“On the run from Johnny Law. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland.” – Dignan, pt. 2

We awoke at 6:00 am in the gray mist of the woods licking the windows of the exact opposite of nature, the cab of a 16 foot moving truck. With back and

Morning: Nature's smoking lounge.

neck sore and face and mind and hair tussed to an almost unrecognizable mish mash of homeless confusion I started up the monster and continued on to the next town, Tupelo, Mississippi. Though I could be happy with driving the Natchez Parkway forever, I decided it would be best to reapply myself to the interstate highway system so as to make it to Austin before I forget where it is the hell I am driving to.

45 minutes and we pull in to Uncle Tupelo and I spot a Waffle House directly ahead. Luckily it is the south and they have parking spaces suitable for a truck of this size. I leave Emma behind with bowls of food and water, which she doesn’t touch, and I enter the restaurant. All three women working exclaim, “GOOD MORNING,” simultaneously and my mind snaps back into society. It is the familiar setup with a counter that goes half the length of the restaurant warmed by blue collars talking about local issues, work days, and college football. I seat myself in a booth and respond to her wonderings of my well-being with a, “Tired. I just woke up.”

“Looks like it. Coffee?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Looks like it? Hmmm. I guess it’s better than, ‘Smells like it.’

Chef Ramsay basking in his love for a being that is not a "Yankee Dankee Doodle fuck."

I perused the menu as if this Waffle House had other breakfast offerings than the countless others. ‘Maybe this is the test market where the CHEF tries out new offerings.’ My sleepy mind got excited for an instant until I re-centered myself in these surroundings and realized the closest thing there is to a chef in here is a dirty apron. My imagination has the ability to entertain me for days but also get my hopes up into something that is completely unrealistic.

I devoured my generic breakfast in record time (I hadn’t eaten since lunch the prior day) and planned out the drive to the next city, Memphis. I paid up and was taken a bit back as the waitress’s once jovial attitude into my well-being turning into an attitude of getting me the hell out of there as soon as possible. With tip in hand I guess goodbyes are much less important. No matter.

I returned to the truck to see that I had left the back completely open (after I retrieved Emma’s food). Luckily no one messed with anything…or maybe they had and realized that most everything I had was of no use to them. (“Well, Bobby, sorry to call you down here. I thought this was gonna be a gold mine but…I don’t think we can even sell these heavy metal records around here…let alone a wizard painting and dirty sheets. ‘Mon, let’s get.”) I climbed into the cab/bedroom and headed out.

Reverse the traditional color scheme and I am dumbfounded. It's that easy.

Black background. WHOA EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED NOW.

Something that always interested me was the varying street signs in each state. Growing up in Indiana and riding in the car for hours on end visiting family I would constantly watch the reflecting informations zip by, fascinated by the shapes and numbers. The first time we had driven out-of-state I was so impressed with their signs…some in the shape of the state…others just circles…strange numbers and letters…all of it awe-inspiring. I think that this has carried into my adult life as I still anticipate the crossing of a state line just to see what their signs are gonna look like. I have to say that after traveling through most of the states that my childhood was robbed of actual cool signs (Texas has highway signs in both white AND BLACK. Super cool).

The king of washed up American dreams.

The only thing worse than Elvis is...god damn. We're all revelling in it.

Under perpetual gray skies, I arrived in Memphis (I guess the iPhone thought it best to go north to catch an interstate rather than continue south…or something. I am too trusting) and it was inevitable that Elvis would cross my mind. I even thought of detouring over to Graceland but then realized the ridiculousness of such a thing – ridiculous in that I hate that guy and his music. Elvis, to me, is the poster child of excess and forgetting where one came from. Sure, he was groundbreaking for his time but if the country, at that time, was a true place of freedom and equality and not the god-loving and black-hating place it was Elvis would’ve been nothing except another white guy trying to sound like he had a soul, one like a black man. Rock N’ Roll was, and still is, meant to be dangerous…this includes doing things other than swiveling one’s hips in a fully-clothed shock to only old white people. Case in point: Chuck Berry loved to have women shit in his mouth. Memphis should be remembered, along with New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland…hell, too many to name. Point being Elvis is the king of nothing except possibly the birth of American hype; sensational yet so goddamned empty.

As noted in pt. 1 Tennessee has a big problem with not properly identifying roads and exits and general locale (automatically omitting themselves from my mind’s coveted Best State Highway Signs award). Couple the bad markings with shoddy construction happening in the general area I needed for the connection to my interstate highway and I was driving in circles, ovals, and squares eventually ending up in a neighborhood with boards and wheelchairs like others have citizens. What makes this situation even more frustrating is that I was paralleling the road I needed but had no way to get there. One hour and countless grimaces later I found myself on the highway headed for the beautiful Arkansas, the “Natural State”.

Little Rock was pretty enough to look around but uninteresting enough to keep going. Heading south I was readying myself to pass through both Arkadelphia AND Texarkana. Now, mind you, Texarkana is an understandable name for a town that straddles the state line…but Arkadelphia? They must’ve also had a bell struck by lightning…

One last stop before Texas. A fill up at a truck stop that was adjacent to a CB radio fix it shop and a liquor store. Not bad. Another painful fill up and a cup of coffee and I was on the road again.

I expected the coffee to be bad, but not to be infused with a booze of some sort. Maybe it was my rattled brain having not a good night’s sleep in what seems weeks or I was just hoping…but the coffee both smelled and tasted like there was whiskey in it. I did leave it unattended for a second while I grabbed a lid and, yes, there were trucker dudes milling about but I seriously doubt they would sneak something in it. Maybe there were two canisters, one for coffee and the other for Bobby Joe’s coffee which shouldn’t be partaken of. I decided to drink it anyway and “just see” if it was and sure enough my head lightened up…but, then again, I was also CONVINCED there was whiskey in it so it may have been a placebo effect. I will just never know. I do know that for the next road trip I am setting up my camp stove and stovetop espresso for the journey. If I want whiskey in my coffee I will do it myself on my own time. And not included in that time is driving 1700 miles across the country.

I reach Texarkana and, like a welcome, the gray skies opened up to warm sunshine and stars placed on all the overpasses. I must be in Texas. I wanted to talk to every driver passing me just to get a feel for what I have to (hopefully) look forward to. I have to remember though that there is Texas and then there’s Austin. I’ll just keep my piehole shut until I get to Austin. I may not be liked around these parts.

Coolest cop ever. By the looks of it. In reality Toby is such a dick.

Coolest cop to be pulled over by. Unless it's that fucker, Brady...

The drive was incredibly uneventful but nonetheless beautiful. War planes of all sorts overhead. Guns shops. Texas highway patrol. Everything is just as I would’ve imagined it if I had ever imagined Texas wasteland, I suppose. Dallas was just a spit away and it was here that my heart began to pound. Closer and closer my future life is a mere hundreds of miles away. ‘Roll down the window and breathe in the Texas air and surrender yourself to the horizon.’

Pasghetti and Meat Bulbs

Pasghetti and Meat Bulbs.

Timing is everything and it is to blame for my arrival in Dallas at rush hour. In Texas they seemingly converge all of the highway transitions into small areas making these multi-layered dried spaghetti messes that are both awesome and frightening. Unlike Tennessee, though, Texas has everything clearly marked making my highway switch in the middle of rush hour not so painful. Another thing: Texas motorists are extremely polite. Never did I have to wait to merge or become surprised at someone’s sudden lane change; everything in it’s right place. Of course I am coming from a place that exclaims a choir of horns as soon as the light turns green. Bah…despite where I live I will never, ever miss the underlying anger and disrespect that seems to infect the majority of the layman population.

Now onto Waco and onto a new short term goal: take a road trip to the site of the Koresh compound only for photo opportunities. I’m sure there has to be some sort of memorial or remembrance there…or maybe not. I do need to go, though. (Ironically I was in Government class in high school when the shit went down. The teacher, Mr. Smith [whom everone called Santa for reasons I do not need to go into] had us watch it as an exercise of “History in the making/Your government at work”. What I, and everyone else, saw that day was truly the government at work. Do some reading on the situation. Much like a dude in a bar, all I can say is, “Fucked up, man.”)

The sun setting and the air warming, I am a true road warrior by this point. My prowess with this monster is impressive, I must say, and the piloting it has become almost enjoyable. The governor is set at 75mph so all I have to do is keep it floored and scoff at the people who sporadically slow down/speed up much like if they were…oh, they are on their cell phones. Now hillier the night air is yet becoming even more warm. An outstretched hand out the window reveals air not that unlike what you find in a pissed diaper. I’m fine with it. The only time I want to see the 30s now is in a Charlie Chaplin film (which were done in a studio I would regularly pass on my way to my bar in Chicago).

The soundtrack to the culmination of a long drive done well.

Christ hates long drives.

I see lights on the horizon and convince myself that I have arrived. What I don’t realize is the spread that the surrounding metropolitan area has; at the first onset of never-ending lights I had another 40 miles to go. No worries…just dips underneath overpasses and death metal on the stereo to truly summon in the night. Countless mini-civilizations teased my brain and heart. Emma slept. Lights everywhere. Cars, trucks, buses, information. Those 40 miles are now an identical blur to each other.

I saw no welcome sign. Just a sign that read “Downtown Next 4 Exits”. Here it is.

It was 8:30pm and I had nowhere to go, no one expecting me (some friends knew that I was moving but didn’t know when), and no idea how to get through the city. I don’t recall if I had mentioned this before, but I had never been to Austin, nor Texas for that matter, in my life. What may be too much to handle for someone else, this is my method of operation. For some reason I have grown comfortable in this way; time saved by not planning and adventures waiting for the same reason.

I drove through downtown and pulled off on a side street to find a hotel for the night. I remembered one simply called the Austin Motel from perusing online. I found the number and called. They had one pet-friendly unit available for the night and I made my way over.

The Austin Motel was situated on South Congress (referred to as Soco only by local realtors) and “in the middle of it all,” which was fine and all but I planned on getting a six pack, drinking three, and going to sleep at an decent time. I met Drew, the night desk attendant, and he bummed me a cigarette and we talked about freelance writing (he was a book critic published in Paste and the much-touted Believer). I told him that I covered music but omitted the ‘metal’ part as people are instantly either intrigued (which is good) or turned off (the usual response). A short conversation about music and I moved some belongings into the room.

The Austin Motel was built in the 30s and wears its age with the utmost grace and poise. Each room is different, decorated in whatever the hell is kitschy and handy, and I instantly felt at home. I stretched out and enjoyed beer. As the muscles in my legs happily adjusted to a fully-stretched out relaxation they had forgotten in the past few days I drifted off to sleep quicker than I could weigh the pros and cons of sneaking a cigarette in this non smoking environment.

Sure, I had a lot of things to cover now that I had arrived (transferring the contents of the truck to a storage space, finding a place to live, and eventually finding a job) but it was impossible not to simply relish the fact that I had actually made it.

Chicago is but a memory now compromised of both sweet and sour.

Austin is a blank slate with which to form my own memories of henceforth.

There are countless questions/scenarios/worries plaguing me with this foreign place but all I can grasp and wallow in is that I’ve already done the hardest part which is releasing oneself from their current comforts.

When nothing is comfortable anything is possible.

And for your viewing pleasure:

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Comments
One Response to ““On the run from Johnny Law. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland.” – Dignan, pt. 2”
  1. Larry says:

    Hi i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this piece of writing i thought i could also create comment due to this brilliant post.

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