This is the sound of my arrival in Tucson:
Cling on to life, Doorbell
Tucson is not my “destination” per se, but the unfriendly sprawl of Texas is something I’m hustling out of in my journey from New Orleans to Longview, WA, of all places.
I have been driving a 1995 Toyota Truck for this late-summer enterprise, and the is not slow, but certainly quiet. I know going through Tucson isn’t the most direct route, but someone offered to let me come shoot toilets in the desert with guns. While not a fan of guns, generally, it seemed like an opportunity I should seize.
The drive and my truck are highly similar, in that they are both about as sparse as can be. The truck is 1995 Toyota “truck”, so named because apparently Toyota wasn’t interested in a snappier model name. The truck has no radio, no speakers, no AC, no rear-view, no power steering. It really has nothing, and it sounds like it could explode at any moment because someone mistakenly put a lawnmower engine in it. The drive to Tucson has a featurelessness matched by the truck. I will say that there is a strange power in mundane expanses of nothing to turn prosaic sights like a train into thrilling features of the road.
I stayed in Jackson, MS for the first night, before taking on Texas. It was a three hour drive from New Orleans, so kind of a weeny day, for weenies. I cannot claim to know Jackson, so I will not claim to know Jackson, but I went to a coffee shop that has hipster-grade coffee, and a co-op, so it can’t be all bad.
But then the real fun began, by which I mean driving 13 hours in total silence to a place called Midland, TX. There’s really no point in me writing at-length of the poetic nature of driving on America’s highways, because we already know they’re poetic as hell. So I’ll just create a basic timeline, which is probably more fun to read, if less spiritually-engaging.
Escaping Texas in Silence
Round One: Fight!
9:30 Mike leaves Jackson
9:40 Mike becomes fidgety as the open road threatens to swallow him whole
10:30 Mike drives through a place called “Bee Bayou”, imagines many bees lazily hanging out on the bayou
11:30 Mike comes up with an idea: The Museum Museum, which would be a memorial to other museums, presumably in minature
12:01 Mike isn’t that hungry, but eats a bunch of peanuts anyhow
2:00 Mike passes through Longview, TX, briefly imagining it is Longview, WA, his final destination
5:00 Mike hits Dallas traffic, which seems suspiciously similar to traffic in every other city in the universe. He smiles at his fellow commuters.
5:10 He gets pretty irritable, because with no AC and going slow, he is sweating a great deal. He ceases smiling at his fellow commuters.
5:11 He mops his brow and notices his left arm is getting burned from hanging out the window
6:10 Mike stops at a rest stop to gobble some rice and beans and stretch. In the bathroom, a guy keeps expelling his lungs and throat loudly into the sink, and mike reflects on the grossness of this man’s choices, but says nothing, because he must live his own life, alone.
6:11 Mike spends four hours slowly regretting picking an AirBNB that was so far away, for he is tired.
10:20 Mike finally arrives in Midland, TX.
As a bonus, here is a short medley of Mike talking to himself to stay alert and entertained:
Mike sings, orates, and talks on peanuts, fears, armadillos
A Tiny Description of a Brief Stay in Midland
The woman who owned the ridiculously affordable AirBNB greets me when I arrive. I am zombie-like from the drive but my senses are not so dulled that I can’t tell that she is a cat lady. When I enter, the smell, sight, sound, and feel of cats washes over me like a furry river. Thankfully, my sense of taste was spared this sensory assault. She did not mention that her house would be brimming with very nice cats. Cats mewing, weaving between my legs. Cats dangling from chandeliers. Cats popping out of hampers with socks on their heads. Cute, but intolerable for one who desires only sleep. Each time I threw one out of my bedroom, several more filled the void.
Once I had banished them all from the kingdom of my bedroom, I slept well. Little else can be said about Midland Texas. Presumably there are wild stories to be told, but I am not the teller of that story. My timeline continues the next morning.
Round Two: Fight!
7:00 AM Mike awakes, covered in cats, and flees Midland.
7:01 As he gets on the road he thinks, “oh, I’ll find coffee at some point.”
7:02 “Some point” never arrives, and Mike passes gas-station after gas-station, realizing that not even a Starbucks awaits him until El Paso, some 400 miles away
8:45 Mike begins to feel very sad about life (really)
11:00 Mike buys a bottled Starbucks coffee in Van Horn, TX, and with 30 minutes of consuming it, his sadness mysteriously vanishes
1:00 Mike stops in El Paso and buys a banana. He supposes he likes El Paso, though he’s not sure why.
3:15 Mike reaches the border of New Mexico, signifying a personal victory.
5:00 Mike Arrives in Tucson and rings the doorbell of his friend. He met her couch-surfing 6 months ago, but she is not home yet, so he makes himself at home. He hangs out with a one eyed dog, a greyhound that seems perpetually spooked, and a cardboard cutout of Obama in a living room now mostly full of his stuff.
I will likely go into greater detail about what it means to couch-surf in Tucson, but for now, all one needs to know is there are plenty of handguns. I look forward to revealing the universal truths contained within this small city.
The drive isn’t over, but I would imagine the most woefully uninspired sections have been completed now.