Monthly Archives: April 2012
I looked around the room and took in the beautiful woodwork. Cherry or Mahogany made the television stand, dresser, and doorway. A smell lingered that took me a second to identify. It was cigarette smoke; stale cigarette smoke. Plenty of pillows supported my head and lay around my bed, each having had a part as cuddling buddy through the night. I lay in bed a second longer remembering the night prior. Looking over to the next bed Mary lay motionless, still out from the alcohol induced coma. I didn’t precisely feel one hundred percent myself but thought of the Starbucks I had seen just off the casino floor.
Rousing myself, I stood; put my hoodie and hat on, then proceeded out of the room and downstairs for a caramel macchiato! The last thing I truly wanted to do at that time was stand in line, yet that’s what I committed to when I decided Starbucks was the answer for me. Returning to the room after the twenty minute wait and several dodged conversation starters, Mary was alive and staring at the ceiling. It was a good thing she woke herself up, now we could begin packing so we’d be out by the appropriate time.
People looked at me in perplexity as I walked past with my bike in tow. I guess it’s not everyday someone walks through the casino floor with their bike. Walking out of the doors to the parking lot; I was able to see the tall palm trees and the jagged tops of the desert mountains. It was moments like this that brought me back to what was really happening. I’m moving across the country; to a place I’ve never been, to a job I don’t have, and a place to live that doesn’t exist yet. They were scary thoughts. I put the travel bags into their tight spaces before putting my bike on the rack. Almost there, I thought more, tonight we will be in San Diego, my new home. It was a nice thought. Though I didn’t know where I was going once we got there, I knew it was going to be good.
Caught in the grasp of my dreamy thoughts, I hadn’t paid too much attention to what Mary was doing. Then I caught site of her droned out and staring that the tires of the car next to us. She sat out of the passenger seat with door open and a look of disgust about her face. “Mary, are you gonna put your bag away?”
“I’m jus gon hold it.” She responded rubbing her face with her hands. Her haphazardly done hair bobbed and moved oddly. The parts she managed to include in the hair tie slowly slipped from the weak grasp. She was a mess!
“Do you wanna grab something to eat? I’m getting the sense you’re hung over.” I declared setting the last bag into the cramped back seat. That messy mess of a hair bob bobbed, confirming she wanted to eat. I rounded to her side to put her bag away so she wouldn’t be stuck carrying it the whole last part of the trip.
“Wait!” She proclaimed quickly. In the sun the bags under her eyes shown shiny and dark. The tops of her eyes looked like she just painfully tried plucking both her eyebrows off. She then pointed to a bag she had neatly placed near the drivers door of the car next to us. It was at the exact location for the next placement of my right foot had I continued to walk toward her. Within the bag was a beautiful collection of something that looked like fruit cobbler mixed with stomach bile.
“Ew! Mary!” I was so grossed out. She laughed a little.
“What? You didn’t even hear it, right?” She asked like this was one of her life’s accomplishments.
“No, but throw that shit away!” I had to get to the other side of the car. I changed my mind. She could hold her bag or put it away herself but only after throwing away her spewed dinner. I am not sure where she put it, but she made a few grunting noises when she returned and tried forcing her bag into the back seat. Finally making it work she then rolled into her seat and looked at me. I was afraid to look. If she had anything running down her chin I might just spill some unwanted things into a bag of my own.
Avoiding looking at her and getting the car in gear to go, I had to make sure it was out of her system. “You’re not gonna throw up again, are you?”
“Do you have some gum?” She asked. I pulled the pack from the door compartment and handed it to her, without looking.
“You’re not gonna throw up again are you?” I had to ask again. Without waiting for a response I began to drive. I needed anything not to look at her just yet.
“Okay let’s grab some…” Then it happened. I couldn’t believe it. Spattering across the window, dash and hitting my face…
“Let’s stop at McDonalds and get a burger to soak up some of that alcohol.” I began as she googled the closest one. We drove down the strip and looked at all of the well known casino’s . We watch as a man jumps from the stratosphere tower with only a rope keeping him from hitting the grown. I’m thinking bungee jump so when he doesn’t fly back up once he got close to the ground I began looking for the snapped line. Then at a red light a man dressed like a hobo clown, signs hanging all over him, rides past the front of my car and squeals to a halt just to the right. He honks his horn on the bike which makes an appropriate sound for a clown. As we’re watching and smiling at this funny display he rears back and begins screaming at the cars. He sounded so angry and pointed at everyone at this light.
I gripped the steering wheel tighter and looked to the traffic signal. I wanted out! This guy was scaring me. Mary, thinking along the same lines already locked her door and had the window rolled up. He continued to yell frantically at the cars by us when I saw the slightest hint of green and sped off to the next intersection.
“That fucking clown!” Mary had a sobering moment there, “no wonder Krystal’s afraid of them! Shit!” I had to laugh at this point. We were out of any danger, if there even was any, and Mary had the best face when she was freaked out.
It was time to get on the highway and make our way to the Hoover Dam. Highways, ugh, I guess when you spend so much time on them there can be little left of any thought of anything but the Highway. We just continued to drive. For the second known time in the trip I went off the street signs rather than the GPS lady who had an annoying way of talking anyway. Passing the hoover dam without seeing it we drove a good twenty minutes past before I decided to listen to Mary and turn around. However, this was the spot where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip. The picture that I felt held the most perception into it. My car, bike on the back, Pennsylvania license plate, and vast desert spanning the width of the picture. The vast dessert expressing the opening of experiences that I will encounter and the beauty that could befall me from them. The road, a journey. A journey to a place that I didn’t know; a land far from my comfort, my home, Pennsylvania. And the mountain bike to give me wheels to succeed past any sort of mountain that might rise in front of me, to tackle the land I don’t know, the troubling aspects that would surely come from this journey. Poetic right?
We finally made the Hoover Dam. Of course there was a police force designated to the protection of this landmark, and of course with all of the crap piled in the back of my car, we were selected to be searched. It wasn’t as big a deal as I worried it to be. I popped the trunk and let them peer through the windows into the back seat. They asked if I was military, thanks haircut, and shortly thereafter let us pass by.
We drove over the hoover dam and parked at the first available parking spot. We got out and took a few pictures. It was surreal knowing this canyon was about as deep as the grand canyon, being forged from the same river. Simply looking like a pond we wondered at why it was so shallow. Clearly visible were markings of where the water had gotten up to, yet there was easily a thirty foot difference from then to now. We took a few pictures then changed position, drove a little higher and took more pictures. While up high we noticed a bunker that looked more like a sniper outpost, so we snapped a few pictures of that. We didn’t stay too long before we took to the road again. This time to our final destination, San Diego.
The road was long. It had been long. It will always be long. We drove and for some reason Mary became excited about the Alien Jerky we saw signs for along the way. We stopped and picked up this said “Alien Jerky” and filled the tank with the surprise of a whole dollar more per gallon than anywhere along the trek. One other surprise waited at that gas station. California doesn’t participate in the Subway points program!!! For years I have been cashing in on my free six inch sub, now I would have to buy every single one. Was this a sign of the fiscal hurtles I would come to experience while in California? Regardless, we continued. It was night fall by the time we got a glimpse of Los Angeles, and two hours later, San Diego.
We made it! Beautiful and lovely San Diego. She beckoned and I heard her call. The lights of my car showed palm trees lining the highway, ramps, and bridges spawning in every direction. Her warmth embraced me, while her kindness left me in awe. Mary and I, both could not believe stop signs were big here, not only that but the taxi’s didn’t threaten pedestrians, but let them go ahead of them! There weren’t a lot of cars on the roads but people walked to and fro. It was the gaslamp district we wound up in first, then we found Harbor drive and took that out towards the airport. There, we found a nice place to park and take a picture of the skyline of my new home.
I guess all in all the trip itself didn’t divulge wondrous thoughts of realism. It didn’t birth any ideas of fruitful gain. I didn’t even gain a fuller sense of self through the drive. I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts. I did experience a world beyond what I ever thought I would. I strengthened a relationship with my sister beyond what I ever thought I’d want to. San Diego was San Diego. Just the place I was, in the here and now.
Time began to work it’s magic. By the time we found a place to crash for the next couple of days, while I searched for an apartment, the realities began to kick in. I wanted to write it down and play it out. Watching Titanic gave me a great scapegoat to the tears that had whelmed within me. It was in this moment when I had the greatest clarity of all, even with the six beers I had already pound.
I am me. I will always be me. I hid from myself for a while. I hid myself from the world for a while. My world was my partner. How foolish could I have been. I hid me. The greatest attribute about me; me. Location, while important to inspiration, won’t change me. I am me no matter where I may be. That’s why I don’t feel the difference.I am where I want to be now. I am where I am meant to be now. I will grow and strengthen myself. It sounds selfish, but I did it for me. The mission was accomplished. I had hoped for a great realization along the trip but it didn’t come. Now it finally had. Originating with a want for change, I made that change. With this new realization I was quickly going to change. It happened quickly, and those that only knew me in my downed state were shocked by my change.
It’s nice getting the opportunity to start a new life. Though I miss everyone I left back home, I am forging my life now with clear slate and a clear mind! Wish me luck!
In a previously drafted post, Young Artist Syndrome…A reality?, I write about the intricate details going on in my life at that time. Over a year old I can’t help but to look back at that and realize how big a role it had played in where I am today. That syndrome, thought, and process never went away. I still had it. I yearned for it.
Here I sit in San Diego, California wondering what I’m going to do to pay all of my bills. Though I have a job, I am almost refusing to find a second because I want my writing to be my second job. I never came into writing with the illusion that I would be rich. I nearly dreamed of being in this situation (though I currently have it better than that dream!). I should have been picking up shifts at Top of the Market, where I work, over the past two days but there I sat writing. Working on my second book most of all.
You see, I forget about certain key elements sometimes. To stay relevant you have to be relevant. I promised my novel over a year and a half ago. Now I am reformatting, rewriting, and taking some serious jabs at myself while I delete pages at a time of irrelevant information. I won’t see any return on investment for a while, that’s if ever! However, this is my baby. I gave her life, 72,000 words of life. I must finish this novel!
I must finish this novel on an empty stomach though. It makes it tough, but I have my wine and cheap beer to help forget about it. Plus if I was truly starving there is always Ramen noodles!
Anyway, I just found it interesting that I wrote about this a while ago nearly depicting it as something that I would never do, and here I am! Maybe a little inspiration for you! Check it out. Young Artist Syndrome…A reality?
Thank you for reading,
Caleb A. Mertz
Waking up at a gas station in your car is quite a reality checker. I couldn’t help but to ponder what turn we didn’t make that cost us so many hours. This portion of the trip was only meant to take 22 hours, and yet we drove for 16 yesterday and still had an additional 11 to go. Six hours just to get to the Grand Canyon. So we drove.
By day four of Mary sucking at her teeth every two minutes, it began to drive me mad. It was truly getting under my skin. What killed me worse was I had no clue how to get her to stop. She claimed she had something in her teeth. Well, Mary, we have stopped over twenty times so far on this trip why haven’t you picked up something to get it out!? That was just one indication that the time in the car was beginning to take its toll.
After following a snow capped mountain for miles we finally began to wrap around the base of it. There were several more behind it. Traveling up and over smaller gullies and hills we were greeted with signs of “Maribou crossing”, as my tired mind called them.
“Oh I hope we see Maribou!” I say. Then Mary without thinking too much on it either states.
“Yeah, it would really be cool to see a Maribou.” Yeah we kept that up for about an hour before we realized how dumb we sounded! We were in the middle of luscious hills with fantastic views. Passing signs stating we were at elevation: 7000. At points the sky beyond almost looked like an ocean as the clouds came lower in our line of sight, we were so high. Without making a fuss my car continued on it’s path.
A gas station coming into view lent a perfect opportunity to listen to the three voice mails that magically appeared on my phone and check out the number that had called about five times already. It was Visa. They were going to terminate process on my card if I could not verify that I was making these transactions which had now accrued over a few grand. Thank goodness I was able to get that sorted out or we would have had some serious issues!
Approaching the Grand Canyon I couldn’t help but to feel a bit uneducated. I had always assumed that it was pure desert on both sides of this marvelous display. My eyes have now proven this to be false. What an amazing place it was though. You literally can not fathom how amazing this place is without actually seeing it with your own eyes. The distance to the bottom, the distance to the other side, the slope, and the lack of rails along the trail. But then again, if you know me that spelled GOOD TIME!
Freaking Mary out as much as I could I went careening out on snow covered rocks. I wanted to try getting to the furthest outcropping with the soil being so moist and my shoes so very slick. I could have played all day. I watched enviously as a group of three guys made a gigantic leap out onto an outcropping I would have nearly deemed impossible to be on. Then as they came back, they decided to climb the side of a small cliff to get back up. Well from where we stood if they fell the slightest bit, it would have been good bye! The ledge they used to hoist themselves up was only two feet wide, beneath that a fifteen foot fall to the next little slope. That little slope was nearly 80 degrees! With about fifteen feet to roll down then a fifty foot cliff. Once they fell off that cliff they would hit a small rock, bouncing off the side then flying a good hundred feet to the next slope which was maybe 65 degrees. There could be hope to catch yourself here before you continue the fall of about a mile to the bottom of the Canyon. So Jealous! What a thrill!
We walked along some of the path before Mary finally stated she was over it! Over it! Do you realize how amazing this is? I made her stick around for about ten more minutes before we began the walk back to the car. I just couldn’t stop looking out over the freaking canyon! It was huge!
On the way back to the car we were treated to a nice little show by a local fat squirrel. This guy was fat! He was trying to get into a travelers back pack. A small crowd of seven including us and a photographer watched as he successfully manipulated a zipper to get to the inside of the bag. The lady clearly didn’t want him in there as she picked it up. Our fat little friend simple jumped off the bench and waddled towards the lady, gently pawing at her pants. Not sure whether this scared her slightly (think evil alvin and the chipmunks) or if she realized the true entertainment value this squirrel had now that fifteen people were watching him go. A good fifteen minutes of this went on before he finally ran off to attack some other innocent bystander.
Back on the road we managed to take a few cheap pictures of airplanes we figured our dad would enjoy seeing, made an illegal and highly dangerous u-turn on the highway (I didn’t notice there was a fifteen foot drop two feet from where my skidding tires finally stopped), and confused Laughlin, Nevada with Vegas (Easy I had never been there!). Two hours after Laughlin we finally made it to Las Vegas. Here was another one. Breathtaking. The span of lights goes on forever. I don’t believe I have ever seen more lights! Bigger than New York City and way more miraculous. Mary and I just let our mouths gape at the amazing site that lay ahead of us. We couldn’t even see the Luxor hotel that we were to be staying at even though they boast to have the brightest spot light in America.
Standing in line for twenty minutes we finally checked into our room, which we got in the tower not the casino, aw shux. Very nice room, and prompt service when the television wasn’t working. Though we were tired and I really didn’t have much money to play with anymore I decided a $40 allowance each would do well. We started with a drink while I played a stupid game to warm up. I have never gambled! I watched the ex play all the time and therefore felt I had a pretty good idea of Blackjack. Not confident enough to hit up the live tables I settled myself into a $5 minimum Blackjack computer table with a very nice lady sipping her Long Island. It only took two minutes before I was in the game! Woah baby! Making that money like it was nobody’s business. Mary didn’t even know how to take me sitting there and gambling a hundred dollars at a time!
Then some guy came over hovering over my shoulder asking questions blah blah blah. Next thing I know Mary’s gone and he is too. Slowly starting to freak out I start looking all around for her she finally comes over stupid smile on her face and cigarette hanging. “I’m so drunk Bubby!”
O lord. Trying to teach her how to play with her last ten dollars and forty cents wasn’t a great idea. Before I know it this guy is back and telling Mary how devoted he is as a father, and how his wife cheated on him. Mary’s consoling him. Now I only have $120 left! I was focusing on what idiocy the guy was having to say to my sister, knowing she was drunk, rather than playing the game. I cashed out under $100 and called their conversation quits.
Back in the room Mary thought she was still good to go all night. After just a few minutes she was PASSED out! I almost tip toed back downstairs to play the game well again, but knew I’d be worried she wake up and not be able to find me, and then goodness knows what would happen. We needed our sleep. We had the Hoover dam tomorrow and then our final destination immediately after that. Though I was so excited to be sitting at the Luxor hotel, I couldn’t have been happier to only be one day away from my beautiful and coveted San Diego.
Time is a mysterious thing. Especially when you lose time and can’t tell where it went. Not just as in time flies when having fun, but GPS saying you have a 22 hour hour drive, then four hours later still stating 21.5 hours left of driving! Even with Groom lake within our scopes or the infamous Area 51, I knew we were still too far out to have these things happening (not that I even believe anymore).
Those four hours were a happy four hours though. We spent it driving through my favorite state of all of them; Arkansas. The scenery was beautiful, mountains luscious, and over all a calm and peaceful drive. Upon our trek I was fascinated by the gigantic lake Dardanelle that spawned out of the left of our windows. The highway dipped low and close to the banks before rising a few thousand feet allowing a view of just how expansive this lake was. Upon the height of the thousand feet incline was a scenic overlook. Viewing just part of the expanse there was a sudden inspiration to sit down get out a pen and paper and begin free association writing. A method where you pick up the pen and begin writing anything. This anything eventually turns into a collection of ideas which can then be converted into a story, or birth an interesting story (much like my second book, The Silhouetted Leaves, which began this way). The only reason this didn’t happen was Mary and myself had to use the restroom. I easily could have gone right there, but uh, yeah, Mary couldn’t have. We did manage to pose for a few pictures on the lake’s banks before finally finding a bathroom.
From there Oklahoma came into view. Interesting at first, but the interest quickly waned by the time we were a quarter of the way through. Nearly an unchanging view and a constant pattern in the peripherals made it quite boring. When Texas arrived, come night fall, we were relieved! The only thing overly beautiful about Oklahoma was a sunset filled with wisps of clouds.
Texas by night was interesting. Because it was pitch black we debated whether or not we were in the desert yet. The hills had died away and all we could see were unchanging lights in the distant. They refused to get any closer so we drove even faster. The small amount of light that ventured off to the side from my headlights illuminated an odd earth. Small, patchy clumps of grass lined what must have been sand. A lack of trees visible on either side, or the fact that you could see the next city thirty some odd miles away allowed us to finally state the obvious: yep we’re in the desert. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of this state during the daylight hours.
Before we hit New Mexico we had sincerely considered stopping down to visit my best friend Carla. It had been about seven years since I had last seen her. She has had three babies and re-married within those years. Feeling the length of the trip quickly catching up it was a possibility to drive another six hours south to see her, then re-boot in the morning. I had by now already been driving a good sixteen hours. While contemplating, we thought about stopping out at Roswell, New Mexico the next morning on our trip north to Vegas and the Grand Canyon. It was quite the temptation. See a friend and Roswell! Couldn’t be better, but me and my damn time.
I had to call and cancel with Carla, and continue on our trek. Well into New Mexico I finally decided it would be safest for us to pull over and rest. I had asked Mary to fall asleep before the sun even went down, so when I got tired she could drive. She’s never one to take direction well. We pulled over and I couldn’t help but to think of Matt’s voice, “the second you get in your car and leave your mom’s house; You’re homeless.” Well thanks Matt, now I felt it.
We converted the car into something we might be able to sleep in, as best we could. We moved our seats almost all the way forward so we could put the seats back. Towels were retrieved from the travel bags to put over the windows to block out the lights of the truck stop and prevent someone from looking in at us; ew. Separating my double pillow was sacrifice enough for Mary to get some good sleep. Within forty five minutes of moving around and adjusting I was finally asleep.
Sleeping in a car is not an easy task. I was awake within two hours with a leg that was completely asleep. Painful prickles throbbed and pulled at my leg. I didn’t want to move it. Looking at Mary sleeping, I knew I couldn’t scream from the pain or the irritation that this now caused me. Curling my toes sent a rush of the prickles through the entire leg and caused an involuntary jerk. I had to get this thing moving so I could stealthily fuel the car and hit the road before Mary even woke up. Flexing my ankle, toes, and knee helped the blood pumped faster which finally began to eliminate the god awful feeling that flooded my leg.
Driving two seconds to the gas pump was simple, but my eyes fought me simply. The air was still and cool. Simply lifting the gas handle seemed to draw the slightest attention. As two people walked by they stared at my license plate. I had forgot about that, how unnatural it must be to see a plate from the east coast all the way out here. That feeling settled even more as the two men looked back out at me from the tops of their eyes. The cold gave me a chill. Then maybe it was the odd look from both strangers behind the clear barrier. Looking away, but keeping them in my peripheral’s, my mind reminded me of a dream I recently had.
Driving along a deserted road, which my mind placed in Texas, I was dancing. Filled with wonderful, fresh, and amazing feelings and emotions of the move I was making. While dancing I happen to come across a site I am unsure of. As I try to observe this thing closer, I hit something. That something was a baby elephant. This “baby” managed to total my car and I hadn’t seen a gas station for miles nor could I sense any other life for a thousand more. There is a storm rapidly threatening over the mountains as a cold rush of wind floods past me. I’m stranded, alone. The baby was too, no mother close by but still quite the damper in my travel. With the storm brewing and knowing how could the nights can get here I consider gutting the baby elephant and tucking myself within it’s flesh to keep warm and sheltered through the storm.
I felt there had been some significance to this dream. Either my mind displaying my fears in a motion picture way, or a caution. Not directly feeling like these men were going to be the physical manifestation of the symbol of the elephant, I still had the desire to stop pumping the gas and just start moving. They were paying for their items. I didn’t wait for the receipt, instead I got into the car and immediately began driving.
Five thirty in the morning is when I hit the road. I believed the first hour might be tough especially with limited sleep, but the sun would soon be out and would help keep me awake. How could I forget about the time change? After driving for a good two and a half hours the sun still wasn’t up. I was, however, two hours behind what my clock told me it was. So NOW it was actually six in the morning. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I stopped again. Mary was in and out of sleep. I couldn’t leave the driving to her when she had just about as much sleep as I had. This twenty two hour trip was certainly taking longer than twenty two hours! We still had another six hours of driving just to hit the grand canyon.
The second part of the trip though, now day four officially, was really quite interesting. Here is when we saw the large red plateau’s of the desert. I kept thinking of the book DEATHWATCH by Robb White, where a man is hunted in the desert and has to use his resources to stay alive and ahead of his hunter. Along the road was the largest preserved meteorite crater (which was an astonishing $35 admittance fee…yeah right!) It was really cool to see the outside of it, along with the wild coyote that lay sleeping only fifty feet from a herd of cattle. Off in the distance we could see a snow capped mountain. This was the first one I had ever seen. It jutted out of the desert scene for hundreds of miles, a token of where to go, a beacon for the next part of the adventure: The Grand Canyon.