“windmills in the dark”
[Warning: These travelogues might come off as illiterate rantings. Such is the result of driving across the country the day after Christmas, headed for Florida and the end to the late in-laws’ estate wrap-up, with a sick family in tow.]
I started having the nervous breakdown right about the time Eddie drove past the white windmills against the shadowy mountains of Palm Springs.
We’d rushed through small town after empty field, hit L.A. in a gust of familiar disorientation – the place is a sprawling, convoluted mass of character-less criminal intent, a cesspool of urine, dirty money and exhaust – searched for one fruitless hour on a jam-packed highway heading into Santa Monica for somewhere to eat, found the Two Hot Tamales’ Border Grill, barely dealt with a two-going-on-three toddler still recovering from a nasty flu/cold bug and the case of the want-mommys crawling around under tables screaming at the top of his lungs…
I couldn’t wait to drive out of there. But then, I was being driven elsewhere, anywhere elsewhere but my home. It was too much to take. I sat in my passenger seat quietly fuming, thinking the ugliest of dark thoughts.
WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS CROSS-COUNTRY DRIVE? IT WON’T END WITH FLORIDA, WE GOTTA DO THIS AGAIN ON THE WAY BACK, BUT WITH A TIGHTER DEADLINE, ON A PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP FOR EDDIE’S GIG, THEN DRIVING UP THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, IN REVERSE. I COULD DIVORCE HIM, FILE FOR SOLE CUSTODY, TAKE HIM FOR EVERY CENT HE’S WORTH, BUY A HOUSE IN LAHAINA…
“--Honey? You okay?”
“We’re almost there.”
“Find a hotel soon.”
I COULD PUNCH MY PASSENGER WINDOW OUT AND START SCREAMING. I COULD PUNCH HIM.
“That’s five.” Me.
“That’s the fifth Thai restaurant we’ve passed.”
“I know, we’re coming on six dead ahead.”
After we checked into a Motel 6 (there are as many of those as there were Thai joints) for only the second time in the history of our marriage, then remembered why we stayed away for so long as we entered into the cramped quarters of what appeared to be a crime scene… or a jail cell, remnants of either blood or blood-red fingernail polish stained on the half-battered nightstand, the shower stall molded with reddish-brown ceiling fuzz and reeking of sweaty linebacker armpit, the carpets a Petri dish of infectious diseases and nail clippings (but it is the only hotel so far that had SoapNet, go figure)… I finally let it out in hysterical, quiet, pleading sobbing, instead of blind, infantile rage.
James was safely taking a bath with Eddie, who occasionally peeked out to listen to me warning him softly that I can’t take this much longer, that it feels as if all I’m doing is sitting on my fat, flat behind in the passenger seat racing toward a temporary destiny before the next race, for hours, counting the minutes before another restroom urge overwhelms me and I stall for time, all the while, listening to, worrying myself to death about our son coughing, sniffling and struggling to breathe easily during uneasy sleeps in his week #2 of the cold and flu season (appropriately taking over our household two days before Christmas).
“I don’t have five minutes to just gather my thoughts,” I began. “It’s already 10 p.m., James needs a bath, I have to take a shower, I have to make sure he’s eating something healthy but not too much so it won’t trigger another coughing fit that had him throwing up on me at that restaurant out of Medford, but I better do this before midnight, to get enough sleep before we have to wake up early to do it again. I don’t get to enjoy food, just wolf down fast food crap in the parking lot with the car running, praying to God that I won’t need to take more than one dump, or that I won’t have to go without a rest stop in sight for another 43 miles. We don’t really enjoy the sights, because we’re too busy trying to get to the next state as fast as we can with bathroom and gas breaks… and Lord help me, we have to do this again, and again, and again. My mind is leaving me in bits every day. I almost forgot my purse. I’m spilling drinks on myself in a daze. This is ridiculous. But there isn’t any escape. I’m trapped. Trapped!”
Eddie did his comforting Libra thing, took charge of the bath and shared similar sentiments with the unspoken understanding, a please bear with me undercurrent, that despite our discomfort and the bad timing of a spate of bad health, this cross-country trip is not a luxury, but a necessity, especially after that last bout with airports, security checks and even more cramped quarters.
Sharing similar sentiments helped. Talking always eases my exaggerated stream of conscious unloading. But the trip hasn’t been easy. I’ve several strikes against me before I step my 7 ½-size foot out the door.
Other healthy, normal people can take off on a moment’s notice, eat their fill, pile back into the car and go, gazing about the landmarks, chatting amiably away, without a care in the world.
Because of a missing gall bladder (surgery to remove a gallstone, Dec. 1989), disastrous after-effects of too much constant yo-yo dieting, I cannot go for long without eating a meal. Not a snack. A full-on meal, with carbos, proteins, vegetables. But, if I indulge in any sort of meal, much less a snack, I must go to the bathroom to pee and/or poop; the latter, more than once in a sitting. I never know when I’ll have to go either. Following breakfast, it’s usually in the middle of eating or right after, two or five times. Lunch, it’s two more times. And generally, I’m safe after supper. Generally.
Traveling worsens this unpredictable condition, worsened by IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea).
So, I cannot avoid eating, or else I develop the runs and nausea all day and night. Yet, my trained reflex is TO AVOID eating, to avoid the inevitable, unpredictable urge(s) to evacuate my bowels and bladder.
Throw me into a driving cross country within two weeks to and before the week of Valentine’s Day (for a Princess Cruise gig Eddie booked) from … with a little boy who’s sick with a flu/cold and needy for his mommy’s constant attention situation – and it’s insane.
We must stay close to the hotels and motels off the Interstate Highway, away from the metropolitan cities (less crime, less expense), but that means our choice in food narrows to the fast, fatty variety.
I already never want to see another hamburger or taco again. And, I’d kill to have Kathleen Hickman’s Caesar salad with her husband Chuck’s prime rib… or some sushi and shrimp tempura from just about anywhere (we tried in Tempe, Arizona, but the bozos at Satana Sushi were too booked up with in-person patrons to bother with our take-out order).
If it weren’t for our one and only three-hour side trip to Grizzly Flats to visit with Katrina Rasbold, my EOS boss, and her charming family, I wouldn’t have had ANY home-cooked meal. Katrina has written many times about her renowned cooking prowess, but words don’t do enough justice to the actual experience. I’ve never had roast turkey that juicy and flavorful throughout, not just on the skin, her from-scratch gravy, with turkey chunks in it, just about made the cross-country trip worth it.
Better than food, Katrina – as Eddie also agreed – is a beautiful woman. I knew of this from her pictures, just look into her eyes; but in person, she just came off as this Renoir painting, a picture of feminine goddess, exotic and voluptuous, curvy and romantic. I wanted to say something complimentary right there and then, but felt suddenly overcome with shyness, and the inability to formulate – as I’m failing now – just how beautiful she struck me, her physical form, her soft southern drawl, her graceful other-worldly countenance. Every time I looked at her, I felt lost in all that lush dark hair and those liquid eyes, and that laugh.
We laughed at the odd synchronicity of spotting her husband Eric at the bottom of the hill, before the long, winding climb (didn’t vomit, not even once). We’d stopped to find James’ sippee cup, which had slipped behind his carseat, when I noticed a young striking guy who resembled pictures Katrina’d posted on EOS, he’d stopped too. I saw a baby carriage thingie in the back of his SUV and thought, um, they don’t have a baby now, so that can’t be him. But later on, as we almost found ourselves lost, with Eddie panicking because the address numbers weren’t climbing up but going down and maybe he took the wrong turn at the fork on the road, that very same striking young man pulled over in front of us, cranked his window down and we all realized the same thing, then followed him to the Rasbold house (a frickin’ mansion compared to ours).
That was nice, a tasty filling to an otherwise nasty sandwich with the day before of James throwing up on me at a restaurant and the day after when I broke down after four straight days of driving to somewhere else.
Other nice things happened – at this moment, I’m typing this on my laptop in the other room of our Baymont Suite just outside Houston, Texas at 2:37 a.m., because I can’t sleep for the second night straight – just to level the playing field a bit:
Next stop, some beignets and jambalaya in New Orleans, before taking our final hotel break in Pensacola, Florida.
We still have no idea where we’ll stay. A law in Hernando County (where Spring Hill resides) prohibits renting a house or apartment less than three months at a time, so, James and I will either be spending most of our time in Barefoot Bay on the East side of Florida’s coast with the cousins, while Eddie oversees the painting, recarpeting and cleaning out of air-conditioning ducts on the West side, or we’ll figure something out together, like we always do.
I don’t plan on eating out much once we get there, though.
Hey, do you blame me?
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