My family lived in Ohio and Nevada when I was younger, and before each move, would take part in a cross-country trip that spiraled well my imagination. These long car rides would stem miles and we’d stop and eat at old diners and crummy fast food shacks, only to drive away and stare at fields of corn and dusty cityscapes with buildings towering overhead. One stop in particular, always enchanted me though. It was a small cafe with a plump waitress named Cherie. I had a notebook out and sat around drinking black coffee. I became mighty interested in the words that started to pin down in my head. I wanted to document all the good times had there with my family, while all of us were shifting towards something new and exciting. It was then that I understood traveling to be a sort of drug. The rolling images of America I had handed off as a myth after living in the same place, seemed to flatten away and explode. I saw more that I could tie up and describe. Stories were born.
On our way to Las Vegas for the first time, we stayed at a hotel in Nebraska or Kansas. There was a bellhop that liked the two cats we had brought with us. He said they were large and happy, just a bit scared. The road was something new to them, it caused their eyes to bug out, and they looked for ways to escape their cages. They were both kind souls that my parent’s had gotten from the humane society, when I was still in the second grade. One of them is still alive, to this day. He stirs the heart well and always brings me to tears.
Our dog Bailey was somewhat arthritic, I think, and would sit bored in the van, eager to look out the window and watch as stuff blew on by. He liked going places with us, he liked the attention. He was an ornery little fella, but my siblings were all too young to properly care for him. It was normal for one of the youngest, to pull his hair, and run laughing. “Bailey kissed me!”, they’d say, after he really looked up in annoyance. He was like a surly old man.
I’m from a family of six kids, so I always felt like together, we made up for a sort of traveling circus. I’d sit in back sandwiched between two brothers, and wave with them at truck drivers, trying to get them to honk and smile.
Traveling always made me want to write continuous. The ongoing movement of getting from place to place, was always such a thrill. In fact, the other day in Brooklyn, I had memories flood back. I was reading newspapers in Prospect with Zach, and marveled at how much of a relic the black and white articles seemed. I studied each page and tried to imagine what The New York Times must have looked like just fifty years before. I thought about how much the world has changed, and about how much I enjoy simplicity. I sat behind Zach and took his picture, before stumbling on a little hut made out of branches.
A couple days later, Zachary found a free box of books in Park Slope and came home, with a full load. One of them was ‘The Last Picture Show’, which I scarfed down in just three days —reading on my commute to work in Manhattan. I was shocked by the use of sex and found it all rather honest, but just as filthy too. I liked the whole book an awful lot, and had a dream the following night of a dead body laying in front of a movie theater, while long shadows talked to me in song. The next afternoon I imagined the character Sonny sleeping with Mrs. Popper, her aged skin all stretched and worn, a look of hunger in her eyes. All desirable and wanting. A sincere exchange.
Lately my cat Van Zandt, has been reminding me a lot of his namesake Townes. He’s a trouble-maker without intending to be, and carries love everywhere he goes, which makes him likable to a tremendous amount. One morning he came over and took my pillow and gave me kisses, all demanding.
Days have been a lot like that though. They all feel heavy, what with winter coming, and there’s a certain amount of melancholy everywhere. It’s the same sort of nostalgia I find when I play a good record on loop.