Time to Settle Accounts
March 3, 2012: Fear and loathing on speaker phone.
It was just past 11 a.m. when my phone rang. I’d slept on the couch again, arriving home after 3. New Jack was in Virginia, Justin was sleeping out, and now the sun was rolling in through the streetside window and the phone was ringing. I pawed at my phone on the floor beside me. The screen said “MJ” and I answered through a yawn, “Hey brother.”
“I’m half way to Vegas, brother,” he said.
“Great fucking drive,” I said. “Where are you?”
“Tell you in a sec when I pass a sign…” We waited. “About 40 miles to Barstow.”
“That’s bat country.”
“You know what you’re driving, right?” I recited the first line: We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. When I got to ‘Barstow,’ he nearly shouted the rest. MJ grew up with a Fear & Loathing Johnny Depp poster in his room with that quote – along with the famed drug itinerary – written at the bottom. He’d also been a big fan of the film.
“Man, very cool,” he said, and then, “Can’t believe I’ve never done this drive.”
“Like I said, it’s a good one.” And it is, particularly going in this direction, west to east, where the drive is not only beautiful but psychologically compelling. When you finally break loose of Los Angeles traffic and swap it for stark desert, it is like trading a root canal for a swimming pool.
And then, once you’re settled in the mountains, sky, desert, and concrete, nature becomes the negative space of the forthcoming skyline. The landscape burns into your eyes, and the anticipation for the strip builds, and you flatten the peddle and fly for just a few moments.
I was picturing all of this, right down to the music in the speakers and my fingers in the wind, when I darted up for the bookshelf. I grabbed the old ’71 print off my shelf, returned to the couch, and began reading to Mike. Onward, past the first sentence, finishing the chapter. He laughed and I did too as the story unfolded, and I was there in the car with him, speeding through the desert.
“Two fish tacos and a coke,” Mike said suddenly.
“Who are you talking to?”
“At a gas station. Loading up.”
He got back on the road and I continued reading. It was good to be tied to that Western view, even from the couch.
“You need to do this as a podcast,” he said, “even if it’s just for me. It’s the only way I’ll ever finish this book.”
“You see the skyline yet?”
“Enjoy that.” I kicked my legs and flung the blanket to the ground, and stood and walked into the sun to turn on my computer. I would have read him the entire book, for his sake and mine, but the day was running the other way and time was wasting.
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