Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Chest . . .

. . . hurt with every throb of my heart. So much cheese whiz, onions, and meat had turned each breath into a wheeze. I took refuge at the center top stair leading to the entryway of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is the same spot where Rocky Balboa raised his hands in triumph - declaring victory in the battle against himself. Having eaten two of the most disgusting food stuffs imaginable, I opted to act as the perfect inverse to Rocky. Where the tourists emulated his jog up the stairs, posing for a photo-op at the finish, I chain-smoked half a pack of Marlboro Reds and stared off into downtown Philly. The Rocky statue has been relocated. I couldn't imagine any respectable museum curator would want a movie prop to act as the gateway to their institution. But it's status as a monument can't be denied. For that reason, it's been moved to a dirt patch of lawn west of the stairwell. Of all the persons who stepped onto the grounds of the museum campus, an overwhelming majority stopped to touch the statue. I never noticed, but the statue looks nothing like Stallone. It looks like the statue of David, had he made it to the early 1980's. At the foot of the statue, street peddlers offer black motorcycle helmets for sale, allowing visitors to hurl them at the figure, recreating their favorite scene from Rocky III

If ever driving west on I-70, one will see advertisements for exit 53, connecting to the main street of Cawker City, Kansas and off towards the World's Largest Ball of Twine. It's worth stopping to see tourists posing - their hands pressed against the string sphere. Their pose tells, "I've been somewhere. I've seen things. My hands have touched them." The beauty is that the local youth of Cawker City have made it a past time to urinate on the attraction. There's no greater joy than knowing that visitors have come to your town, to rest their hands on your urine.

God only knows what the kids in Philly have done to that statue.

New Jersey has a law, you can't pump your own gas. It's something of an artifact to help secure the jobs of full-service attendants, that has lasted through to today. I didn't know this. So when the attendant took the nozzle from me, I took it back. He took it from me again. I looked at him quizzically and took it back. He did the same. This continued for several minutes before he finally gave up. I felt bad when I found out why he was so intent on pumping my gas. I spent two hours on the New Jersey Turnpike going into New York City. The Springsteen mix-cd I've toted around was finally home. With the windows down, I let the boss give me a tour through his hometown. (My first thought was, "Really? This is much nicer than where I grew up.") As I was was exiting off the NJTP onto the Queen's Boulevard Expressway, I ejected the CD and tossed it from the window. This is where it belonged.

I stopped off in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale is a ghost town of academia. The buildings which make-up the campus are rich in ivy, alluding to their history. The downtown and surrounding area are nothing more than affluent sprawl. If it's not the generic storefronts (like those that have occupied Mass street in Lawrence), it's the lame bar where grad students line-up around the block - hoping to catch some of the dueling piano action.

My children will go to Pepperdine.

In Boston, I found the first pub with a Shamrock on the sign. There, I took a seat at the corner of the bar. I wanted to tell the bahtenda to make me a mahtini, you fat fuckin' retahd! I settled with ordering a pint of Guinness and a shot of whiskey. My eyes were on the tv, but my ears were desperately trying to catch the cadence of the patrons' speak. Drawls, accents, dialects. They bring a smile to my face, the same way a great meal will. The bartender motioned to the cowboy hat*, "Wheeaya from, hass?"

"Dodge City. Kansas."

"I guess ya ghat the hell out of Dahdge."

"You'd guess right," my smile breaking through.

He topped off my drink, setting it before me.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire was an hour away. It was around midnight when I set back on the road. The town of Wolfeboro is situated some distance from the interstate. The road that lead into town is winding. Through the thicket of arbor, you expect a deer or buck at any point. My foot hovered over the brake with the same tension as that of a game show contestant.

The approaching empty light came on. It rivaled the check engine soon light's red intensity. I was unsure of how much longer my car could go, and how far I was from the next filling station. The radio and a/c were cut off. The windows were up, fearing the slightest breeze would offer critical resistance. I coasted down hill and only applied gas to continue over the next ascent. A streetlight would signal my arrival into the city limits. On Main Street, I pulled into a gas station, the car sputtering. I swiped my card, to no avail. I repeated the process several times before a message read, "Pumps off."

The station opened at 6:00 AM. I decided to find a nearby parking lot and settle in for the night. I could see Showtime Video from where I stood. I coasted the car down the steep hill, rolled in, and feel asleep.

*Some of you may not realize that the author tends to wear a cowboy hat when on the road. It might help to go back and reread all of these entries knowing that a such a hat was present.

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