Imagine you’re on the west side of the world’s capital, Austin, Texas. It’s a road trip, just me and my best friend, and this particular road trip is his inspiration. It’ll be fun (it was). I’ll see things I’ve never seen before (I did). And best of all, we’ll spend hundreds of miles on a perfectly flat road surrounded by perfectly flat landscape so unvarying in feature that if you half-shut your eyes you can have the paradoxical illusion you’re suspended six inches off the earth, at once motionless and moving at 85 mph. Try it. Austin – Junction – Sonora – Sheffield – Ft. Stockton – Ft. Davis.
What do two buddies talk about on a 900 mile drive across a realm without depth or height? What is there to observe when one glance takes in all there is to see, from the edge of outer space to the bedrock seven inches below your spinning wheels? Dumb question! They talk about women. Women who were once girls – which seems so deep in memory that this desert floor was then swimming with fish. [Ed: good move, the women are going to love you for that one.]
So I started talking about this girl I knew…. Or thought I knew…. Or was it the other girl? The one in the white pup tent? It could have been that silly, lugubrious story about the girl who summoned me with such power that she wore ten crowns…. [Ed: Cheez, get a grip.]
“I don’t walk to talk about girls. We’re going to the Davis Mountains, and specifically we’re going to the McDonald Observatory. I snap my fingers at your vague lyrical attempts to create atmosphere.” I won’t attempt to repeat everything my good friend professorially explained about McDonald Observatory – for I’m fairly sure anyone who is reading this (put an x here __ if you are), isn’t all THAT interested in lunar ranging stations and infrared spectroscopy, or isn’t as interested in that stuff as they are in GIRLS.
We saw the observatory. It is indeed a big telescope and I can only imagine what the average teenage girl must look like through one of those things. Like a nebula? A quasar? After we saw the observatory we must have stopped somewhere that sold alcoholic beverages, for my next concrete memory is that was very dark and I was in a campground and I had to take a leak. There is something magnificent about stepping outside your tent (or camper or cabin) and leaking over the Italian Alps or the Rocky Mountains. By comparison taking a leak lost among scrub and pebbles in the emptiness of the West Texas desert is a kind of penance. It didn’t help that I managed to get lost within a hundred feet of our pitched tent.
My friend was a little annoyed with me. He had started one of his old girlfriend stories – I think this one had mentioned a pelican, or was it a harmonica? – and I had been rude to choose that moment to bolt and pee. I meant no disrespect. He was telling a good girlfriend story too, set in the ancient past and sealed off from today by decades of silence. Tales of an adolescent Ulysses.
I remember we were drinking Heinekens. Well, my friend was drinking Heinekens. I was just drinking one Heineken. I settled back down. But instead of resuming his story, my friend swore and said we were out of beer.
“Now we’ll have to go up to the tavern.” (Every campsite in the Davis Mountains comes with a tavern.)
“But it must be two hundred yards away – in some direction?” I protested.
“Well I can’t leave you here alone. You might get taken prisoner by a feral kitten. I couldn’t bear the responsibility of telling the authorities.”
“But you have to continue the story. Whatever happened to…. Whatever happened to…”
“I’ll tell you on the way to the…”
Continued here: Road Trip (part 2 by Fidge)