Trip Start Jul 20, 2002
Trip End Sep 05, 2002

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Flag of United States  , Indiana
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

We spent much of the morning hanging out with some wild old biker just east of Albany, Indiana, who built gigantic metal replicas of assorted military aircraft and then mounted them on towering metal poles in his yard, and he was cool.
His name was Tud, and we'd stumbled across him and his works of art while doing our best to get out of southern Indiana. Since we weren't yet through the Arch, and since I'd spent much of my life growing up just across the river in Kentucky and knew enough about the rolling, rich, but not exactly interesting farmland of Indiana, we opted to hit I-64 west with quick detours to visit Lincoln's home (we have one in Kentucky, too, and I know they have some in Illinois) and drive through scenic Santa Claus, Indiana. And it was there that we saw the giant airplanes and helicopters, and I figured what the hell? It didn't look that hard to find the house if we took the next exit to get a closer look. And so it was that we met Tud, who was just pulling out of his driveway on his Harley, he told us, to go get himself some BBQ ribs. It's a kind and generous man indeed who will put off ribs in order to take a couple strangers on a tour of his workshop and the creations that came from within it. And it's a right wonderful kind of guy who will then put gooey, delicious sustenance off even longer so he can shoot the bull for a couple hours on everything from how to work with metal to all the places he'd traveled, from Vietnam to 9/11 to getting cancer from asbestos to his strangely humanitarian outlook on life that seemed at odds with the proliferation of signs stating things like, "These premises protected by Smith and Wesson."
Tud, at least, was a man who had lived some serious life and put a lot of miles on his odometer. Someone worth talking to and a fine example of why there are few pleasures in life finer than running across some old guy with a bit of crackpot in him and a whole pile of experience. It's why I enjoy conversation with old Army vets and coal miners more than with, say, college pseudo-intellectuals and artists and so-called activists who have never been outside New York City. Part of the reason I think movies now are so much worse than they used to be s because old movies were written by guys who really had something from which to draw, who had been fighter pilots in the Pacific or stormed the beaches at Normandy or been blacklisted by Joe McCarthy. They'd survived one, sometimes two, world wars, a great depression, Prohibition, Korea. They traveled the world when it was still free of strip malls and automated convenience and interstates, and some of them had blown a fair bit of it up along the way. By contrast, most of the people writing movies today never left a college campus and have little more experience with life than what you get from reading Syd Field's "Screenplay." These old men and women, these are my heroes.
"When you get to the Grand Canyon," he told us, "it'll blow your mind. Doesn't matter how cynical you are or what you saw before. It'll get you. It's one of those things that makes you understand the spirit of the land."
And then he was off, riding into the early afternoon sun in search of BBQ ribs.
"I guess they'll kill me," he said of the ribs, "But what the hell? I'm already dying of cancer, and I'd rather die of ribs."
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