Friday, August 22, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Night Driving

I was confused.  It was wet outside with the gray smear of a recently passed storm.  Cars hissed by on the nearby city street.  I had been sleeping behind the wheel of the van.  I had pulled into a CVS parking lot at 5:15 am, unable to drive any further.  I looked at my watch.  My eyes wouldn’t work.  It was as if someone had replaced my eyeballs with two raisins.  My contact lenses had fused onto my eyes somehow, the surface of my eyes shockingly dry.  I didn’t know it then, but blood vessels in my eyes instantly burst as I struggled to see.  7:00 am.  My neck was cramping.  Holy hell.  I had been passed out for nearly two hours.

There is a real skill in overnight driving.  Everyone has driven while tired, but to break through the threshold of when the challenges of the road aren’t so much the minor twists and turns of the highway but the hallucinations…  Now that’s driving!  In my case I had to ignore what appeared to be large bullfrogs that would periodically hop from the side of the road and attempt to cross in front of the unrelenting tires of the van.  Maybe this was homage from my subconscious to the video game “Frogger”, or maybe it was an actual frog I had seen gamely trying to make his crossing that just replayed over and over and over.  It’s really hard to say. 

I can never fall into a fitful sleep while others in the band are driving.  If I begin to drift off, my brain always sends a red alert in the form of an image of the van flying off the side of a cliff while Leo sleeps with his mouth open behind the wheel.  How I have not been claimed as collateral damage in the Leo Lifestyle is really a testament to the merciful side of The Lord.  One must maintain a certain vigilance to maintain a safe distance from a man that is primarily dedicated to “partying”, or in plain language “using all available intoxicants in his sphere until no one else wants to participate”.

No one else in the band appears to have this defense mechanism (or affliction depending on your point of view).  They all slept like baby lamb as I drove us from The Middle of Nowhere to Just Past The Middle of Nowhere without even a visible thought.  At 4:18 in the morning, a country road with construction cones can be pretty confounding.  A driver must keep his cool when he realizes he has been driving 50 mph on the wrong side of the cones and needs to swiftly pop over to the other side of the divide before driving off a sudden stop in his side of concrete.  A quick swerve.  A spinning cone spat out by a tire.  It’s all back on track.

We’ve made some horrifying drives in the past.  Bellingham WA to Cleveland OH is no picnic.  Austin TX to Lakewood OH in one shot is nothing to be scoffed at.  However, the late night suicide runs are the ones that will get you.  The only people on the road at 3:50am are amphetamine freaks, drunks, and degenerates.  Pull off at a Pilot truck stop anywhere in America at that time and see what the lowest form of humanity looks like.  That’s when you notice your own reflection in the mirror and realize that you are one of them too.  Barely classifiable as a human being.  More like a filthy ape.

Last weekend we drove back from a festival that primarily offered camping as accommodations.  I’m not much of a camper, and do so only in the most dire of emergencies.  My last two camping experiences both involved band dates in places so remote there was a real fear of a late night buffalo stampede.  At one of them we attempted to set up a tent in the pitch black and woke the next morning to find what we thought of as a “satisfactory” job was closer to “poor to very poor”.  Imagine if fabric was spread haphazardly with the highest point being 10 inches above ground.  The other time Krusty and I quietly lay in the flimsy tent while listening to Leo struggling to figure out how to open the tent and enter.  We wisely didn’t offer any help as he was fucked up beyond belief.  Leo later found shelter that had been offered by a very friendly homosexual man with romantic designs .  That did briefly fill us with some guilt.  After a very uncomfortable incident, they were able to work out a platonic solution.  I suppose all’s well that ends well.  The combination of both of these experiences did sour me on future camping trips though.

A man of my age and experience should not find himself waking up in a beat up van at 7:00 am.  While not “rock bottom”, this is in the general neighborhood.  When you are in Rock Bottom, you certainly don’t want the neighbors waving at you in recognition.  This is a place you want to look at from afar while shaking your head and saying, “How does someone let themselves wind up like that?”.  It really was a bit of a wakeup call.  It means that I now have to become more tolerant of off-kilter country roadside motels that look like they exist only to murder prostitutes inside, or become more adept at camping.  While neither is particularly of interest to me, I think I can sleep through the screams at the motel.  It’s got to be better than camping.  



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