Friday, January 7, 2011

Part 2: not just a car.

My hands grip the wheel, remembering the years we spent together. Remembering our epic trip around America. How we drove over the golden gate bridge down the 101 from SF to San Diego. Remembering our campsite in Santa Barbara how much we enjoyed the generous meal shared with that white Rasta and his wife who invented the first recipe for vegan cheese, more money than god and they were just a cool couple camping next to Ruth and I.
Remembering how Ruth raced my friends and I away from the crazed drunkards that over ran what was turning out to be a pretty great party. Then blazing through the scorching desert past Palm Springs, camping under a Josha Tree, then running along the Northern rim of the Grand Canyon, wrapping back towards Zion National Park, hiking up to the angels' landing, pushing east, stopping to see the pillars of glowing red clay in Bryce Canyon one minute before a snow storm covered everything white. Spending a day to see natural bridges cut between to canyons in southern Utah cut by wind and time and weather and mother nature's creative talents. Meeting a middle aged women who liked Jim Beam and believed camping doesn't mean shitty cooking, she also believed, the following day, as we ventured way out into the wilderness that her Subaru wagon could withstand extreme abuse. After brushing off my suggestion she might consider buying something with 4-wheel drive, she assured me the car is doing just fine as we threaded along massive gaps in the dirt road, both axles on the brink of breaking, remembering how the whites of my eyes went wide with fear as she mentioned the possibility of us having to spend the night in the car (together), should flash floods catch us, still hearing her say in perfect pitch, "I only buy cars that I can sleep in and that I can @#$% in."
Never more happy to see Ruth than after that little day trip I took with that wild woman. Moving on through Durango, over the Rio Grande river, sweeping past northern New Mexico, then cutting across the top of Texas, connecting with my roots in Oklahoma, Ruth and I searching for a headstone, lost in the prairie among the buffalo.
Amazed in Memphis, where we shared a drink with Russell, the owner of Earnestine and Hazel's, (the coolest drinking establishment IN AMERICA), saw the Loraine motel where MLK was shot, (all of it sounding too much like that cheesy movie that Orlando Bloom starred in) seeing where Dr. King's dream became not just his but America's. Up and down the Shenandoah valley, listening to John Denver, the sun roof open, Ruth feeling every inch of those crazy hills. The beard was getting long when we reached my sister and brother-in-law in Philly, shared some laughs then pushed on, towards our goal of getting her back to where my great aunt drove her oh so many years ago, Long Island.
Down 34th street, passing the empire state building, onto the long island, jammed with traffic, "buddy" i say to the cabbie stuck next to Ruth and I in traffic jam "is it always like this". Chuckling " 'ey kid, its the long island expressway, the longest parking lot in america".
We reach the house where my great aunt lived, an old women opened the door, and a boy wearing his grandfather's cowboy hat, driving his great aunt Ruth's car, weathered with a long black beard, stood as tears formed in front of this perfect stranger, because it was never just a road trip, it was never just getting Ruth back "home". It was always about connecting with the spirit an amazing lady I never really knew. I listened to stories from the old women who told of my great aunt Ruth's zest for life, but then it was time to go. I never thought, nor did my mechanic, Ruth would make it this far, so the question was what to do with her now.
"I guess you could drive her back" my mom said. And that's just what Ruth and I did, headed west, across Pennsylvania, stopped off and visited an old friend in Chicago, went on a savage burn as Hunter would say across Iowa at 4AM, listening as On the Road played by Kerouac, his words making perfect sense in such a state at such an hour in such a car on such a trip. Twisting around the road long enough to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rushmore. Standing next to Custer's last stand, cruising across montana, and stopping off at my mechanic's before home, showing him where Ruth took me without troubles.
But she's old now. She's tired, she has endless issues, a tragic state of affairs every time i return from my travels. this could be the end of a long and beautiful run.  My hands still grip the big round wheel, an endless flow of memories cover my mind. It makes no sense to be sad over this hunk of steel, but to sink into her seat and stare down a long stretch of open road, is to be full of life and love.


Tenshi Rising said...

Is it weird that I actually shed a tear while reading this? I have a great Ruth picture to share with you...stay tuned.

Tenshi Rising said...

For you... and Ruth...and I'm sure, a bit for me. : )

Jennie said...

Ah, Brad, your description of Ruth conveys all that she is and more--what an amazing friend, car, and companion she has been all these years. It's been an honor to know her...

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