Random Thoughts From The Road: Liveblogging (sort of) the drive back to Iowa

Day 1

--Driving around the Beltway in D.C., I do an informal headcount of foreign cars. I have a theory that the percentage of foreign automobiles on the road is inversely proportional to your distance from either of the coasts. So, according to this theory, I should see fewer and fewer foreign cars as I push on into the Midwest. And somewhere in the middle of the country -- Nebraska, maybe --there's a town where every single resident drives an American car. If you moved there with, say, a Jaguar, the people in the town would shun you, even though they might not know exactly why. They'd cock their head at you oddly and whisper behind your back -- "Something about that new guy just ain't right" -- until you either assimilated (i.e., bought a Chevy) or moved east or west. My informal headcount of foreign cars in D.C.: there are a fuck ton of foreign cars in D.C.

--When you drive from the D.C. area toward Columbus, Ohio, you pass through Pennsylvania approximately 16 times. This is an exaggeration, of course, but only slightly. You're in Pennsylvania briefly, then Maryland, then Pennsylvania again. Finally you hit West Virginia and assume you're done with PA, but no! There it is again, like an ex-girlfriend who swears she's not stalking you but keeps showing up at your work happy hours and the deli down the steet and at the concert of a band you know she doesn't even like. Hey Pennsylvania, why don't you just move into the apartment down the hall and start fucking my best friend?

--The Roots' "Thoughts at Work" is maybe the greatest hip hop song ever.

--What is it about religious states and strip clubs? When I lived in North Carolina, people liked to tell you that the state had the highest number of churches per capita in the country, and also the highest number of strip clubs. I don't know if that's true -- it sounds kind of like an urban legend -- but I do know that N.C. has a ton of churches and a ton of strip clubs. Judging from its interstate billboards, West Virginia is also a very religious state, and is home to approximately three strip clubs for every five residents. Someone should do a study on this.

--To the asshole in the Dodge minivan (W. Va. -- definitely more American cars than D.C.): You know how you could support our troops? By moving into the right fucking lane and letting the rest of us pass!

--It must freak you out the first time you hear a song that was recorded in your lifetime on an Oldies station. I've come close a few times, although I think Oldies stations playing music from the mid-to-late 70s are pushing the bounds of what can properly be categorized as Oldies.

--80s music, despite its popularity on CD compilations and retro DJ nights, hasn't really found its way into a steady radio format, except for those "flashback lunch" segments on the Top 40 station. The Oldies station usually covers the 50s and the early 60s. The late 60s and early to mid-70s tend to be represented on the Classic Rock station. Will late-70s disco music get lumped together with 80s New Wave in some future format? How do these things work? At what point did Oldies become Oldies? Will Classic Rock always mean Zeppelin and Supertramp and the Stones? Or does newer hard rock music, once appropriately aged, turn into Classic Rock? These are the kinds of things I wonder about while driving through the middle of nowhere.

--The people who write copy for America's interstate billboards sure love exclamation points and air quotes.

--Twice in Ohio I see cars with bumper stickers that say "Road Rage Kills." And both times, the person is driving in such a ridiculously moronic fashion that I want to run them off the road and into the ditch.

--I stop in Columbus, Ohio to have dinner with my dad and stay in the corporate apartment he rents when he's working there. This all kind of feels like cheating. On a real road trip, you're supposed to stay at a shitty Red Roof Inn and have dinner at a greasy diner. Also, it kills me to stop driving while it's still daylight. This seems to be a universal male urge: to make good time, to make as few stops as possible, to drive as far as you can before collapsing from sheer exhaustion. My friend John, when he'd drive from North Carolina to New York, used to just pull off at rest areas and sleep for a few hours in his car, then start driving again. Now John has a wife, and I assume she makes him stop at hotels. Because women are much smarter than men, and realize that sleeping in your car is retarded.

--Last year for Christmas, my dad bought me an Ann Coulter book, and I bought him a book by Paul Krugman. Yesterday, he forwarded me this email entitled "Why I'm a Republican." I expected it to be some serious essay, but instead it was two grids of pictures of women. The point was that they'd picked attractive women Republicans and unattractive Democrats. At dinner, my dad says "Didja see that email? Pretty good, huh? Huh?" To which I reply: "I think when all that's left is the 'we're hotter than you are' argument, you're really scraping the bottom of the argument barrel." My dad chuckles and says "Yeah, you're probably right." The moral of this story: Democrats and Republicans can get along just fine. Especially when the Republican is buying the Democrat dinner and wine.

More later....

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