My life the second half of this summer has taken on an interesting pattern. It seems to look something like this: Go on crazy last minute road trip across America for a week or two, come home and spend a week scrambling to catch up on work that I wasn't doing while I was on the road, spend a week relaxing and swearing I'll never do anything or go anywhere again, and then going on another crazy last minute road trip across America. That's what I was doing last week: driving from Corning, New York, to Dallas, Texas.
When I told some very old and dear friends of mine––old as in I've known them for a while; they're relatively young––I'd keep them company on their move to Texas, I was expecting the drive down to be quite an adventure. Indeed, how could driving halfway across the country with four very little children and a moving van be anything but a disaster?
But then it wasn't. Everything went very smoothly. No accidents, no major wrong turns, the children were remarkably––dare I say uncannily––content to sit in the car for several hours between stops. I'd go so far as to say that for the distance, it was one of easiest and best executed family road trips I'd ever participated in. It was, however, the calm before the storm. The deep breath before the plunge. The eerie silence before... well you get the idea.
The second night after arriving found me sitting by myself in a plastic chair on the concrete patio of a deserted house drenched in my own sweat as I took another pull from a tumbler of cheap rum. Through the open door beside me a sleazy Mexican telenovela could be heard playing in the 103° living room which was only slightly less airless than the stifling darkness outside where I watched the large group of Puerto Rican teenagers across the street have a loud and enthusiastic party on their porch and wondered: Is this what it feels like to be a dissipated ex-patriot living in Tijuana, down on his luck and fleeing the demons of the life he left only to be haunted by new ones in the sultry, oppressive nights of this foreign land? Apparently it was very cheap rum.
The day we arrived in Texas was the second hottest they'd had so far this year. 107° Fahrenheit in the shade. Obviously, ideal weather for unloading a truck full of boxes and furniture. Unload it we did though, and three hours later Derrick––my friend––and I stepped into the coolness of the new air-conditioned home. The next day the air-conditioner broke. In two places. While Derrick and I (mostly Derrick) attempted to figure out what had caused the washing machine he'd just bought to explode, Nicole and the kids retreated into their air-conditioned car. And then the car died.
We managed to get the car working again, but when evening came and we had no word from the landlord on when the A/C would be fixed, my friends made the wise call to spend the night at another friend's house the next development over. Not wanting to intrude, and feeling the heat wasn't "that bad" as long as I refrained from moving anything but my eyes, I elected to stay behind.
The development fortunately had a pool, and around nine that evening I got the urge to go for a swim. I walked the block and a half there only to find the lifeguard staff shoeing everyone out for the night. Craving a relief from the heat, and perhaps some human interaction of some kind, I kept walking and ultimately ended up at a Mexican restaurant just beyond the community gate. It seemed everyone was at the bar, so I took a seat there and ordered a drink and some tortilla chips and salsa. 45 minutes later, my vodka and kahlua gone and withering under the advances of a heavily intoxicated Texan woman who would only admit to 47, I took my leave and walked back to the house. Which leaves me on the dark porch at 1:00am watching the Puerto Ricans across the street and imagining myself to be someone else.
The next day things looked up, however. I woke up and wasn't in Tijuana. I went down a water slide. The A/C repairman finally came. The car continued to work. Derrick and I even made an impromptu 40 mile drive to the Oklahoma sign on 377. In the past month, you see, the number of states I've never been in has dropped from most of them to just four or five. One of those was Oklahoma. So we drove to the Oklahoma sign. Why just the sign? Because there was nothing to see beyond the sign for several hundred miles. At least nothing interesting.
What was interesting was the drive back. We discovered that the late-night drive-thru attendants at Taco Casa don't really speak Spanish and fueled up at a gas station full of half-naked cowboys.
So now I'm back in Pennsylvania again, where I've spent the last few days trying to catch up on things. And now I'm at home, swearing I'll never do anything or go anywhere again. That's just part of the pattern I guess.
But next week––who knows?