March 21st, 2001

cat sink

Road trip day 5

The peanuts gang is boarding a hot-air balloon airship. Each character is being played by a human actor. Schroedinger is a tall, lanky kid with glasses. Linus is wearing pressed leather and stomping around like Frankenstein in black boots.

I sit by the window of the airship and ponder the terrain far below. A lake is beneath us. Charlie Brown is a rotund freckled kid. He points one arm over the railing and identifies some piece of landscape to his friend Lucy -- who is an actual animated character.

I am getting ready for school, but I decide to play hooky instead. I look in on two of my classes and discover that I didn't even know I was registered for them. Nonetheless, they are required and I'll have to study like mad to pass them, or risk being expelled.

I hang out in my room downstairs, messing with two computers. My father is here, in a blue bathrobe, lying on his back. He's watching television and laughing to himself about the show. While I busy myself with cleaning up my room, trying to appear responsible while he's around, he remarks about how sick he is of getting up to drive over the hill for work every single day. He'd rather just lie here and play hooky with me. I am unsure what to do. Is he serious, or trying to make some kind of point?

I realize I left some kind of equipment in the van. I walk up the hill behind our house and see a huge mound of wood and metal. Tangled car parts and hollow tree trunks are smashed and blended into a physics-defying structure. It touches the ground in only a few places.

I climb up the heap and walk along the posts and branches until I come to a large hollow log. This is the rear end of my van, transformed into wood. I look inside the log but I don't see the item I'm looking for.

I leap up from the wreckage and see the gravel road nearby. Floating up it slowly, keeping the picture affixed in my mind, pushing at it's edges like an artist making a chalk impression of a gravestone, I make my way around the S-curve and towards Skot's house. There is a house to my left, but there might not be any people in it. Skot has two sisters, maybe one of them will do. I drift up to Skot's back door and knock on it. His mother opens the door and I push past her, into the garage. I drift down a hallway, searching for that black-haired woman that looked attractive. She's got to be around here somewhere. The dream is burning out. I have run out of time. I wake up.

- - -

Ken and I prepare efficiently for the road, after some quick camera work. Our hotel mornings feel routine now. We drive on the well-maintained Louisiana freeways, glad to be out of Texas. The smell of the swamp in the damp air is a welcome change for my senses. We stop for fast-food at a McDonalds, and the accents are thick and strange. Swampland whirls past us, water slicing the hills into islands . A single heron pecks at a tree in the middle of a leaf-covered pond.

Ken takes over the driving for a while and I type. We pass through Alexandria and the hills become more pronounced. The trees battle for sunspace, tufted green at the top and barren in the middle. Barbed-wire fences rust in and out of the water, rolling gently along like sea-serpents. Man-made curbs laid with black plastic hold the rivers out from under the road.

We pass into New Orleans and get lost, driving around on and off the highways. We use the massive domed arena as a landmark to find our way. While it looms on the horizon, we cruise slowly by an incredibly dense, elaborate graveyard, all mausoleums since any corpse buried straight in the earth would simply pop back up again.

Eventually we find our way back onto an arterial interstate and pass into Mississippi. The road is raised on columns like an aqueduct, plowing straight ahead through the treetops. I need to go to the bathroom so Ken takes an exit at random, and as we descend into the bayou, the road withers into a bumpy wreck. No services of any kind are visible among the desperate, crumbling houses, so we take the on ramp and press ahead into Georgia, passing the trucks at 110mph.

Very late at night, we finally arrive at Ken's sister's place.