6.1.2002 To Louisville and Home Again
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I sit here at my dining room table, sweltering and clutching my vitamin water. A monster thunderstorm has passed, leaving the city slightly cooler but more electrically charged. Kentucky feels a million miles away. (It's not: it's only a little under 700, for the geographically impaired.)
I had never been to Louisville. I was giddy and, as a tribute to the Louisville music scene, I was deafening myself with the proto-math-rock gorgeousness of one of the most important albums ever made, Rodan's Rusty. I swerved off the interstate at what looked like downtown and drove in circles around a series of abandoned one-way streets. Horses pulled carts of necking teens. Around and around I went, until I finally spied a secret subterranean passageway snaking under the bridge that spans Indiana and Kentucky. I checked in to my glamorous hotel suite -- untouched since 1979.
What a delicious view! I debated complaining. But who could care. And after all, the 800 square foot room was bigger than my apartment and nearly as cheap. It had a full size refrigerator... but no microwave. This vision in brown had two televisions, two faux marble sinks, multiple closets, plaid couches, wooly arm chairs. It demanded a kegger party.
My pal Captain Kirk had thoughtfully scored tickets to, surprisingly enough, Mogwai at Headliners.
That's the set list from the soundman, who wore the top of a sweatsock as an armband -- like Britney at the Superbowl! I started the show with two napkins stuffed in my ears, as Mogwai is famous for pure volume. Even as my solar plexus vibrated with bass I found I wanted more of their deep sonic love and hate. I wanted to have sex with all of them right then and there. I tore the napkins from my ears as they did unimaginable things to their guitars. The packed house of sideburned Kentucky rocker folk smoked and weaved in obedience. The slow migrating noise reached a volume and emotional peak that literally moved me to tears. The tension hardened and after an excruciating length of time those sexy Scottish motherfuckers carefully hung their guitars face to the amps. The throb was like an airplane burning at the bottom of the ocean. As I stood there with my mouth literally hanging open, the stage manager came out and switched off the amps and the silence exploded in the air like a skydive nosebleed.
I explored Louisville a bit the next day. I still ponder the mystery of the Fifth Third Bank on Fourth Street. Just up the hill from downtown, gorgeous Southern homes recline on deep green lawns. Adorable short-haired girls amble up the more citified avenues. Odd fantastic women named Destiny play the accordian with their galpals, breathing new life into Indigo Girls songs.
The Waffle House in Indiana is the only place to eat after midnight. The creepy bridge over the shit-brown river is lit with spooky purple lights. You weave through a circuit of hotel parking lots and underpasses and arrive at the yellow glass box heaven that is the Waffle House. Almost-hot fat white guys pulled up on their Indians. Flo served me the best bacon I've ever had. Yet there's always a sense of impending violence. Someone's too drunk, someone's too disgruntled. Mugs are dropped and chipped. Orders come from the kitchen mismatched. On our escape back to Kentucky a white car sped over the bridge and off the interstate right down the entry ramp I was just entering. A trooper was in pursuit and as I pulled up the bridge I saw the cars like toys, pulled over for their legal business in a dark alley. Two teenagers were standing in the very center of the bridge, shirtless in the humid night, their distorted faces purple in the overhead light.
The next evening I had a big communal dinner at Ramsi's. The bizarre international melange of food made me both homesick and troubled. I had fajitas on some wacko Asian bread. I felt a little breath of Berkeley on the back of my neck.
But that night's main event was the Giant Gay Homosexual bar, The Connection. It's the size of every gay bar you've ever been to combined. After you peruse the stripper room and the giant dance room and the large back bar, you find a secret door to the theater. Inside, a thousand seat auditorium is thronged to the rafters with hooting and hollering and beer in mugs as a drag queen emcees a Mr. Hot Stuff Contest.
I thought, enjoy your death trap, ladies!
I had come to Connections in the hopes of a bustling population of lonely cowboys. Instead, I found boys with tweezed eyebrows and cheap dye jobs. They shook it to the house music on the dance floor. As Jacob, former Louisville resident, pointed out to me, these are boys from all over the surrounding states, taking refuge in the most tolerant city for hundreds of miles, yet not able to make it to New York or California. Well bless them all. Now lay off the chest-shaving, kids. It's the actual cocksucking that makes you gay, not the fact that you take notes during Designing Women.
I only scratched the surface, even though I left exhausted. Louisville's mystery runs deep.
I plotted a route back through Ohio, dreading another Kentucky ticket. I immediately got over my fear of speeding.
Although I was proud to vanquish horrid Ohio, Pennsylvania was a fucking drag. I was finally near the Pennsylvania halfway point when flashing lights slowed me down again. This time, it wasn't just for me.
I-80 was toasted. There was nowhere to go, it was backed up for 20 miles, the truckers said. My map showed a very indirect route via backroads and rural routes. It was twilight, but still I gunned it onto the shoulder and off the exit and arrived immediately in Amish country.
A horse-drawn wagon approached. Women in aprons and head scarves walked from dairy barns to farmhouses. Minutes from the interstate lurks a secret world. Feral cats scurried in the bushes. I followed my zig zagging two-lane route and began driving the most beautiful road I've ever encountered.
The smell of the wet forest on either side overwhelmed me. The road snaked up the gentle mountain. Young deer grazed peacefully at the side of the road. Here and there a farm or a barn lay in the distance. Night fell slowly. The swampy songs of Richard Buckner were nearly the only accompaniment. This was the moment I had been waiting for, a moment of complete remove, of absolute attention and perspective. The damp road only brought a sussurus of ideas to me. Where will you go next? How are you who you are? What could you possibly care about enough to suffer?
As suddenly as it began, the moment closed itself, its work done. With a painful rush and a push and a steep descent into the Delaware Water Gap, I found myself in the shock of Times Square in the middle of the night, home, or whatever this place is.
by Choire at 02:25 | link it, baby! | Comments 
5.31.2002 Interruption number two
God the internet is getting stranger.
If I were a gay turtle this is how you would chuck me across a body of water.
by Choire at 11:39 | link it, baby! | Comments 
We interrupt this road trip mockumentary to issue a restraining order:
Don't EVER DREAM ABOUT ME AGAIN, FREAK!
Tomorrow's post: Louisville Rocks!
by Choire at 02:27 | link it, baby! | Comments 
5.29.2002 Escape from New York
[note: we're trying to keep our loading time down: the little photos link to the full view]
I named the pickup truck Donna. I kept asking the big white Ford Ranger what her name was, and the answer wasn't very clear. The truck seemed to enjoy it when I cranked The Donnas, so that was good enough for me.
By 9:30 Thursday morning I was out of Philadelphia and I could smell the the open road. Umm, literally! That's right, it's roadkill season! The game on the highway is Match The Halves. No, that carcass doesn't have antlers, it can't match those hindquarters!
Oh the blessedly beautiful highway. Just you, your ever-cheaper cigarettes, and the new, incredibly brilliant and disturbingly Freudian sounds of the Adam Green solo album.
I always think of America's interior as this stunning manufacturing machine, a mass of silos and cows and dairy farms, all on the hustle, feeding the country, employing the people. But actually Appalachia is nothing of the sort. Mid-day, I pulled off the highway for some incredibly expensive gas. Instead of fueling up and taking off, I couldn't stop myself from driving through "town." Wee houses were set up high along the main drag. Shirtless tattooed men parked pickup trucks. Chain link fences sagged around one-story buildings. Huge women pulled at children's arms.
And there were confederate flags in the green green hills, and children with mullets, hunkered down in the flatbeds of trucks, taking off at 80 miles an hour for the Interstate.
There also was industrial blight.
I whipped through the Maryland panhandle, sped across West Virginia, and found myself suddenly in Kentucky. The road is for rocking! The highway will set you free! I was banging my head to the electro-wave-goth groove of The Faint while I blew past the grannies in their Caddies. I saw some pretty lights. It came to my understanding these pretty lights were gaining on me from behind.
I waited at the side of the road, engine off, with my hands on the wheel, window rolled down. In his sweet time, Boss Hog ambled up to my truck.
"You were going 85 in a 65 zone, son."
"Oh, jeez. That's fast. Sorry bout that. Sounds like a big ticket," I said. I try to speed these things along. They want to shame you, and really, I could care less. Give me the ticket.
He talks at me for a while, I'm unfailingly polite and perky yet manly. He finally takes my license back to his car and runs it. I wait unconcerned. I've gotten two speeding tickets in my life, and they're paid. I've never even been in Kentucky, so there's no warrant for me here.
He sits in his car for 15 minutes. He's playing that "Oh, were you in a hurry? Well let me slow you down" game.
He finally hauls himself back. "If I were to search your car, would I find anything that I shouldn't?" I actually laugh. Then I realize that to him I look like a spiky-haired, skinny, dirty, tattooed junky-freak from New York City, the land of pimps and CHUDs. Evidently the Lower Manhattan address on my license isn't getting me any play. I try to phrase my answer in a way that indicates I don't give consent for a car search, but settle for "You absolutely would not."
He gives me my $124.45 ticket. I thank him graciously. He has been confused by my politeness and enthusiasm throughout our transaction. "I'm going to take off first, bye now!" I say. I ease myself onto the highway and set the cruise control at fucking 65 miles per hour. So sad, and just 150 miles to go of my 700 mile journey.
About 10 minutes later, I realize: holy fucking shit. That bastard fucking jackass pigfucking copfucker never fucking gave me back my stinking fucking license. I search the entire car, digging through Big Mac containers and cigarette packs, weaving drunkenly about the road. It's nowhere.
On my dying cellphone, I track down the police department for Owingsville, Kentucky. I get through to the dispatcher. "Oh, are you in a hurry?" the dispatcher asks, "Cuz he'll report back here at the end of the night."
"Look, I need my license. I'm pulling off at Exit 112," I tell Mr. Laidback Dispatcher. "I'll call again in half an hour." I park in a gas station lot, next to a teenage couple eating chicken in their car... with their children. I consider fretting or fuming but honestly I'm so happy to be away from New York City. I've got a fully-loaded debit card, a white pickup truck, a pair of clean underwear, and sixty of my favorite CDs. What could be wrong? I smoke and luxuriate.
Just as I'm about to call the dispatcher again, I see my main man Boss Hog cruising down the road. He pulls up next to me and I jump out.
"So, we meet again, Officer," I say. He looks at me with a coma in his eyes. He hands me my precious license.
"Be careful out there," he says, and drives off. And I am convinced that this unfortunate incident was necessary, that I was plagued by this annoyance in order to be spared a far more drastic inconvenience. I thank him for his intervention.
I lay on the cruise control and drive into the sunset towards Louisville and the huge dreamy unknown.
by Choire at 10:48 | link it, baby! | Comments 
5.28.2002 Update Update
Where have I been?
Three a.m. Me drive real hard. Blog tomorrow. Sleep now.
by Choire at 01:57 | link it, baby! | Comments 
[An update from Philo: Choire called and apparently his laptop modem and Kentucky don't get along. Apparently they don't have computers in Kentucky, and he also said some such nonsense about Kinko's being closed there on weekends. He'll be home tomorrow night with a full report]
by Philo at 20:13 | link it, baby! | Comments