Dashboard Buddha guiding us down I-76 W.
I really like road trips. I like the way overall time ceases and things like how many miles to the next state line or what the speed limit is become very important. I like this beautiful country and all its trees. I like passing through other peoples’ way of life and trying to imagine myself in it. I like talking with my husband about every single detail of random musings, a gift we rarely have in real life because of our opposite schedules. I like eating the food we spent days preparing and also the candy and chips we buy at gas stations. I like hotel pools and the way my baby parties like a rockstar in hotel rooms. I like the fact that our cell phones don’t get service and instead we listen to CDs and plot our route on paper maps. I like how my little troop fits happily into the roughly 30 square feet of our car we call Moto – all the dog fur and toys and deadpan jokes and silly songs, all the love just vibrating back and forth. I have moments where I truly believe we can save the world. I don’t mean we specifically the five of us but rather the collective we and all that love. If the people of America could just figure out how to roll down our car windows, let some of that love out to the cars passing by, let some of their love into our cars, things in this country would be different.
Big Chimney. Cheat Lake. Krumsville. Mink Shoals. Lehigh. Rehrersburg. Fort Indiantown Gap. Historic asylum tours.
From Pennsylvania onward, people start giving my husband looks. His beard is thick, his eyes bluegreen and striking, skin white but forehead broad, lips big and hair in dreadlocks. Immigrants always think he’s from their country, and honestly, he does look like he could be from most anywhere. But the farther into America we get, the less people identify with him and the more he stands out. Some of the looks he gets are truly inquisitive, people just checking out this odd creature they’ve never seen before. It does get old, but I don’t mind the people who stare at him in wonder. I want those peoples’ brains to hurt a little, I want their concepts of what a human looks like to be expanded. But I hate the looks of judgment and fear. Like somehow my beautiful, kind, sexy husband shouldn’t have the features he was born with, like there’s something wrong with him. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be black or disabled in this country.
Factory smoke in West Virginia.
I think windmills are pretty. Like, picturesque landscape pretty. I don’t understand people who think they ruin the scenery. But even if I agreed with them, my concept of beauty shouldn’t overpower saving our planet.
I hate that the conversation surrounding alternative energy sources does include peoples’ scenery preferences, but doesn’t include what to do about all the coal miners who will no longer have jobs. It makes sense for our government to not just offer them more assistance but to train them in new industries. Often, even before Trump, I felt like our politicians had no intention of helping their people at all.
That first sip of Big Red, usually in West Virginia but sometimes as early as Maryland, is so good I have to close my eyes. I don’t understand how a soda can do this much for a person, but when I drink it, I feel the Kentucky summer heat in my skin, see the worms wriggling around the end of my Mickey Mouse fishin’ pole, taste the ham sandwiches and potato salad my mom always made for picnics. Three days from now when my stomach is hurting from drinking something ridiculous like fifteen cans of this shit and I’m scrubbing my teeth and still spitting out pink, I’ll probably think of how my hunger used to grip me so tightly I’d double over, how desperately I wanted to go three full days without putting anything in my body, how I just couldn’t resist the twenty-five-cent vending machine outside the grocery store I worked in, how the guilt and hatred I’d feel over having drank one would gnaw at me until I got home and cut myself. In retrospect, all that Big Red was probably what kept me from getting sicker during my anorexic days. But for right now, as we drive through the West Virginian mountains, I’m just going to enjoy my first sips of it and feel the goodness of childhood bubble through me.
It seems like every state has a Springfield. Thus the magic of The Simpsons.
Billboards are bizarre. It’s amazing to me how many strip clubs and porn shops there are. White men seemingly get everything they want, so why can’t they just let other people have and enjoy sex, too?
Also, billboards are proof that there is absolutely no separation between church and state in this country. This was already obvious in our Pledge of Allegiance and the way presidents are sworn in on the Christian bible and the fact that churches get blocks and blocks of free parking in NYC, but in middle America, it seems that people believe our government should be founded upon Christian principles as opposed to separated from them.
Of course, Christian principles are up for interpretation. For example, to many Christians, abortion is wrong but the death penalty is okay. I do not like the phrase “pro-life” one bit.
Broken condom machine in a Maryland bathroom.
When he’s tired or simply sick of being alone in his car seat, Lew will reach out for me and say, “I want Mommy.” He then pulls my hand or sometimes even my head to his cheek and just holds it there, keeps me close and tight. If I move he’ll say, “No!” and strengthen his grip. Then once he’s had enough, he’ll release me and go back to his business of playing with trains or drinking water or eating puffs. Whenever this happens, I think, “Damn, babies are so smart.” If only adults could also recognize when we need closeness and then make it happen so easily.
For more info on this column, please read Brain-Picking Becky: Intro.