I'm taking care of last minute details before heading off on the road towards the hip-happening town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama!
You might be wondering why, of all places, why would I go to Tuscaloosa? Because I'm off to see my best friend Sean Hoade, professor to non-English speaking students at the University of Alabama and perpetual grad student.
Let's see … got the rental car for Spring … my car has been cleaned … laundry done, now to pack … try to grab a short nap before heading off into the night on the long dark road.
I'm outta here!
See ya on the far side of the moon.
It was the batteries.
I had entended to be in the car, pulling out of the driveway (okay, parking lot) at 11:45 pm Friday. 10:50 pm latest. But my car, Lake Lumina, was eating my batteries.
As I was loading the car, Spring mentioned that the cigarette power adaptor for the CD player wasn't working, so I might want to use batteries for it. I grabbed the batteries from the trunk (they were in the computer case; I brought them along for the digital camera) but by the time I got settled into the car, I could only find three of the four batteries. I searched around the passenger side a bit, and when I looked at the batteries in my hand, only saw two.
I could have sworn I had three, I thought. Before the car sucked up more into a parallel dimention (filled with mismatched socks no doubt) I sequestered the remaining two batteries in the arm rest and resumed my search. Five minutes later, I had located the two missing batteries (one in the trunk, one underneath the driver seat). In the process though, I snagged my fingernail on something, so I had to go back into the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere to trim it, least it bother me for the next 800 miles.
So it was the batteries that delayed the start of my trip to Mississippabamasisboombah. By the way, I fixed the cigarette power adaptor by reversing the polarity of the electron flow regulator.
No, really, despite sounding like trite Star Trekian technobabble, I really did have to reverse the polarity on the plug end of the adaptor.
Half an hour later (refueling both the car and my wallet) I'm on I-95
north. The plan is I-95 to Ft. Pierce, cut over to the
Ronald Reagan Turnpike to I-75 North to Atlanta, cut over to I-20 and ride
that into Tuscaloosa, home of my friend Sean Hoade. The fact that I was
driving through Florida at night was a bonus. There is nothing worse than
driving through Florida. Miles and miles of orange trees and swamp. And
flat. Flatter than Kansas. And loooooong. It takes hours to get
out of Florida when you live at the bottom of the state. Long hours of
nothing but orange trees and swamps. Swamps and orange trees. And
billboards advertising tickets to the temple of the Rat God. And the state
of Florida advertising the SunPass (a transponder to electronically pay your
tolls) alá Burma Shave style. A series of signs like:
You have miles to go
Through oranges and swamp
But you forgot your money
And feel like a chump
A few hours later and I'm travelling north on I-75 viewing billboards for the Café Risque, a diner with all nude waitresses, just south of Gainesville, a town that only exists to serve the University of Florida.
So it's coming up on 5:30 am. My thought processes at the time: Gainesville is a college town, where there will be cute college girls working their way through college and some are known to do some pretty risque things, like nude waitressing. I haven't eaten since early evening the day before, and besides, I need a break.
Food. Nude college age women.
What's not to like?
On reflection, I suppose that going to Café Risque at 5:30 am on a Saturday after the semester is over is not the time to go if one wants to see cute nude college age women.
I pay the cover (a cover! for a diner!) and head inside, where the one (1) waitress working at the time comes over and asks what I want. Now, she was easy on the eyes, but looked to be in her mid 30s. Not bad, but then again, not a cute college age woman. And the silicone enhancements did nothing for me.
Now a slight digression. I don't really case for silicone enhanced chests (to put it nicely). None of my friends, male or female, really care for silicone enhanced chests, and I really have to wonder, are there guys (or girls for that matter) that actually like silicone enhanced chests on women? I've yet to actually meet someone that says, “I like 'em big and fake!”
After breakfast I was back on the road again (sorry, but the Café Risque wasn't all that great on a 5:30 am Saturday morning during semester break) counting the miles until I left this acursedly long and endless state. Once past Gainesville, I was going, “it can't be long now 'til the Georgia border.”
Fifty miles later, as I passed I-10, “it can't be long now 'til the Georgia border.”
Fifty miles later, “just how XXXXXXX long is this XXXXXXXXX state? WHEN WILL IT EVER END?”
But end, it did. At 7:54 am. Seven and a half hours later (taking into account my breakfast break). And it was simply amazing. One second, flat land of nothing but oranges and swamp, and the next second, rolling hills and real trees! No more palm. No more orange. No more mangrove. Trees! Oaks! Maples! And other trees whose names I've long forgotten.
For the most part Georgia was for the most part, uneventful, unlike the last time I drove through Georgia, or rather, attempted to drive through Georgia. That time, in December of 96, my car's transmission seized up so bad the car wouldn't move in neutral. That was bad. It was a Saturday. That was worse. In Cordele. Could it get any worse? Half way between Christmas and New Year's Eve. That's about as bad as it could get (but that's a story for another time). But this time, I sailed past Cordele without a second look.
But notice I said “for the most part.” It wasn't until I hit Atlanta that this trip's problem manifested itself. About a mile before the I-75/I-20 interchange, one of those electronic signs flashed by at 75 mph
I-20 WESTBOUND ... CONSTRUCTION ... 2 ... LANES ... CLOSED
At least, that's what I thought I saw. But really, could I do anything about it? And sure enough, I get on I-20 westbound only to find that due to construction, the two leftmost lanes where closed.
IN ATLANTA STOP IN TRAFFIC STOP STOP CAR STOP LOVE SEAN STOP
me, in an SMS message to Spring.
Thirty minutes later, the lanes open up again, only to have the two leftmost lanes close yet again!
Thirty minutes after that, the lanes open up, only to … stay open. An hour, to go maybe five or ten miles.
And thirty minutes after that, I'm not feeling all that well. Nausea is eating at me, and realizing the time, 12:30 pm, and realizing that I've been up since about … oh … 2:00 pm the previous day, I realize that it might be prudent to … oh … take a nap!
It's amazing how refreshing an hour nap can be at times.
And Central Time.
Which means I've just gained an hour.
Or something like that.
Now, when I woke up after my nap, I couldn't locate the directions to Hoade's house once I arrived in Tuscaloosa, Mississippabamasisboomba. I checked the interior of Lake Lumina. The trunk. Inside all my luggage. Then, the terrible truth of the situation dawned on me—of all the things I could forget, I forgot the directions!
So I decided to drive on, and see if I could recall the directions. I knew that I had to get off at exit … seven something. And go right, but merge left … and … something about a Red Lobster (because, if a town has a Red Lobster, it must be a hip-happening place) … and turn, but follow the road because a Harpysomething or other turns into … Harposomething but it's really Harpysomething or other and look for a sign … and oh hell I think I'll just have to call, which I could, because unlike previous car trips I've been on, this time I actually have a cell phone!
But the battery on the cell phone is nearly, if not already, dead. I had charged it the day before, but somehow going into an extended area really started draining the battery because by the time I arrived in Georgia, I had lost all bars on the battery indicator, so I was trying to use the phone as little as possible. I had the charger with me, but it was the wall-wart type of charger, which required the use of a wall with an electrical outlet, so as I approached the Mississippabamasisboombah Welcome Center I hoped I would be able to secure a wall with an outlet in order to make necessary calls.
Once inside the Welcome Center, I spied a plethora of walls, each with a plethora of electrical outlets that I could use. I approached the Information Desk, behind which an Information Desk Specialist sat, waiting to dispense Information.
“How may I help you,” asked the Information Desk Specialist.
“Yes,” I said. “May I borrow one of the outlets?” I motioned towards a set on the nearest wall.
“No,” said the Information Desk Specialist. “I'm sorry, but Mississippabamasisboombah State Laws specifically outlaw the use of electrical outlets in public buildings since the State actually doesn't bother to pay the bill.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thank you.”
I walked out of the Welcome Center, thinking that I should have just used the outlet without asking, on the principle that it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission. I specifically did not bother to use a more hidden electrical outlet, since being in Mississippabamasisboombah, the extreamly slim chance of being caught and slammed into a Mississippabamasisboombahlian jail stilled outweight any utility I might get in actually getting directions to Hoade's house.
Now, had I actually thought this through, it might have worked. But I didn't. So I turned on the phone. Still had power for that. I phoned home, thinking that someone there could read the directions back to me. Only I got the answering machine. While I was listening to the answering machine, my phone got an indication that I had voice mail. So I checked the voice mail. Now, if I don't check the voice mail, it will constantly beep at me, but if I do, I have to listen to the entire message, then do something with it, or else it will cause my phone to constantly beep, reminding me that I have an unheard, or partially unheard, phone message. So I listen to the entire message, which was Hoade, which reminded me, I could call Hoade for directions!
“Hoade? This is Sean—”
“I gotta make this quick—”
“I have to make this quick—”
“Wait, let me get to another part of the store so I can hear you.” Pause. Pause. Hurry up Hoade, my phone is going to die any second now! “What's up bud?”
“This needs to be quick, my cell battery is dying. I forgot the directions at home. How do I get to your house?”
“Quick. Right. Get off I-20 at exit 73. Go right, but merge to the left lane. Turn left at the third light, follow—”
I get in the car and start driving. My plan is to find a wall with an outlet. Where can I find a wall with an outlet that I might serenditiously use an outlet? Half an hour later I have my answer: Arby's!
I order a roast beef and a drink, yes, I'm dining in. As I take my tray into the dining room I'm scanning for any sigh of wall outlettage. And in the far corner of the dining room, I hit wall outlettage. I sit right next to the outlet, pull out the power adaptor, plug it in, only to have it fall right out.
Not only is it illegal to use an outlet in Mississippabamasisboombah, but any outlet you do find will be the frictionless kind where the plug just falls right out.
I try the other outlet, just for kicks.
That too, is the frictionless Mississippabamasisboombahlian electrical outlet.
This is not a good situation.
Lacking the universal force known as Duct Tape, I use my body to hold the plug in place. It may be illegally using a frictionless Mississippabamasisboombahlian outlet, but it has power and that's all I care about.
Half an hour later, I have directions and a full belly.
Ten minutes later and my car feels like it will vibrate itself to death.
Ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da I-20 had suddenly formed ba da ba da
ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da millions of tiny little ba da ba da ba da ba
da ba da ba da ba da ba da speed bumps ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da causing
the ba da ba da ba da ba da CD play
er ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da to sk
ip ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da as my teeth ba da ba da ba da ba da started to shake ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da loose.
Twenty minutes of that and I hit the upmteenth contruction zone (about every fifty miles through Georgia I hit a twenty mile section under construction, and the same was shaping up through Mississippabamasisboombah) of the trip, only this time the speed limit was 50.
Palmetto Park Blvd, not a mile from the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, with traffic lights, has a speed limit of 50.
This is a highway.
And people wonder why I hate travel.
That last hour of the trip was the absolute worst. Here I am, so close,
yet I could feel my eyelids closing. Brain shutting down. Teeth falling
out. CD playing sk
I was never so happy to see Tuscaloosa, even though it looked much like Margate, only Margate squared.
One of Hoade's life long dreams has been to make a movie. But in the time he's been here in Tuscaloosa, he's become quite the star in the local indimovie scene, being in three films so far, Blut und Feldt, a German expressionistic film about Muppets gone bad, where Hoade played a detective gone bad; The Tool, a film about a man (played by Hoade) who may or may not have a guardian angel studying his every move, and a third film whose name escapes me, but Hoade plays a skinhead with a thing for guns. By far the best is Blut and Feldt.
He also showed me his wife's organizational skill in the freezer:
After lunch at a local diner, we visited a cigar shop where Hoade found a rather amusing towelette, indicitive of the area:
We then visited the local collage he currently attends and teaches at:
After looking around a bit, we hit the library. Hoade had to look for a book for his wife, and we checked out a digital video camera.
Yes, a digital video camera. Any student here can check out a video camera and then use the computers (all Macs) to edit the resulting video.
Later on in the evening we went out to dinner. Coming back to the car, someone had socked his attenna. Well, socked and ragged it really. Very wierd.
Back at Casa del Hoade, we talked and played around with the digital video camera, having fun with the night vision mode.
Yea, we're easily amused.
Today Hoade had to run an errand to the Mississippabamasisboombah DMV to get his (and his wife's) car registered with the state. Our first stop was the Tuscaloosa Court House as Hoade felt that if such an office existed, it would be at the court hourse.
I was rather surprised at how laid back things were at the Tuscaloosa Court House as there was a refreshing lack of X-ray equipment and border guards at the entrance. Contrast this to the local Broward Court House near the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere where the guards, standing on the other side of the high-powered X-ray equipment, cheerfully wear rubber gloves, “for your protection.”
We wandered about for a minute, found an appropriate sounding office, and inquired within, but alas, the Mississippabamasisboombah DMV was not in the court house, but across the street.
A short walk later, and we were in a rather short line waiting our turn at the counter. Strung across the ceiling where the various plates one could get in Mississippabamasisboombah but the one that stuck out was the license place commemorating “atomic nuked verterans.”
Funny, but I would not have pegged Mississippabamasisboombah as having a significant population of atomically nuked veterans, expecting instead a state like New Mexico or Nevada or Tennessee to have that distinction, but I guess I'm sadly mistaken.
But we were still highly amused.
Hoade and I spent several hours at the library trying to edit the footage (shot with a digital video camera we borrowed) we've accumulated over the past few days. The software, running on a high end Mac (with gigs of free space, just for editing of video), was fairly easy to use once shown how; the consuming bit came in waiting for the video stream to be read off the tape. Twice. First time through the audio tracks were not transfered. Then a significant amount of time was spent in converting the footage to MPEG and burned onto a video CD—all for naught, because it was a bad copy that didn't work.
Other than the bad CD, it was a cool experience and the fact that any student, reguardless of major, can make their own film is wonderful. Okay, so maybe the resulting films won't be all that great, but the idea that anyone can make a film is great.