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On the road again with lit

Barry SmithAspen, CO Colorado

“When you’re on the road, everything seems like literature.” That’s what I wrote in my little journal a few days ago while sitting in a place called Mom’s Café in Salina, Utah. The town was covered with a thin layer of snow from the night before. I was staring out the window reading the headlines of the papers in the distribution boxes while drinking really, really bad coffee. The scene made me feel all Kerouac-y, like there was some literature that was about to flow from my pen when I touched it to the page. It didn’t, of course. I wrote, “When you’re on the road, everything seems like literature.” And then I spent the rest of my time drawing crude doodles of the salt and pepper shakers.Yes, crude doodles. I’ve just arrived in Fresno, Calif., where I’ll be performing my “Jesus In Montana” show. My iPod charger stopped working within the first half-hour of the multiday, solo drive, leaving me musicless. But I did have my little cassette recorder with me, so every time something occurred to me – a clever idea, a witty thought, something that seemed like literature, I dictated it. Now I’m going to transcribe it. For you. It’ll be like accompanying me on a 1,000- mile road trip. Only without the smell. It’s interesting that the symbol for “camping” is still the triangular pup tent shape, since, as far as I know, not even boy scouts use these archaic devices anymore. Camping is now done in dodecahedron-like contraptions that make it look you’re on an overnighter with Buckminster Fuller. I am desperate to hear the song “Convoy.” So much so that I am singing it aloud. And I know an alarming amount of the lyrics by heart. “Centric-centric” – someone who is a bit preoccupied with being the center of attention. Thoughts like these are why I need a working iPod. The sign said, “Drowsy drivers, take next exit.” How does this place differ from your average roadside rest area? Do they splash water in your face for you? Or slap you? I didn’t find out, because unfortunately for me I was wide awake. It’s not hard to be humble when you’re lame enough to be wearing a “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as good as I am” T-shirt. Adding “dot com” to the end of your fortune cookie message is the modern equivalent of adding “in bed.” Try it. “You will receive news about an inheritance – dot com.” “You will find the true love you seek – dot com.” OK, maybe not … I see the sign that says “Truck lane – slow vehicles only,” and I think, well, why wouldn’t fast vehicles be able to use it and just move over when they come upon a slow vehicle? And who gets to decide what “slow” is? That’s pretty relative and random, isn’t it? What this means, of course, is that it’s time for me to stop driving for the night. Much more appropriate name for the store I saw in Barstow, Calif., than they one they had chosen for themselves – “Who Buys This Crap?” I see a bottle half full of some brownish liquid on the side of the road, and I’m immediately reminded for the first time in years of the words of wisdom that my mother imparted to me as a child: “Never drink out of something that somebody could have peed in.” There’s a sticker on the bumper of a Mazda truck that reads, “Keep Coming Back.” It’s printed in that cheesy reflective rainbow/hologram material that’s generally used for religious bumper messages, leading me to think it must be a Jesus-related sentiment. But there are no other stickers on this truck, so it would be wrong for me to comment further without more evidence. Dammit. [Damn it?] In central California someone has figured out that “burgers” and “burritos” both begin with “BUR,” so the restaurants that offer both are seriously exploiting this discovery on billboards. It’s like watching evolution in progress.(Next time: Favorite “Employees Must Wash Hands” signs from the road.)Barry Smith’s column appears on Mondays. Read more on Barry’s blog, http://www.barrysmith.wordpress.com.


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