Exiting the van into a gas station in some skid mark outside of Freer, Texas, my eyes must adjust to the brightly clouded gloom. I check my phone for the time. Only slept like two hours, we still got a ways to go. Now Billy thinks the oil is low, but various warning lights have been flashing on the dash of this rented Sprinter since we left this morning and their only visible effect has been to slow us down. Tire pressure, brake light, head lamp fluid. The steering wheel’s heating element is out of alignment and the parking brake has a hangnail. We check the oil and its full to the brim, shimmering translucence of lubricatorial perfectation. At least we make time for a piss stop and I spend a minute watching some young fraternal group there kicking the blown out tire of their boat trailer. Who the fuck carries a spare trailer tire with them? Rhetorical piss in the wind.
Eighteen miles to Skid Mark, TX, population Whatever. We’ll get there in two hours, give or take. The lowly plains of southeast nowhere roll forever beneath our tires. Billboard advertisements for businesses long shuttered or soon to be never built. Long rows of tilled dirt. Ripe for harvest. No radio. Driven to schemes. Hustling merch, spamming the masses with our media presence, harnessing the reins of technology to our will and whim.
Chocolate milk makes me hallucinate at 5 am.
You should have been there, we borrowed a jeep and drove straight from Philly to NYC after the gig. Showed up at 3:45 in the morning in Times Square, took a two hour tour of the place, saw ground zero and the Empire State and the fire station they filmed Ghostbusters at, zipped back out of town, no traffic anywhere. We rolled into a rest stop somewhere, lined the windows with t-shirts and caught about a two hour nap. Woke up to the sound of flamingos and there was this old Italian guy selling pastries and shit. Billy got this thing like a chili dog, but it was was covered in these, like, little cinnamon rolls, and just glazed all over, like a Thick Layer of Glaze.
I was hoping for a sugar coma, he explains.
Now we’re anglin’ down state highway 69 to Brownsville, you’ll want to hang a right at the pixy stick dispensary. Avoid eye contact with the aboriginals. This here is DQ country, my little Chippewa. You have been heavily deprived in your time here. There is not a Waffle House for miles–wait! What was that in the back? Oh, suitcase. Suitcase bit the dust. Let us continue.
We had already scoured many markets across the land in search of an FM transmitter. The dearth of fresh sounds became maddening, an affliction to which the manufacturers of this vehicular marvel did not pay heed. Now Eitel and I went for gas while Billy inspected a Walmart crawling with Border Patrol officers. The cold had followed us this far south, and the patrons of this Walmart were like any other. I wondered if we’d ever left at all, and would we ever make it to the gig tonight. A taste of the rock and roll lifestyle. Camping on a cot in the back of the van. The CD player works, but there’s a Steve Miller Band Best Of in there, so… that’s what you get. Staring at the bumper of the same Dodge pickup across a hundred miles of gray landscape. We rendezvous with Billy back outside the place again and he has acquired the fabled FM transmitter. We are in business for tasty rock and roll jams for all the rest of our journey, and all will again be well. Just two more hours to Harlingen. And the roads are lined with coconut trees, or whatever.