Tuesday, July 30, 2013
ROADS OF THE FLYOVER Part 2 by Peter Nolan Smith
We crossed the Mississippi into Missouri at Lousiana. The river was spreading across the flood plains. "We have nothing like this in England." Brock shot the passing landscape with his movie camera. "Is this going to be in your film?" I hadn't asked too many questions about his Barry Flanagan project. "Barry wants to see the world. He can't travel anymore." The film maker was a one-man crew. Two, if you counted me a driver. Brock stopped shooting. "Imagine yourself trapped in a failing body. You'd want to see all this, wouldn't you?" "And more." I loved travel. href="http://www.mangozeen.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/field3.jpg"> We traveled on US 54 to Vandalia, then turned northwest to Paris on US 25. The rental Ford hit 80 on the straightaways. Something told me it could go faster. "Aren't you scared of police?" Brock aimed the camera at me. "They're out on the Interstates. That's where the cars are." I hadn't seen a cop car since the Highway Patrol cruiser in St. Louis that stopped me for speeding. "This is the Flyover." "Flyover?" "Yes, the land everyone flies over on their way from the east coast to the west, but it's not a wasteland." "No, I wouldn't say that." Brock put down his camera. Miles and miles of newly plowed wasn't much of a thrill, but a week's parole from New York was soothing to my eyes. "How do people live out here?" Brock shook his head passing an abandoned junkyard. US 24 had little to offer in the way of eateries. We were holding off for ribs in KC. "Farming." The raw fields of Spring surrounded the US two-laner. The houses were prosperous. "I feel like we're in COLD BLOOD." Brock had chosen Truman Capote's opus about two drifters murdering a Kansas farmer as his travel book. "Not much has changed out here." Mine was Herman Melville's TYPEE. I hadn't even opened it. "The last time I came through the Midwest was in 1994 in a Studebaker Hawk." "That's why I wanted you with me. You're American." I pressed PLAY on the CD. Arthur Lee and Love's IF 6 WAS 9 and my foot hit the gas. The Ford was all go. Rain sploshed off the pavement of the four-laner. Kansas City rested on a hill. The sun broke through the clouds to transform it into Oz. "I love America." Brock filmed two minutes. I doubted any of it would be in his film. "My friend, Joe, ran away to Kansas City in 1965. He was 13 and wanted to see if there were any pretty girls there." "As Wilburt Harrison said in the song." "He found none and the cops sent him back to Boston." "But he got here and here is a long way away from there." "And that's the truth." Downtown Kansas City mimicked St. Louis purgatory and we booked a room in Kansas not fat from Ray Santo. The South Shore native was free tonight and we met for ribs. Brock and I got sloppy. Ray stayed clean. "I have to play later." Ray was a drummer in the KC scene. "We're coming with you." Brock ordered another round. The three of us left the restaurant in a taxi. Kansas City police actively sought out drunk drivers. "But not drunks." Ray gave the driver directions. "Not yet." I muttered, because Kansas was next to Oklahoma and that state didn't believe in curves. Five minutes after we arrived at the crowded nightclub, Ray hit the stage. The band performed a tight set of country-western. Brock almost yee-hahed during a break. "How do you know Ray?" "He went out with my sister." Ray had a Corvette. He played good hockey and shoot better pool. My mother didn't approve of his dating my younger sister. "Back in 1970." "That's thirty years ago." "Yep." I hadn't seen Ray in too long. I yee-hahed him and Brock joined me. Drinking beer in Kansas was good. After coffee and donuts at the motel I drove us to Overland Park. Flanagan had a Hare statue in the middle of the Johnson County Community College campus. A uniformed guard gave us a pass. Our parking space was specified as 'visitor'. The art director met us on the walkway. "School's not in session." JCCC offered its student body of 37,000 the chance of changing lives through learning. It was a big school. "That's fine. We're here to see the Hare." Brock broke out his equipment, as we entered the Administration Building. The sign on the door warned NO GUNS. "Well, here it is." The director stood before the 11-foot statue of a Hare on a Bell. I liked the one in St. Louis better. It was very Nijinsky. Brock asked our host questions about his feelings about the Hare. I made myself scarce during the interview. I liked to know nothing and pulled out my cellphone to call New York. No one answered, so I visited the Nerman Museum attached to JCCC. The sky was threatening rain. The clouds weren't telling any lies. An hour later Brock ran to the Ford in a downpour. He carried the camera bag under his coat. I was listening to Dave Van Ronk's BOTH SIDES NOW. "It's more important than me." The Scot sat in the car. Rain dripped off him. Brock shut off the AC. "That was great> I interview seven people. They really get the Hare." I wished that I could. "What now?" "North to Iowa." "Right." I pulled out of the parking lot certain no one had said 'North to Iowa' in this century.