don't want any more, and why an imaginary Vermontian cabin in the woods far from humanity is such a bright and pretty beacon:
- Drunk tourists puking on my doorstep and/or yelling WOOHOO! outside my bedroom window at 4am and/or parking their enormous Texan johnny-jack-em-ups in such a manner that they manage to take three very valuable French Quarter parking spots, and then pissing on the bumper on the car in front of them.
- When the Entergy meter reader comes, I'd like him not to feel he has to report that he just witnessed my house getting cased by two thugs looking through my window.
- A city that holds its bloated-property-tax-paying citizens in such high regard that they will hire an outside agency to install “safety” cameras all over the city and issue citations for traveling five miles over the speed limit, said citations being generated and mailed from Tempe, AZ, and remittance sent to Cincinnati, OH, and you can only assume that the City of N.O. is getting at least 6%, right?
- Receiving bogus parking tickets for “infractions” from illiterate meter maids scurrying to make their quota, knowing full well that no one is going to take a day off to go contest the vile thing at the Isle of Misshapen City Administrators on Poydras St.
- To avoid the scourge of corrupt city officials in the previous item, to park in the Treme and have the car vandalized and smashed and snorfled through by peasant thugs who end up taking … nothing … because there's nothing to take, but hey you get an A for effort — probably the only A you'll ever receive.
- To listen to the police officer filling out the vandalism report lecture you on why you shouldn't park there or have anything sparkly showing inside the car that might attract "those less fortunate than you on Christmas night" (ver batim quote). The old game of Blame the Victim is alive and well in my neighborhood.
- Not to receive phone calls from my husBen who, on the short walk to the gym, is pelted with a full bottle of water from a passing car filled with howling maniacs.
- To never, ever hear the name “Alan” uttered again, nor meet anyone named Alan. Such a pity; I knew some good ones whom I'll have to exorcise from my rolodex, sorry.
- The stress and strain of having to wake up and face another day where any number of horrible things are bound to happen due to horrible people's horrible behavior.
In either event, lunacy is certainly imminent. And sticky, jammy carpet.