Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Miles To Go

When I think of all my reckless driving, it's amazing I'm still alive.

It was worse when I was in the Army. I drove a lot during those years. A 1973 Mercury Monterey. Faded green. No front grill. Left headlight tied into place. Eight-track player. Lap-level seat belts. Not that I wore them.

Other than an occasional beer or a slug of cheap wine, I didn't drink back then. So that was never a factor. Weed, on the other hand, was abundant.

I don't know what it's like today, but the Army I experienced was filled with drugs. Most soldiers did something. I went to parties where officers openly smoked. Acid was popular and I ingested my share. Speed was big with the boozers.

I usually had a fat joint or a few roaches in my car's ashtray. I smoked behind the wheel so often that I got used to driving that way. Considering the wreck I drove and the amount of time on the road, the law of averages should have nailed me. Accident or arrest. Nothing happened. Different era.

When I moved to Michigan, regular driving resumed. Nearly two decades in NYC provided little road time. I had to get my timing back. I didn't anticipate how awful Michigan drivers were.

That first year was a road rage special. Middle fingers. Honking. Tailgating. It took me a few months to adapt, but when I did, I was as nasty as the locals. Falling off the grid didn't help; going back to blue collar work angered me. I fit in better than I knew.

Eventually, I calmed down. More or less accepted my fate. Saw nothing ahead but old age, weight gain, and bleak Michigan weather. I've turned that around, which might provide a lesson for others also lost. But I'm not the preacher type.

My driving has also matured. Blend instead of confront. I no longer drive impaired, save for the mild anxiety I sometimes feel on the open road. Some wild motherfuckers out there. Pushing the limits of life, ours more than theirs. I doubt it's a mad bohemian rush toward nothingness. Anger, frustration, desperation, more likely.

In a few hours I'll hit the road for Michigan, driving through Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. There's a brief dash through West Virginia, one of the saddest states I've seen. Carved out and discarded developing-world style. Poor people in rusting cars. Crumbling exit ramps. Flyover country in the strictest sense.

I stick to a long-drive strategy of laying low. Not speeding. Not fucking with drivers who beg to be fucked with. There are lots of cops out there. Waiting, hiding, cruising in unmarked cars. I've learned to spot them. Helps kill some of the boredom.

Unlike trains and planes, the police state is limited on the highways. But they're trying to fix that. I'm confident that they will.

So pray for me, or whistle a nice tune, or simply be loving to those you love. If my GPS doesn't catch it, my heart and mind will. Aloha.