Sunday, June 17, 2007

June 16th

Andrew is back at the manor. It took a thermos of coffee, a six-pack of Fat Tire and a wedding, but I'm back home again.

Driving home typically requires 8 hours of attention -- not too much for a military kid used to the road. But this time I had to make it to Minden for Anthony and Sarah's wedding. So my usual stopping point was only the beginning of the final leg. Ten and a half hours after leaving Madison I pulled into the Pioneer Villiage Motel, truly one of America's great cheap nights. Or as Shawn said, "They don't care what you do as long as they get their money."

Strangely, it wasn't a bad ride. See, I never replaced the CD player that was stolen from my car junior year, so long car trips, like most parts of a poor public servant's life, require improvisation. When I drove 12 hours from Norfolk, Nebraska to Little Rock I used my portable CD player and computer speakers. Going to the Royals game last summer, Kevin brought along a portable DVD player that became our stereo. This time I just had headphones, used sparingly because it's probably illegal and they're not very comfortable.

Let me tell you, your minds goes interesting places when you drive the whole day all alone with no music. However, highway free association actually made the drive go by fast. That and the fact that I drowned my phone and don't own a watch, so the entire trip I had no idea what time it was.

The only real downer was having to stop for supplies at the North Wal-Mart. I didn't want to. I haven't spent any money at either store in Madison. But I wanted to spend as little time as possible in Lincoln, and it's right by the interstate, so I went. And this was just about the worst vibe I've ever had. Despite the fact that they had painted it a different color, the whole place reeked of awful familiarity. And it was rush hour. And there was whining child in front of me in the huge line. And I had been drinking coffee and no more than nibbling, so I twitched with nervous energy to begin with.

Overstimulus on caffeine certainly worsened this attack, but it can't claim sole responsibility. In some ways, this trip has a side purpose for me -- I want to get in touch with what I really like about where I'm from. Let's be serious, Nebraska is bland even for flyover standards. Wisconsin has things making it distinct, but nobody knows anything about Nebraska except that the drive is unpleasant. Becoming my own version of down-home blue collar this made drew me to establish more of a connection with the Good Life. And it pissed me off when I walked into Wal Mart and everything I hate about Lincoln. People trading in family meals and good work for plastic crap and two-for-one deals on terrible DVDs. It was 5 pm on Friday and they were all frazzled and angry and stupid, and I stood there in line desperately wanting to escape.

This seems to be following me around, and it's infuriating. Now that my friends are drifting away from Lincoln, that period of my life draws to a close. And I don't want to lose the best part of home. I can already feel it becoming nothing more than where my parents happen to live.

The wedding was great, by the way. It happened at the church at Pioneer Villiage, Nebraska's favorite tourist attraction. Rather than droning and ceaseless like a Catholic affair or sprawling and soused in the spirit of true capitalism, the ceremony stayed as true as you can to the spirit of Central Nebraska -- brief, efficient and pragmatic. Afterwards I saw a fellow look at his watch, notice only half and hour had passed, and blurt out, "Damn, I'm glad we're Lutherans."

Anthony cried while giving his vows. I say this not to embrass him, but rather the polar opposite. I very seldom allow that level of sheer sincerity on my part. While that's great for snarky essays and cooly distant observation, I sometimes feel that I'm missing some of the part of life that's in living rather than writing about it later.

Everyone expects me to be witty, brutally sarcastic or both. But down deep, I want to believe.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I must admit, the thought of going to Minden leaves me a bit misty-eyed. Not because of Pioneer Village, but more because of all the folks from there that I used to call friends—or still would, if I knew where they were.

Of course, the answer is that they’re on myspace and facebook and all I have to do is go there and send a friend request and wait. But the way I miss them is something more visceral that that. I miss hanging out in Minden because I used to be 17, and gas used to cost a dollar a gallon, and because maybe I’m wasting my life.

But I’ll be in Omaha and Holdrege and I-80 in August. I’ll be flying for hours and renting a car and driving for hours, all for the love of one such old-timey friend. I hope someone cries during the ceremony, and I hope it isn’t me.

PS: Can you help Ted and I put up drywall next month? I’ll feed you and give you free beer. All you have to do is drive the 2000 miles. Twice.