I got back yesterday from the strangest trip I can ever remember taking. The destination was Salt Lake City–for no reason in particular–and I was going to be moving through a strange western world, as a perpetual stranger. I traveled east across Oregon, past the lush and massive green trees that bow towards the mighty Columbia River, to Oregon’s innards which were stained burnt red-orange, a place that appeared to have bled to death in an ancient geological epoch. I drove over hill after rolling hill as if, in my vessel, I were mounting the tall waves of a stormy sea. I came across a rodeo town in a valley with enough mustache hair to warm Napoleon’s army in their failed Russian campaign. On I drove and meditated; I must admit driving is meditative in the same way hypnosis is. My nerves were shot by the time I reached the Idaho border though. It seems my soul cannot take that much motion. My body and soul had a discussion and decided to consult my head.
I spent the night bar-hopping in Boise. Here I was, 3,000 miles from home (Orlando, FL) and by midnight in Boise, I’d met 3 people who were from or had lived in Florida. I think my mind was trying to comfort my soul by honing in on
these far-flung people. I found the local’s bar where everyone knows everyone else (Jumpin’ Janet’s), made my way to a dive bar (The Red Room), discussed life with a stranger who never expected to live past 25 (Martin), nearly brawled Western-saloon style with a stranger shouting “Fuck Niggers” (a bum), hit on the bartender (Megan). (Sidenote: she was charmed when I said to her “I’ve been to a lot of bars today, and you are by far the most beautiful bartender of all,” but still unwilling to give me a place to stay that night.)
5 hours after last call I woke up in the back of my car, hungover but determined to continue my journey to the fittingly strange Salt Lake City. An hour south of Boise, the Panic struck. Lungs felt crushed, hands wet the wheel, heart felt like it was in the grips of a greasy monkey paw. I couldn’t keep my mind from thinking I would have to make this entire trip in reverse, an endless 12 hours (from Salt Lake), alone. I calmly exited I-84 eastbound and turned around. The thought of home ahead rather than behind eased the anxiety. I traveled home on auto-pilot until a grasshopper jumped in through my sunroof and almost caused me to crash.