Thoreau, in Walking, romanticized the instinct to go West as the human impulse toward the wild, which for him meant to be really alive. The West represents the wild urge inside of us that we need to respect and not fuck with. He was leery of settling down, of becoming smug and lame, and mocked his neighbors who were strangely pleased about being rooted in place by their comfort and real estate. He would abhor most of the US today.
I have often fled West to seek a sense of space and newness, to get revitalized. But I always returned east to get devitalized.
I sit on this westbound plane craving alcohol and trying to (not) look down the shirt of the woman next to me. Forty-five minutes into the flight and she has not acknowledged me in any way though we sit six inches apart. I’m working up the courage to go for a full-on glimpse of her bra. I need to know the color!
When the drink cart comes I buy two vodkas and dump them into my airline coffee. That gets her attention and the distance between us grows to seven inches.
Have you ever been to the Denver International Airport? It is a light and airy place, trying for a mood of a whimsical futuristic Colorado with no shale oil or coal mining, only skiing and taxable marijuana. It has a soaring roof that imitates the snowcapped peaks in the distance. It has underground trains that go to various terminals. It takes an hour to get from the arrival gate to the outdoors.
I take a shuttle to the Hertz building where I enter what looks like an Apple Store highlighted in Hertz-yellow and talk to a guy named Brett about renting a convertible.
“Right on,” Brett says. “We usually recommend the full-size SUV if you’re going into the mountains.”
“Is the full-size SUV a convertible?”
He chuckles in a don’t-be-silly way. “Nope. But it has lot of room.”
“Brett,” I say. “Dude. Let’s cut through the upsell bullshit and get me on the road in that convertible.”
Chevy Camaro. Hyper Blue Metallic. Enough said.
The Denver metro area is sprawling and vast and it takes a while to get that driving in the west feeling of space and possibility. I head north along the Front Range. There’s this headache and my body is crying for more liquor but I’m determined to hold out for a little while until…
The guy at the liquor store is eyeing my Camaro. “That’s a nice one.”
“Just got it,” I say and grab my bottle of whiskey. “Now I’m gonna christen it.”
By christen it, I mean take a big hit off the Wild Turkey bottle and keep driving.
There’s two levels to me right now, very distinct. There’s Jason, the part that knows I’m fucked, out of control, headed for something painful and unpleasant, probably involving police or hospital.
Then there’s the other part, exultant, insatiable and free. JJ unleashed. Jason knows that this is fleeting, already slipping away even as I howl into the top-down air. But, it’s so good, this rush of doomed possibility. It just is! So, shut the fuck up, Jason! Shut up about the dwindling lottery winnings. Shut up about Lila and Carl and family. Shut up about finishing the memoir.
JJ reserves the right to revel in this pure freedom of road, mountains, and hyper blue metallic rental Camaro. I accept the deal. Pure bliss for an hour or two before the really compulsive drinking takes over and I blackout or gray-out for a few days and do something stupid.
That’s a bargain!