Hello all. My name's Jess. You don’t know me, but very soon, you will. You see, just like the sleep-away camp summers of (other, richer) children’s youth forged lifelong friendships in unreasonably short time periods, you and I are going to benefit from long, happy memory-making hours in close and somewhat uncomfortable proximity. However, instead of mosquito-infested wooden cabins and mess halls, we'll be in the heated leather front seats of a white, 2002 Jetta named Bobby Frost, on a cross-country car trip over the next week that will, I promise, make us BFFs forthwith.
You and I, buddy: we’re going from Los Angeles, CA to Austin, TX, and along the way we’ll be talking poetry, truck stops, stoplights, headlights, Marfalights (we’ll be stopping in Marfa, yes), Newport Lights (not really, but I wish—I quit smoking ages ago and still miss it, especially while I’m driving), eating light (somehow, despite all the McDonald's drive-throughs and Cracker Barrel Family Restaurantscalling our names), lighting fires under our writing careers’ asses, and fiery obsessions of the fearful and lustful varieties. Hopefully, these and all sorts of other fascinations will make the potentially hellish hurtle through ironing-board flat West Texas seem as lively as an impromptu game of Twister with a secret crush.
But fear not, lest the overwhelming intimacy of it all frighten you; we won’t have to go it alone!
(I mean, I get it… driving this long with a stranger might be little uncomfortable. All those awkward silences. Varying tastes in driving music. Trying to politely haggle over gas money. The ever annoying elephant in the front seat—how I’m a real person and you’re just an imaginary Internet blog reader—that neither of us is comfortable discussing.) To allay such dramas, we'll have some friends along with us to serve as buffer, social lubricant and/or devil’s advocate, as needed:
Dear friend. Poet of astonishing talent. Graduate of the Houston MFA program and former Stegner Fellow. Jewfro-sporter. Runner. Wise-cracker, Spanish speaker, world traveler, swine-flu survivor, fraternal twin (not to me, though, nor you) and my favorite tag-team cooking partner. We are blessed to have him with us on this journey. (NB: Sometimes we will refer to Josh by his nickname, "Crash," which he earned by being the only person ever to have had an accident with a parked fire-truck while driving a U-Haul.)
Despite looking like Winston Churchill, speaking only the mysterious dog-language Rouge, suffering from rather upsetting flatulence and being a self-hating dog, we are sure Special has a rich inner life. His reflections, whatever they are, would probably be invaluable to this chronicle could we decipher them. As it is, we cannot. Thus, we will just have to use him (and his doggie car seat and his prodigious, free-hanging face meats) for comic relief.
Along the way we’ll also encounter plenty of wily characters (some of whom we know, some whom we will get to know, and others who will randomly talk to us and whom we hope aren’t serial killers.) Each will pepper our journey with stories we’ll tell our grandkids together someday when all this—our first blush of friendship—seems like a distant memory.
Also, because the best part of getting to know each other is uncovering little details about our lives, sharing small confidences and learning the quirks and idiosyncrasies we so often try to hide, I’d like to end each of these posts with a question for you. Please, do answer. How else will we wile away the hours? I promise it’ll be more fun than playing I Spy or Geography.
So now, on the evening before we depart, here’s what I’d love to know, new BFF:
What’s your favorite driving song?
(And if enough of you answer, maybe I’ll make a mix so we can listen to it on the road….)