Friday, July 3, 2009

out in the middle of nowhere knowin i'm in trouble if these wheels stop rollin

For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to borrow Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis from Brandes in Milwaukee. I read it in two sittings. For those of you who don't know Ellis, he is also the writer of such beastly novels as American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction (which I started today at lunch).

Brandes put it best...he's like the Tarentino of writers.

At the Center of Less than Zero is Clay, who returns home to LA after his freshman year at a New England Liberal Arts College (Camden College...also in Rules of Attraction). He struggles with the reality of wealthy youth in LA in the early Eighties...indiscriminate sex, drugs and alcohol, absentee parents, and unbridled privilege. Clay plays along, but quickly realizes how shallow it all is, how empty a reality it is. All of his friends think he is crazy, broken, sick...that he shouldn't go back east. He doesn't refute them, but he knows that in reality they are the broken ones. They have disappeared into the haze that privilege has bought them.

Disappear here. Clay sees it on a billboard...probably for a resort. But it trips him out.

I cannot inherently relate to all of this. I hardly grew up with privilege, and the moronic things that we did at youth rarely crossed the line into gay-for-pay prostitution, recreational heroin and total disillusionment. But I left and came back...periodically. People leave places and they go back to them. People disappear into the places they know and the places that feel comfortable. Into the lives they have always known and the only realities they have ever known.

So as I travel now, I look into the eyes of strangers (a terrible habit I have always had...usually terribly awkward, although in this part of the world people just smile and say "hello"...a tad different then the look of disgust, confusion, skepticism or suspicion that I would normally get in Boston) and as I look...I wonder what their reality is...where they came from...where they are going...if they are different people now then they were last month, last year or five years ago. Have they disappeared into their reality? Can they extract themselves and do something different?

Am I disappearing? Is it even a bad thing to disappear into something that I find extremely comfortable and fitting for my own interests, aptitudes and lifestyle?

This is why I sleep so poorly, sometimes. Perhaps existential wanderings in this application are merely a result of the flat tire I got about 100 miles into South Dakota. Either way, it really is all very interesting, if altogether troubling.

2800 miles down. I took a personal day in Bozeman, Montana today. I shamelessly watched a little too much food network (surprise!) but also got in some pavement time downtown. It is an extremely pleasant little city. I ate lunch alone at a restaurant and didn't have an anxiety attack, which was great news. My waitress seemed mildly concerned that I was alone, so I may or may not have put my camera and some books on the table to make myself look particularly hipster, just a little pretentious, and more than a little legit.

I arrived to Bozeman at 1 this morning after spending a few hours over frosties and a Target run with Mr. Jacob Thielen in his natural habitat (Montana). Exceedingly great kid. It feels weird that he is going to be a Senior...and that I think that is weird. Teacher moment. He's grown a lot. I'm proud.

The day yesterday was spent driving from Rapid City to Billings...starting with 2 hours at a Borders while my tire was replaced ($160 later, I have mismatched tires on my brand new car...womp womp) and a trip to Mt. Rushmore in a hailstorm. I'm glad I can say that I have seen I never have to see it again.

Tuesday? Tuesday was a 10 hour drive across Southern Minnesota and South Dakota, 5 of which were at 55 miles an hour on my space-saver spare tire. All part of the adventure. If I never have to drive across the great plains again (trip home, excluded) it will be too soon.

I've been rather sick...probably allergies to something that doesn't exist back east. I got some meds today and feel much much better. Here's hoping it sticks.

Biggest epiphany (beyond literary-induced existential mini-meltdown) is that this would be more fun with company. Next time, I will bring people. It's just a lot to handle, and travel really is more fun with friends. Who knew? I've never really traveled before...good lesson to learn.

I will say I had to try this alone, though. I don't at all regret the decision. As I look at most of my peers from the BU, I realize that I am probably the least traveled...and I think I will be better traveler in the future for this experience. Maybe I'll even be ready to go abroad, finally....with friends.

I have had to cut Glacier National Park and Seattle from the itinerary for the sake of my sanity. This is a future vacation in the making. Instead, I'll hit Yellowstone for the next couple of days, and then press on to Portland a day early. Plans made. Plans broken. Just how I like it.

I had this fantasy that I would want to disappear into the American West. I haven't found that place, yet. But I'm only just getting started. I have a feeling I will be much more comfortable heading down the West Coast.

It's all good. So good.

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