Cape Canaveral, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee; 740 odd miles in 90+ degrees F in a car with no AC, no fuel gauge, leaking break fluid and no radio. A cheap Bluetooth speaker spits out spike tin-whispers of anything with treble enough to push through the wind, windows full down, seats wet from heat. Sweat gathers neatly in all troughs of skin and that cheap tin of wasps keeps on humming.
We leave Cape Canaveral at 5.30pm. By 9 we’ve been up 17 hours. We need somewhere to stop, we need somewhere to sleep and we need to find something to eat. Jacksonville’s right on route.
In a 2am bed that I wont show my skin to I think about legends we make. The glamour and myth of unglamorous things; Judge how good a venue by how bad the toilets, Tom Waits opting early to live off the buzz of run down motels, the early state of decay of Bad Seeds / Birthday Party in a perpetual mess of heroin haze, same goes for Thunders and too many heroes, notables and unnoteds, The Chelsea Hotel and the days it gave and the days that it ended (Cohen meets Joplin, Chelsea Hotel #2, Dylan Thomas’s fatal 18 whisky coma, Sid and Nancy’s last song, Dee Dee Ramone’s Chelsea Horror Hotel novel and a list of writers from Arthur C Clarke to William Boroughs). I think about the romanticised destruction of self; accidents, suicides and overdoses immortalised. I think of this violence’s once perceived rewards.
I think all this and more from this 2am bed, chair hard against handle of a $50 room. Blood on the sheets, bathroom floor and wall, bugs carry crumbs from a somewhere to somewhere. The security guard is off duty tonight and the girl at the check in saw this wasn’t our world. It could have been sometime but here-now I’m a tourist. Lean and muscular men walk the walkway outside, we avoided eye contact as check-in advised. Violence in one wall, children through the other, TV on low to not draw attention. We were told nothing bad usually happens on Tuesday.
I look at the girl that I love beside me, asleep unaware of my thinkings. I wonder what right I have to impose my grim romance of my ‘real America’.
In the morning and light I see children playing. A mother tends herbs next to ‘no soliciting’ signs, the leaves and bright green against the semi intact and unpainted everything. At check-out, another pays two weeks advance for her and three children, I say no to the offer of buying a drugbox and the lean man who offered heads off. It feels almost friendly, as if friendly is the last minimum to be let go of and strangely it doesn’t feel desperate.
This ‘Real America’s as real as any other, but, like I say, I’m a tourist. And those fresh watered herbs look fresher than I feel and my girl’s in the car sitting pretty.