It's not my holiday
The Holiday Season, and all the various things it means to different people, approaches with a vengence. I am stuck at a truckstop for almost 48 hours. I've been here since yesterday afternoon, and they have yet to change the Holiday CD on the intercom. Over and Over, the syrupy sweet over-sung R&B holiday sounds are about to make me vomit. I think it's Usher, but it could be El DeBarge for all I know. If I hear "our cheeks are rosy and comfy cozy are we" with a jazzy break two more times before I die, I'm going to L.A. and burn someone's house down.
I am really torn about going home. I miss my family and friends there, but I am way behind on my goals for saving money this year. These "training companies" get you started on a driving career, but part of the deal is you work for slave wages for a year. Most guys plan to just survive this first year. Not me! I am trying to save enough money to quit after a year and get back to the boat. :oP
Plan B may be to find a driving job close to Bay City in the spring or summer and work through one more winter before leaving. It all depends on how many miles I can drive between now and then. It seems when I ask for time off, they spiral me into home with short concentric trips. Then I'm home. Then I get spiralled back out into the freight lanes. The end result is I don't make any money the week before I'm home, the week I'm home or the week after. I don't know what guys with families do.
Given these realities, I am going to stay out here and just drive. It is not a decision that was easy or fun. I have chosen the Vagabond's Life. It works better to just live it; full on. Even once I get off the road, after a period of repair and refit, I'll be living this life again, albeit in another mode.
So, amusingly, I have felt some of the typical pressures of a holiday that is not my own. It was more the pressure of having to decide; facing a decision I knew would disappoint some of the people I love. It is, however, what it is and, ultimately, how it should be.
This time of year, I prefer to look ahead to the New Year. I don't do resolutions because they are typically a ridiculous fallacy. If you don't have Daily Discipline, how in the world are you going to succeed with Annual Discipline. It is, however, a natural time of year to reflect on life and where you are headed. Hopefully, those with their heads down pumping their legs in "the race" or "the hamster wheel" can take the time for a little reflection.
Reflection is a rare commodity in the world today. All of us could benefit from a daily reflection. Not basking in vacuous platitudes, but some deep thinking, introspection and evaluation.
When I knew I was unhappy, but didn't know why, it was because I had no idea what I wanted or what would make me happy. I was being carried along by the ever present current of expectations, by what other people thought was normal or proper. I simply hadn't thought about it; the "thinking through" that is hard work.
I turned my eyes and ears inward. The cacophony of the world was shut out. Of course, I had help doing this. Coach Kathy was instrumental in helping me discover the tools. As I shed all the weights and the accumulation, I began to hear my own voice again.
Your path may not be as far off the road as mine seems to be, but how do you know you're on the right street when it's been so long since you've looked at the Atlas?
Sunday, December 9, 2007
There is a lot that goes on in New Jersey down by the Port. Legitimate business and otherwise. It is a land of freeway overpasses and blind alleys, buses and taxis. There is triumphant steel and glass architecture and grubby old cinderblock buildings. There are handbills on every light pole; loose paper and plastic bags flying in the wind. You can find any kind of food you want, but you have to see it; you can't smell anything. I can't tell if there are no smells or if everything just blends into one big smell. People are everywhere; businesspeople, hustlers, pedestrians, grandmas, babies and the lost.
By the time, I get down by the Port it is dark. I'm on the tail end of rush hour, but everyone is going out and I'm going in. The directions take me onto an unfamiliar ramp, but as I come down off the Turnpike, under an overpass and around a corner, I realize I've been here before from another angle. Around a curve and under another overpass, I come to a light. The street goes through a short block and deadends into one on a weird angle. My directions tell me to turn left and go through the first light. There is a small triangle block with a little diner on it formed by the street I'm turning on and the angled street. Three cars could almost park at the diner, but it is doing a bustling business. It is so different here in the urban sprawl. There must be people all around that have never needed to own a car. A successful looking diner with no parking; an intriguing concept to this Midwesterner.
I notice a guy hanging around the intersection. He has an air about him that kicks up my 'spidey-sense.' I casually lock the door with my elbow. He is busy watching traffic and doesn't notice. Stepping off the curb, he is coming over. He steps up on the running board of my tractor, grabbing the mirror to hang on. "We're not lumping today, you'll have to go straight," he says doing his best to sound official. I am letting him talk through the glass; no chinks in the armor.
"My directions tell me to go left."
"Yeah, but we're full up. You gotta go straight."
Looking at him, he is not obviously a vagrant. He is a hustler who may have had some success. His beard seems trimmed, his clothes are typical of someone with a regular job, but his hair is a little wild; not quite kept.
"When that light turns green, I'm going left," I tell him in a bellow that covers the small doubt I ignore. He gives me this classic look; Emmy-worthy. It is the perfect hustler's last stand. The look says "OK, man, if you want to screw up you life, go ahead. Turn left, I don't care."
"Another man might have been angry, another man might . . ." Sorry, that's Harry Chapin as a Taxi Driver. The light turned green. I stepped on the accelerator. The big diesel always pauses as it pulls 70 feet of truck out of its inertia. The guy frowns and jumps off just as I roll to the left. Through the light to the next right, I find my street.
Around the corner, I'm in another small NE industrial neighborhood. There are trucks all over. One business has car haulers in line; another has piggybacked sea containers. I'm on a surface street surrounded by businesses. People headed home fill the opposite lane. The directions say third building on the right. I call them. The guy on the line says just a minute and looks out on the street. "Pull on out. That second container is right before our drive. Just don't go past my building," he says ominously.
Swinging out into the homebound traffic, I pull around the trucks on the curb. It is a tight turn into the drive, I creep along and in. I jump out to check in with the guard. It is cold! He tells me to go around back and talk to the shipping office. Around back is small! The office tells me to drop my trailer back by the fence. I do. Checking in with dispatch, they send me to Lakewood, NJ; down to the south past Asbury Park. I'm bobtailing; driving with no trailer.
I'm nearly out of hours, so I head down the turnpike and find a place to park. My pickup in Lakewood is for the morning.
Quick recap: I was in Pennsylvania; dispatch sent me into New Jersey to drop a trailer and then bobtail to a pickup.
Morning rolls around, I drive about forty more miles to my pickup. It is way around through residential areas, some downtown type neighborhoods, through a small Hasidic Jew enclave. Lots of men in black; those cool hats; beards and curls around the ears. And bagel shops. There is a bus loading in a hotel parking lot; going into to New York or somewhere. Everyone in black, curls etc. but doing all the quintessential family stuff. They scurry around parking cars, putting babies in car seats, tracking little ones running around next to a main street. Moms, Dads, Grandmas and Aunts; Uncles and Grandpas.
I go past a park that looks like it is close to the ocean; the map reveals otherwise. Often the directions have no mileage on them. So, turn left on Route 88 and then take a right on Eisenhower could be a block or, as in this case, about 20 miles! I turn off Eisenhower into the industrial park. Another mile almost, another left, around a curve, into a drive and around back. There are mountains of tires! A front end loader is piling them and moving them around.
I park and walk up to a couple guys who are milling around. "I'm here for a pickup." They just smile and shrug. I could use some Spanish, but I don't have any. A few yards further on is a guy in a dark coat and a yarmacle. "I'm here for a pickup," I repeat. He smiles and looks over my shoulder. "Where the hell's your trailer," he asks wrecking my morning.
I send a message in to dispatch. "I need a trailer here." They send me to Sayreville to get a trailer. Almost all the way back to Elizabeth where I dropped one last night!! Looking at the map, I head up NJ 9 rather than going all the way back out to the Turnpike and north. There are lots of stoplights and traffic, but I would have a lot of traffic on the Turnpike heading toward New York with all the commuters. It is about 30 miles up to Sayreville. The way wasn't bad.
I get to a distributor who has an extra trailer or two. There is a truck in the lot and another out on the street. I hit the "four ways" and sit behind him. The guy in the lot is having a hard time. The lot is small. We've all been there. He just can't hit the dock they assigned him. Back and forth. Crank the wheel. Back and forth. Jerk to a stop. Inch forward. Inch back. Roar forward. He is getting very frustrated. Finally, he decides to freelance and backs into an easy hole in front of the far dock. Just as he is about to bump up to the dock, the yard dog [the company's driver who moves trailers around the yard] pulls in from down the block. We're in New Jersey remember. The Yard Dog screeches to a halt on a funky angle in the middle of the lot. He steps out of his tractor in an overly casual way, walks over the frustrated driver and starts yelling at him. I can't hear from where I am, but the Yard Dog is gesticulating and waving his arms around. Apparently, he can't use that dock. The driver pulls out, pauses in the driveway and takes off down the street. The second driver assumes, like I do, that the guy is leaving; calling his dispatch to cuss about the small lot. The second driver pulls in to the lot and walks inside to the office. I pull up to the drive. Before I can pull in, the Yard Dog is coming out. The frustrated driver comes back and roars into the lot!
The frustrated driver pulls in to the small lot; now smaller because the other driver is in there. He makes a halfhearted effort to swing around. The Yard Dog is under another trailer and walks over to the man. He must have told him to just leave the trailer out on the street because that is what he does next. That trailer was his empty. Now he has to get another trailer with his load. He rolls back into the lot. The Yard Dog leaves again. I see an opening and sneak in to get my empty. All this action, and I simply need the empty back by the fence. The trailer is an oldie but a goodie; in decent shape. I hook up, check the lights, tug on it to make sure I'm connected. Looking out at the lot, I've got a little shimmy to get around the second truck. The frustrated one is under a trailer but still at the dock. He must be checking lights or cranking up the dolly. I hop back in the cab and start moving. Meanwhile, the Mr. Frustrated has climbed back in his cab. He sees me coming and floors it to get out before me . . . and rips one of the doors right off his trailer. But he doesn't know it yet.
The scene morphs into a bad movie. Depending on your generation, starring either Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin or Adam Sandler. The guy ambles down his side of the trailer, unchains the door, folds it around and locks it. He walks over to the passenger side of the back end of the trailer. He kind of jerks back but doesn't really understand what has happened. He reaches out and gently touches the trailer where the door should be. As his gloved hand falls back to his side, he looks up. I can just hear his internal voice. "Where the #$%^&* is my door?" Then recognition washes over him; the shoulders sag. He looks back to the dock and must see the door. I can't see around the other trailers, but I know it is there.
Suffice it to say, this poor guy is about to stroke out. He valiantly walks back to the truck. The dock workers have told him to put it back in the dock. Here we go again. Back and forth. In and Out. Steer tires cranked one way and then the other. I AM STILL TRAPPED IN THE LOT BY THIS FOOL!! I creep forward a little. He is so frustrated he is not thinking about what he is doing. He is trying to will the trailer back into the hole but it won't go. Back and forth. His tires are up over the curb and into the landscaping. He is very close to a gate out in the drive. I can see a couple times that he has it right, but he gives up to soon and oversteers again. The other driver is on my running board talking to me. We can't offer to help at this moment. He'll just bite our head off. If he asks, we'll get all over it. We are busting up inside, but outwardly trying not to even smile. I tell the second driver, as soon as I see an opening, I'm going to scramble out. Back and forth. All the way right. All the way left. Just then he is in just a little deeper, I tap my street horn and start barreling for the gate. He doesn't realize it but once he successfully gets into the dock. HE HAS FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE DOOR HE CLOSED! He will have to pull out and open the door. I'm not convinced he'll survive the day. I'm gone, it is no longer my problem. The poor other driver is from the same company [not mine] and is stuck there until the Stroked Out One gets out of the way.
Back down NJ9 I crawl through downtown Lakewood and through a length of residential street. I'm around to the customer again. There is a truck between me and the dock. I can't pull in and sit there 45 minutes. But you know what? That is OK. I'm not having the worst day in New Jersey!
It is sleeting a little when I leave. I have plenty of time to get to my delivery in South Carolina over the weekend. Suddenly, I am exhausted. I get right back to the same truckstop I slept at last night. It is only about 40 miles in the right directions, but I am done for the day. There is a buffet here. I splurge and go inside for some real food.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Every where I go I'm waiting in line. I've had an air leak causing me trouble so last Friday I took advantage of some flexibility and went through our terminal in North Jackson, OH. The head mechanic made me no promises, but had me drop my tailer. "Just hang out there and I'll see what we can do when one of my guys is done with the cab they're working on." I sat all day and they couldn't fit me in.
I sent a message to our Parsippany, NJ shop that I was on my way in. My delivery was in New Jersey, so I was headed that way. It took most of the day Monday, but they got my leak fixed. Now I can sleep without the Low Air Alarm going off.
I got to my delivery Tuesday morning. There were already about 9 trucks waiting at the gate. Another line!! Nevertheless, I'd rather be lucky than good. Two security guards amble down the line with a checklist. "You're the one they're looking for this morning," they tell me. "Pull on in and go to the Receiving Office." Bonus!
Carlisle, PA is one of the worst truckstops I've been to. Coming in the driveway, you go past the exit of the fuel islands. You have to drive through the parking area and loop around to get into the fuel queue. When you're done fueling, you have to make a left turn through the entering traffic to get out. If anyone, especially a rookie, is trying to back in to a spot, the whole process shuts down. I don't even like to fuel in Carlisle, let alone sleep there, but I was out of hours.
In the morning, I fueled and hit the road! 14.4 miles down the road I was at a dead stop. The DOT was cutting apart a bridge. When the torches were cutting, they closed the road. Another line.
After pushing through that jam, I needed a pit stop. Pulling into the next truckstop, and stepping out of the truck, I see the last stragglers of a busload of Mennonites going in. Guess what, another line. They looked very Amish, but I heard the driver say he was driving for the Conservative Mennonite Church.
There I was, in Oklahoma City, standing in line at a truckstop. I've got a couple six packs of water and a package of Mango Con Chile. "Can I help you, Hon?" she asks. She was elegant for working the fuel desk at a truckstop. There was an air about her; prairie woman beauty. A ringer for Val from Dallas [Joan Van Ark]. White shirt and black pants, the uniform for fuel desk employees, but she carries hers better than the rest. "What are these like," she asks picking up the Mango Con Chile. "It's dried mango with cayenne pepper and sugar. Want to try it?"
She finished ringing me up and was fishing for a bag. "Want to try it?" I ask again. "OK, sure" I open the bag and let her fish a piece of mango out. Taking a bite, her eyes widen; cheeks purse [likely, both sets]. "That's wild," is all she chokes out. "Have a great day. Be safe out there" As I walk out, passing the length of the fuel desk, I hear her say to the next in line, "Hang on just a minute, Hon." She is racing me down the length of the desk. She's looking for a trash can to either spit in or puke in. I really wanted to tell her she should think twice before sticking something a truck driver offers into her mouth, but I want to be able to come back here some day too.
Looking at the Scale Ticket in my hand, I'm still illegal for the road. I have to adjust the fifth wheel and re-weigh. Back in at the Fuel Desk, she calls me over because the line at her register is gone. "You had to reweigh, baby?" "Yes," I tell her, "I had to adjust the fifth wheel. Usually I just have to move the tandems, but this load is heavy." I can see that her eyes are glazed. She doesn't really care about my weight problem, or my truck's. :o) She's probably sorry she asked such a specific question. An occupational hazard I suppose. That's alright. I'm not really interested in a woman who can't handle her Mango Con Chile.
The night before, I slept across the street at the TA. I had a shower about to expire on my Road King card. I left at 4:30 am, went across the street to fuel at the Pilot. As I left the Pilot on my way to Southard, OK, a fire engine goes by. Heading around to get back to the highway, I see a plume of smoke. Huh!?!? Passing the TA I see a truck, on the scale, almost fully engulfed in flames. I had slept about 40 feet from that very scale!! I never heard what happened, but that is scary.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Moreover, I haven't done a crossword since I was married. It lead to haunting flashbacks. I've done 5 or 6 this week already. I enjoy them actually. It is especially fun to put one down, 2/3 full and I'm stumped, only to pick it up the next day and burn through it with a fresh mind.
My married crossword experience is hilarious and should have been in "The Honeymooners" or "Roseanne" or something. She always had the puzzle and the pen. I was reading something else. And it goes:
Her: "What's a ten letter word for rules of thumb?"
Me: "How many letters do you already have?"
[ At least 180 seconds go by ]
Me: "How many letter have you got?"
[ maybe 90 more seconds ]
Her: "Oh, I'm on the next one already."
Me: "Grrrrr" [in my head]
subtitle: can I get a witness?
So, I'm sitting there in Nashville. A guy is walking around the lot handing out pamphlets. I'm not sure what denomination. And his wife isn't with him, so I don't know if she is flat chested or not [See, he did it again]. He is harmlessly, almost painfully, wholesome looking. Flannel shirt, windbreaker, blue jeans, comfortable shoes. Those shoes that look like they're from KMart, but are actually $200 mail order orthopedic appliances. He is in his late 50's, maybe a youthful 60. His hair is grey and combed over. He could disappear into almost any crowd. Or he could be the BTK killer. As he approaches my door, I feign to not see him, but he knocks. "Here, its free," he says with a pause and thrusts a couple pamplets up to me. When my arm doesn't reach for the ephemera, he adds cheerfully, "Doesn't cost a thing." and flashes a $200 mail order smile.
"Oh, it costs more than you think," I respond wryly.
For a nanosecond, his features begin to change like he will chuckle. Some internal filter clicks on and his smile fades. He doesn't frown, his face doesn't goes that way. He just looks at me, like a webpage with "Loading . . ." hanging across the middle. For just a moment, he got my meaning, but the system rejected it; saving him. The wind pushes at his combover as he turns to go. He jerks away like a robot running Windows 95.
Two doors down, another driver sits in his cab. Familiar territory again. All gauges are returning to normal. Crisis averted. He darn near shared a chuckle with me.
"And I'll have the pastrami," Tom Swifty adds wryly. [do you remember Tom Swifty?]
I stopped on the Penn Turnpike to use the facilities and maintain my sobriety. There's a Starbucks here! Woo Hoo! I haven't had green tea in weeks. At the counter is the cutest girl this year. My goodness! She is subtle gorgeous. Her features are not fine, but just slightly rounded in that Mixed Breed Middle American way. She has the rich wholesome beauty that the tortured starlet always begins with; fresh off the bus in L.A. Joy bubbles over in her work, her voice, her demeanor, and especially her eyes. She has my tea seeping in a flash. Her auburn hair is pulled back under a scarf. The voluptuous natural curves of her lips are like the shoulders of a black cherry. When she asks "Is that everything?" "That's a loaded question," I smile. Just a little flirt. Those eyes sparkle a bit more. I thought they would burst. She giggles with depth; hidden knowledge expressed in a smile. "Have a nice day, sir."
That last word. . . now I'm the herky jerky robot. I stagger back to the truck, wounded. I knew she was too young. I really wasn't on the make; just practicing. Honest. But, Sir!? How could she hurt me that way?!?!? SIR is an acronym for "you're such a nice old man."
I take heart in knowing she will always be happy. She will work hard, play hard and live well. She'll always have a smile for some old man. I have a friend, became a teacher, who could be her older sister. Starbucks Chic will go to college somewhere like Ball State.
Gypsies in the Palace
I pulled into a Love's Truckstop in Jeffersonville, OH. I'm two hours away from my delivery, four hours early. Love's is surrounded by farmland out in Southwest Ohio. There is a Crisp Fall Wind coming across the open fields like a Dentist Drill. I run inside and zip my jacket to the cold. Almost the same feeling as being called 'Sir.'
Heading back to the cab, there is a guy talking to the driver next to where I parked. As I approach, he breaks off and comes to me. "Did you hear about the flat bed and the tanker?" he asks, "D'ja have your ears on." I indicate I hadn't. "Come here, this is hilarious." We walk across the lot. I see a flatbed but no tanker. Hmmm.
The guy has a walrus mustache and perpetual stubble. Even clean shaven, the line of his chin would be indistinct. Jowls curve south, rounded by cheap beer and fried food. Flannel shirt over a tshirt and jeans; midwest trucker uniform.
As we approach the flatbed, three more guys converge. There is a lanky goofball waving a wad of cash. He has no front teeth. People with thin lips should floss. His upper lip sags across the gap except when he smiles. He wears the ill fitting clothes of garage sale chic. You don't buy for fit, you buy for utility. There is another midwest trucker; dressed a little better. Company jacket over a henley. His wife must work in an office. Her style, and expectations, stain him. There is another tall, thin, older farmer-looking guy. Toothless Jones keeps flashing his wad of cash. I begin to understand that he really wants me to know he is loaded. He is probably the long lost Uncle of a guy we used to call Gums and Roses. Another bystander walks up.
It is an elaborate scam. I'm sure of that much. I really think the whole thing was orchestrated by Toothless Jones, the farmer and the two Midwest truckers. The wad is probably $40 in ones with 5 or 6 twenties on top. It is Three Card Monte with a twist. Toothless is supposed to be an idiot who doesn't know the game. There's money to be had here, man. An Exquisite Grifter change up.
Farmer makes a bet and loses. On the second bet, he picks a card and holds it behind Toothless' head. Toothless makes dramatic twists like he is looking for the card. Meantime, farmer flips the card behind Toothless and turns up the other two cards and bends a corner of the Ace. Two Jacks and an Ace are at play. Farmer flips the Ace back over. He's lost again.
Now the fun begins. Supposedly, Toothless can't see that 3/8" of his Ace is bent up on a terrible angle. Farmer wins! Twice, even! Now, the better dressed trucker jumps in. He wins twice picking the marked Ace. Shocking! A new rule emerge. Toothless can't tell his Ace is marked but now you can only bet twice and then its someone else's turn. Midwest tries to hand me a twenty. "He won't let me bet again," he winks "you do it." I point to the other bystander "He should."
"It's easy money, man. Go ahead. Just bet for me." He taps me on the arm with the back of the hand holding the twenty.
"I'm don't want to join in. I'm not buying it," I finally say. Immediately, Toothless jumps up and walks off. "I'm tired of this," he says to the wind.
When I turn back to my truck, another driver approaches. He has an enormously, and perfectly round, beer belly with a leather jacket 2 sizes too small. His trucker hat stands straight up off his forehead. He strains to put as little weight as possible on his left leg. A trucker malady. 50 yards across the lot might as well be the Appalachian Trail. "What's going on?" he snorts between gimps.
"Three Card Monte," I say.
"The Shell Game with cards," I explain.
"Oh, $%^&* I thought you guys were talking about something juicy!" he smiles.
"I just got here, but I didn't fall off any truck," I say. "I didn't buy it; can't afford it anyway."
"I've been out here to long for that $%^&*()," he says and stumbles back with me.
Then I started to think: I've inadvertently gone into business with a drug dealer and got out; spent four hours on the side of the road with the Lee County Sheriff Narcotics Squad for his guilt not mine; went into business for myself two and a half times before I was 35; had two groups try to hoodwink me out of a business [one an SBA scam, the other a reverse acquisition worthless stock scam]; I broke into a building and stole a bunch of stuff, that a judge later ruled was actually mine, and used it to start the business over with 2 out of 3 original partners; was once sued for $600,000, settled out of court for $40,000; and once closed on a house the same day my checking account was fifty dollars in the hole. These guys were going to take me?!?!?! I have a finely tuned radar. I might have to tell some of those stories.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I drove into Southern Oklahoma to deliver a load of dog food. The next pickup I got was not too far away. I decided to cut across the countryside rather than take Interstate. The Interstate would have been faster, but the Scrub was less miles. No one will know, and backroads are good for the soul.
Back in the Scrub in Oklahoma, everyone from Gentleman Farmers driving Cadillacs to Dirt Farmers in shotgun shacks and mobile homes has horses. If there was ever a choice between the horse or the car, they would cancel the insurance and put the car at the end of the driveway with a sign in the window.
I passed a small place with 10 or 12 head of cattle. The gigantic bull watching over them all, looked up as I passed. Grandma always said pigs were smarter than cows. Something about how close together their eyes are. I wrote about a mean old wild hog. This bull was meaner. A ridge over his eyes, this bull seemed to scowl. He appraised my truck and me. I could tell he thought: "Yeah, I could take you."
Oklahoma has several Indian Nations. I spent the night at the Choctaw Casino and Conoco Truck Plaza. There was a young girl at the counter. She was beautiful; exquisitely shiny black hair, high cheek bones, those doe eyes. When she opened her mouth to speak, I was transported . . . to a mall! She was just an American teenager at heart. She discovered the Tums I was buying had already been opened. "That's so gross," she said; sounding more like my midwestern nieces than Pocahantas. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't 'mallteenese.'
For all the political correctness surrounding sports team names and such, the Oklahoma Indian Country is full of similar depictions. The Big Chief Truckstop in Big Cabin, OK has an Indian Chief standing at the drive. It has to be 50 feet tall. I'm not sure that any Indians own the truckstop, but mom and pop businesses and tourist traps all over have Indian Symbology in their logos and signs. I do know that Indians own the Choctaw Casino where I slept the other night. The souvenir aisle looked about the same at either stop.
The lone tree on a ridge in the big prairie is quintessential. There is something romantic about such a tree. Some are twisted and gnarled by exposure to the prairie wind. There are other ridgelines with a row of trees across them. The corrugated metal outbuilding about halfway up the hill; just beyond it is the majestic tree. Perhaps a horse is standing in the shade of a shed.
It must be work for that tree to stay where it is. If it was easy for a tree to be there, wouldn't there be several? That tree is standing in defiance of the thrashing weather of all the seasons. The lone defiant Prairie Tree reminds me of one of my favorite paintings. The Weeds, whom I used to work for, were patrons of the arts. The company lobby was like a small gallery. One painting that held a prominent position, was of a couple cowboys on horseback. It is winter. A snowy hill is behind them as they ride through the drifts on the prairie. They are looking over your left shoulder. Something is amiss. The cowboy in the foreground is starting to pull his rifle from its saddle holster. There is danger, but they are prepared to face it. I always thought that painting was the perfect analogy for a small businessman.
This morning I had a spectacular sunrise in big sky country. The sun began to rise and colored the entire eastern horizon. To the north and south on the outer fringe, the purple and deep red stay on. Toward the east, oranges and pinks, and finally yellows, burn in the sky. I am passing Lake Eufaula. The catspaws, patches of the wind's texture on the lake, shine in a brilliant light blue color. It is almost a translucent turquoise. The glass smooth areas of the lake burn with the colors of the sunrise. Islands are almost black. The trees and rocks are cut sharp like silhouettes in black felt on a mirror. The lake is a sprawling reservoir and matches the great sky on fire. The lake runs beside me for 20 or 30 miles. Not just truckdrivers, but how many people, in general, go through life looking at their shoes. Look Up! Look Around! Breathe! Absorb! Relax a minute for Pete's Sake!!!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I waited all morning in Atlanta for this. A trip to the scrub. The lot is not paved, it is just a fence around some scrub with a warehouse in the middle. It is more dust than sand. If not for the color, it could be the scrub anywhere; Texas or Arizona. It's a dark orange. A little more like Sweet Potato Pie than Pumpkin; more orange than brown. It must have rained recently. There are pockets of mud and muck. Just a reminder how easily the red dirt reverts to clay. In the dry fall wind, I can hear Gillian Welch singing "Red Clay Halo."
I saw Gillian and her partner, David Rawlings, at Goshen College. David Rawlings is an amazing guitar player. Gillian was the girl in the record store looking for Soggy Bottom Boys records in the movie, "Oh, Brother Where For Art Thou?." I really went to hear Old Crow Medicine Show. WGCS, the college radio station, had switched from classical to americana. They were playing a lot Gillian and Old Crow. The OCMS song "Wagon Wheel" was/is one of my favorites.
I backed into the dock and jumped out to check in with the Shipping Dept. The whole neighborhood smelled of kibble. It was overpowering. Like puppy breath when they jump right from the bowl into your lap. It is all the bad smell of liver and none of the good smell of onions. The smell is big; more like a sweaty horse jumped in my lap.
1300 20 lb bags of Dog Food is 26,000 lbs. I am headed from the Central Georgia Scrub to the Lake Country of Oklahoma.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The same night that storms raged across Michigan, including the one that tossed a baby out with the rain water, Dad and I were driving up to Bay City to cover up my boat.
We headed to the marina towing Mom and Dad's 24' Jayco Trailer. We pulled around behind the building closest to S/V "In A Mist," set up the camper and plugged it in. Mom had us all stocked up with grub. Chili Friday Night and Waffles Saturday Morning. The chili hit the spot, along with some Suisse Mocha later in the evening. It was windy and spitting a bit of rain, so we hunkered down. Two geeks in a trailer back in the bone yard of a marina; each with a nose in a book.
The night was windy enough that it was like a Harbor Simulator. Around my boat are 10 or 12 other sailboats "on the hard." I fell asleep listening to the halyards rattling on the masts and a bit of wind in the rigging. It was as if I was already in some quaint harbor somewhere surrounded by vagabond neighbors and other boats swinging from their moorings. I'm sure I appreciated it more than Dad did.
Saturday morning we were up before 7:00. Dad started the coffee and made the waffles. We measured up the boat and went into to town. At Home Depot, I bought a couple tarps, some 2x4's, cinderblocks and rope [a real sailor would say 'line']. While I scoped around and checked the boat, Dad pumped the bilge. We wrapped the big tarp around the mast and spread it aft; the smaller one forward. My two main leak sources are the main hatch and the cockpit floor. Each will be replaced next summer. There may be some leaking from the deck hardware. I will know in the spring. :o)
Seeing the boat again was like a lovers' reunion. It was so important to rejuvenate my hopes and dreams for next summer and beyond. Occasionally, because I am so far removed from the boat, I am just grinding through my days on the road. I feel refreshed. I really am moving forward. I talked with a friend about "steerage." A boat, especially a sailboat, cannot turn [change course] unless it is moving forward first. An analogy for life. In a similar way, sometimes sailing is so peaceful that you have to look at the water gently gurgling past the rudder to make sure that you are actually moving. I can't wait to have that peace again. "Staring at the full moon like a lover . . . " Everybody sing! "Time for . . . a Cool Change!"
We made short work of covering the boat and then checked on my storage unit; sails, cushions, docklines and other junk. By early afternoon, we were headed back to Hudsonville.
In Hudsonville, we had a Mini Family Reunion. We are actually all full size but there weren't very many of us there. My cousins Steve and Kelly, Sister Amy and her Todd and their girls were there with Mom and Dad and I. Mom stuffed us all with a big brunch spread. Feta and Spinach Cheese Strata to die for!
Chuck and Deb have graciously stored my truck for a lot longer than they imagined; I'm sure. They are great and put me up in the school bus at the beginning and the end of my weekend home. Chuck and I managed to have a beer Sunday evening. Monday AM things fell apart. I got sent back on the road a day sooner than I had planned. Thanks again for the ride, Deb!! I missed several important people. Shout out to Jimbo, Emily and my adopted family in Dowagiac. Jim is ready to hit the WWF Circuit with his new move the Half K[censored]y. I can't wait to see him in a unitard and tights crashing down on his opponents like the Mighty Sword of Crom! OK, the last two sentences are a delicious inside joke and a literary allusion. Wherever Jim is, he just laughed out loud while the rest of you just furroughed your brow. See, he just did it again.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
So I was going to tell you about the trials and tribulations of simply paying my phone bill, but I have a way better story than that now.
Jerry Jeff Walker first drove Jimmy Buffett to Key West.
Jerry Jeff has a song called "Life on the Road."
"Let me tell you 'bout the life I lead
It ain't all it's cracked up to be
Of what you been told, 'bout life on the road ."
Of course, Jerry is a traveling troubadour. If you ask a Truck Driver, life on the road is Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll; just like you hear. That mostly goes on in the minds of truckers. Now real Rock and Rollers, they seem to enjoy the physical manifestations as well.
I was down to one stamp and I hadn't seen a mail box for more than a week anyway. I knew I was overdue to pay my phone bill. Driving through the mountains of West Virginia, I spotted a plaza with a Sprint Store sign. The next exit was only three miles, so I got off eastbound and back on westbound.
I pulled on to shoulder of the exit ramp. You just can't take a semi where only cars were meant to go. I've been in some tight spots and didn't want to push my luck on a plaza built into the side of a mountain. Besides, it had been a few days since I had a good walk. I popped the Four Ways on and locked up the truck.
The walk down the rest of the ramp wasn't bad. I could see that far. I turned up the road toward the plaza. It is really dry in West Virginia. As I crunch through the right of way, hundreds of crickets jump off in all directions. It is almost as if I'm wading through them. Like wading at the beach when you don't care how wet you are, your feet just kick up the splash.
At the entrance of the plaza, I realize this isn't some northern strip mall. The plaza is in four parts up the side of the hill. I really could have changed into some shorts before I started this trek.
The first tier is a rise of 10 or 15 feet above the road. I can see the backs of the stores on the next tier. They must be 40 feet above my head. Starbucks is the only store marked on the back. They even have a drivethrough, but I'm walking.
I cut from the road up an embankment to the first tier. There is a Wild Birds Store, a Quick Med Clinic, a couple empty storefronts and an O'Charley's Resturant. The stores all face the road; no Sprint.
I walk up the access road around the back of the Starbucks Tier. There is another embankment to climb. At the top, I can see that Sprint is not in the Starbucks Strip, but looming on the horizon is the main plaza anchored by a Target and an Office Max. There is Sprint! However, it is on the other side of a huge parking lot. It is real warm now.
As I walk across the steamy tarmac, I plan my next move. I've got a couple bucks in my pocket. I know my phone bill is more than that. I duck into Target in search of an ATM. I haven't seen a bank branches in any of the tiers. The cool air inside the Target washes over me as I enter. It bites on my lower back where I've sweated some moisture into my shirt. Almost too cold. I spot an ATM. Funny, someone has got Stickie Notes all over it. As I walk up to it I realize the Stickies say "Out . . . Of . . . Order." Dog!
The shy girl behind the Service Counter thinks that ATM is the only one in the Plaza. Well, I might as well try Sprint and my Debit Card. The Comdata card that we truckers use isn't a normal Mastercard or Visa Debit Card. Walmart and other stores can take it on their machines. I enter Sprint with my fingers crossed. No such luck. The dudes in football jerseys at Sprint echo the shy girl's ATM story.
Just to make sure, I walk across another steamy tarmac to check at the Home Depot. Also on the third tier but separated by another huge parking lot. Nothing.
The walk back to the truck is downhill and more enjoyable. At least I got some exercise. I resolve to find an ATM and pat that bill. Better than to leave and have to stop again. Back in the truck, I go under the highway to jump back on the eastbound freeway. I had seen some gas stations when I turned around before. I can see a bank south of the highway but it looks pretty cramped for truck space. I head for the highway.
At the next exit, one of the gas stations I thought I saw, is under construction, or perhaps disassembly. There are three or four contractor pickups parked in the lot which is more dirt than pavement. After that there is nothing else that isn't behind tight curbs or some other hazard. Life on the Road. There is just nowhere to go. I head back west on the highway. I'm going to take a closer look at that bank.
Back over on Exit 18, and under the highway again. The good news is the cross road is a WV state highway. It will be legal for me to drive on and big enough for the truck. I slow to look at the bank. It is a left turn onto a small road. I can't see very far. I'm pretty sure I can't drive through and there isn't room to turn around. As I consider my next move, cars begin to pile up behind me. I decide to bail. I drive down WV-60; this is the same road that comes out at the next exit where I've been turning around.
Further down this road is a credit union. Back in the day, to get a fresh 6 pack and some ice, truckers would pull into the left hand turn lane,. hit the Four Ways, jump out and run into the liquor store. I borrow the maneuver.
After my hike up the hill to the plaza, I know I can get the truck up there. It'll be slow; I'm carrying 38,000 lbs of springs. I jump back on the highway one more time westbound. Hit the exit, turn up the hill and then into the plaza. At the first tier, by O'Charley's, the access road is marked for deliveries. As I approach the corner, some high school couple pull into the left turn lane. I need to go over them. I creep forward right at them.
Junior gets paranoid about his little rice burner dolled up like a drift racer. He throws it in reverse to get out of my way; narrowly missing mom and half the soccer team in a minivan. The truck groans up the hill. I circle around in the empty edge of Target's lot and pick an escape route.
I trudge across the tarmac and pay the damn phone bill. I am hot and thirsty. Tucking into Target again, I feel the cool blast. At the snack bar, there is a huge line of Moms and kids. I'm not staying for that. High maintenance soccer moms. They order yogurt smoothies and soft pretzels with the same customization as a Latte. "For Marlee's pretzel, could you scrape off some of the salt? And she wants cheese, but I don't like her to have much dairy. Could you just dab a little on it? And Bobbie wants his with chocolate and coconut. And the baby can't have anything with wheat . . . ." If I was at a Walmart, it would go fast. Redneck mothers order in bulk. "7 corndogs, a bag of Cheese Popcorn - SHUT UP, BILLY - and a 64 oz. Pepsi with eight straws."
My only other choice is Starbucks. That Rasberry Green Tea Frappacino something or other sounds good, but I haven't been in a Starbucks in months. And I don't really want to spend four bucks on a cold drink. Time to leave West Virginia.
And that was the easy part.
I was headed to Newark, NJ. The directions were good, so I had no trouble getting there. You come in past Newark International and enter a zone that is one part ghetto and two parts Industrial Park. This plant has an infamous dock. To get to their dock, you have to turn up a side street that I thought was tight [just you wait, dear reader]. Down at the end of the street, you pull into their back lot, then back across the street into an alley to turn around. This would be routine but the alley is offset from the drive. So you kind of waggle through a serpentine turn into the alley. Also, everyone on the street is on lock down, so the drive has a gate and concrete barricades to protect the fence. Heading back out the street, you can now back into their dock on your sight side rather than your blind side. Another gate, more barricades and on the other side of the street a curb, four feet of sidewalk, a fence and a building.
I wiggled into the alley and got set up for their dock. I got so close to the neighbors building across the street that a couple manager types decided to discuss something right out on the sidewalk. I managed to back in almost square.
Looking around the neighborhood, I imagine places like Beirut or Gaza must be worse, but it is hard to imagine how. The plant I've delivered to is an old block building. The loading dock was an afterthought. The lift driver has to drive up a ramp on the inside to reach dock height. The dock juts out from the building; tacked on. There are four or five ancient transformers behind a board and batten fence. The crumbling corrugated metal roof reveals some very old looking insulators and wiring. I walk around the fence, but they don't seem to be connected anymore.
This lot has the traditional three strands of barbed wire angled with brackets on top of the fence. The uniform service across the street has razor wire across theirs. The street has a half dozen businesses; all like armed camps.
At the end of the street and across the main drag is a bus stop. Some of the people look like they're having trouble making their way. Others are having their way, making trouble. Some are on their way to work. Some just hanging around. Another is like a half crazy street preacher. He talks to almost everyone, but gesticulates the most when he wanders off by himself. Behind the bus stop is a large old building. It must have been a school or a hospital. There is a large chimney from the old boiler and some men bricking in the first floor windows.
I get unloaded and my next dispatch is into the city. Thee city. New York City. The borough of Long Island City. This will be fun. I call for help on directions. My dispatch shows that I should head north in Jersey to the George Washington Bridge and then head south into New York. That just doesn't make sense.
The person who answers the phone sounds vaguely Indian. He passes me to someone who works there but lives in Jersey and sounds like it.
"Nah, that's crazy," he reacts to my directions. "You want to go south on the Jersey Turnpike to Exit 13. Take that across Staten Island and then the Verrazano Bridge and get on the BQE." "HEY FRANK, doesn't he want the BQE?" he shouts away from the phone. "Yeah, take that to the Van Dam exit. Turn right on 47th Ave. We're right here at 32nd Place."
"Yeah, 32nd," he says. His voice says "Everybody knows its 32nd Place. Whaddya talkin' about?"
"Alright?" he asks. Then click, he's gone.
OK, then. I scroll around on Google Local on my phone. I find Van Dam St. Comparing that to my Atlas, I see he didn't tell me I need to get on 495. There is I-495 the Long Island Expressway and what looks like NY-495 going west. I need NY-495. So I trek off toward Exit 13.
The Jersey Turnpike has this annoying habit of numbering exits the same number but adding A or B or even EX. I pause by 13A but flinch and go on in search of just 13. A guy behind me smokes his tires to avoid me. Yeah, well, he was way back there.
I-278 is the Staten Island Expressway. Crossing over the Gothals Bridge there are lots of ships and port activities. But crossing the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn, my heart soars! I'm looking out over the Atlantic!! Mother Ocean! I'm high enough above the water, individual waves are indistinct. The ocean has a texture though. You can sense the gentle roll. And it just stretches out across the horizon. A flat line from north to south. You can't get that accept at sea. None of the rest of the day can take this joy. And I'm going to need it. Read On.
I-278 nicks the western edge of Brooklyn and runs up toward the bridges to southern Manhattan. Mostly residential scenes and then some industrial areas until I get north of the Prospect Parkway that head over to Prospect Park; the Central Park of Brooklyn.
Moving through northern Brooklyn toward Queens, the highway is at 2nd and 3rd floor level of the surrounding buildings. My eyes are assaulted by color and signs and neighborhoods. I just want to stop and walk around. There are resturants and bars, a myriad of languages, even a large Auto Shop plastered with Chinese. But the shop is a Registered New York State Emissions Inspection Station for both Cars and Big Trucks. The official New York State signs are the only English on the building. An awning and patio tops a building with an Italian Restaurant on the street. It looks as if they took an old awning from the restaurant to use over their patio. There is patio furniture and lots of plants. But for the noise of the highway, it must be quite an escape.
There are several buildings with two faces. One on the ground level to cater to the neighborhood and another on the third or fourth floor. This second one is angled toward the highway to sell to commuters. This creates some funny looking buildings. There was a huge futon store aimed at the highway.
I see the sign for I-495. I'm looking for NY-495, I think. A couple exits later, I realize that I must have missed something. Now I have to turn the truck around somewhere in the city. Moments later, I have no choice the highway takes me to cross the Triborough Bridge; so named because it connects Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Driving across the bridge and wrestling with the Atlas, the new plan is to take I-87 right after the bridge to I-95 east to I-895 and back to I-287 and the Triboro Bridge. No turning around in the city, just exploring a lot of its highways. It is getting late. I have to pick up before 4:00 pm.
Cutting across the western edge of the Bronx, the river and Manhattan are on my left. Yankee Stadium is on the right. I notice a lot of cars parked willy nilly around the stadium, but there is crazy parking all over the city. Back in Brooklyn or Queens, I had to leave the highway because of construction and cut through a neighborhood. Between construction barriers and cars parked by the retarded, I could barely get my truck through. A couple times I was only "pretty sure" the trailer would follow me safely. I just eased on through and tried not to watch in the mirror. If I was wrong, the sound would be bad enough. I didn't want to have to watch it happen too. The crazy parking around Yankee Stadium will come back to haunt me.
I made my first turn on the new plan. Right away on I-95, I see a sign that Wide Loads are not allowed further on The Bronx Expressway. Wide Loads must go south on I-87 with an arrow pointed up an exit ramp. I'm not a Wide Load [shut up] but South on I-87 would save me all the I-95 to I-895 to I-287 shuck and jive. That would take me right back how I came. Surely, I can make it through where they are directing Wide Loads.
It was a bitch. And quit calling me Shirley.
I climbed up into the city from I-95. There was a sign directing Wide Load traffic to the left. There is also several steel columns for the elevated train all over the road. There must also be a school because backpack toting pedestrians are everywhere. In front of me is a street; two traffic lanes and a left turn center lane. The steel columns are on either side of the center lane making it a tunnel. While the light is still red, I scan the scene calculating if I should angle through the center lane into the far right or if I should go all the way through the intersection and make the full turn.
Normally a left turn is much preferred to a right turn in a semi. Your trailer will 'off-track' as you pull it through the corner. This causes the trailer to turn further inside the corner than you and the cab do. A left turn gives you the whole road to work with. A right turn is tight. Trucks will take out stop signs, light poles and pedestrians if the driver is not careful. The steel columns in the middle of traffic pretty much make this left more like a right turn.
Times Up!! The light is green. On impulse, I take the full turn. I pushed my luck enough back in the construction zone. Halfway through the turn, I am way too close to one of the steel columns. I turn wider and ride the curb with my right hand steer tire. We just make it through. The next light is a right turn back to the highway. I am taking this turn very wide too. On the entrance ramp, there is one of those little triangular island curbs to ease the flow around the curve and separate the traffic coming straight across from the left. The backpack toting crowd all jostle to a halt as I go right up and over the island. My diesel tanks are just 8" above the ground. Luckily the curb is quite low. No sense in having a HazMat spill in the city. Whew, I am back on the highway and headed to my pickup. How the hell would a Wide Load get through there?
I get back to the the area around I-495 and realize the exit goes both east and west. I don't know why the Atlas uses different shields for the two roads. I quickly find Van Dam and exit again. Another tight street in the city. I have to turn right up Van Dam with a building right out into the corner. I see 48th Ave and soon come to 47th. Another right turn but a little easier. The first light on 47th is 32nd Place. Here I am! There is nowhere to go. Here is nowhere. I am at a stop light at 47th and 32nd Place in Long Island City. All the streets around me are narrow. The buildings all come right to the sidewalk; only occasionally interupted by an alley or the next street. There is an international vitamin distributor to my left. To the right is a building with a 'space for rent' sign. There is a Prius parked illegally across the street and to the right. In front of it is a dumpster along the far curb. There are several pallets of small boxes or maybe bricks behind the dumpster. They are lined up against the building on the sidewalk. Beyond these skids, a garage door is open and a delivery truck is parked. All the other parking spaces on the street are parked in. The next building down the street has a marble facade. Used to be someone's World Headquarters I imagine. Now its a t-shirt company.
I call my pickup again. I tell them I'm outside with nowhere to go. He gives me the idea those pallets are mine. He's going to send one of his guys out. I literally can't make a move. I'm sitting in the street at a stop light. I've sat here through 3 or 4 cycles of the light already. A few tentative honks have already sounded from the cars behind me. I hit the Four Ways and pull the air brakes. My leg is tired! Now the honking starts in earnest.
After several cars rush by me in the other lane; gesturing with a particular digit, my favorite moment sitting there is a the Chinese Delivery Van. This van pulled out from behind me and sped to make the light. Going by me, the Chinese guy in the passenger seat craned his head and shoulders all the way around to glare at me. He gave me the quintessential NYC WTF look. The kind of look you would expect from a guy named Vinnie or Victor. The International Language of New York City Traffic. The Pa Nang Noodle Company Van disappeared around the next corner.
10 minutes later, I'm still sitting there at the light; still listening to honks and smiling at people past their finger. Some guys start to mill around outside the open garage door moving about frantically. They scurry like ants do if you stomp on the ground right next to an ant hill. A young oriental kid in a "I Heart NY" t-shirt comes jogging over. He asks if I can park where the delivery truck is if they move it. My trailer is longer than that truck let alone my whole rig. "OK," he says, "we'll move it and then see what we can do."
While they are scurrying around and moving the truck, I see an opening on the side street and begin my turn. A short blast on the horn and some eye contact shoo away a Cuban woman and her young son. I'm making another right turn and chances are I need their sidewalk. I can just barely get around because of the illegally parked Prius right on the corner. As I pass it, I notice the Prius has "Official" license plates. Some fool bureaucrat parked there. Around the corner and parked next to the dumpster, I can see 4 or 5 empty parking spaces up the road. I should insist they let me park up there and drive the skids down the block.
Instead they ask if I can pull up on the sidewalk near where the delivery van was. I shouldn't but who else can say they parallel parked a semi on the sidewalk in Long Island City? I'm game! As you can see in my Whacky Photo Gallery [page 2], I didn't really _parallel_ park. I got the tractor and a lot of the trailer over the sidewalk with the tail hanging in the parking spot formerly held by the delivery truck. They just don't pay me enough.
It was an international crew. There were two elder statesmen characters; one Black and the other Indian. They both excelled at observing; supervising without committing themselves to any particular action plan. The young oriental guy seemed to be in charge but not everyone was behind him. There were several younger guys; an Italian, a Puerto Rican, another Indian, and a Black guy driving the lift. A Jewish looking younger guy came out a few times sporadically. He carried the air of the owner's son.
They put a pallet jack in my trailer. The older Indian guy took a position in the trailer at the door. He didn't move much other than to gingerly act as if he was helping the Puerto Rican get a skid moving each time one had been lifted in. The guy on the lift either wasn't very experienced or he had made everyone else nervous somehow. Every 8" the lift moved, someone would call out with a better angle he should take. The oriental supervisor was especially bad about this. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. It was going to take forever this way. Then, incredibly, someone walked up from the street with an urgent question for the lift driver. The whole operation ground to a halt while the driver listened, scrunched his face to ponder, answer and then furrow his brow and clarify.
Then it began again. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct.
I could have loaded the truck faster by myself. Pallet jack a skid to the curb. Climb onto the lift and set the skid in the trailer. Climb into the trailer. Pallet jack the skid into the nose of the trailer. Climb down. Start over again.
I had pulled up onto the sidewalk and behind some parked cars. There was a minivan that I was practically over. See the Whacky Gallery again. During the load process, the van driver left. I was surprised I didn't hear about how close I had come, but then again this is New York. It was going to be easier to get out without the van there. As the afternoon wore on, a woman, who had come out of the Ad Agency across the street, complimented me on my fine parking job. I told her to wait until I had managed to back out again.
The Oriental kid and another watched for me as I backed out. I had scoped out the next intersection for turning radius. It was still tight, but I made it out. It was getting late. From New York City, the nearest place to park a semi for the night was on the border with New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I had a couple hours to go, at least.
Back on the BQE, traffic was snarled. Tomorrow the UN General Assembly opens. Bush is in town. Amadinejad is in town. So was everyone else. There were limos and shuttle vans all over. I got back across the Triboro; this time on purpose. Traffic came to a stop.
30 minutes later, I passed the snarl. A four wheeler (a car) must have made a quick lane change without a second look. He ended up wedged under a semi trailer. Traffic was moving again . . . and then it stopped. All those cars I half noticed around Yankee Stadium were now merging into my lane. The game just got over! For the next hour and a half, I never got higher than third gear. Sixth gear is only 30 mph. I sat and waited, then ambled forward several feet and then waited; ambled; waited; ambled; waited. In two and a half hours, I drove 45 miles. But now I was in Jersey again. We were moving along quite well. The sun had gotten low enough it was no longer frying my eyeballs. This was better. And then we stopped again.
I thought I had survived the Yankee fans and rush hour that started just as the game got out. I had made it far enough into Jersey to pickup the last remnants of those brave souls who commute from Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. All through New Jersey on I-80, there just aren't many rest stops or truckstops. I was going to try and get 100 miiles or so into Pennsylvania before stopping for the night. Finally a place to stop came by. I took a much needed bathroom break and bought a pop.
The day was almost done. Another 100 miles, some sleep, and tomorrow will be a better day. I climbed into the cab, took a deep breath and opened my pop. It fizzed all over my hand, the steering wheel and on to the floor. Just a reminder it wasn't tomorrow yet. Life on the road.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
In the last couple weeks, USA Today ran a poll and found that something like 55% of Americans "BELIEVE" that the Constitution set the United States of America up as a Christian Country [emphasis mine]. Wow, that makes me crazy.
Ayn Rand wrote "facts exist independently of anyone's fears, beliefs or wishes."
I am reading Richard Dawkin's "The God Delusion" [thanks, Tim]. I highly recommend it. I've also been listening a lot to the BBC. I've practically stopped consuming news based in this country. There are times when our present administration and that of Iran are indiscernable. Simply switch out Fundamentalist Muslim for Fundamentalist Christian.
My Ex Wife used to be flabbergasted that I almost always got the bible questions from Jeopardy right. I credit Doctor Anderson at Michigan State University and my father.
Dr. Anderson was a terrific guy. He was an ordained Methodist Minister, Distinguished MSU Humanities Faculty, and a world renown expert in Samaritan literature [more on that in a minute].
I had a personal philosophy when registering for classes at MSU: No classes before 10:00 AM. Ever. This usually meant that I had to take one evening class each semester; typically Mon/Wed or Tues/Thur. Dr. Anderson's class was unique because it met once a week, but for three hours. At the time, I was also interested in his series; two semesters on the Old Testament, and one on the New. I was in the middle of my long journey to where I am.
Dr. Anderson had an amazing memory. He had us fill out a 3x5 Card the first day of class; Name, Major, some interesting fact. At the beginning of each hour of class, he would call out about a third of the stack of cards. We were to raise our hand. It was a modified form of attendance for the large class. By the third week, he was looking at you as he called your name. I was taking the class with a girlfriend and her roommate. We tested him by sitting somewhere else. He looked where we had sat, scanned, found us and called our names. There were about 300 students in this class! 300!!
I took his two Old Testament classes in succession and then, because of a professional internship I did, the New Testament class the next year. Two or three years after I had finished his series, I met Dr. Anderson on the street in East Lansing.
"Hi, Dr. Anderson," I said.
"Well, Hello," he answered, "Wait, you're Thomas or Thompson or . . ."
"Todd Townsend," I offered.
"Why, yes! And you were studying Packaging, I believe." His eyes twinkled like a sage. "You should be ready to graduate almost. How did that internship go? It was here in Michigan. Automotive, I believe."
Right on all five counts. Amazing.
From Dr. Anderson I learned that there are many different authors in most of the books of the bible; especially the gospels. You can watch the transition from one to the next by their vocabularies and style. He taught the allegorical rather than literal bible. OK, 299 students. One night this girl stood up in the middle of his lecture. At the top of her lungs shouted "The bible is NOT a fairy tale!" and walked out never to return.
I think I meat her Aunt a few weeks ago at a truckstop in Tuscaloosa, AL. I am still deciding if I should ever go back there. It is one of my fuel stops. Anyway, I walked in early one morning and there was a driver laid out on the floor. One of the fuel desk ladies was heaving on his clammy chest doing CPR. Apparently the guy had had a heart attack and dropped right there in the store.
I was waiting for a load so I was milling around. A couple hours later, back in the store, I asked at the fuel desk about the guy. This buxom patrician looking big ol' southern woman gently placed a hand to her breast, fluttered her eyes up into their lids and said, "The lord was watching over him. He was breathing before the paramedics arrived."
To no one in particular, I said, "You'd think if the lord was watching over him, he wouldn't have had a heart attack in a truckstop."
"Don't you blaspheme," she shouted. "Don't . . . you . . . blaspheme!" And waved a hand skyward.
Back to Dr. Anderson. He had a friend in the Athletic Department at MSU, way before the 'doctor' in Dr. Anderson.
Well, even before that. Imagine in the 30's or 40's, Michigan State had an Indiana Jones of its own. Apparently, someone from MSU traveled to the Middle East. I can see the trench coat, the fedora, the foggy night at the wharf boarding a rusty tramp steamer. The steamer is bound for the Suez with a mysterious crew. The Captain will have a scar, a black greek fisherman's cap and an outrageous Mediterranean accent.
So this intrepid explorer finds this large cache of Samaritan writings somewhere. I always like the Good Samaritan story. He 'one-ups' the pious and steals their thunder; almost like Prometheus and his fire. Apparently there are Samaritan books that didn't make the bible and early versions of books we're familiar with.
The man in the fedora packs up the Samaritan stuff and ships it back to Michigan State, but he never returns.
I figure he met a woman. Another outrageous accent; this one french or russian. I can see the slinky dress, the high heels, the hose with a seam up the back. She's the kind of woman who never takes off her pearls and makes you forget why it would even matter. Samaritan Who?
So these crates, that no one is looking for, get shifted around the buildings at MSU. Remember the ending of the first Indiana Jones movie?! The Ark of the Covenant in an anonymous crate in a government warehouse that no one ever inventories. Exactly like that.
Michigan State Stadium is a big bowl with tiers of concourses under it. Some of these are used at game time; souvenirs, hot dogs, the johns. Some tiers are just used for storage. Professor Anderson was a fresh faced, wet-behind-the-ears graduate student. He had a friend in the Athletic Department. This friend is in charge of cleaning out some of the crap that has collected in university storage. He is working on cleaning up the stadium when he comes across a crate or two piled with dust. He sends someone for a hammer and a crowbar. Dust flies everywhere as they clean enough to crack it open. The hollow squeak of nails being pulled out of old wood echoes under the stadium. No one know why, but they're all kind of quiet. Cleaning the sawdust and straw off the top layer, they see scrolls [might have been tablets, I don't recall]. There is odd writing.
"I've got a friend over in Humanities," says the Jock, "He'll know if we should throw this out or not. He's a minister working on his masters."
If I remember right, when Professor Anderson came over to the stadium, he was looking at the world's largest collection of Samaritan Literature. Dormant for years. Plenty enough for a Masters and PhD thesis [what the heck is that plural?]. In the process, he became a world renown expert in Samaritan Writing. This is the guy who recognized me on the street two years after the fact. Amazing.
I remember a poor Sunday School Teacher. I think we made her cry. She was so prepared for the Eighth Graders. Very early in the hour, she presented her gem. She had done the math. He created the heavens and the earth and all of us and the flora and fauna in 144 hours! Isn't that spesh-ell [SNL church lady accent]. You see 6 days times 24 hours; why that's just 144 hours for all this. We asked "Who are you to tell god his day is only 24 hours." It pretty much ended there.
Contrast that with the time my Dad taught a few Sunday School classes. I think it was the High Schoolers. He came equipped with poster board maps. The movements of people and armies were set against the land they had or wanted. Geopolitical back stories and deeper understanding. Context. I don't remember the specifics of the lessons but it was a completely different approach. I was still having those my-Dad's-the-coolest-smartest-guy moments when I was in high school.
Both my parents brought all of us up to think for ourselves. Mom was a Renaissance woman herself. She is a strong independent woman who worked, took care of the four of us [Dad included], and was on the School Board for many years. Her work with emotionally and physically handicapped kids was way more work than most anyone did, let alone what other moms did. Holding her own with some rough kids too.
So this USA Today thing is so frustrating. Americans are so frustrating sometimes.
In my opinion, the formula is simple. Facts are facts. Just as actions speak louder than words, the consequences of a system - the outcome of a system - is more important than who built it or how it was made.
Throughout history, governments of all varieties sought to protect their power from the people. The Unites States of America, at birth, was explicitly built to protect the people from the government. A historical first that we have defaced, defamed and bastardized in the last 250 years.
It does not matter whether any of the Founding Fathers were religious. It doesn't matter that they used words and phrases, like "endowed by their creator," in the founding documents. A nearly perfect system was built. These men were toiling to make something that had never existed.
You cannot square "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" with Original Sin, "Turn the Other Cheek" or "Love your neighbor as yourself." It just isn't in there.
And don't send me Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians. That is a bunch of end times hooey taken out of context in lame attempts to justify capitalism.
The beauty of our country at its birth came in spite of "anyone's fears, beliefs or wishes." Just as the whole is greater than the sum of parts, our Founding Fathers built something with timeless elegance that was bigger and better than they knew.
They also built in the freedom to practice any or no religion without the fear of persecution or prosecution. Even today, a rare luxury in the world. The only freedom left ungranted is to bring this nation down by calling it a Christian Country.
PS: The Midnight Heathen Philosophes were a group of us in John Holmes Hall at MSU that stayed up late into the night solving the world's problems. Jim C., Pisser, Eric Z. and many others.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
It started as a normal day. Often, nothing good starts that way. I picked up a load in Michigan bound for Georgia. The load had a tight schedule and I didn't have enough hours to legally deliver. In this situation, the company will 'repower' the load. In other words, I had to meet up with a driver who had hours enough left to take it on to Georgia.
I met the guys [a team, hence plenty of hours], at the Louisville, KY yard. They had called me and mentioned driving through the projects to get there. I had once lived in the city limits of Detroit and figured they was just another couple of paranoid white guys.
I wove my way through the southside of Louisville to the yard. It didn't seem that bad. I was even watching for a place I could grab a bite to eat. The yard was, indeed, right across the street from a public housing project. There was a gate out by the street [open] next to a building. Behind that building was an alley and then another building. It was barren old manufacturing space; abandoned and then leased to a trucking company.
The guys were waiting inside the gate. I dropped the trailer right there and went around behind the back building to get an empty trailer. There were 5 or 6 trailers squeezed back in the back. I had the number of the empty trailer that the team had just dropped, so I didn't have to hunt around. I hooked up and pulled part way back around.
I was a bit behind the back building. There was another truck parked in the front drive. I assumed someone else would be sleeping here too. Beyond my truck was a large concrete pad with a 36" high cinderblock wall around most of its perimeter. It must have been another warehouse at one time; scrapped out or burned down. There were some bundles of wood and chemical totes placed around to prevent someone from driving outside the main parking lot. It wasn't very big as a trucking yard, but someone had painted all the buildings. An effort had been made.
I was out of hours, so I was going to crash in the sleeper there at the yard. I already had a load assignment for the morning and needed rest. It had been a long day. In the immediate neighborhood, there was no where to eat. I didn't feel like walking anywhere. I set an alarm, set the Opt Idle and hit the sack.
Opt [for Optimized] Idle is pretty cool. It is a thermostat controlled climate system for the cab of the truck. The truck will actually shut down when you reach a set temperature. A Comfort Zone is set; how many degrees above your set temperature should the truck engine kick over and run the air down to temperature again. Opt Idle makes life comfortable without having to run the truck 24 hours a day.
I also disconnected the electric line to the trailer. I saw that someone had flagged this trailer for a battery charging problem. The trailers have lights and a small GPS unit. Occasionally, something gets shorted or sideways and the trailer will drain your truck batteries down while you sleep. I was planning tomorrow's drive as I drifted off to sleep.
A couple hours later, I was awakened by noises in the yard. I heard a vehicle squealing its tires. Then I heard voices! I wasn't sure they hadn't jumped up on the DOT bumper on my trailer! I listened carefully. Bottles broke! More Voices!
I pulled gently at the velcro on the vinyl curtain that I sleep behind and peeked out. I really didn't want them to know that I was in here. More yelling! Tires!
Just then, I saw a pickup truck streak past the passenger window. I'm sure they didn't see me; the truck is dark. More tires! Laughing! Yelling!
I wonder how many there are. How many people? How many vehicles? I had considered calling the police already. I wonder what the other truckdriver is thinking. Then I had the dreadful thought that he wasn't even here. I pictured him pulling the truck in the yard; waving to his wife waiting in the family car. He locks the truck up and they go home for supper and to see the kids.
Now I here a vehicle revving, not squealing, but a low rip like they are pushing on something. That something is moaning across asphalt. Are they shoving the other trailers around? the bundles? More tires squeal! That damn laugh. More bottles break! Or is it a window? Crap, I should call the cops.
Then I remember that the trailer has no electricity. I pulled that plug. If I cut and run, I'll be driving through the streets of Louisville with no trailer lights. Huge ticket; best case. Cause an accident; only one worst case scenario.
The tires squeal again. That shoving noise! If I call 911, will my cell connect to Louisville or South Bend? Yelling. Bottles. Tires.
Then suddenly BBEEEEEEEEEEEEPP! GGRRRROOOOOWWWWWWLLLLL!!! The damn Opt Idle kicked on and started the truck. My breathing probably heating up the sleeper. The drumming hum of the diesel rips through the night like a belch at a funeral. There is no other sound. Everything has stopped. Silence. No squeal. No laugh. No nothing.
I decide I'm leaving. I rip through the velcro curtain. Jump in the driver's seat, crack the door open and look around. Jumping down the steps, I race to the headboard of the trailer, plug in the lights and bound back to the door. I'm in and releasing the brakes. The air brakes are just bleeding off as I jam the accelorator down. The truck strains against the last of the brakes and I turn toward the street.
At that moment, the pickup truck races out of the alley nearer to the road. Two stupid rednecks gawk at me as I barrel toward them and the gate. David and Goliath in reverse. I tower over them.
Those damn crackers made ME a paranoid white guy; if just for a moment. I hate that!
I slow down just enough as I pass the alley to look for their accomplices. There are none. I figure the two idiots had their fun. Drank a 12 pack and then threw the bottles around; probably MGD. I still don't know what they were shoving. I didn't investigate; I left. I feel stupid. Of course, I think I scared them as much as they scared me.
Even though I was out of hours, I headed for a truckstop about 30 miles east of town. Unbelievably, I found a parking space and slept hard for about three hours, but then it was time to head for Ohio. Not only had those stupid hilljacks scare the crap out of me, they ruined my night and wasted my sleep time. I was jazzed up the whole next day. As the Captain says in that old pirate joke: Bring Me My Brown Pants!
Monday, September 10, 2007
On the way to a delivery in Jacksonville, I had passed a truckstop about 12 miles before and went back after I was empty. The Pilot at Baldwin, FL was packed full and so was the TA next door. Then, on the way out to the highway, I missed the left turn to head back to Jacksonville. Headed west again on I-10 and grabbing the Pocket Truck Stop Guide, I found that there was a small Exxon two exits down the line. Soon after, I saw a billboard for a BBQ place on the same exit. I had been craving BBQ for a while.
I found the tiny Exxon and battled my way behind the convenience store to park in muddy sand. On the way in, I spotted a Chinese Buffet next door. Well a Chinese craving almost predated the BBQ one. Further, it would save me walking about a mile, so I bought a paper and went next door.
Now, a Chinese Buffet, one in tiny Macclenny, FL, is not apt to surprise or most especially not impress. Most of you could probably recite the menu at a Chinese Buffet; almost in order. Yes, there was par-boiled Sushi, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Fried Rice and Pepper Beef. But along toward the end, past the delicate Spring Rolls, was something labelled Peanut Butter Chicken. I had to try it. It was boneless thigh crisply fried with, duh, peanut butter. The crispy crust of the chicken was infused with peanut butter taste. It was exquisite! I have never in my life seen or tasted anything just like it. It evoked Thai, but also PB&J on Wonderbread. It was very interesting . . . and delicious. I had seconds and later paid dearly. I just don't eat like that anymore.
I discovered Boiled Peanuts in a similar way. Boiled Peanuts are a southern delicacy. And are quite simply boiled peanuts. You get a peanut with a texture that is like a boiled potato not quite all the way done. They are very good. My man, Tony, used to bring them into the office thanks to his Georgia upbringing.
When I discovered Boiled Peanuts, I lived in Florida. About once a month, or twice in three, I would go down to Miami on business. From Tampa, I would go through Arcadia and cut across the Everglades. On the way, I always passed an old Black Man sitting by an old blue pickup truck with a hand painted plywood sign out by the road that just said "Boiled Peanuts."
After going by several times, I stopped to talk to him and he gave me a sample. Scooping down into a black, briny cauldron on top of a propane burner, like a turkey fryer, he brought out peanuts in the shell. I asked him how to eat them. "Most you Yankees crack open the shell and just eat the nut. We just chew and spit out the shell." I still crack them open, but I liked the sample. They were just a bit salty; warm and soft and delicious. For a dollar, he filled an oversized Styrofoam Cup with peanuts and a little brine over the top. I ate Boiled Peanuts all the way across the 'Glades.
Down the same road, following another old pickup, every minute or so the bones from a chicken wing would fly out the driver's window and arc around in the wind back to the road. One even hit my windshield. It was years later before I discovered Chicken Wings myself.
Florida was good for new food; beyond the usual seafood you might think of. I had Armadillo and Wild Hog for the first time in Florida.
I went to a cookout at my business partner's house and an amazing feat of Redneck Engineering pulled into the driveway. This guy had taken a 1000 gallon propane tank and turned it into a portable smokehouse on a tandem axle trailer. In the smoker was a deer chopped up, several chickens, a wild hog, an armadillo, some gator and 6 turkeys. The turkeys weren't even for the party. The women knew he was coming out and that he would have lots of room. The turkeys went home to six houses for later in the week.
The Armadillo was a bit like gamey chicken. The Wild Hog was very good. I had learned to eat Gator at Skippers Smokehouse in Tampa. Better than the Hog was the hog story.
There was a legendary wild boar out in the woods by Arcadia, FL [that's how I remembered]. The hunters knew him by his one ear that was almost torn off in a fight. As he lumbered through the woods, that ear would flop around; hanging by a thread. Everyone wanted to take him, but no sooner than they saw him, he would disappear into the thicket.
The guy with the High Class Redneck Smoker was out hunting. Most of these guys hunted hog with a long barrelled, high caliber handgun. I don't remember his name; I'll call him Earl. Earl had just parked his truck and was getting his stuff together when the hog, THEE HOG, came scrubbing out of the woods. Earl shook the holster off his gun and took a quick shot. The hog was hit, but just got mad. Charging Earl, the hog rammed him and bounced him into his truck. Squealling and loaded for bear, the hog came toward him again. Earl grabbed a shovel that was in the back of his truck. He was too close to take another shot; he wanted to miss his truck too. The hog charged; Earl swung. There was a tussle. The hog backed off just enough that Earl took another shot and finished the hog off. Earl was by himself and almost couldn't get the big old hog up into his truck. He told us at the cookout that if we tasted tomato in the hog it was because his wife had borrowed his shovel in her garden the day before he swung it at the hog. Anyway, it was Earl's story, but I don't think he bought any pork that week.
While I'm at it. I discovered Mango Con Chile out here on the road too. Mango Con Chile is like Chili Con Cueso or Chili Con Carne. Con is 'with.' Chili Con Carne is Chili with Beef; Chili Con Cueso is Chili with Cheese. Mango Con Chili is dried mango coated in chili pepper and sugar. Sweet, Tart and HOT! Man, tutorsey good! I bought some in Birmingham, AL. One of the cashiers asked mine what I was buying. She whispered "They're Mexican" like some Aunts whisper "Cancer" or "Divorce." I smiled and told her "I love mango and I love cayenne, so I must be gonna like these."
Try it you'll like it. Don't plan, just do it.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I've had Corporate America in my sights. In conversations, emails and obliquely here on the blog, I've railed against their inertial policy filled, creativity killing, joy sucking, frustrating ways. I proclaimed I was free of them. I really am, but Corporate America recently got the chance to poke me in the eye.
In the mid 80's, I did a professional internship through Michigan State and worked for an automotive packaging company. It was a great little company, which may not be so little any more. We were working on the first designs of a revolutionary idea; returnable packaging. The automotive industry, starting with Buick City in Flint, were going with a concept where packaging was made to last for several trips. The racks and dunnage would collapse or nest and go back to the vendor who would use it again to ship parts. It has become the norm in many areas of manufacturing. I designed several systems as a part of my internship.
So, Wednesday afternoon, I am looking for an empty trailer. I hauled a damaged trailer from a customer to our yard in Irving, TX. Typically, I either get unloaded while I wait at a consignee or I drop a trailer and pick up an empty. Occasionally, finding an empty is a problem.
At a yard, drivers congregate for different reasons like repairs or inspections etc. Empties are a valuable commodity because there are so many drivers; a supply-and-demand thing. I was having trouble finding one. So I thought I was getting inside info from a guy who checks trailer lights on the yard. I went around the corner to a drop yard that was full of trailers! I found an empty right away. After doing the computer "trailer change," dispatch informs me I can't have that one it is reserved for an automotive load. OK, no problem. I found another. Same deal; can't have it.
Irving, TX is right between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Wednesday, it was in the mid to high 90's. I began to check the other trailers in the yard. This time before I bothered to hook up to them. :o) There must have been 50 trailers in the yard. I didn't look at all of them, but it was close! I was wandering around the yard; doing a cursory inspection. I opened the rear doors on at least 30 trailers. Frustrated; dying of thirst; getting pissed. EVERY SINGLE TRAILER was unavailable. I didn't have to contact dispatch for these. It seems that because the Automotive Industry has slowed a bit, there is a glut of the returnable racks and dunnage. The "Float" between vendor and customer to keep the shipments flowing was now backing up. All of these trailers were at least partially full of Automotive Returnable Dunnage. I'd open one, two thirds full, and move to the next. The next might be only a quarter full of racks that looked exactly like the first racks. It is like those debit card commercials where drinks and sandwiches are flying around, everyone is happy, the music is pumping along. And then someone wants to write a check. . .
So, TOUCHE! Corporate America. You got me.
Of course, I'd never been to the Irving yard before. They all work slightly differently. A yard dog driver came over and asked what I was looking for. "AN EMPTY!" I said. Oh, sorry. He tells me I should talk to Mike over at the office. He doles out the empties. "There's three or four of 'em over there," he says. So, in fifteen minutes, after three hours, I was ready to roll. Of course, my then it was about 6:00 pm. So I slept at the terminal and ran off in the morning to get my load of bottled water in Ft. Worth. Now, I know.
Alex Dorsey is in the South Pacific on a 28' Westsail. He ends his posts with "Peace, Love and Coconuts." I can't wait to say that my self.
So for now,
Peace, Love and Diesel Fumes,
PS - I've been on Diesel Fumes for two months now. I don't have any trouble with worms or long term relationships. I highly reccommend it. :o) [stolen and paraphrased from a Texas Singer/Songwriter]
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Two days ago, I was in Laredo, TX. I've been to Grand Prairie, Irving, Tyler and Dallas [even though my cousin Steve was not!]. This morning, I drove up US75 through Choctaw Country in OK. It was a nice drive. Lake Eufaulla could be the coast of Maine. I am in Roland, OK tonight.
Nature's adaptability is amazing. Puts us humans to shame. There are these little black birds with long beaks in Texas and Oklahoma. They have discovered the smorgasbord on the grilles and radiators of semi trucks. The birds literally hang out at the Fuel Island at truckstops and pick the bugs out of the radiator. I even saw one fellow with his head cocked on a funny angle as if deciding whether it was worth jumping up on that grille or not.
Another fuel island folly, I was fueling and noticed that someone had dropped a ten dollar bill. My first thought was whether I should turn it in or pocket it. By the time I finished fueling, I forgot all about it and drove off.
As I was driving up US75, I was chanting the name of Checotah, OK. It just sounded cool; very spaghetti western indian-ish. When I finally got there, it is the hometown of Carrie Underwood. She wasn't home.
I also heard a song destined for my repetoire:
"I never kissed a girl until I was in college,
she got drunk and cheated on me.
I never kissed a boy until I was in prison,
murder in the first degree."
What a hoot!