I once blew through the entire Johnny Mercer songbook racing across the country, east to west, on rt. 40. Eighty-three hours from D.C. to Los Angeles with a quick hike-up to Vegas where I pinched the casinos for $325 and a handful of free seven-and-sevens. Just before, I got caught up in a traffic jam coming down into the desert off Hoover Dam. The caravan directly in front of me suffered a busted septic tank and I slowly drove my Karmann-Ghia through dozens of gallons of shit and piss while admiring the prowess of the Colorado River. That was pretty much how things rolled in America for me at the end of the 20th Century: crawling through a river of excrement while enjoying unbelievable geography and time-chiseled red rock.
When Johnny ran out I flipped on the AM. The best way to slice this savage, weird country is in a 60s German car with the amplitude modulation turned on full blast and the windows down. Insane preachers mix in with broadcasts of Mexican soccer matches mix in with conservative fear mongering mix in with insane preachers again. Again. Rinse, repeat, don’t rinse.
Los Angeles was a flooded mess when I arrived in February. It was a brutish, carnivorous quadruped with sharp incisors, looking at the rest of us through exotic corrective lenses. It claimed my wallet. In El Segundo I stopped at a gas station to see about a leaky oil pan and the bloody city lifted my billfold right out of my front pocket.
Fuck John Wayne airport. It was there, on the San Diego Freeway, just short of my destination in Irvine, that I got caught up in a traffic jam which had me waiting four hours to squeak out three miles. I hated Los Angeles. I hated Westwood. I hated Malibu. Pepperdine. El Toro. Laguna Beach. I hated it all. Los Angeles disposed of me in little less than a year. I came rolling back across the country stopping once in Amarillo, Texas where I had the strangest plate of Twice Cooked Pork at a Chinese place in a strip mall off rt. 40. The meat looked like fried cricket tongues. I cracked open the fortune cookie and left a tip under the tea pot.
The little strip of paper read: “You like Chinese food.”