The Johnny Cash song popped into my head immediately on reading this week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday from Linda G Hill:.
Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “drive.” Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!
It’s a sad, bitter, maybe even bittersweet, song about surviving Vietnam. It’s also a phrase for putting your head down and moving on, regardless of whatever just happened. Buddy just got shot, “drive on, it don’t mean nothing.” Just keep going. The song also is a reminder of America’s dedication to mistreating it’s veterans, dating back to the Revolutionairy War.
When you drive to Louisiana, you just drive on and keep driving. It’s going to suck. Just do it.
The other thing I thought about was driving, especially the drive from Louisana to Maryland — and vicey versey. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made the trip, but in the nearly 27 years I’ve lived up here, I must have made the drive along I-10 to 59 (and 55 now and then) to 40 to 75 to 81 to 66 to 495 to 70 or 95 (70 to Gaithersburg/Germantown from 95 to 09; and 95 to Ellicott City – and now Baltimore if I ever drive instead of fly) between 55 to 65 times (that’s round trips, not one way).
Whoops, forgot the first year up here in DC, which was 66 to . . . whatever road into DC, Chain Bridge? Georgetown exit? Shit, don’t remember exactly. Anyway.
It is a long drive. I’ve driven it solo, with a friend, with a wife (times 2), with my girls, with cats, with fish, with dogs. I’ve driven it during all stages of my life
Young and stupid and hopeful and driving up in the summer of 94 with Jason to find a place to live for grad school at American. Worked out well for him as he married one of the girls in the group house we found (she thought I sounded friendly and sane on the phone). That was a fun time, with memories of Bettina, one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met in real life, stress-baking cookies at 3 a.m.; Willow, Kimberly’s black lab, eating an entire chocolate cake; sitting on the couch with the other roommates because Rob had brought yet another loud chick back to his attic room (which you had to go through my room to get to) — we’d sit and marvel; sleeping on an air mattress all year because it was 1. comfy, 2. 20 bucks, which put more beer money in my pocket over a mattress.
Young and in love and newly married, driving from Baton Rouge to Hattiesburg to stay with Mona and add Guinny (female black kitten) to Foster (our lab/rotty mix) and Murray (psycho-kitty), with pretty much all our wordly possessions between Candice’s Chevy S-10 and the U-Haul. That was the longest drive ever since I was regulated to 55 miles an hour — I recall being ecstatic driving in the mountains on 81 and getting up to 70 on the downhill. And how pissed off Foster was for the drive, turning his back to me for half of it, because I had had the audacity to live away from him for a year and then play with a kitten when we were reunited.
Mulitple Christmas and trips down in the summer to visit the family at either end of the great state of Louisiana.
Then the drives down with the girls after the divorce and then back alone. Those were long, thoughtful drives — thinking and rememembering good times and bad. Healing drives in a way because I spent more time thinking than I probably would have otherwise.
Then drives down with George, still youngish and newly in love again (while I’m hoping the 3rd time, whenever that happens will be the charm, I don’t regret either marriage, there was a lot more good than bad in both relationships), who didn’t quite understand how long it was until she asked halfway through if we were almost there. Also the same trip she dismissed Louisiana heat with “I’ve been to the Meditteranean”, which, when we go down there in July, she realized 98 degrees and 98% humidity isn’t quite the same.
There have been two too many drives down for funerals — one with George for Meme and the year before (or after? time blurs) to go down and visit Mawmaw in the time she had left after basically saying “fuck. no.” to the painful lung treatments that would have keep her alive, but not much longer. I’ve always thought that”s the way to go — facilities fully intact up until about 2 hours before she left us and making the decision at 97? 96? late 90s anyway that I ain’t going to take the treatment and it’s my time to go
Then a drive down when I thought I was going to funeral after my Dad had a heart attack. That drive sucked. 17 hours from Germantown to Sulphur and directly to the hospital.
I’ve made the drive in 15 hours to Candice’s parents in Bush, LA (there’s a bar called Dick’s there; the t-shirt writes itself). Other times it’s taken 20 or 22 hours. I’ve made it one shot, driving all by myself. Overnight, sleeping and taking turns. Following the plows on 81 as it snowed. Rain where I couldn’t see. Too many cops dodged to count, though I got to the point I kinda knew where they’d be. Great chicken just south of Chattanooga at a gas station who’s name I’m blanking on — the girls even forced a stop there once.
I made the drive stoned (which made for a more pleasant drive, albeit I don’t recommend doing it — you might wind up in Kentucky like I did). I also took a photo blazing up in front of a “No drugs allowed” sign at a rest stop in Virginia.
All in all, I’ve spent 120 to 140 days of my life driving to and from Louisiana. I fly now, but sometimes I miss the drive.
You realize how beautiful of a country we are fortunate enough to live in — though the pine forests of Alabama and Mississippi, not so scenic. I’m always astounded at the number of museums there are in this country. I’m always reminded of how the conception of space in the U.S. has changed over time, with the Blue Ridge Mountains once considered the “West.” In the stretch of road on 81 where there’s an NPR type station and a bunch of Jesus stations, I first heard 5 Pounds of Possum, a Duhon family favorite. Listening to fire and brimstone preachers at 3 a.m. on a stretch of road in Alabama, or nutjob alien/flying saucer shows (though, maybe not so nutty given what the US military is putting out there these days. Talking to Candice. Talking to George. Talking to Casey and Lauren, from baby talk and changing their diapers in a moving van to letting them have candy for breakfast on my first trip down to with them after Candice and I split. Talking to myself when driving alone or when everyone was sleeping. Scrambling under the drivers seat of the van to put a tape in so the girls could watch a movie while Candice drove 85 down a highway at midnight — not entirely safe. Going to sleep in the back of the S-10’s extended cab on the way down for Christmas in 1995 and not being able to move when I woke up because Foster — all 80-odd pounds of him — had curled up on my chest. He was the best dog, until Knox and Oscar, now they’re the current best dogs. Of course, all dogs are the best dogs.
There’s probably more I could write, but that’s about my time. Hadn’t really thought about it, but those drives have had a fairly large impact on my life, from sorting through my feelings as I went through the end of my first marriage to thoughts of mortality to introducing an English chick to a part of America she wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise.
I’m not saying I miss the drive, not exactly, but there is something about car time where you’ve got a destination and you just sack up and drive it that leads to introspection, listening to new music, day dreaming, and even plans to see stuff one day (I’ve seen Rock City already though and I miss the Viking longboat billboard that used to advertise some underground lake or something in Tennessee.
OK. That’s all folks. I leave you with Drive On and 5 Pounds of Possum (aways amazed at the number of covers of this song!).