I’m sitting at a Starbucks on the corner of Allott Ave. and Ventura Blv. It’s an unusually warm winter day, about 80. Currently, Los Angeles is experiencing an almost unprecedented drought. If I were unhappily married, I’d make a joke to my pals that would go something like this, “Worst drought in 500 years? Sounds like my sex life.” Fortunately, I’m not unhappily married – quite frankly, I’m not even married at all – but I am 2,270 miles away from where I was at this time last year.
Sometime around June, I committed to living in Los Angeles, California. It had to be done. As a result, I spent my final summer in Michigan (for now) anxious as all hell. Anxious to be in LA, anxious that it would turn out a wayward decision, anxious I wouldn’t be able to live away from familiarity. I felt neurotic. I couldn’t fall asleep at night. That being said, I distributed my anxieties practically, so that they wouldn’t ruin my summer.
Not to digress too much, but what’s with music at coffee shops? It’s distracting. Who decided that a coffee shop has to play music. I mean, there’s even a station on Sirius called “Coffee House.” You’re either here enjoying a conversation, or working on something. If you want to listen to music while you work, I’m sure you have a playlist on your I-Pod creatively labeled ‘Coffee House : D” The music I’m currently hearing is what I imagine they stream for the studio audiences at ‘The View’ before the ladies walk on.
Anyways, the day came for me to move to the land of milk and honey. My traveling companion was a fifty-something construction contractor from Detroit; he was, and still is, my father. Lee and I packed up the 2009 Jeep Liberty with all my belongings, snacks, and a few CDs. I smooched my mother, sister, grandmother, and cat goodbye and started on what would be the longest road-trip of my life.
I’m an idiot. I absolutely blew it. In the last five years of my life, I’ve traveled to seven countries without a notebook. If I have any wisdom to transfer it’s this, Never travel without these three things: a passport, a moleskin notebook, and extra contacts. Thankfully, I got wise and took one on this trip.
That’s enough exposition. Here’s what I wrote in the silly little thing. To be honest, it’s vague, but at risk of losing it all with the simple misplacement of a notebook, I feel like I must copy it. Take it or leave it.
I dedicate this to all the people I met along the way. To my surprise, characters still exist in this country.
Chapter One: Gumption
Day one: Trip Tick’s out of the picture. Apologies to the travel agent who spent his precious time putting the damn thing together. Travel agents are a dying breed, and I wish him the best. In high spirit, Lee suggests Indianapolis as our first stop. Sure, why not?
The city is ravaged by motorcyclists. From the greasy, balding Mad Max type, to the Crotch Rocket Johnny-Dickhead, all breeds are represented. Like a bad opening band, the sounds are unavoidable. I’m anxious. It smells like poison. Commanding a mess of metal and leather like some S&M guru, an angry man pulls alongside us. His head, no joke, looks like a 7-11 hot dog. Red, pruned, and hairless, the motor man revs his engine in an attempt to intimidate. Lee laughs.
Indianapolis is a bust. Lee, who had been there for my sister’s middle school band trip, couldn’t help but feel things had changed. Sorry, Indianapolis, we caught you with your pants down, or, rather, we caught you with your leather pants up. It’s late, but we must drive on.
There aren’t too many hotels just outside of the Circle City. In fact, there are none for about an hour. Alas, we find a dirty old Holiday Inn and arrange a room. Moments before we arrive, I find a review that reads, “Pillows smelled like oil. Maybe biker slept here and they never cleaned the bed.” I’m out. We drive on. I wonder, do bikers really smell like grease and oil all the time?
People here are nice. Surprisingly, I slept well, and am in good spirits. I’m sitting in the complimentary breakfast area, which is prime people watching. A collection of purple sweatpants, crumpled newspapers, and the faint aroma of chlorine and burnt toast create a familiar scene. Could’ve had a good bunch, could’ve been the weekend, either way, smiles all around.
It should be common knowledge that “what you see is what you get” rings true at a complimentary breakfast. I’m dumbfounded when I overhear someone asking for something that’s just not there. For example, “do you have Canadian bacon?” God bless the person in charge, usually a kind woman of about 43, for not making a scene.
“That hotel (Holiday Inn) would’ve sunk our ship.” – Lee
Goal: Shake hands with any and all people I meet on this trip. Give them honest eye contact. Whether they like it or not, they’re part of my narrative, and I’ll be damned if there’s no connection.
Ice Cream Bandit Chronicles: (Like many Americans, Lee is tragically and hopelessly addicted to ice cream. To illustrate, over the summer I bet him ten dollars he couldn’t go a week without the sweet treat. I won. Anyways, on the trip I chronicled the sly, almost daring lengths Lee would go to get his fix.)
Even at our lowest – forced to get Wendy’s at midnight – the bandit doesn’t miss an opportunity to strike. At the end of the order, in an almost hushed plea, like a kidnapping victim mouthing out their plight to a gas station clerk, Lee sneaks in a frostee. In his defense, frostees aren’t even ice cream, they’re an unnatural blend of sugar, water, and preservatives that sit in a urine drainage bag (well, that’s what it reminds me of) before going through a dirty machine.
For someone with hundreds of hours worth of ice cream consumption experience, you’d think he’d be good at it. Only two bites in, Lee spills a rather large amount. Losses: One white shirt, one pair of cargo shorts, one car seat.
“Maybe I can’t own white clothes. That’s it, I’m gonna stick to paisley. You can’t see ice cream stains on paisley.” – Lee