I wrote this while on a 36-hour Greyhound trip in May, 2005. I was twenty years old, and returning from Florida to Missouri to attend my sister's high school graduation, not knowing at the time that the trip would precipitate my moving back to Missouri, visiting Panama City Beach again only once, in early June, to cram as many of my possessions as I could into the back of Tim Eisenhauer's two-door Honda, and leaving the rest, including (idiot!) my collection of 40+ shot glasses, to an unknown fate, lonely and abandoned on the Emerald Coast.
I'd like to note that at this point of my life, I was as fascinated by amateurish chemical stimulation as I was by Alan Watts and amateurish Zen fancies.
I've been looking through lots of old notebooks, and would like to start transcribing some of this old shit, and with as little amending as possible, but sometimes it's just too tempting to exchange a good word for a better one, or just trimming an unnecessary word if that be the case, especially as I was then just a grubby little knucklehead, and have now matured into an an older and slightly more experienced shithead.
Also, I'm currently eating saltine crackers with anchovies, olives, slices of onion, pepper jack cheese, horseradish, kimchi, and hot sauce. It is wonderful, and I have the salted breath of a sea dragon.
The bus rolls out of Panama City at 11:10 Tuesday morning. The ocean and sky are the same dusty blue. Fishing boats plow oily wedges through the bay, the still pines stand tall and aromatic.
Not much sleep last night. Lots of last minute rustling, packing, saying farewell to friends too late met. I awoke only due to the grace of legal stimulatory drugs taken shortly before sleep. Legal or not, moderation is key, and of late the dependence on such capsules of tightly-wound energy has made me weary, though with boundless energy. They deprive the body of the need for sleep until, the next day, after the effects have begun to wear off, when sleep is not possible due to employment responsibilities, and we have no choice but to eat a few more Zoloft or Adderall or concentrated caffeine-and-ephedra pills. And the next day, the same, cyclical. It takes a toll on body and mind, but we are fully stimulated. Stimulation is key.
I see from the window a fenced-in area containing an entire herd of grey Triceratops.
After two or more days of this wide-eyed sleep-deprivation, one becomes a sort of hyper-stimulated zombie. The feeling is such as looking down at oneself, mind and body completely independent of one another. Tasks are completed without thought while the brain reels and soars and considers.
Sleep during these spells is fitful. Spastic dreams of grey nudes with lidless eyes, limbs quivering with a seizure heartbeat, rushing about and scream-muttering terrible things. Black fish with glowing eyes swimming through blood rivers, open-air markets in which the fruit pulsate almost erotically in tandem with that same seizure heartbeat. Awake immediately, forget it all, sit up straight, drink some water and eat a few dry crackers to soothe the nausea, try to stop your skinny calloused hands from shaking. It will only scare and cause guilt.
Old contact lenses, covered in protein scum, steal a bottle of Visine to squirt into your eyes until they swim in their sockets. Temporary relief. Months pass in a matter of hours, feel the seizure heartbeat slow, eyes become heavy, still an entire day of work ahead, steal a bottle of No-Doz, eat a few. Everything is looking up now. No sleep again tonight, perhaps a few glasses of whiskey will coerce your stuttering brain into compliance.
Backhoes uproot layers of topsoil, making cuts into which more transplanted palm trees will be inserted, the illusion of Eden, the Fountain of Youth, for the degenerate old fat and ignorant. Florida, with flowers.
Bus transfer in Ft. Walton. New passengers. A white man with plastic pants and a Ziploc bag full of prescription pill bottles, a Hispanic man with two laundry baskets full of clothes. An amorphous crowd of filthy undershirts, the smell of peanuts, patriotic sunglasses, dragons airbrushed upon polyester, bad teeth, thinning hair, shark-tooth necklaces (me), infants, pillowcases, shrunken heads, wind chimes. Family members and loved ones, or those indebted to the passengers through hate, semen, marriage, stand outside looking sunken and lonely, watching us leave.
A couple has brought aboard a baby that looks like a pale Giger painting of the Buddha, yet somehow still endearing. It sleeps like an amoeba.
Faceless suburbs. Vacant lots much more appealing. Learn to embrace the empty, the open, too often cluttered. The sky looks much bigger here, given epic proportions when accompanied by the ocean. Same out West, with the seas of sand and leviathan mountains.
We get pulled over in a corporate facsimile of a town called Navare. Policemen come on board, give us all a good look. They are looking for someone, a man (women are exempt). As they search the restroom, examine our forearms for distinguishing tattoos, take our licenses (I am one of four suspects), I look at the blue sky and for a maddening moment I think it is an organic membrane, thinking I see a branching network of vessels and veins. I realize with a little disappointment that it is only a gnarled pine tree being reflected in the window.
The stainless steel chamber pot is filled with a thick black pot liquor that sloshes about as the great whale banks the waves. I brace myself against a slimy stainless steel handle to ride the turbulence and avoid pissing all over myself.
Continuing, I watch out the window. I imagine the landscape exploding, nuclear blossoms in time with the drumbeat, the silent poetry of a fireball engulfing house upon house, trees splintering, billboards being twisted and blowing apart in graceful slow motion, a global holocaust as I watch from the safety of a Greyhound bus. The beauty in such ideas.
No soil, just sand; creamy, bloody.
For some reason the reappearance of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker comes to mind.
Wake up in Alabama. No more sand, we see farmland. Deciduous trees. After a brief stop at a gas station, the air is filled with the smell of Cheetos.
I meet a young rapper named Marques, though his MC name is "Smoke". Both being young musicians, we hit it off and enjoy Steak Night at Shoney's during a six hour layover in Birmingham.
The South begins to melt slowly towards the Midwest. Limestone bluffs, cedar trees, pastures. Montgomery greets us with the smell of hay, Nashville with a gorgeous sunrise.
I wake up, find myself seated next to a large man leafing through a Hustler.
"Is this Indiana?" I ask drowsily.
"Nah, Kentucky," he says.
I haven't been to Kentucky in years, and tell him so.
A man got on the bus sometime during the night. Short, balding, with a grey ponytail. He stinks of sweat, cheap cigarettes, rot. His teeth are rotting and angled, and his eyes twitch and glisten behind huge maroon-framed spectacles. Oversized grey shirt, stonewashed jeans, a wallet chain slapping his leg like an inert chrome cock as he limps slowly along.
Taking a five-minute break somewhere in Tennessee, he wanders into a Hardee's against the bus driver's wishes. Time to go, he's still buying his cola, he gets left behind. All around me, the bus erupts in men slapping the backs of seats and hooting and clapping like gibbons, watching the man chase after the bus, little legs pumping, Hardee's cola splashing, wallet chain suddenly electric and alive, a charmed cobra.
Once he has convinced the bus driver to let him back on the bus, he is greeted by chiding.
"We knew you could move fast if you wanted to..."
"Haw haw, you're sick..."
"Only a five-minute break, haw haw..."
"Think twice next time, ain't ya..."
In Evansville, he speaks to me while sucking on a cigarette, spittle flecking his thin lips.
"Been in jail four months. Gotta get home to Springfield, Missouri. I tell my girl, be there with open arms, y'know? Get a motel room 'cross the motherfucking street, cuz I'm gonna tear you up, y'know? Down in Florida, I was in this corn field doin' stuff. Not so much a corn field as a forest..."
I tune him out. He is a fool, and from time to time ejects a viscous liquid from his mouth, ejaculated upon the ground with a disgusting squelch from between his reptilian tongue and decomposing teeth.
There's a demon brewin' inside of me
Down in Nashville, TN
Goddamn girl, I'm so lonely
Down in Nashville, TN
The sunrise looks alright to me
Down in Nashville, TN
There's no place I'd rather be
Than down in Nashville, TN
No idea where I went to sleep
But now I'm in Nashville, TN
Sunlight, purge the dark from me
Down in Nashville, TN