40, From Ashes

Sunday, May 21th

The car looked like fire.

“My dad gave it to me for my birthday,” he said, standing in front of the Inferno Red 1973 Pontiac Trans Am. A black phoenix lay painted on the hood spreading its wings in a tall flaming arc, each feather outlined with yellow pin stripes—each flicker giving off heat.

39, Yes

Saturday afternoon/evening, May 20th

Waiting slows time. Reaching the WSU campus I walked to Mary Sue’s dorm, entered the lobby… and… waited… not… knowing… when… she’d… show… up…. Sitting in a yellow plastic chair I fidgeted while watching students stare, looking at my sleeping bag and worn clothes, hair not washed for who knows how long. So I sat, feeling like a chair-mounted museum oddity.

38, Death & Porn

Saturday morning, May 20th

Death Alley stuck as a nickname given to a ten-mile stretch of Highway 8 separating the University of Idaho and Washington State University. The road remained the same on both sides of the state line, but not the drinking age. Until 1987 the drinking age in Idaho stayed steady at nineteen, but in Washington it hovered at twenty-one. That difference created a vacuum, pulling students across the border each night to Moscow. Getting to Idaho presented no problem; the road earned its nickname when they tried to return.

37, Hillbilly Heaven

Friday, May 19th

I walked through a green valley where the snowcapped cathedrals of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains commanded the sky. Once again, the world became mine as every horizon filled with solitude.

36, Eternally Yours

Thursday, May 18th

Throughout the trip I’d considered writing letters to tell people how I was, but didn’t. Underneath what I thought might be simple laziness swirled my desire to leave behind that old life, old attitudes, and only make contact once I’d become new, or at least closed the circle of the journey. Now I felt ready.

I’d made my way to Boise, Idaho, and held tentative plans to reach Pullman, Washington. That’s where WSU was, and not much else—except Mary Sue.

35, Temple Rule

Wednesday, May 17th

The morning rose empty, not even a breeze to tumble across my valley. Looking west, the blank road struck out to nowhere.

This expanse needed some music. Each time I played produced a unique song. The rhythms, styles, keys and moods—combined with my inability to read a single note—ensured every tune enjoyed free rein to broadcast an original composition. My rhythms weren’t afraid to reach over the hills, announcing a presence. As the coyotes bedded down in those early hours, they heard me howling. The strains echoed me, and in turn, as I heard them, assured me I still existed.

34, Wide Nights

Tuesday, May 16th

The day rode on, past the towns of Rifle, Eagle, Antlers and Gypsum. Scenery still looked majestic, but after that stint in the back of the truck, I spent more time just staring into my lap. A dozen miles west of Grand Junction darkness marched across the sky, and I decided to stop looking for rides.

33, Driving Blind

Tuesday morning, May 16th

Crisp air, combined with the sun’s special clarity when seen from 10,000 feet in the sky, helped to keep me awake. According to my past forty-eight hours, I should have been feeling exhausted and famished, but life felt comfortable. Everything in my self-contained world belonged. I even knew where I was going.

Around noon I found myself surrounded by the snows of Vail Pass. From where I stood, I could see the marker for the summit—10,662 feet. Everything reflected a dry brightness. The sky’s sharp blue sliced a clean line as it drew a horizon across the crystalline hills. While I stayed in Key West I had abandoned most of my warmer clothes, so I dressed myself with a hodgepodge of shirts, a wool cap and extra socks. These highlands harbored no people, so I decided to take a ramble and bushwhack away from the road.

32, Never What You Expect

Monday night, May 15th – Tuesday a.m.

Across every horizon head-high corn marched to cover the planet. When the wind blew, the crackling of tough stalks surrounded me like an alien army; their camouflage smelled of open space.

31, Scars are Forever

Monday evening, May 15th

I envisioned morticians as ghoulish, with secret desires to wrap themselves in cold sex. So while heading into Kansas City, when the driver said he was a mortician, my stomach dropped, picturing stainless steel tables baring grey bodies—picturing myself on one.

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