Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 12
Leaving KC, I spotted another Smart. It took some maneuvering to get alongside it, not to mention steering in weekend traffic while taking Compulsive Waving Family to deranged new levels, but I managed it. The woman in the passenger seat underwent an amazing transformation: "What the hell is her probl– OH HEY COUSIN!" She jabbed the driver with her elbow, and he did the same thing: "What is it this time, I'm trying to dr– YAY!"
I had most of the day to get to Columbia, but that doesn't take most of the day to do, so I passed part of the time fireworks-shopping. Incendertainment devices are supposedly illegal in NYC — although during the last week of June, it usually feels (and sounds) like I'm the only one who hasn't found a way around that statute — and I don't care enough to track down a source. I like sparklers I can purchase legally, though, and nothing says "thanks for taking care of the cats, Gen" like a 24-pack of Black Cats with your $20 purchase, amirite?
I stopped at Pyro City. Come on: Pyro City. That's awesome. (It's a chain, in case you want to check one out for yourself.) I found the place deserted, and admired the Godfather combo pack (a gigantic box of explosives the size of a twin mattress with a poor rendering of Michael Corleone on it: $600) until the friendly kid on duty appeared and asked if he could help me. "Yes, you can: I need sparklers, and other fireworks appropriate for a person who lives in a place where they're illegal and is kind of a pussy about blowing things up." He helpfully pointed me to some bombs for the indoorsy, and pretended I wasn't an idiot for asking if they would self-detonate if the car got too hot inside.
He also told me that Tommy Lee had come in the year before and bought nearly $2000 worth of merchandise. (I'd filled my basket nearly to the top and still only spent about $23.) Shortly after that, Lee injured his hand setting them off and had to cancel a few tour dates. A brush with fame in Bates City! Then somehow we got on the topic of the tomato blight, and he mentioned that his wife loves tomatoes and hates how expensive they've gotten. His…wife? Ah, I see: what I took to be vestiges of lunch on his upper lip was actually a mustache.
I headed into CoMo, which I also found relatively deserted thanks to spring break, and got settled at the motel, the Regency Premier. Don't let the name fool you; it's only "premier" in the Brezhnev sense, but for a night or two, I find that "step sideways into 1974" atmosphere appealing, getting a glance at that era. Readers from the New York area may remember the "beautiful Mount Airy Lodge" ads, which continued to run unchanged until the late '80s but had looked dated ten years earlier — way too much green and yellow in the color mix (the pool looked positively mossy and riddled with staph), and painful shots of local actors doing the hustle in the Lodge discotheque.
But at that time, you could look into back into the '50s; you would still see motels calling themselves "motor courts" and advertising with photos — or whimsical line drawings in the Warhol-for-Bonwit style — of parking lots packed with finned cars and cheerily overseen by tiny-waisted moms in cat-eye sunglasses. "Drive across the country in a Merc with no seatbelts, wearing full petticoats? Gee, that sounds swell!"
The Regency has that feel to it; the desk clerk wore lime nailpolish, the room had WiFi, but the room itself put me in mind of that furniture on The Price Is Right that you don't know how contestants bid on, because even if you own a dinette set, as I did for several years, it's not that chrome-and-glass Dan-Fogelberg-slept-here job Holly just wheeled out.
Off to meet Ang and her friends, and deliver the twelve of Brooklyn Lager that made it safely 2400 miles without one bottle breaking. (And Arkansas tried; the parking lot of the coffee shop of the past had a…"pothole" is not the right word. Just "hole." Giant, gravelly, lonely hole. Thought Campbell was a Skittle and tried to eat her. This is why I was thinking about where the nearest human might be; specifically, I was wondering whether said human would have a winch to lend me, and some tires.)
After Hil and I bored Ang by debating the merits of Joe Morgan at dinner (I didn't know he had merits either, but Hil argued convincingly), we went to a scary and magical place called…the Trop? Trop's? It smells like a urinal cake inside, and it has a whole wall of Slurpee machines, each one turning a different sugary cocktail. I couldn't decide whether to run away, or move in.
Roomie B got a Styrofoam bin of something fuchsia with Bacardi and Everclear in it, and it had top notes of raspberry, pineapple, and the day in the summer before junior year that that creepy older guy followed you and your friends around Six Flags. Delicious; dangerous. Conversation highlights: "Your friend slept with Tom Bergeron?!" (…no; this is what happens when you try to talk over the Gin Blossoms), and a discussion of the parts of speech "fratty" could form (not a coincidence).
Roomie B, I'm sorry I ate half your Easter basket. It was research, I swear. Come visit with Ang Ham, I'll make it up to you.
Tags: Big Country Little Car Tour Campbell Compulsive Waving Family Dan Fogelberg friends Leonid Brezhnev Michael Corleone Tommy Lee travel