The Great American Road Trip Pt. 2

I had one good day at the beginning of this last road trip where it seemed like everything was going to go off without a hitch. I did a show for a little crowd at this chilled out Charlotte sports pub, ate some fish, read a little. Then I was on the road again. It was going alright for a while, but pretty soon there was a sense of dread. Why had my car tires been doing this weird stop-start thing for a few seconds? It was probably nothing. I’d been stuck in a deluge of awful goddamn rain the previous day, and figured that had jammed up the car a little, that it’d wash out as I drove. Pretty soon I was too tired to drive. The first two hotels I tried were total pieces of shit, with awful cracked up parking lots and the veneer of places you would only stay for a good story. But they were sold out. On this Memorial Day weekend I couldn’t even get a room in the middle of bumfuck SC.

Finally I found an Econo Lodge – and for under a hundred bucks at that. Crazy. I slept pretty well and did a bit of writing that night.

In the morning I drove for a few more hours. Bright cloudless summer day on a holiday weekend and we were in lockstep. My tires were still being a little bit odd. I stopped finally after about two or three hours in Walterboro, where I got some snacks and a bottle of water. Sat there for 10 minutes in the parking lot to take a break. The plan was to stop again in St. Augustine. It all seemed like it would be alright. Then the car stopped in the middle of traffic as I was trying to leave and the car horns started coming. I restarted the car and managed to get it to the parking lot of a strip mall with a sushi place, a clothing store, a KFC, a Walmart and this random sports bar type of place.

For the next few hours on this holiday weekend I tried to call every auto place in the area to find somebody to help. Of course they all were gone pretty much, even at like 11 a.m. on a Friday. The blacktop was scorching and the sun was relentless. I don’t understand white supremacists at all if they’ve ever had to stand in the sun like this. It’s very clear what the truth really is – I got scorched like a fucking lobster out there.

Finally I got a tow truck guy to drive me and the defunct car, which was suffering from a transmission failure, all the way down to Savannah. I was redoing the whole plot of PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, except with no trains. I was determined to get to Florida. I had some shows to do, and a bachelor party to get to. At a hotel in Savannah on Memorial Day weekend, I drank beers on the roof lobby and then sipped a tiny rum bottle as I was watching GOODFELLAS – Ray Liotta had just passed. Usually I’d be out with the nightlife. This night I had no energy for anything. Completely drained. I woke up and took a plane back to Orlando.

I was able to rent a car to get to Tallahassee on the 31st to do shows with my friend Erick Lutz. We stayed in a weird hotel that was something like a labyrinth, with about three distinct parts that appeared to be upstairs and downstairs areas, even though the parking lot was a continuous downward slant. It appeared to be some sort of place for people to stay long term – there were families in the pool, cooking on grills, all kinds of stuff. The room was small and the WiFi didn’t work. There wasn’t even anybody in the lobby past 11, so if we’d gotten there too late we would’ve been fucked.

And the coffee shop where we camped out before the second show, it was swelteringly hot, with seemingly no air conditioning. Erick dabbed at his head with ice cubes from his drink and I was sweating on my computer trying to work. That whole day I was also on the phone with three different people trying to get my car moved to a transmission shop. I told the AAMCO to use their towing guy, thinking the AAA guy I called had not showed up. The AAMCO guy called me, irate, at 7 pm, saying the car was gone. I rested in satisfaction knowing that the transmission was broken, so no one could’ve stolen it at all, and it must have been taken by the AAA guy after all (It had been.)

The comedy shows went off like gangbusters. The crowds were fun and we got the satisfaction of being traveling bards in a foreign land. There’s a sort of recklessness, in a good way, you get when you’re performing somewhere nobody knows you. It elevates you and the material becomes fun because you know they’ve never heard it. The stage makes you forget all the car troubles and weird tribulations of the trip. One show was at this arcade bar place and at that show there was a woman who heckled everyone. Earlier in the night she’d made a weird crack at the bar on how she couldn’t come see the show because she’s blind. Erick is blind and took this as an opportunity to riff on it all.

The second show was at a place I’d done before, Bird’s Aphrodesiac Oyster Shack. Small crowd but they were into it. It’s one of these places with a bunch of old memorabilia and posters covering every inch of the wall, so I know those places will be good for me. Now I’ve had two great shows there. I felt like it went well. Erick did great too – he did some wild stuff on stage that the crowds ate up. Just first rate comedy. It’s good to have a bit of camaraderie and teamwork in all this mess.

I did some other shows – one of them a clean show at Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theater. I wasn’t told it’d be clean before the show, so I had to do some mental calculations. I was pretty sure a bunch of tourists wouldn’t want to hear about allergy drug addictions or traffic crashes or animal suicide. I’m usually not into having to do this, but it did go off without a hitch and the crowd was fun, probably not even caring so much about the content as the venue did. Erick put this one on, and he really got a great crowd out of those tourists. The other show was a contest which I lost, held at one of these fancy breweries where you pour your own beer from a big wall panel of selections. I had a fun set though.

Then came the bachelor party in Miami, a sprawling three-day adventure of swanky clubs and all kinds of stuff. Lots of swimming. I drank vodka at one club and chatted with a girl who was from Asheville. Way down in Miami just two Asheville residents. That place is probably as touristy as anywhere now. But I like it. The party was for Colin and it was just a few of us, but it was a good time and we lived it up. At one point we were lounging in a rooftop pool owned by Pharrell Williams, the sun murderous, but there were so many beautiful people around and none of them seemed to care. Miami is a place where everyone there is the most perfect physically beautiful people you’ve ever seen in your life. Like you can barely even imagine them returning to work in a random car dealership or insurance office or fast food place. They’re like aliens.

I finally got the car fixed on June 17th. I took another plane out, then had a two-hour layover and numerous delays. Drove through the worst thunderstorm in at least a few weeks. I’m home now and hoping not to fly anymore for a while.

Otherwise… here’s some stuff I’ve been enjoying.

WATCHING – CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is a gloriously dark, twisty piece of film, fraught with meaning, crackling with its own dark ingenuity at every turn. Cronenberg returns in fine form. MAD GOD on Shudder, by visual artist Phil Tippett, is this trippy, violent haze of creative stop motion puppets and animation. Best looking thing of the year. I’m endlessly fucking fascinated.

LISTENING – The new Jack White album I finally got on CD and the lyrics make more sense when reading ’em. Also the band Crass. A brilliant anarchic punk act. They really live their shit, they believed every word. They were the real deal. And Nuclear Death has been intriguing me. This takes everything just so far out and the lyrics are masterworks of just utter depravity and filth. I can’t get enough. I want stuff with that artistic intent.

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