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FALLING INTO DISGRACELAND

FALLING INTO DISGRACELAND

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Despite the homeland terrorist scares, I find myself with a case of some pretty strong wanderlust. Driving east on Sam Cooper the other day, the car windows open to let in bounding gushes of fresh air and the radio blasting, I wondered what would happen if I just kept on going. Instead of getting off at the Germantown Parkway Exit. Instead of wandering aimlessly around the consumer enclave of Wolfchase Galleria. If, instead, I just didnÕt stop. Then I realized IÕd probably end up in Nashville; so whatÕs the point? I might as well go to Wolfchase. But I guess the whole idea whetted my appetite for the open road. I get this way every year around this time, actually; the leaves turn, and the air is crisp, and the only thing I want to do is drive far, far away. Part of it is habit, I suppose. A few years of driving up the countryside by myself around this time of year ... pulling out of West Texas in dusty cut-offs and a cowboy hat and ending up, two days later, smack dab in the canary diamond autumn of Chicago. Dressing in jeans somewhere around St. Louis. Putting on a jacket near Joliet. It was always a solitary endeavor -- there are no Jack Kerouac-type characters in this story -- but a wholly fulfilling one (with the exception of hotel vending machine food, which is wholly unfulfilling and at times, just plain gross). I couldnÕt tell you exactly what I saw during those drives or what I did. The only one I really remember wasnÕt in the fall at all but in the middle of winter, during the blizzard of Ô99. It took me an entire day and one 360 degree spin into a snow bank to get from Springfield, Missouri, to St. Louis, a trip that would normally take about three hours. But all the other drives fade into a calming blur of asphalt and truck stops. You know, my parents used to shuttle my family around the country in the car each summer, but, for some reason, it just wasnÕt quite the same. Maybe because someone had to go to the bathroom at least every half hour. Or because each time we all piled into our conversion van, Òthe kidsÓ fought about who was going to sit where and for how long or why, for whatever reason, the arrangement was never fair. Then again, it might be because throw-up and nose bleeds were never uncommon. The other part of my wanderlust is a simple desire to see the country. IÕll admit; IÕm jaded, always have been. But with the country collectively coughing and licking its wounds, there seems to be more of an openness toward other people. So I guess my longing for the open road is not so much despite whatÕs going on in the country, as it is because of whatÕs going on in the country. ItÕs like right after the attacks when everybody commented about how nice other drivers were on the road (by the way, has any one noticed thatÕs completely over?). EveryoneÕs got this stand-together attitude -- almost a circa 1950s sitcom type thing -- going on. ItÕs actually given me a renewed faith in America; if New Yorkers can work together, politely, thereÕs hope for all sorts of reconstruction on our states (notice how that joke barely makes sense anymore. The idea of the rude New Yorker has almost been wiped out of the cultural lexicon). At any rate, thatÕs something I think I want to experience, firsthand. Even if I only get as far away as Wolfchase.

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