road trippin’ west, part i: roads already walked

13 May 2012 § Leave a comment

Road trips mask themselves as journeys from point A to B, plus a smattering of magic and loneliness to make them unique. After all, driving 14 hours from Asheville to Kansas City wears out one’s sense of time as well as reality.

We reached the Mississippi River two albums after sunrise. Mark Twain mumbled something from my backpack as the car dipped behind Independence Arch at 65 mph.

Last time I rambled through there, I had parked at the fancy church, walked underneath the arch in ceremony (finally, the West!), and then north to explore the old train depot. I found an industrial district made of blood-colored bricks crying streams of sulfur for its past lives and busyness. On concrete stoops were erected tents with travelers snoring inside. Graffiti adorned the reachable surfaces in subcultured harmony – intricate two-to-twenty spray-can pieces complemented their neighbors’ space with sharp lines, smooth shadows, and fonts that reminded me of Boba Fett.

Before dawn we followed a dirt road for miles to find the stars. They were all there, south of a Missouri highway town, sparkling brighter even than when we last looked up in Panama, which seemed lifetimes ago. Trip-hop beat its way out of the Subaru’s window, and Heather and I danced in crisp air and blankets, open and naïve to the emotional sinkhole that would be Kansas.


Days later, we left my history behind. A childhood friend from Alaska who’d finally stepped out of the toxic setting of his development lives life in Kansas City in much the same fashion. My father just divorced his third wife, insisting to a fault that he has to take care of himself now. For 25 years, both my friend and my father lived in staccato sketch animation, whimsically flipping between the fluid extremes of right and wrong.

Witnessing their next steps of evolution helped me realize another consequence of my nomad lifestyle: with every new place I visit, I grow. Up. Out. Apart. Not everyone does this. I can only refer back to the me that knew them for so many visits before they see me  for who I am now. I compensate for the distance between my loved ones and I with our shared pasts. When we sit at a kitchen table with our memories and abuses and bonding laid out in a game of dominoes, each of us are trying to fit us back together, number by number, shared experiences in threes, spinning on our metal bolts at different speeds.

I wanted to thank them, individually, sincerely, with love for those they hurt when they saw the numbers didn’t match anymore. For going with their hearts, whatever happens from there. The ripples undulating through their worlds will be fierce and fantastic. Someday someone will thank them.



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