So I sat on this trip for a week in full expectation that some transcendent thematic material would percolate through my memory and render me an essay-worthy wrap up to the trip. And…nothing. Except that I eventually came home and how great that felt. But given what Bill and I accomplished, which was really pretty neat, I feel like that punctuation of this adventure is kinda cheap. Or inadequate somehow.
Maybe I expected too much. Like a unification theory that ours and all past and all future road trips would bind into some original proof. Of what I don’t know and the fact that nothing revealed itself means maybe our trip wasn’t really that special after all. Certainly it was unforgettable to the both of us. Not in a life altering way but perhaps close. It was, by definition, unique. But not especially original, or even that compelling if I’m honest about it. A fifty something, unemployed, middle class nobody and his footloose son rent a car and make a run for it? Meh. We didn’t even get arrested. I had a screenplay in mind for my brother to write but we’d have to embellish the characters and invent too much drama or plot complication for it to be interesting.
At least I took some notes. I had hoped they would inform my pulitzer prize speech but there’s no sense hanging on to them now. So I’ll share them here. A consolation prize maybe.
Topic #1: Americans
This is the hardest item on my list for me to write about so I’m tackling it first to get it out of the way. And I apologize in advance for the next paragraph.
I’m a terrible American for lots of well documented reasons but largely because I have almost always harbored a dim view of them. Er, us. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about using a local archetype. Tiny blond thirty something Avon, Connecticut mommy on her way to morning Bikram wearing yoga pants and a baseball hat with her pony tail sticking through the rear band, driving a fifty thousand dollar SUV with a Life is Good sticker on the back window, talking to her life coach on Bluetooth and about to make a detour to drop off her four year old’s sweater vests at the dry cleaner’s. There, even though it is well after ten, she will slap her hand on the counter for same day service because Little Man’s French tutor (such a find) will be swinging by to pick up the togs and deliver them with the lesson to Yoga’s eight bedroom McMansion that evening so they will be pret-a-porter at Sister-In-Law’s Disney themed bounce house party first thing tomorrow. GHW Bush once famously bragged that the American lifestyle is not negotiable. This is what he was talking about. A ninety five pound monster. Why we fight. We suck.
Some baggage? You bet. I’m overpacked – there’s a theme I missed. So imagine my surprise when, on our three week trip, we met…nobody like her. Anywhere. Not even close. Instead, nothing but the nicest, most helpful, honest, friendly, shirt-off-their back characters. In gas stations. In toll booths. In restaurants. In motels. In stores. In ballparks. Everywhere. National Parks employees, with one unique exception at the Grand Canyon, were perfect. My cup runneth over. I wouldn’t say it completely changed my tune about Americans (we took a fairly small core sample after all) but it did make me think maybe we’re not quite as bad a collective mess as I thought.
To be fair, we were predisposed to think the best of people. We were on an adventure. We were on vacation. We had endorphins pumping. It is possible we met a whole slew of assholes and didn’t even notice. There was Las Vegas. And Hollywood. And the TSA. But those fell more into the category of statistical anomalies. And even in those experiences there was a kind of merciless honesty and plenty of warning about what to expect.
So good for you, American Core Sample Alpha. You live in an amazing place. You work really hard. You are generous. You are friendly. You are kind. You are my kind of folk, if I may be included.