Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 9: Dakota Dunes, SD to Lewis & Clark Lake, NE
It dawned hot, still humid, and I was up by then. I'd slept like shit — no dreams, but waking up every hour, forgetting where I was and why I had come there. I spent most of the morning at the computer, not really working so much as avoiding going back out into it. At elevenish, I sighed, "Can't live here," and packed it up.
I didn't have a long drive ahead, about an hour and a half, according to Noecker, who texted detailed directions, and I mean detailed: four texts. People assume they can neighborhood-play it with "turn at the big tree" or "a ways past" and I'll just figure it out. Not so. Marines stationed every fifty yards with flares is still no guarantee. Noecker, however, spent so long painting my wayward house that he practically had his mail delivered there, and he knows how I get about knowing exactly everything that's going to happen: "And then what? And it just goes in the cracks? And how long does that take? What does it do? Draw it for me. Okay, then what? And then it dries? Do I leave the fan on? 'Sunday' the whole weekend or 'Monday morning' the whole weekend? What if it's too blue, do I call you, or…? But and so then what, do we paint over it? Oh, you're…leaving? Can you just tell me the ending first? The not-too-blue ending? …Okay. Okay, bye." Come to think of it, why did he even admit that he was in Nebraska, much less tell me how to get there? Did he lure me there to kill me finally? Fair enough, then.
Hell of a way to go. The hills got bigger and the turns got tighter and I remembered Missouri 51 on Easter Sunday of 2010, its perfect anonymous vistas that the camera would never get right, the slopes nearby and far away at once, the handsome weeds elbow-high.
Oh, boy: the driveway. Gravel shoals and rutted grass. If it rained, we'd have to live there 'til first frost. We huffed up out of the canopy and onto the top of a hill, into a field of daisies that ran away down into treetops, with a clear view of the lake, and the houses on the other side, and my house in Brooklyn, and France. A royal-blue dragonfly with Chanel cross-hatching patrolled the house. The local cicadas made friends with Campbell. Noecker emerged, and I supposed aloud that this, probably the most beautiful place I had ever seen for myself, including Lucca, would almost do.
It's hard to describe the place. Over the table where we ate hung an aged print of Custer's Last Stand, with a Marilyn postcard tucked into the bottom edge of the frame. That gets near it. That I had arrived, that the place was not the place before the next place, the inoffensive hotel anyplace, but was the place — that gets closer. Looking at Marilyn putting her lipstick on, unconcerned by the massacre inches from her marcel wave, I decided to stay and stop thinking, doing tic-y arithmetic, miles per gallon, miles per day, miles to Fort Dodge, Cheyenne, the sea. I brought in my bags.
I wrote a Revolting Snacks entry while the quintessential All Things Considered guest — says "absolutely" a lot, thinks the left-hand turn is destroying America — made sleepy noises on the radio. Sladek marched through a third draft in a back bedroom. We ate lunch at 4 PM, Spanish-style, and drank beer. Friends came by. Coffee the blessed consistency of syrup came by — Lord, deliver me from pitiable road coffee. I hadn't had a decent cup since M. Giant and Trash's house. You don't realize road coffee is so shite at first; you just drink it, and drink more of it, and use your fourth cup before 10 AM to prop your right eyelid open, and wonder what drew together in the shadows this conspiracy against daytime alertness.
We climbed a hill and watched the sun take its leave. Back east, it creeps down, makes sure you get a good look. Up there, unimpeded, it dropped. I had never seen that before. I had seen restaurant taxidermy before, but not with "girl, please" expressions. I had never said the phrase "macaroni salad" that many times in one evening before, or suggested it as a pseudonym, and a night cream, and a weapon. I had never heard of the Santee/Sioux curse on white businesses that doomed a ski lift.
"How come those clouds aren't moving?" I had never seen the Milky Way before.
We sat in the stars until late. I went to bed and slept without so much as turning over.
Tags: Big Country Little Car Tour Campbell friends good coffee shut up renovations