Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wrong Turn at Albuquerque

Dear Mr. Fornshell,

            I’m sorry I’m a little behind on my reading, but last weekend I had to drive to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico to rescue my brother, Ian, who got stranded there by German Buddhists.

            Minutes after I made my last post I called Ian because there had been a rumor circulating that he was going to be in the greater Southwestern United States area. The conversation went something like this:

            “Ian, I heard you were in Arizona.”

            “No. I’m in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.”

            “What the hell are you doing in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico?”

            “…I’m kind of stranded.”


            “Do you need me to come pick you up?”

            “No. No. That’s ridiculous, it's like a quarter of the way across the country. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to get a ride up to Albuquerque and catch a plane to Chicago.”

            “Get a ride” meant hitchhike. I didn’t have any doubts that he would be able to handle himself. Ian used to be in the army and he’s a Buddhist. He’s my big brother so naturally I see him as indestructible. I told him that he should call me if he decided he wanted me to come pick him up. I mean, he would do the same for me.

            In May 2001 I was driving across Wisconsin in my old Plymouth Sundance. It was filled with all of my belongings because I was moving from Kenosha back to St. Paul, MN. After I finished college I moved home to Kenosha thinking there might be jobs there and that I could be close to my family. 

           The economy tanked, Bush beat Gore. I worked as a crappy high school soccer coach, a third shift hospital security guard and a substitute teacher. Not really a banner year in my life. My new plan was to spend the summer shooting a documentary with some friends about Minnesota small town festivals.

I left late that night because I had to stop in Racine to see WWF superstar Mick Foley who was signing copies of his new book Foley is Good, the second part of his memoir trilogy. Foley is Good was a piece of shit. But Mick’s first book, Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, is amazing. It was famously written out in 800 pages of adrenaline-infused longhand. He was inspired to write it after almost being killed in the legendary Hell in the Cell match. He knew he needed to find some way to support his family that didn’t involve getting choke-slammed through a chain link fence and falling thirty feet onto the floor covered in thumbtacks.

Ulysses S. Grant had a similar motivation for literary remembrance. His alcoholism had lost him all his money and instead of leaving his family in debt, he buckled down and wrote his memoirs, finishing just before he died. The book went on to be a huge hit, and kept his family from ever having to work a day in their lives.

A pair of American heroes.

            Because of my celebrity stopover in Racine, I was very late getting on the road. It was around ten when I stopped in Tomah to eat a Butterburger and crinkle fries and the engine trouble began. I made it only two exits farther to the Jellystone Park Campgrounds in Warrens, WI. There the car died and I was stranded in the parking lot.

            This was 2001 and I didn’t own a cell phone, so I called my dad from the payphone in the park and told him what happened. He said he’d pick up Ian and be right there.

            The people who worked at the park were incredibly hospitable. There was a kid, must have been about 16 and an older guy and girl who I think were a couple. We played a little air hockey and watched Remember the Titans in the Yogi Bear Lodge. At around one in the morning I told them I’d be fine just waiting in the car. Not the first time I slept in that car, but it would prove to be the last.

Ian and my dad got there at around 3 am. We transferred all my junk from my car to the minivan, and drove on to St. Paul. Getting there right around 6. They helped me unpack, stopped at the Grandview Grill for some Kamikazee Pancakes and then turned around and drove back to Kenosha.

            This is one of those things we do in my family.

So, after Ian said he was going to be fine hitchhiking to Albuquerque, I filled up my car with gas and stopped at the library to check out some books on CD. (I did not check out any Shakespeare because you can’t take notes in the margins of an audiobook).

            I looked at the map and saw how far of a drive it was. 12 hours. It was 1:30pm on Saturday. I called Ian back and got there at 3:30 am. Crashed in his hotel room until 7, and we were back in LA by 8:30 Sunday night.

            As you can see, Mr. Fornshell. There’s just no way that I could have another post ready this week that says anything significant at all about Henry IV. I mean, I’ve started reading it. I don’t know why I started the histories with Henry IV instead of with King John, which is the first historically. Let’s just chalk it up to an irrepressible desire to get to know Falstaff, the fat knight, the witty coward, the comic relief in an epoch of turmoil and rebellion. We all need to take a break from the profound events of the real world and do something ridiculous once in a while. Don’t we?