Sun’s up. Chris’ phone broadcasts painfully radical, sociopolitical talk podcasts. I get it, I’m on board — just not before my first cup of coffee, my liquid incentive to get dressed. Continental breakfast has long passed, so after a few minutes I sit down and we have a smoke, taking advantage of our moment in the great-outdoors. In our last minutes of ‘fresh air’. Still I wait for my first cup of coffee to ignite my roaring passion, my insatiable desire to stare at the back of a car-head rest. But nothing satisfies my soul quite like the luxury of sitting in a car for five to nine hours a day. Or more. Or less.
I drag the empty shell of my body around to the car, open the door and a handful of a variety of sizes of water bottles present themselves scattered about the floor. We’re off, and we hit the highway south heading to Phoenix, Arizona. Processing my experience in our cinema capital proves to be too much to internalize now, so I submit to the disillusionment I experienced in LA.
The “Los Angeles” that I knew is a film.
Los Angeles is no film.
This Hollywood fantasy responsible for illusions of romance through the decades is suddenly torn by a broken spool in the projector, unwinding to the floor and revealing the city frame by frame as the tape slowly hits the floor, rolls to a stop and the house lights turn on.
Now wary of the false perceptions I cast upon a city or town, I toss my rose-tinted glasses out the window, hoping to go forth with fewer pre-conceptions. Although, I could care less about my worldly understanding when gnats and flies begin infiltrating my eye-lids.
I write this article three words at a time; three words typed before dirty sweat drops in my eye, three more words before TextEdit crashes when my laptop overheats, and three final words before I realize, in this moment, I don’t give a shit about writing about Route 66.
The three others in company, in our A/C broken car, have the same look of misery and distress. We know it when we see the first postcard — we are entering the gauntlet.
#1 – TIPS
– Stay alert as to preserve your sanity –
– Make a list to distract the monotony –
– Chain-smoke & Dramamine –
The pay-phone companies are snickering, knowing I am about to use the last of my change to make a penny flat.
They’ve got me just where they want me. I can’t call for help, for a ride, for a bus-ticket home, for a few minutes of adult-entertainment, or even to make a “goodnight” phone call to my partner back at home. Acknowledging that my circumstances don’t offer much, a bad hand, I pass the time by compiling a list of reoccurring merchandise I’ve seen thus far.
- a velcro baseball cap
- an ill-fitting t-shirt, most often seen in neon
- a vinyl bumper-sticker
- a car-window flag
- a mug/glass
- a keychain with someone else’s name of it
- a sweat-shirt (the truck-stop owners clearly are not familiar with the Sun)
- a belt-buckle that I could never pull off
- an embroidered patch, but my Harley did not come with a leather jacket
- a tote-bag, this to send home to grandma
- a mousepad
- a bottle-opener…key-chain
- a money-clip
- a golfball marker
- a vanity license plate (mine would read “SOS”)
#2 – TRICKS
– Tease Kitsch to make life bearable –
– Provide your mind entertaining schemes –
– Chain Smoke & Coca-Cola –
Continuing to fuss with my boredom, I form my own addition to the of novelties, number 16 — a Best-Buy/tattoo parlor at every truck-stop, where the hypnotization induced by this stretch of road reigns supreme and I end up forgetting to buy a soda, but instead walking out with a new wide-screen television, a fresh “Route 66 “ tattoo, and the latest version of Norton Anti-Virus software — always a reminder of the days in which I was held captive by the sinister devices of Route 66’s entrepreneurs.
After twenty-five to thirty seconds, I see this brilliant idea exists and is called a shopping mall. Where the stores are built in to a wall, one next to the other, waiting and hoping for customer traffic. These businesses rely solely on their prey, falling in to the trap of knick-knacks, over-priced water bottles, and poorly constructed bullshit. If they were offering up tattoos with the iconic Route 66 emblem, who then would need to buy those souvenirs? No-one. But someone will. So keep ‘em coming.
#3 – HI-JINKS
– Put Wet Floor sign in sink –
– Complement everyone wearing a Rolex on their taste and style –
– Chain smoke & polished rocks-
What will happen when Highway Super-Highway is constructed? Goodbye to Route 66, and we as a nation will shovel the commodities of a new-found-kitsch down to a new road where maybe, just maybe, food, gasoline, and free-wifi will be abundant. Let us keep in mind this stretch of concrete that rolls across several states and monopolizes the highway ecosystem, as if a wolf has been released in a suburban neighborhood, eating everything lower in the food-chain. Just as the wolf, Route 66 has eaten the previously popular roads of travel in the dust leaving no back-up.
Another sweet American tradition — ‘Plan B’ is to replace, paving the way for a more luxurious and expeditious slab of concrete.
Really — where is the back-up plan? Did they cut out early in hopes of finishing a round on the Front-9 before returning to the office. Merv picks up a pen, shouts over to John in accounting. “Whadda ya say?”, picking up a nearby ball-point pen and dragging ink through half of the United States. “Yeah, that’ll work,” replies John.
All the while, neither John nor Merv had any idea of the economic impact they had carelessly created. After all it was Friday and they wanted to get back to the links and get their kicks before dinner gets cold.