On the Road

On God’s Son, Nas has a song titled “Book of Rhymes.” On this track, he supposedly rifles through an old book in which he has written a bunch of random lyrics, and he regales us with his findings. Most of the time his musings are unintentionally comical. These nonsensical short bursts (“How can I trust you, when I can’t trust me/picture me an old man, an old G”) are often followed by sound effects of him crinkling paper and throwing it into a trash bin. At one point, instead of rhyming, he begins acting like he’s stumbled upon a page featuring the phone numbers of several women. He is surprised, saying, “Oh shit, Tina. I’ve been lookin’ for this bitch’s number.” Later, he will complain about a lack of values regarding our treatment of women. In short, he pulls off the common rap achievement of sounding terribly unoriginal while also disrespecting women and then sounding hypocritical by calling others out for disrespecting women.

Nonetheless, this song has inspired me. I’ve had it stuck in my head all morning, and it’s made me want to copy its style and retell my road trip from Dallas to State College “Book of Rhymes” style, writing a bunch of short bursts about my trip and my thoughts that will certainly be, just as Nas’ are, comical for the wrong purposes.

*****

There’s traffic in Dallas. Not a surprise. In Dallas, cars generally clog every roadway in the entire city and throughout all the suburbs during rush hour, from seven to nine in the morning and four to six-thirty in the evening. They also generally clog every roadway in the entire city and throughout all the suburbs at every other time of the day. This sucks.

This especially sucks because I have a goal. I want to make it from Dallas to Kansas City in seven and a half hours. Driving to Kansas City in said time reminds me of the struggle to break the four-minute mile barrier in the 40s and 50s. It seems impossible, and a doctor has probably said that the attainment of such velocity would kill the human body.

I have to make the best of this last batch of Dallas traffic. Sweating a little, pulling up extra close to the car in front of me so I can make sure no JERKS try to cut ahead of my car, I put in the mix of my favorite songs of 2011. The first track is “Babylon” by David Gray.

*****

Oklahoma is the longest freaking state ever. When you are traveling through Missouri, or Texas, or California, you expect the drive to be long. Oklahoma is deceptively long and deceptively sucky. True story: One time when I was driving through Oklahoma a police officer pulled me over because I passed him. I wasn’t speeding. He was driving slow. He let me off with a warning, which was basically him telling me not to pass him even though he drives the speed of a child on a Pow, Pow, Power Wheel.

*****

Trivia question: What is former KU benchwarmer Jeremy Case’s hometown?

Answer: McAlester, Oklahoma. This is the best point of interest you’ll see on US-75 in Oklahoma. The town may also have a Pizza Hut.

*****

In seven hours and fifty minutes (damn that traffic and Oklahoma length) I make it to Kansas City. My mom has already called approximately seven times. The family plans to eat dinner at a restaurant.

Minsky’s Pizza has just closed a few minutes ago (damn that traffic and Oklahoma length), so we walk to the only open restaurant nearby, Danny’s. I can’t remember going to a restaurant and leaving thinking that the food completely sucked. There is always some redeemable quality, mainly a reminder that regardless of this food’s quality at least you didn’t have to cook it. Danny’s, though, was worse than Denny’s, and if you’ve never heard of Danny’s, you probably assumed I made a typo by writing Danny’s in the first place. Just NEVER go there.

*****

Liberty Memorial

*****

Nothing worries my dad more than St. Louis traffic.* If he were driving to St. Louis for the sole purpose of visiting the city, he would decide to bypass the city out of fear of its possible congestion.

*That is, except for multiple parked cars alongside the street in our neighborhood. If three cars are parked next to each other, somebody MUST be doing something, like PARYTING, smoking DRUGS, listening to HEAVY METAL, or being a TEENAGER.

Every time I drive east on I-70, he leaves me with a suggestion that is actually a stern warning. “Mark, he says, “you know you can go around St. Louis.” He then mentions that the detour route to escape the traffic “might” be I-270, acting like he’s not sure if that’s the right one and the mention of it crosses his mind only once in a while.

Sorry Dad. Wanted to drive through St. Louis this time.

*****

Chris Rock saved my life. Sometimes when you drive for long distances sleeping sounds go good. You want to hold on to the wheel and close your eyes. These thoughts arise most often after eating lunch.

After I eat lunch, the repetition of music lulls me into slumber mode. Before I shut either eye, I put on the Chris Rock “Never Scared” album and the scratchy tone of his voice analyzing Ed Bradley’s interview with Michael Jackson prevents me from falling asleep in Illinois, on the way to Chicago.

*****

Chicago is the first big city I ever visited. There, and then, I discovered that if enough tall buildings sprouted from concrete they could eliminate past thoughts of open space.

*****

Major thanks to my high school friend Mike. He let me stay at his place in Chicago. On Saturday morning, we run on Lakeshore Drive and talk about the awesomeness of how most of our high school friends keep in touch. It seems like so many of my friends from college forgot about high school friends the first day of orientation. Not the case at all with my ‘05 graduating class.

Definitely glad I went to St. Thomas Aquinas.

*****

Gary, Indiana. Yep. At least there’s a Northern League baseball franchise here. Go Railcats!

*****

Where the HELL is my gas cap? I open the little compartment to pump gasoline in my CRV, and nothing covers the hole. There are only three explanations.

1. Someone latched onto my speeding car on the highway by Gary and stole it.

2. I placed the cap on top of the car when I stopped to get gasoline in South Bend, removed the pump, closed the compartment and left the cap up there.

3. I placed the cap on top of the car when I stopped to get gasoline in South Bend and forgot to remove the pump from my car, driving off and letting it rip away, thudding against the ground. The scraping caused a flame to ignite, and it reached the gasoline supply, causing an inferno. I am now wanted in Indiana for arson. This probably didn’t happen, but it is possible. I remember my grade school music teacher did this (minus the arson) and told our class the story. We misbehaved so much in her class that we caused her to have a nervous breakdown the day of our fifth grade Christmas pageant by not singing during the all-school rehearsal. Man, we were terrible, terrible kids.

*****

From “Robin Hood Men In Tights“…

Robin Hood: Kindly let me pass.
Little John: Uh, no. Sorry, but a toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll, and if we don’t get no tolls, then we don’t eat no rolls.
[Proudly]
Little John: I made that up.
Robin Hood: It’s very fascinating. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to hurt you.

Ohio has a toll for every occasion and a cop for every mile of road. It costs me almost twenty dollars to drive through the state, but it’s so worth it because driving in Ohio makes me think of the hastily made Cleveland tourism video.

*****

State College, Pennsylvania. New Home.

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