When I'm feeling cooped up and cranky, the only thing for it is to get out on the road and drive. Drive with the intention of driving, not of getting somewhere. I drive purposefully, going as slow as I can without generating angry commuters, and looking everywhere, peering into the bush on both sides, finding church ruins, survivalists' huts, found-art monuments, strange animals, stranger people. It's all new, and it's all interesting. I blast the music, and force my mood upwards.
This works nine times out of ten. On the tenth time, every road you take dead ends 100 feet down at a blank brick wall, or drops you right on the interstate you've rode a billion times before. The music is all wrong, and nothing jumps out from the sameness that you are passing.
Today it didn't work; and then it did. It's all a state of mind, I suppose, because every dead end and interstate I hit pissed me off, but didn't stop me. I forced myself further into Georgia, and slowly the music began to match the surroundings, and, even slower still, my mood began to match as well. Now I am cheery enough not only to tackle my taxes, but to go back to my bitch of a boss tonight. Life is good, the road is out there waiting for me.
My sisters each mailed me a CD for my birthday. They have been perfect soundtracks, and it seems like I listen to one or the other every day. Tori Amos' "Scarlett's Walk" is tailor made for a road trip, and Rachael's mix never fails to lift me up, starting as it does with moody chick rock, and escalating seamlessly to hard ass punk.
But today it was a line from Tom Russell that my mind seized on to twist to my purpose.
"Everything's gone straight to hell since Sinatra played Juarez."
I think that's my mom's favorite Russell song. It's growing on me, too. I saw him play at Henflings about a year ago, the same day I had a root canal. I lived dangerously, and had a beer on top of the horse pills they gave me, because how can you listen to Tom Russell and not have a beer? I liked the song then, but with all the twists and turns of my trip, the lyrics are making more and more sense.
I'm a little too late. I should have taken this trip a year ago, or ten. I'm not sure when it started, but there has been an almost total eradication of all things tacky and beat up. Elephant Fantasyland is now a rose garden. Tiki Gardens is gone, half of the roadside attractions I've gone looking for have met some kind of end. No one in the small Montana town I went to had even heard of the fountain of three bulls pissing. It's a mass gentrification, with genteel tastefulness taking over everything.
I blame TV. Specifically Friends. Just look at that episode where Monica "accidentally" smashed Rachel's seashell tourist tacky lamp. Sure, Monica was the bad guy in that one, but by the end of the show, everything was hunky dory, pastel blue and Ikea.
I love Sinatra. I love well dressed swing bands, ladies dripping diamonds and furs, fabulous loft apartments, and rose gardens. But goddamnit, let them stay where they belong. Keep them out of Weeki Wachee, please. A zoot suit in the swamp just doesn't jive; there a man should be in ripped jeans and a rolled up white T.