Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cross Country 1996

In the late summer of 1996 my good friend Meg and I headed east from LA. I had returned from Bali and she was returning to New York.

"I've fallen in love." Meg was a tall ex-model.

"Sounds good to me." She and I were strictly friends. Her car was a Studebaker Hawk. It was very cool.

Friends and family gave Meg a going-away party. She had no intentions on coming back to LA. I was just passing through same as I always did in Southern California.

We left LA at 4am on a strangely heavily traveled freeway.

By dawn we were in the desert.

Meg liked driving the Hawk. It was her car.

We gave Las Vegas a miss and continued onto Zion Canyon.

There was nothing like it back in the East.

I walked into the canyon. The water was low. Meg took photos of me.

That night we stayed on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We didn't need a reservation. The room had twin beds. We fell asleep fast. It had been a long day.

In the morning I posed as 'the thinker' on a rock.

At noon we passed the Vermillion Cliffs. Francisco Coronado's expedition had explored this valley in the 1500s. It was getting hot and there was no water in sight.

The Hawk was running good. Meg drove it fast. She was deeply in love and wanted to see her man. His name was Chris.

That night we neared Kayenta, Arizona, capitol of the Navaho nation. The windblown town looked like Mars 100 years after a failed terra-forming experiment. Meg wanted to stop at the hotel. I said that we could a room nearer Monument Valley. I was wrong. Everything was booked for miles.

After dinner and then slept in the car. There was only one blanket. The temperature dropped into the 50s. I woke in the middle of the night and got out of the Studebaker.

There were a million stars overhead and I went back to the car, happy to be alive. Meg was less happy. She liked sleeping in a bed.

The next day we stopped at the Ananazi ruins. The inhabitants had abandoned the cliffside city a century before Coronado's coming. Now there were only tourists.

Then we headed into the Rockies. Something was wrong with the Hawk's carborator. A mechanic fixed it in Durango. Meg called Chris. They spoke on the phone for a long time.

"I wish we were on the highway."

"We'll be on one as soon as we're out of the mountains."


I didn't lie.


The next day we reached the Great Plains. Meg's foot was heavy on the accelerator. "No stops."

"Only for food and gas." I fought for photos on the back roads.

Meg wanted to see the Studebaker Museum. It was on our way.

I convinced her to skip it, but we swam in Lake Michigan. America would get small after the Great Lakes.

We had no reason to stop in Detroit and continued across Ontario to Niagara Falls. We would have kept driving, except the Studebaker had a flat. The mechanic told us to wait in the diner. Meg entered first.

The patrons had never seen someone like her and followed her every steps, as her flipflops slapped against the floor on her way to the Ladies room. We slept that night on the Canadian side of the Falls.

We were close to New York.

The Studebaker had done its job. We arrived in Soho in the evening. Chris met us at Lucky Strike. He took one look at me and figured the worst. He was wrong. Meg and I were just friends, but the two were in love and I left the restaurant to go to my apartment on East Tenth Street.

Sometimes I called it home and that night was one of them.

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