I travel. Not habitually, or not in the esoteric "We're all travelling through space at a billion miles per hour" manner, but nevertheless, I travel.
I generally do so by car, as I have discovered that there is no more blissful feeling for me than hurtling along by motor vehicle (or horseless carriage, car, automobile, hot rod, or the like) at slightly-more-than legal speed with wind in my hair, music blaring, and a cigarette dangling between my lips.
All you smokers, take a puff and enjoy the bliss.
I usually take my beloved 1987 Camaro on these trips. It's old, and four different colors (five if you count rust and six if you count dirt), and beat up, and held together primarily with luck, duct tape, and what is generally suspected to be "The Dark Side of the Force."
That's a joke, really. It's actually more of a tribute to my questionable mechanical aptitude, and love.
Sometimes people tease me when I show up to visit them in said rolling deathtrap, wondering how I made it out of town, not to mention across the country. This year alone I have roamed through New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, and most recently Oklahoma. (More on Oklahoma later.) I just smile, knowing that under the skin is the heart of a champion, and think of the words of Shepherd Book. "Sometimes how you get there is the worthier part."
But, though I wax poetic about my Millenium Falc...er, Camaro, this last trip was taken sans trusty steed (with factory-equipped Wookiee, dry bar, and Astromech Droid), in a different car as I was travelling with my roommate to visit her family for Thanksgiving.
In Oklahoma. It's supposed to be said slowly, with clear enunciation, and with a dramatic pause before the word itself. Here's an example:
"Hey everyone, I'm going to........Oh-claw-home-uh."
Now, this blog doesn't like to make fun of states (other than ignorance, denial, and Rhode Island), so please, dear residents of Oklahoma (both of you), take no offense to what comes later. It isn't aimed at you.
There were highs and lows on the trip. We left town at about sundown on a Thursday night, and traffic was sparse and the weather was cool yet comfortable, as it tends to be in the desert southwest. Residents of this part of the country will nod knowingly, understanding that we have but two seasons here, referred to as "Summer" and "Christmas." The drive was relatively nice, though crossing Texas is well, boring. Cows and oil rigs. That's it. It looks like an economic map of the state, with litle oil derricks and cows delineating our industries, only in real life. I looked around for the compass rose telling me which way was north, but got smacked when I explained what I was doing later. Anyway, the radio was on, and the stars were shining, and all in all, it was fairly pleasant.
High point of the drive to Oklahoma: Clear skies and multiple shooting stars to make wishes on. Seriously, it looked as if everything was flat out falling out of the sky.
Low point: Christian Rock dressed up as real music. Now, I respect artistic expression both religious and otherwise, but when you are in scan mode for 45 minutes listening to, well, nothing, and it stops, and you hear a guitar, loud drums, and begin to think "Yes! Road music! Woohah!" this is a good thing. But when the singer of said faux-rock music begins screaming "Christ is lord! Christ is lord!" at you, it realllly throws off your internal balance. Note: I purposefully left out the plethora of spanish radio stations prevalent down here. Artistic expression is artistic expression, and there isn't a (CENSORED) thing artistic OR expressive about the accordion. End Rant.
So Good Time was made, as all men nod approvingly of as they read this, travelling 600 miles or so to Lawton, Olahoma in just under nine hours (Ten with the time-zone change. Gorramed farmers.) and we arrived a little after sunrise. I was wrecked from the drive, as I had been suffering from insomnia caused by Too Much Playstation2 and the Marvel Ultiimate Alliance game, where I have a level 99 Spider Man with close to 1400 hit points. Eat that, WOW players.
Anyway, I crashed out and slept the day away peacefully after letting the relevant people (ok, ok, person) in my life know that I arrived safely. It was cooler than it was at home, but comfortably so, and realized that Brenda (roomies mom) was a Pretty Cool Lady, as defined by three six-foot shelves filled with fantasy and sci-fi paperbacks. So the night owl in me (and the geek, which goes without saying) took over, and I began voraciously devouring the buffet of near-boundless imagination there, whilst laying in a hammock, smoking and lit by the light of the motion-sensitive light kept on constantly by the swaying of the hammock.
And yes, Anniina, I read Edding's "The Mallorean." Twice. You see what happens when you aren't here to protect me from myself?
As a side note, while reading said tale, featuring one Polgara the Sorceress (known to take the form of an owl when she shapechanged), I did glimpse a HUGE owl alighting the grass about 50 feet away. It was vaguely surreal, but will be filed under "Highlights."
Things quickly degenerated, though, as I began to get ill due to the evil, tyrranical race of Non-smokers residing in the house, and the appearance of my deadly nemesis. Superman has his Lex Luthor, Spider-Man his Green Goblin, and I found...
Now The Boy has a name. It's Nathan. I know this, and will never forget it, because it was repeated three times in every sentence spoken by anyone residing in the house. Here's an example:
"Goddamit Nathan, stop it, good morning, Dave, goddamit Nathan, stop it, want some coffee or anything, goddamit Nathan stop it."
It was like the army, except louder and nerve shattering. And it went on for two weeks.
Now, The Boy (it's important to use your nemesis' Code Name when referring to him or her in rhetoric and not their real name, as it violates section 459.3 of the Secret Identity Code) wasn't necessarily bad, just young and rambunctious and in need of a certain amount of attention. That certain amount being "All of it." This caused him to develop the super-powers of Knocking On Three Doors Simultaneously, Bursting Into Your Bathroom Unexpectantly, Groin-Headbutting +3, and Ear-Shattering Screeching While Referring To Himself In The Third Person. Luckily, he had the weaknesses of Inability to Tie His Shoes, Short Legs, and Fear of the Dark Side, so for the most part I was able to stifle his nefarious plots of Attention Domination and Keeping Me Awake by hoisting him eight feet into the air and promising to drop him into the very cold outside above ground pool if he did not "goddamit Nathan stop it" right now.
I got bored, and drunk, and lonely though, and ended up sitting outside a place called "Bubba's Gas and Bait Shop" (which was adjoining "Tamis Country Cravins") on the curb, drinking a Mr Pibb (not as good as Dr Pepper) and eating a 100 Grand candy bar as suggested to me a couple of days earlier. Saw a couple more shooting stars, made a couple more wishes, pondered if the world was about to end with all the stuff falling out of the sky, and bought a bottle of moonshine.
Hey, quit judging me The sky was falling. If Chicken Little was legal, he'd have hit the 'shine too.
The holiday came and went, with little excitement, and I had a week to go, and was running out of books. The last one I had read, "1984," by George Orwell had pissed me off. Yes, it was the first time I had read it, though I understood the gist of it, but the ending left me angry and unsatisfied. Why? Go read it yourself. (CENSORED) Big Brother. (CENSORED) him right in his (CENSORED) (CENSORED).
We took a mini-trip, up to Oklahoma City, and visited what's called Bricktown, where there is a little canal where you can pay six bucks to ride a boat up and down it, kind of like the Riverwalk in San Antonio. There was a Hooters restaurant, which was nice, and then we visited the Oklahoma City memorial, the site of, well, a very naughty thing involving children and a bomb that doesn't need to be discussed further. I expected the grounds to have a dark, angry feel to them, as if the people wronged there were holding a grudge, as I envisioned myself doing if I had been caught in that situation. They didn't, though, and the place was very peaceful. At the gift shop I bought a "worry stone" that had the word "Courage" engraved on it, and was nearly moved to tears by the ceramic tiles made by the surviving children thanking their rescuers for their help that were part of the memorial.
Definitely a "moment." The ground felt hallowed and quiet, and goddamit Nathan stopped it the entire time we were there.
A couple days later I visited Geronimo's Grave. I thought I could feel the power of that ancient warrior still lingering. Another moment.
It was just about time to depart when Winter caught me, in the form of a blizzard that decended from Missouri into north Texas.
Let me make something clear. I'm from the desert. I live in a city that becomes paralyzed when we get that inch of snowfall every other year or so. I was very, very unprepared to deal with this. Almost zero visibility. Roads covered, icy, and nearly invisible. 40 mph wind kicking the snow off the flat plains onto the windshield. 17 degrees, -2 with the wind chill. Typical to some, frightening and alien to me.
And no car heater, and me in my Adventuring Slippers.
But I wanted to go home. I missed my cats, my internet, my cell service, and my 55 degree Decembers very, very badly.
So, there I was, knuckes as white as the sky as they gripped the steering wheel, travelling through this (to me) hell. It took 14 hours to drive the 600 miles home, and that storm was pissed at me. It chased me all the way past Abilene and left snow on the ground as far west and south as Midland, where I was further accosted by a State Trooper who was trying to get that last ticket in for his quota (it was the 30th).
We were pulled over as the sun was setting while we were exiting to get gas and try to warm up at a truck stop for a bit. He had been sitting in my driver's side blind spot for about a quarter mile (I knew he was there. All Scoundrels come factory equipped with Authority Sense) before getting behind me and lighting me up as I pulled into the Chevron.
Coming to my window, I greeted him and asked the problem. He asked me if I knew that my passenger wasn't wearing her seat belt.
First things first. We were in a 94 Tempo. With automatic seat belts. You don't really have a choice in the matter.
I explaind that she was, and he disbelieved me. He asked if I knew he was a Police Officer, and that you shouldn't lie to the police, son.
I pointed out to him that the seat belts were automatic, and that she was in fact wearing hers. As a side note, my roommate is NOTORIOUS for not wearing her seat belt, so the irony that we got pulled over the ONE TIME she was wearing it was lost on me at the moment but discovered later.
So he wanders over to the passenger side, and asks that we roll down the window there, where he proceeds to reach in and "manually inspect" the seat belt without further preamble. "Where does this detach?" he asked.
It doesn't. It's built in, and automatic. Say it with me. Aw-toe-mat-ick.
He makes a face and tugs on it some, then says "Oh, well, she was wearing it wrong then" and gets out his citation book.
Ok. Me and authority, we don't mix. It's like oil and water, or democrats and republicans, or common and sense. But I had just braved a blizzard and was halfway home, and this guy was being a dick.
So after watching him fill out a false ticket and listen to him tell a story about how he had just worked a traffic accident where a woman lost use of her legs and arms and couldn't hold her children and that we should know better, I lost my mind.
But I was cool. Jedi cool baby.
I said to him "Officer, that must have been a traumatic experience for you to have affected you enough to worry about us so much that you wanted to advise us about seat belt safety."
He nodded somberly, and continued to fill out his ticket.
Then, I asked him what her name was. "Who's name?" he responded.
The lady in the accident. He looked stunned. Then I asked him what kind of car she was driving, and if anyone else was hurt, and how many children she had that she couldn't hold.
See folks, this trooper was a poor, poor liar, and there's one thing I cannot abide, and that's a bad liar. Especially one in a position of authority. He couldn't answer any of my questions. He began to stammer and stutter and lose his tenuous position.
Then I asked him how good his vision was, as he was wearing glasses. He said he had a little farsightedness.
So I asked him how he saw from the driver's side of my car to the passenger side, that an automatic, non-detachable seatbelt was not being worn, in the dark.
Mate in two, folks.
Then I proceeded to ask him to make sure that his name, badge number, and extension number were on the ticket, as I would be needing more information regarding this matter shortly.
The look on his face as he tore up the ticket and told us to "drive safe" before departing was priceless.
He never even asked us for ID or proof of insurance. Just some hillbilly flashing his badge and oozing "respect mah authority" at me. Jerk.
We drove on, and the oil light came on on the car. The blzzard had kicked the shit out of us, and we actually lost 2+ quarts of oil somewhere. We refilled it and limped home, finally arriving near midnight, where I checked the mail, made a phone call, and collapsed on the couch, where my kitties curled up on me, forgiving me for my absence and purring me to sleep.
So there you have it folks. The Oklahoma Adventure, complete with Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, and Man vs Himself conflicts, which are the important elements of drama. Exotic locales. Stirring characters. Daring escapes. And a hero with an edge.
Coming soon to theatres in 2007.
Advance tickets on sale Friday.