South Dakota-ish – “East Coast Here We Come” – May 13, 1999

And just like that, we’re on the road again, tumbling past tumbleweeds and thundering through endless crops. Each corn stalk salutes like a soldier as we zip by. The fanfare that marked our departure last tour was absent this time as we pointed Moby east, into the sunrise; no waving handkerchiefs, no confetti, no streamers, and no tearful boyfriends or girlfriends waiting in line to kiss us goodbye. We slipped away under cover of darkness yesterday morning before even the streetlamps on Pearl Street had gone out. Dellucchi drove all day and when night fell, we slept at a nameless roadside motel in two very crowded, creeky beds in a room with crunchy carpet and drapes the color of bile.

Now, it’s morning. As we merge back onto the highway, I can’t help but laugh and read the first billboard aloud:

Buzzing from my freshly crafted cocoa coffee, I join the boys in belting out The Black Crowes’ “Remedy.”

Brian bites his lower lip, his goatee splays out like a defensive hedgehog; he drums a righteous beat against the dashboard. Soucy plays an air guitar solo, fingers moving swiftly along the neck of his ethereal Fender, while Kenny, red sunglasses perched low, purses his lips and jogs his chin in time.

There’s this fuzzy patch in the center of the window, first row back, where Brian props his head. It’s become a running joke—that his hair gel ‘Bed Head’ has left a filmy residue on the glass that blurs the view and seems resistant to Windex. We’ve come to accept it as another passenger in the van and have named it “Bart.”

Brian in his ‘Bed Head’ protection hat

I’m spacing out through “Bart,” the smudge, thinking about how lucky I am to be on the open road, the master of my destiny and not caged and this thought brings me back to the day before we left.

I’d visited a good friend—let’s call her Sam—at a mental institution, a friend who’d always been a bit eccentric but much the way I considered myself to be. Sam had been admitted to the Boulder Behavioral Correction Center by her husband after mistaking her reflection for an intruder and shooting a series of holes clear through her dining room wall.

During my visit, she’d yanked me into the restroom, whispering, “They’re listening through the walls,” and promptly locked the door. As my eyes adjusted to the echoey dark room I saw all her stuff was haphazardly unpacked into her shower stall. “People think I’m crazy but you don’t think I’m crazy,” she said in the craziest way imaginable.

She was wearing the same clothes she’d been committed in a week prior; a pair of baggy men’s pants, a dog-hair-brown sweater, and a pair of platform boots I think she must have been sleeping in. A baseball cap hid her unwashed matted hair. I was shocked the way you might be if someone threw ice water down your back. Where had my friend had gone? Had she always been this crazy? Was I so adept at normalizing insane behavior I’d been blind to who she was all along? What else wasn’t I able to see? Am I crazy? These questions ricocheted silently off the bathroom tiles.

Then, she started to cry in a way that distorted her face into something more frightening than a loaded weapon. Sam might have been crazy when she shot up her home, but this place was making her mad. I didn’t have the words, so I simply embraced her, holding her trembling, wailing form. I made promises of finding a good therapist and reassured that everything would be alright, despite my doubts.

And now I am on the road and she is in a cage and I am left to wonder at the blurry ‘Bed Head’ named “Bart,” who of us truly deserves such freedoms and restraints?

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “South Dakota-ish – “East Coast Here We Come” – May 13, 1999”

  1. I find this such an exceptionally thoughtful excerpt, Sally. From the detailed description of a moment of time together in Moby Van – each of you, including Bart the Smudge, so clearly drawn that I can see you – to a very difficult situation with a close friend and your many compassionate thoughts and deep fears around that …. It really moved me. Thanks for sharing (xo). I’m truly enjoying every post but don’t often comment. Thanks for all your hard work putting this together to share with us.

    1. Emily,
      I so appreciate that you took the time to comment today. Thank you for your empathy and for enjoying these little windows into life on the road. It’s been amazing to relive some of them and add some more intimate details from the private journal I was keeping at the time. This episode with “Sam” was one of those more presonal tidbits. It means a lot to get your feed back.

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