Sunday, July 28, 2013

ROADS OF THE FLYOVER Chapter 1 by Peter Nolan Smith

The crew met at Miguel Abreau's Gallery on Orchard Street. We were honoring Brock Dundee. The Scotsman had finished filming a documentary about Afghanistan for the UK's MoD. Dannatt joked that Brock was a spy. "James Bond was a Scot same as everyone in MI6." Brock gave the art critic a steely squint. For the rest of the night Dannatt's joke were at everyone's expense other than the happy Scot. Brock was in a good mood. He had money in his pocket. His wife Joanna was selling his painting and his kids were healthy "It's nice to be someplace you can drink a beer without worrying about a bullet chaser." Afghanistan wasn't a joke and Brock asked, "You?" I haven't seen my kids in months." They were on the other side of the world like their mother. "But I'm working on 47th Street." "How's that going?" Brock was familiar with my gig in the diamond district. href=""> "I've had better years." I hadn't sold a diamond in a month. Jewelry was the last thing on a man's mind in 2009. "But I'm taking care of my kids." "How'd you like to take a trip?" "Where?" I hoping to hear Thailand. "Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City-Iowa City-Minneapolis-Chicago." Brock was serious. "I'm doing a film about Barry Flanagan. The Irish sculptor. "Rabbits." "Not, hares." Brock knew Barry. The sculptor was very sick. Brock's project was to film various sculptures around the USA and show them to Barry in Ibiza. "Why do you need me?" I sounded useless. "Because I can't drive." Brock mentioned my pay for the trip. "Count me in." I loved road trip. Two weeks later I met Brock at his midtown hotel. He had been drinking most of the morning. "Left Kabul two days ago." "Well, you're back now." I could smell the Khyber Pass on him. He slept through the taxi ride to JFK. We hit the Sushi Bar at the Jet Blue Terminal for raw tuna and cold saki. An hour later they called our flight. Brock and I boarded the overcrowded 737. I opted for the window seat. Brock lifted his bag to place in the overhead compartment. The chubby steward closed the door on my friend's fingers. "Ouch." "You're drunk and you're not flying to Chicago on this plane." I explained to the pilot that Brock had returned from Afghanistan. In 1842 only one British soldier escaped the fall of Kabul. The army had numbered 15,000. I couldn't say what he had been doing over there, but I believed he had been making a film. I knew his protectress the honorable Alice. "We'll put you on a flight for tomorrow morning." I thanked the pilot and ordered Brock not to say a word. We booked into the JFK Ramada. The bar was filled with Deadheads migrating from the legendary band's New York stand. They came from all over the world. We hung out with two guys from California. They were both named Steve. Brock and I caught the morning flight. The flight attendants showed us to our seats. Two hours later we got the rented car at O'Hare. I drove on the Interstate. I-70 took us to St. Louis, however the truck traffic on the Interstate was a horror. "You mind, if you take back roads." "That's why you're here. This film is as much about the trip as it is the sculpture. Barry's dying. He wants to see the world." "Then I'll show it to him." I got off the highway. Joliet was on the Des Plainnes River. We passed the Correctional Institute. It seemed to be the only business in town. "They filmed THE BLUES BROTHERS here." Brock was a film buff. We crossed the river at West Jackson and passed under I-80 on the way to Peoria. There was little traffic on the river road. The Illinois River valley was wide. Once hundreds of ships plied the river's muddy current. Today Peoria was a ghost town of abandoned factories. Steel was turning to rust. Globalization had not treated the city with kindness, however the Caterpillar factory was working a double shift. Someone still had money for gas and I stepped on the accelerator to get us out of town. We drove through the farmlands. Across the river. We had planned to stay in the cities. Brock said, "St. Louis is a zombie movie backdrop." A suburban motel was cheap wasn't far from the Cahokia Indian Mounds. I had slept atop them in 1972. Brock and I shared a room. We went down to the bar for happy hour. On my third margharita my cell rang. It was Mam in Sriracha. My son Fenway was sick. I had to wire money. The only Western Union was in East St. Louis. I drove into a dark neighborhood of abandoned buildings and empty lots. The people were friendly. I send $150. On the way back to motel a highway cop stopped me on the highway. The trooper said I was speeding. I explained my story. He believed me and let me go. I was a lucky drunk. In the morning we filled the rental car with gas and drove over to the Canokia Indian Mounds. "These were the largest structures in North America until the 1900s." Canokia's population was greater than any 13th Century city in Europe. "I camped on the top of that mound in 1973." "A hippie?" "On my way to LA." We climbed to the top of Monk's mound. It was over a hundred feet above the plain and the Mississippi shone in the distance. The tall trees blotted out most of the present. I stood in the year 1277. American culture had constructed a huge mound of garbage closer to St. Louis. in 1996 Barry Flanagan erected the Nijinsky Hare next to the new St. Louis Hockey Arena. I recounted Bobby Orr's goal against the Blues to Brock. I doubted the Checkerdome's replacement had a shot of that iconic goal. "What do you think of the Hare?" Brock broke out his camera. The sturdy Scot was shooting commando-style. "The Hare is good for all." Brock interviewed workers and commuters coming off the trolley. Everyone liked the Hare. We wandered up the Mississippi. This was Mark Twain land. I turned west at Lousiana. We were on our way to Kansas City and according to Wilbur Harrison, "They had a lot of pretty girls there."

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