Lingua Frank

This blog goes fishing in my memory hole for stories that I hope will provide at least marginal amusement for all.


This blog is really about memories from my life...retold for the pleasure or yawns of friends and strangers alike. Bon appetit.

понедельник, марта 28, 2005

Land of Goshen (Nebraska) (All New HOT UNRATED Director's Cut!)

The cats were howling the forlorn moan of a dying banshee as we crossed the border into Wyoming. Each whimpering mew made me clench my teeth and the steering wheel a bit tighter as I contemplated 3 days of them carrying on in their sandy tongue about what I'm sure they considered to be a feline Bataan Death March. Although I had lived outside of Utah before, moving this time was especially difficult for me. My two years in Russia were so foreign, so bizarre, that they were in a class by themselves. Besides, this time I knew I would never come back.
So, as Shawna can attest, I was not dealing particularly well. As we packed the semi with all of our belongings, I kept trying to make the case to throw everything we owned away except our baby, our cats, and, of course, my computer (as if I could go on with my life without playing The Sims).

"Come on, honey, we don't need couches...Why do we need a crib and a porta-crib?...I'm sure they sell beds in North Carolina, let's just get a new one...Our underwear sure takes up a lot of room...", and so on down my spiral of crazy.

Of course, as we entered into the dry-weed wasteland that is Utah's northeastern neighbor, I was prepared to jettison the kitties, too. The semi had left two days before, and our car was packed to the brim with all of the crap we forgot to put in the truck, our baby, our cats, and a heavy dose of apprehension. I was headed to graduate school (at UNC-Chapel Hill) and a new life. If only it didn't take so effing long to traverse this great country of ours.
I now look back at that crossing into Wyoming with a bit of condescending tongue-clicking...(click, click) how naive I was. My trip didn't suck yet.
However ugly Wyoming may be, it is a tropical paradise compared to the suicide-provoking monotony of Nebraska. We were barely a hundred miles in to that wondrous state when the timing belt in our Neon blew itself apart with a hearty "oh, for fuck's sake", decimating three out of the four cylinders and my last shred of sanity along with it. I'm certain that the torrents of profanity that hissed between my grinding teeth imprinted themselves on the mind of my then ten-month old little girl, and that they will translate into some expensive therapy further on down the line.
So there I was, cursing with wild, frothing passion as my Neon sat inert (pun intended) on the side of a highway in the harrowing emptiness of western Nebraska. I calmed myself down from fury to mere seething, and picked up my cell phone. No reception. As I sat with my brows furrowed in labyrinthine contortions that wound my entire face into a single hideous knot of frustration, my darling wife calmly got the baby out of her seat, wrapped them both in a blanket, and stood by the side of the road attempting to look as utterly pathetic as possible. Being the bastard that I was, I remained in the car, angrily despairing, as Shawna and Victoria stood stoically, the piercing prairie wind whipping through their hair, and in general looking like the pioneer cliche in every other painting at the Church museum.
Eventually, somebody took pity on us long enough to let us use their cell phone to ring up the highway patrol, and then speed away. An hour later, the single highway patrolman assigned to the entire post-apocalyptic western half of Nebraska found us, called up a tow truck, and gave my baby her first (and god willing her last) ride in the back of a police cruiser as we all headed to the nearest outpost of civilization...the sprawling metropolis of Ogallala, Nebraska (nicknamed the Gomorrah of the, really).
(To be continued...)

Where was I? Right. Gomorrah of the West.
Such is proudly proclaimed on many of the city's numerous historical markers, hearkening back to the time where one could stock up on the salacious pleasures of drink, cards, and the clap before heading on through that sin-parched wasteland of Utah on the way to California or Oregon. Of course, we were traveling the other way.
So, the rescue squad of tow-truck man and overworked cop dumped us at what looked to be the "Bates Motel"...only lacking the taxidermic decor and sparkling dinner conversation with the proprietor. If it had not been nigh unto midnight, we would have turned around and handcarted it across the freeway to a more reputable establishment. Even the fact that our ten month old found a new teething toy in the form of a huge former cockroach within thirty seconds of hitting the floor in our "room" (scare quotes are not only descriptive here, but mandatory) couldn't overwhelm our physical and emotional fatigue, and we took turns huddling on the bed with Victoria while the other made faintly pleading calls for help to our parents. Shawna's mother's response, as always was her constant condescending dismissive refrain to just "pray about it", as if 1) we hadn't been praying with varying levels of reverence all afternoon and 2) praying alone was going to miraculously reassemble our engine...for free. Of course, she was unhappy that we were making the trek in the first place. You see, in her estimation, I was defaming my own manhood by allowing Shawna to (gasp!) work, while I would be going to school...real men are not girly-humanities degree holding-intellectuals. Real men weld pipes (presumably by praying really hard about them).
Unfortunately, the only "real men" in Ogallala who could fix our engine claimed to be booked up through the end of the week, so we were going to have to make the most of an extended, miserable detour.
The prayers that we had said (despite the horrible urge to convert to a Kali cult just to spite my mother-in-law) began to be answered by the incredibly open and caring people of that city. One night, after we had recounted a much sunnier rendition of our plight to our waitress at dinner, the man sitting behind us introduced himself as the local veterinarian (because he loves children...sorry, couldn't resist), and told us that he would be happy to give us any help that we might need with our cats and to loan us his extra car for the week. Just like that. For all he knew, we were psychopathic cannibalistic conmen, but he offered all of this to us simply, as if doing so were the natural response to meeting strangers in trouble. All that week, we met people like him... trusting, generous...and our families (for the most part) supported us materially and morally. Our breakdown became one of those freaking Oprah-like reaffirmations. Whatever little bit of jaded bastard in my heart had grown from my natural cynicism was shamed into retreat by people who were just reflexively kind. For those who know me, that is an impressive (if somewhat temporary) feat.
I recall that week now happily...the people, dusk at the shores of Lake McConaughy as a massive blanket of black clouds rolled in across the distant plain, the fudge at the Tonsorial Palace...and I wouldn't trade it for anything at all. And all of this because I was too damn lazy to check my engine before setting off on a 2 thousand mile drive.


Blogger Fracasar said...

Boy, (that's a title, not an expression of awe) you sure got a way with words. I got the story in 3 sentences, no emotion or description. Can't wait for more.

2:32 PM  

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