Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Coastlines and Long Beach Swank

Now I know what you're thinking, even before I start to preface
another entry. How can I trust the voice of this narrator? He was a
suicidal wretch working at a call centre in the Niagara region...and
now he's halfway across the Sleepy Midwest of the U.S.? How can
this BE?! I would like to then continue with the hope that you
suspend your disbelief and just keep reading, because as part of what
I've learned and where I am now, presently, (which I will get to in
future writings) things are not always what they seem and you can't
make your mind up about a painting until the artist has completed
the work. I don't consider myself an artist (I make mondo spelling
mistakes all the time, not to mention grammatical heresy, but that's
nothing new from the average crap that gets published...)
but I just find writing to be sort of therapeutic - it helps me get out
what I need to without hurting anyone or going on a rampage. But that
rampageous individual seems to be far away from here...but again, I'll
get to that.For now, let us catch up with the runaway train
that is this story.

As our hero (sorry, couldn't resist) barreled across the Midwest
with his trusty Scottish sidekick, sundowns and sunups became frames
to a day. I should mention too that, for some reason, you would think
riding in a truck would really smell bad as truckers are generically seen
as being unclean individuals (what with the tales of piss-bombs, tight
cabin quarters and crazy driving deadlines) but this was not the case.
Angus defied all of my past prejudices towards the trucking type - he
stopped at trucker stations and showered every day - and usually smelled
a lot like Irish Spring (the green original one, not the blue or aloe kind).
The ride was silent since that first 2 or so hours of talk that resulted in my
weeping when Angus asked me about my family. This seemed to be just
fine by him and by myself. One would think that near fifty hours with no
talking would drive one mad - but the truth is that just knowing that
someone is with you can carry you a hell of a long way. I'm sure
he had been with "chatty cathy's" before, and I've sure as hell had my
share (at least from the telecentre with yappers like Vance and Pat) so it
was a nice change to just share silence with someone. It was kinda
freaky when you thought about it, I mean when I really pondered the dead
air between myself and a large Scotsman in a transport truck, but it wasn't
that overwhelming once you got used to it -
like a newly itchy blanket that becomes worn and comfortable with time.

So blah, blah, we drove on, and initially, my thought of getting off
somewhere before California seemed safe and normal, but this journey was
one that seemed to be propelling me to lose all footing of such things and let
the chips fall where they may. I think something changed when that
walk-in clinic doctor gave me that golden note- that note stating I needed 'paid
stress leave' to go and do something different - a door opened. Forever, though,
my life had been one of closed doors, or at least for as far back as I can
remember. But we'll get to that...As stated, the trip to California
was upon us and a detour down the Oregon coastline was one which Angus had
carefully planned for in his route management and it was an experience not to
be forgotten. All to the east were giant Tolkein-esque trees - cedars, firs, oaks,
balsams - all towering in their majesty toward a cherry-orange skyline,
guarding the land from the tempest sun, while of course, to the right (and west)
was all oceanic glitter, totally distorting any perception of skyline or horizon.
You'd try to see where sky and ocean met and map it with your vision but it
was damn near impossible. I could hear Angus turn to make sure the road was
still in front of him every once in a while, but for the most part, he was
captivated by the sea. I could hear him letting out little nasal sighs, on and off,
through his furry red moustache and beard, enamoured by what he was seeing
and probably thinking something too captivating for words. I, on the other
hand, stared out at the big, sparkling sea and thought...
nothing. For the first time in a dog's age, I can actually remember the feeling
of a 'clear' mind. Up to that point in my life, my mind was a jammed epicentre of
lashing criticism
general dislike of others
seething rage and hatred
and the list could go on, TRUST me. For some odd reason, though, none of that
Niagara telecentre bullshit seemed to faze me. It was where it was and I was
where I was - barreling down the Oregon coastline and not really thinking
about anything but the immediacy of ocean and pavement. You see, one
thing I've discovered along the way of this bi-coastal journey is that people's
heads are altogether too full. You may have heard reference to someone with
an 'empty' head as being dim-witted or 'slow' but there is much truth in the
phrase 'ignorance is bliss'. Now i'm not suggesting that we all make ourselves
stupid by filling our heads with uselessness (namely tv sitcoms) because
that will not accomplish anything - what I suggest, at least for my own good,
is a decent, lengthy emptying of the mind. This can take many forms, and
some may refer to this as 'meditation' or 'new-age' but I'm hardly a buddhist.
Whatever floats your boat. It's what the head gets filled with that is the
decision of the empty-er. Does that make sense? Ah, fuck it. Let's get closer to
being caught up.Angus crested the California stateline in no time at all, and
I thought about the distance I had come since being in Clairton, Pennsylvania,
that lost mining town from The Deer Hunter, and it made me feel kinda
queasy. Regardless, we burned down 101 like mad, leaving everything from
raccoon to bear cub roadkill carcasses airborn in our dust trail. Long Beach
emerged into our view, as 101 turned into 17, then into 1, then the party strip
that is 166 (I don't think truckers usually drive that route but I know Angus
made his own rules). I rubbed my eyes and saw every type of person one could
imagine: hippies (lots of those), yuppies, gangsters, mafia gangsters, new york
mafia gangsters, girls, guys, girl-guy blends, blacks, whites, asians,
hispanics, and mixes. It was like a cornicopia of colour, sound and humanity.
Everyone who was here, on the party strip, was either walking, walking a dog,
talking on a cellphone, talking on a payphone (probably to no one),
rollerskating, rollerblading, driving a convertible or doing something to be
noticed. It was not a place to blend in - it was place to stand out and get
noticed. This sort of spooked me for a minute but I couldn't hide this huge grin
that was spreading from ear to ear because I was so enthrawled with what was
going on that I wanted to know the source of what made these people who they
were. I felt like an alien coming to earth in a 50's sci-fi movie, in search of a
'leader' or 'intelligent life form'. Angus pulled up by an Amoco in the heart of
the strip, almost taking out a few Paris Hilton wanna-be's in his ruthless
curb-hop. I sat there in his cab, knowing this was the end of the road and that
there was no going back - at least not right now with Angus - and I felt kinda
scared for the first time on this whole trip. It was more of a stomach-feeling
though, like unending butterflies, but without the rollercoaster ride.That was
when it happened. I gave a nod toward Angus and a half smile, preceding to
slide myself out of the seat - that's when I felt the hammer hand of a giant
Scottish man grip my left shoulder. As I turned back to look at him, his icy
blue eyes pierced into the soul of me in a way I've never known anyone to
stare, and he uttered the first words either of us spoke in almost sixty hours -
'You hate him, don't ya, lad.' At first, I didn't know what I meant, but then
stupidly and sheepishly, I did. I answered back, almost in a mutter. "Yes."
He saw that I tried to look away but he corrected my jaw and lined
my eyes with his. 'I'm sorry - you're not him and you never will be.' He
removed his hand and sort of gave my back a slap, probably a tap to his
standards, that near gave me whiplash. I sat there for a moment, stunned,
and then shuffled my way out of the surfwax-carrying rigtruck, standing
on the pavement with the door open, admiring the rig for all its splendor
and how this vehicle carried me such a long distance in many different
ways. Angus was still staring at me so I gave him a salute from the Amoco
parking lot as he was probably now off to the wax warehouse, somewhere
inland, and watched him fire up the engine and roll away. And as quickly
as Angus came into my life, he was gone. So who the 'he' Angus referred to is
what you may be wondering, I'm sure. I'll get to that, but first, let me tell you
what happened next as I was now stranded, at a gas station in Long Beach.


At August 2, 2006 at 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

small blessing in that it's better than a gas station on the way to alaska...

but for that comment to make sense, you would need to have watched five easy pieces.

I hope it does.

At March 29, 2008 at 8:18 AM, Anonymous todd said...

charn thinks 5 easy pieces is the greatest movie of all time. It's cute. I prefer to hunt deer and listen to soul-haunting clicks from a revolver.


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