Continued from: Road Trip (part 1 by Gumby)
“I’ll tell you on the way to the…”
[Ed: Yes, that’s where Gumby left it. It’s bad enough I have to edit his stuff (“lugubrious” – really?) but now I have to finish his pieces for him. Oh well, let me at least get out of these italics.]
There, that’s better.
As you’ve been hearing, Gumby and I once went camping in the Davis Mountains of far west Texas. Now Gumby is a seasoned camper, and we’d done this sort of thing before in France and Italy. For example, we’d lived in a campground just outside of Florence for several days one summer, walking across the river into town every morning and dragging home after sunset with our necks stiff from looking up at paintings and churches. Gumby is the only person in the world, or at least in America, who associates camping with the High Renaissance. That’s why he agreed to go to west Texas with me – to see the art. Once we were about two hundred miles out into the Chihuahuan Desert, the wheels in Gumby’s brain finally started to turn.
“Where exactly did you say we’re going?”
“The Davis Mountains. They’re like the Alps. You’ll love it.”
“What are we going to do there?”
“We’re going to camp. You know, set up our tents, cook dinner, camp. Just like we used to.”
This was dishonest. When we’d camped near Paris, it was for specific reasons, first that we had almost no money, and second that the campground was next to a train station from which we could get quickly to the Louvre. Neither of these reasons actually applied to the current situation. Gumby stared out at the endless miles of creosote brush with a dawning suspicion that cultural treasures in this part of the world might be spread a little thinner than elsewhere.
I didn’t feel guilty, not at all. I myself just like to camp – to get away from the city, sit by a fire, listen to the coyotes, sleep outdoors. I know many people who consider this a mild form of mental illness, but Gumby had always seemed pretty content to live for days in a small, plastic hut with nothing to eat but peanut butter sandwiches. It’s not really that different from the way he lives the rest of the time. Still, I could see that he was going to have some trouble getting used to west Texas. Since it was getting dark, I drove him into the town of Fort Davis and tried to convince him that the county courthouse was the local cathedral, but the Beaux Arts clock tower was a giveaway, and anyway the whole building is only about fifteen feet tall. Still I wasn’t worried, because the convenience stores were still open. We passed a brilliantly lit one and I could see through it all the way to the back, where the beer was.
Please understand, I’m not advocating alcohol abuse. I’m just saying that while some people can’t go camping without thinking of Brunelleschi or Michelangelo, there are others who simply like to sit around a toasty campfire sipping an ice cold beverage while the stars wheel overhead in their slightly unsteady arcs. Anyway, anything Gumby has to say about my beer consumption has to be weighed against the fact that he can become staggeringly drunk simply by smelling a bottle cap. We once had the following conversation in the Student Union at the University of Texas, Austin:
“I can’t feel my face. Is it the beer?”
“No, you have to drink it first.”
What I’m trying to say is that we bought some beer, but not an unreasonable quantity, and a couple of hours later we were comfortably settled in for the evening by the side of a gently murmuring and mosquito-infested creek. This is when we allegedly started talking about “girlfriends” – though I’m not sure we actually used that word, which sounds a bit Archie and Jughead to me. When I first met Gumby during the Pleistocene, he was married and I was not, and Gumby took a sadistic pleasure in my misadventures with women, which he never tired of hearing about. By the time of the Davis Mountains, our marital statuses were reversed, and it should have been my turn to play the wise counselor while Gumby reeled through the first three tablespoonfuls of his Heineken and spewed tearful, incoherent stories about his love life. However, Gumby’s problems with women have always been pretty much confined to beating them off with a stick, go figure. Maybe we spent the evening discussing the current Gumby groupie and reviewing the many candidates for her replacement, but I don’t remember it. Success is boring.
As for my story, the one I was telling when the beer ran out, I have no idea. For me, camping trips are about forgetfulness. Forgetfulness and architecture, of course.