Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The mis-adventures of the WiscoKid: Talking Tennessee (Knoxville Bound)

Part 1:

Did I ever tell you about the time?

I woke up laying across a picnic bench in a pole barn that was being used as storage space for a river raft guide service. I was surrounded by assorted rafting equipment, with a row of large yellow rafts placed single file end to end down the center alley way of the barn. It looked like some crude hastily manufactured landing strip laid out in anticipation of a crash landing, the bright yellow rafts lighting the runway to a safe landing that must not have ended so safely. The raft at one end of this rudimentary landing pad was covered in blood, and a trail of blood lead out of the barn into the darkness. There was more blood than would seem acceptable to most reasonable people. I stood up quickly to investigate the scene and inspect my person, smacking my head on an oar that was jutting out of a rack. This knocked me off my feet which were difficult enough to gather under myself in the first place. My head was throbbing, the taste of vomit in my mouth and the feeling of a someone using my intestines to tie a half hitch knot confirmed my suspicion that the feeling of a vice crushing my gray matter was the cause of something other than the recent head trauma I had suffered. Must be the empty bottle of tequila clinched in my fist with bleeding knuckles. Quickly assessing if the puddle of blood had poured from my body and determining it had not, I turned my attention to why I was sitting in the barn and what the hell could have happened to my shoes.

A few weeks earlier I was putting the finishing touches on a freezer door and called Bud over to give me a hand flipping it over so I could send it down the line to shipping. After we flipped the door we leaned against a table, Bud pulled out a pack of Marlboros shook it and offered me one. We stood there smoking our cigarettes and discussing what we did to deserve this shitty life, or more realistically what we didn't do to deserve a better one. The supervisor walked up and asked when we thought Mike would be back. We recently started a rotation of voluntary lay-offs and Mike was among the first to volunteer. Bud looked at the ground to avoid Hinks gaze. I laughed and told Hink Mike wasn't coming back. Hink said "get the fuck outta here man, seriously I haven't heard from his white ass, he was 'spose to be back this week." This time Bud and I both laughed, the kind of deep guttural laugh that bursts up from your belly involuntarily like a fart you couldn’t squelch. I tried to choke back my amusement before speaking. "Hink seriously he aint coming back, he went down to Tennessee, Mike is gone man." Hink was puzzled you could tell he still thought we were fucking with him. "Shiiit, you mutha fuckas is lying, right" Hink questioned. You could see the concern rising in his eyes, like some wounded animal caught in a trap as the hunter approaches. Hink supervised a crew of fuck-ups and drunks. While Mike was no exception to this rule he was one of the more competent fuck ups on the crew and Hink knew this. Bud shook another Marlboro from its pack and passed it to Hink, I lit it for him and said "look man, that's just Mike. No shit he isn't coming back, at least not for awhile." I threw my cigarette on the floor and stepped on it before walking away to let Hink wallow in how he would break the news to the big bosses. I turned back and said, "Ask me sometime about New Jersey". Hink snapped back, "Awwww FUCK YOU bitch"

It's about an eleven hour drive from Milwaukee to Knoxville I could be there by 3:00 the next morning.  I threw a few shirts, a pair of jeans, a notebook and pens in a backpack, and grabbed a shoe box full of cassettes. I had 100 bucks to my name. I threw my bag in the trunk and pulled off. A carton of smokes and half a tank of gas in the long white 86' Fleetwood and I had $70 left to my name. I hit I 94 East about 5:00 pm, already behind my intended schedule, and rolled on to 65 S ‘til I hit a spot just outside of Indianapolis about 5 hours later. I put a ten in the tank and stopped inside to bullshit with the kid behind the counter for a bit. He was about my age and I could tell he smoked out recently by the look in his squinty little eyes and the stupid grin plastered on his face. We talked for a bit about the weather and people passing through while smoking a cigarette before he asked "where you from?" I told him "Wisconsin, heading down to Knoxville to crash with a buddy for a week or so." I asked if I could use the phone and he was cool about it even though you could tell he'd probably get his balls busted by the owners when they saw a long distance call on the phone bill.  After I hung up he stared at me puzzled for a bit then said “Where the fuck is Wisconsin?” I smoked half a joint with the kid, gave him a geography lesson and got back on the road.

It wasn't long before I lit a smoke, drank a Mountain Dew the original energy drink and popped a few ephedrine tablets to keep me going. It was around 3:30 in the morning and I was a little more than an hour and a half from cruising into Knoxville. I had stopped longer than expected at a rest station near Lexington. The combination of driving and pills had gotten to me and I felt like shit. I talked to an old guy while sitting at the rest station he was a Kentucky native on his way home from Flint where he visited his son’s family, who moved “up north” to Flint in the early 80’s to make a better life. That wasn’t working out so well, he was shut out of his job working at a factory that assembled wiring systems for heavy equipment manufacturers. When the plant inevitably closed a few years later, he lost his house and was now living in a two bedroom trailer with his wife and four kids. The old man had driven up in hopes he could convince them to move back home to Somerset about 75 miles south of Lexington. It was obvious the son was unaware of his father’s intentions when he agreed to the visit, which led to a huge blowout prior to the old man driving back to Kentucky. There was something about the old guy I really liked, he talked in thoughtful slow sentences and didn't say much that wasn't worth saying. I felt immediately at ease with him, he pulled a flask from his coat and passed it asking “want a hit?” I grabbed the flask from his huge brown hand which seemed to have a life of its own, wise and hardened from years of hard work. It was cheap hot whisky that felt like razor blades sliding down my throat and carving the names of young lovers in my stomach lining, as the whisky moved through my body it warmed up the way the lovers bodies would as they lay down beneath the tree to consummate their eternal ignorance. The reality of having $60 in my pocket was setting in and worry grew out of that quickly, the Fleetwood had been complaining a bit as I rolled into the rest area. I hit the flask again to convince myself everything was good in the world and I was still invincible.

Talking Tenessee (Part Two) coming soon

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