Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finally, Traveling Country Style

The landscape changed significantly once I headed up the Mohawk River, and even more so once I turned to come up from the Mohawk Valley. I passed large fields and trailers. I passed confederate flags. When I saw a traffic jam on the tiny country road, I assumed an accident; as I came closer, I realized it was a farmer chasing his runaway goat.

The goat would dart out into the street, then back onto the shoulder. It reminded me of the O.J. Simpson chase. The farmer didn't want to move fast and scare the goat into really running, so he slowly and quietly walked behind it.

Eventually, I made it to Johnstown. I met Sarah here, who, in the evening twilight, went after me with an axe.

She lives in a church, where her father is the pastor, and that's where I'm living now.

Pulling up to Sarah's mother's house in Mayfield, the first thing I noticed was the trailer of horse manure. The horse was in the back. Walking around, I ran first into a cat. As I reached down to pet it, a kitten came out. Then another. Then another. I realized it had been years since I'd seen an actual kitten.

"Mom, what are you going to do with the kittens?" asked Sarah.

"I don't know."

"Mike could sell them for you."

"Why not just put them in the middle of a freeway and see who makes it across?" asked Sarah's brother Tom.

"Tom, shut up!"

Continuing onward, I was greeted by a large group of young chickens. I could see the older chickens in the bushes, but they included roosters, so I decided to stay away for now. Then crate after crate, each with one or two rabbits.

We drove around with Tom. At an intersection, an unfamiliar car passed by.

"Ooh!" said Sarah. "Who'a that girl?"

Tom stood at the stop sign and peered, confused, as the car drove away. "Beats me."

We stood for a few more seconds in silence. Then he shrugged and drove onward.

"I kill anything that's in the road."

"Tom, that's awful, don't even talk about that."

Tom grinned. "Did you know I've killed over 52 cats since I got my license?"

"Tom, that's so mean, don't even talk about it."

52 seemed almost higher than the human population of the town. I decided the figure must have been inflated. I could not imagine where he would have found 52 cats in the two years since he had gotten his license.

"The neighbors' cat almost made it across once, I had to swerve to get it."

"Tom, shut up!"


Last night, I went out with Sarah and her friends to a spot on a lake where we made a fire. Guys brought crates of beer, and we made "fire kites," placing pages of newpapers on the fire; they would catch on fire and fly off into the lake. Then we just stood around the fire and talked.

"Peta, go swim in the lake."

"No, dude, it's f___ing COLD!"

"Come on, Peta, you know you want to!"

"Nah, dude, not now." Peta raised an axe over his head and threw it into a large log. The head of the axe got stuck in the wood, but the handle broke off and remained in Peta's hands. Peta stood there for about 20 seconds, staring, uttely confused, at the broken handle in his hands. Then he shrugged and tossed it into the fire.

"When I finished school, I got certified with computers, so now I work at Lexington fixing computers," said Skank. "It's a decent job."

"That's ridiculous that you're going all the way across the country. Peta should come with you."

"Nah, dude, I suck at biking!"

"Peta, sut up keep drinking until you're ready to go swimming."

"Yo, wood b__ch! Go get some more wood, the fire's dying."

"More wood?"

"Actually, nah, just get some brush."

"Brush? OK."

"I guess he's now brush b__ch."

"You come here straight from Russia, man?" asked Tom.

"Well, I came here straight from Italy."

"Oh, Italy's one place I really want to visit. I've always really liked architecture."

"Dude," I said, "go. If you like architecture, hit up Venice and Florence especially."

"So what do you think of Obama?"

I gave him a plain and simple, no-BS version of my view.

"You know, dude," said Tom, "I got nothin' 'gainst black people who live like normal decent citizens. I just can't stand n____rs who get into your business. The ones who put a gun to your head and take your wallet. And morons like Obama."


As we drove out, we switched into 4-wheel drive, but nevertheless, within a minute, the car skidded, turned sideways, and stopped.

Rich sighed. "S__t." He revved the engine and tried to go forward. We didn't move. He put the car in reverse. We still didn't move.

"You're only digging yourself deeper," said Axel.

"I know. Get out and push."

Axel got out. "Oh, s__t, it's muddy!"

Rich laughed. "No! Really? I thought cars get stuck only when it's not muddy!"

"I've already got mud in my shoes, s__t!"

Axel pushed the car forward. Nothing. Backward. Nothing.

"S__t," said Rich. "Greg, you mind driving? I'm sorry, man."

Three guys pushed the car backward, and I sat at the wheel, trying, in the darkness, to maneuver the car onto drier ground and turn the wheels only when they touched it. Finally, I was able to pull away from the guys pushing, and pull it back to dry ground. Then, when they got out of the way, for the first time in a long time, I remembered driving in Mexico. I backed up, and, with a running start, plunged into the mud. Mud flew everywhere. The car skidded. Without braking, I steered into the turn until a wheel hit a dry spot, then hit the gas again. The car sped up. More mud flew into the air, caking the windows and the roof. The front and back of the car jumped up and down, competely separately from each other. I think everyone who remained in the car had seatbelts on; if they hadn't, the results wouldn't have been pretty.

When it looked like we had passed the mud, I stopped the car, and waited for Rich, Axel and Peta to walk up.

"You want me to drive the rest of the way, Rich?"

"No, man, I'm good driving."


The pastor has told me I'm welcome as long as I want. I'm torn between going kayaking tomorrow and continuing quickly to Utica—much fun as I'm having, it wouldn't hurt to put some more miles behind me.

No comments:

Post a Comment