The Austin Chronicles: The Move Part 3 (In Which the Author Finally Hits the Open Road, Quickly Learns to Hate the Open Road, Gets Lost on the Open Road, Goes a Little Nutty on the Open Road, Starts Having Conversations with a Fly, Observes Various Cultural Nuances in Texas, Ruminates about Johnny Cash, Eats Some Corn Nuts, Loses Feeling in His Right Leg, Curses the Open Road Again, and Reaches His Destination)

June 13, 2013

(Click here to read Part 1 and/or Part 2)

Things you need to know before reading this blawg:

Number 1: I am bad at directions. No, that’s not quite right. How about this? I am terrible at directions. Actually, that still does not accurately describe my shortcomings in this particular area. OK, OK, I’ve got it. Ready? If “directions” were “making inoffensive public statements about Jews” I would be Mel Gibson. That about sums it up.

Number 2: I can drive perfectly well, but I haven’t owned a car since 1999.

Number 3: I mentioned that we have a cat, right? And I also happened to casually indicate that she might possibly be a demon spawn from another dimension, correct? OK, just checking.

Number 4: The Less Abrasive Pessimist and I both hate driving. H. A. T. E. She gets road anxiety; I get road rage. It isn’t pretty.

Number 5: When I get bored, I have imaginary conversations in my head. These usually start out as fairly innocuous chats with people I know or people I would like to meet or random inanimate objects. However, if I get really bored and tired and stressed and trapped inside the tiny cab of a truck traveling down an endless flat road with the sun shining directly in my face for ten hours at a time and small-town radio preachers telling me the world is going to end because Obama uses the wrong kind of spoon to eat his breakfast cereal, the conversations in my head start getting a little…weird. Just FYI.

Number 6: Google Maps says it’s about a 16-hour drive from Boulder to Austin. It took closer to 20 hours. (See Numbers 1,2, and4)

So we finally gave up on the moving company and rented a truck. And since there was no way in hell that The Less Abrasive Pessimist was going to drive it, and since it was my fault we were in this mess in the first place, guess who got behind the wheel. (See Number 2.)

By this time, we were more than ready to leave. We were like those neurotic tigers at the zoo pacing back and forth in their cramped cages. We wanted out. It was late notice on a Monday, so finding help was difficult, but we were soon joined by our musician friend Nate Cook, lead singer of one of my favorite bands The Yawpers (this pathetic plug and two Budweisers were his only compensation), and Mother Less Abrasive Pessimist.

We had obtained some prescription tranquilizers from our veterinarian for the journey, and The Less Abrasive Pessimist and her mother managed to force one down the throat of our agitated kitten. An hour passed. Nothing. If anything The Tempest was even more energetic than usual. So we gave her another one. Still nothing. But we couldn’t wait any longer. I told The Less Abrasive Pessimist that if the tranquilizers didn’t work on the cat, she could always take them. She was not amused. It was time to go.

The truck was loaded and we were on the road by 4pm. Not a great start, but at least we were moving. Our new landlords had expected us to show up and sign the lease on June 1. It was now the 3rd and we had more than 900 miles of road between us and our new lives.

When I got in the truck, I immediately noticed a fat housefly trapped inside the cab with me. I thought about rolling down the window and setting him free, but then I thought, When is a housefly ever going to have an opportunity like this again? He only lives a few weeks, and he’s going to travel almost a thousand miles in that time. He’ll be a legend in cyclorrhapha history! The Christofly Columbus of insects!

So I put the truck in gear, and we began our adventure!

We got two miles down the road, and The Less Abrasive Pessimist was forced to pull over. The cat was running laps inside the car, yowling like Fran Drescher receiving a rectal exam from a far-sighted proctologist. Apparently, the cat didn’t like the position of her litter box. So The Less Abrasive Pessimist adjusted it to Her Highness’s liking, and she calmed down.

And now back to the adventure!

We hit bumper-to-bumper traffic immediately in Denver. It was move three inches, slam on the breaks, move three more inches. The vein in the side of my forehead began to twitch. The cat kept crawling on top of the boxes in the back seat, and every time The Less Abrasive Pessimist hit the breaks she took a header. I love that animal, but it was still pretty funny to watch.

Finally, after about thirty minutes, the traffic opened up and we were on our way. I’d brought a selection of my favorite CDs for the journey, and I consulted Christofly on what to play. It turned out we were both Johnny Cash fans.

Observation: Johnny Cash proves that the supposed chasm between liberals and conservatives in America is not as wide as we think. Everyone listens to Cash, and he sings for everyone. “Man In Black” is basically a Marxist anthem, and I’m certain “Ragged Old Flag” is being played at Tea Party meetings across the country as I write.

The open road sucks. This is my humble opinion. Songs have been sung and stories told about wagon trains besieged by Indians and intrepid pioneers mauled by bears, but nowadays it’s just a series of gradual right and left turns with the occasional thrill of passing a slow-moving truck with cow butts poking out the back end. After about five hours, it gets to the point where you think a Sioux raiding party or a rabid grizzly would be a welcome change of pace.

Christofly agreed. It was amazing how much we had in common. True, we hadn’t yet discussed things like the Middle East or Obamacare, but there was plenty of time for that. We were trying to keep it light. I’d filled a Coke cap with soda, and placed it on the dashboard for him. Christofly had stopped slamming his head repeatedly against the windshield and was now sipping genially from the cap. We were having a grande old time, two brave journeymen cruising down the highway with the wind in our hair…or antennae or whatever.

We drove through Colorado and the gun barrel of Oklahoma before finally reaching Texas. Oklahoma roads are terrible. We were in Oklahoma for less than an hour, but the whole time it felt like I was driving on Ryan Gosling’s abs. But as soon as we got to Texas, the roads were as smooth as Ryan Gosling’s hairless buttocks.

There was a wind storm at dusk that was incredibly surreal. The sky was cobalt blue and there were all these giant windmills along the highway that were slowly turning like enormous robot drones on some desert planet. Thousands of them lined up in perfect rows. It was freaky.

Finally, we decided to call it a day at around eleven, and we pulled in to a Best Western that accepted pets in the town of Dumas. My guess is the name is supposed to be pronounced like the French writer, Alexandre Dumas, but I’d bet my right arm the locals will tell you they live in Dumb-Ass without a hint of irony. It definitely looked like a town called Dumb-Ass.

Observation: Texas has some great town names. My favorite were Roscoe, Wastella, Fluvanna, and Lawn.

I couldn’t sleep. Perhaps it had something to do with the long drive or the excitement of the journey or the strange hotel room or the five cups of vanilla-flavored coffee, but I just stared at the ceiling as the hours ticked by. The Less Abrasive Pessimist had no such problem. She was snoring like an asthmatic walrus (albeit a cute asthmatic walrus) as soon as her head hit the starched pillow. The cat was still up though. By this time, she was so tired she was staggering around the room like a drunken sailor on shore leave, but there were strange corners to sniff and furniture that had never been jumped on and cabinets to stare at creepily, so she fought to stay awake in order to perform her duties.

After a refreshing three-hour nap, the alarm screamed bloody murder and I stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom. I obtained more coffee and we got back on the road. Christofly and I attempted to get the conversational juices flowing by talking about the landscape. We agreed that all these little Texas towns looked the same. One church, one post office, and one bar. But they made you slow down to 30 miles per hour to pass that one church, one post office, and one bar. I suggested that if you stopped at any of these facilities, there would be a small family of emaciated citizens waiting there with a net and a shotgun. “Now you’re gonna pray, have a drink, and send a letter…or else!” they’d say. Christofly agreed.

After jawing a bit more, we put in Johnny Cash again and had ourselves a good old fashioned sing along to keep the blood pumping. We were really getting into it. It was right at the end of “Folsom Prison Blues” when I looked in the rear-view mirror and noticed The Less Abrasive Pessimist’s car wasn’t behind us. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time it was behind us. I then looked at my phone and saw that it was on vibrate from the night before. There were eight missed calls, three voice messages, and two text messages. And it was right about that time I passed a road sign that said, “WELCOME TO OKLAHOMA!”

I’d driven almost an hour in the wrong direction.

Now there are many things I could tell you, dear reader, about how this happened. The phrase that comes to my mind is “sharing valid reasons,” or as The Less Abrasive Pessimist likes to call it, “spreading the bullshit.” For instance, I could bring up the insomnia again from the previous night. Or I could tell you that before checking in to the Best Western we’d pulled up to a La Quinta on the other side of the street, and in the process I got turned around. Or I could remind you that my sense of direction is like Mel Gibson making public statements about Jews. Or I could talk about all those little Texas towns that looked exactly alike (turns out they looked like the same towns from the night before because they actually were the same towns from the night before, but let’s not quibble over details). Of course, none of this explains why I failed to notice my future wife honking and flashing her lights at me for thirty miles. Or why I drove on for twenty minutes after she gave up and pulled to the side of the road, thinking I would immediately notice her absence and check my phone.

I could make excuses for all of this, dear reader, but I’m not the type of man to pass the buck. Nope, “take responsibility for your actions,” that’s my motto. So I’m going to put the blame squarely where it belongs: Christofly.

You see, we had an agreement. I would take care of all the driving, snack purchasing, music playing, and temperature modulating if Christofly kept just one of his many eyes on the rear-view mirror. That was his only job. But Christofly was the jealous type, and he’d gotten it into his little fly head that if he could get rid of the Less Abrasive Pessimist, we could be roommates in Austin. Never mind the fact that I’m a mammal and he’s an insect, or that he had no way to pay his half of the rent, or that he would be dead in a week. None of that mattered to over-possessive little Christofly. So when The Less Abrasive Pessimist pulled to the side of the road, he saw his chance.

I tried to explain all of this to The Less Abrasive Pessimist, but she seemed to think we needed to get back on the road immediately. She had a point. After all the delays, I’d promised our new landlords we would sign the lease before their office closed on June 4 at 5pm. It was now June 4 at 11am, and we still had to drive an hour just to get back to Dumas. (The name of the town was now definitely pronounced Dumb-Ass in my head, but for more personal reasons.)

I called the new landlord and told them we were still on our way, but it looked like it would be past 5pm when we arrived. She was very kind. It sounded like she said she would leave our apartment unlocked with the keys inside, but the phone kept cutting out and I couldn’t be sure. I decided I’d heard that the apartment would be unlocked with the keys inside.

Meanwhile, Christofly and I were not speaking to each other. He had betrayed my trust, and I was not in a forgiving mood. I glared silently at the road, while he tried to get my goat by crawling all over my face. I just ignored him.

Christofly said he wanted to listen to Paul Simon, so I turned on a local country station instead, knowing he would hate that.

Observation: For all its hard-nosed bluster, country might be the sappiest genre of music out there aside from teen pop. When they’re not talking about their pickup trucks or threatening to put a boot in bin Laden’s ass, there’s a lot of romance on the country airwaves. “I’m gonna find me a new way to light up an old flame,” “In all the world you’ll never find a love as true as mine,” “If you’re callin’ bout my heart it’s still yours.”

The great thing about listening to local radio stations is that you get to hear about the local news. For instance, in Roscoe, Texas, a man named Conway Alvarez died recently at the age of 78. He was a prison guard who was survived by his hunting dog and his sister. His wake was being held at his favorite bar, which also happened to be the town’s only bar. This was reported by a deejay simply named Stumpy.

Things were going along just fine until we hit a detour. And then another detour. The first detour worked out OK, and we were routed back around the the proper road. However, on the second detour, they failed tell us where to go, and we ended up on a frontage road next to an empty field. We turned around a few times, consulted the smartphone, and finally found our way back twenty minutes later.

We were hungry, so we pulled in to a truck stop cafe to eat a bunch of starch and meat. By the time we finished, I had gout.

Observation: Texas toilets are literally larger than Colorado toilets.

Observation: There’s a reason Texas toilets are larger than Colorado toilets.

By now we were several hours behind schedule, and it did not appear as though we would get into Austin until almost midnight. I tried to call the landlord and relay this information, but only managed to leave a voice message. We drove. And drove. And drove. When night came, we were alone on the road, aside from the giant semis, which were lit up like carnival floats after dark.

And then, just when I was starting to lose all feeling below the waist, we finally passed a sign welcoming us to Austin. Christofly and I cheered and high-fived, an act that unfortunately sent Christofly careening across the cab. But he shook it off and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It had been a long journey, and although we’d had our differences, we decided to bury the fly swatter. We were friends again, and I promised to share our new apartment with him, although he was not allowed to regurgitate on our food.

We pulled up to our new apartment complex, found the right door, and turned the handle.

Locked.

I almost cried. I texted our apartment manager, Brooke, and she bounced right over, as if letting people in to their apartment in the middle of the night was her favorite part of the job. We thanked her profusely, blew up an air mattress, and fell asleep.

When I got up the next morning to move our stuff, I opened the truck door and Christofly Columbus flew out before I could stop him. He zoomed up into the bright blue sky, excited to explore the new land he had discovered.

(Click here to read Part 1 and/or Part 2)

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4 Responses to “The Austin Chronicles: The Move Part 3 (In Which the Author Finally Hits the Open Road, Quickly Learns to Hate the Open Road, Gets Lost on the Open Road, Goes a Little Nutty on the Open Road, Starts Having Conversations with a Fly, Observes Various Cultural Nuances in Texas, Ruminates about Johnny Cash, Eats Some Corn Nuts, Loses Feeling in His Right Leg, Curses the Open Road Again, and Reaches His Destination)”


  1. Your Chronicles are the best entertainment since, well, entertainment. Such a shame you’ve reached your destination but there’s always the possibility of a further hitch or two.( I Hope )
    ( Sorry).


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