. X’s suitcase and guitar (he’s going to fly into Nashville and meet us there after he ties up his affairs in the city), and it feels so great to leave that crazy city in which we’ve spent a very long week. All in all, I’m so happy to have seen my friends, but can’t say that I was me, really – none of us are really "us" while on Pearl in that we breathe and exhale a certain distillate of life that comes more regularly in a diluted form – and constantly felt the pull of the road to which Kerouac would often allude. Still, my energy starts to dissipate as we leave the city, first playing a $22(!) toll into New Jersey, then sitting in traffic for hours, dealing with the absolute stench as it floods through our windows. Who lives in New Jersey? Why is it seemingly such a hole, and why can’t we get out of it? Someone help us. After having gotten little sleep the night previous, I’m feeling that slight tightness in my chest in spite of my excitement, and quickly succumb on the bench to a few hours’ nap. I wake up in a parking lot somewhere outside of Trenton just along the 1 “Expressway”, where we do our best to wait out the traffic. There’s a Subway and a CVS there, so we rush the shop for a bite, and find that the Sandwich Artist is stressing balls to where she’s completely batshit, yelling at the customers, “who’s next!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop coming in, where are you all coming from?? I don’t have timmmmmmmmmmmmme!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” We all try to placate her, but she snaps back, and I don’t want to deal with that crap and head over to CVS, but everyone seems miserable there, too
. Nevertheless, we remain in this hellish place, gnawing on more soggy Subway, then play a bit of music, then take a piss on an adjacent construction site, and by about seven, we’re back on the road, and I’ve managed to get behind the wheel just like old times. From here, I can see truly how responsive Pearl’s become – back like the days in Washington – and we cruise along toward Philadelphia.
It’s dark by the time we reach the City of Brotherly Love, and I’m finding the streets a bit narrower than would suit my tastes. Within thirty minutes of being in the city, I manage to clip someone’s side view mirror – or at least we think I did, but couldn’t stop to check – and I again fretfully relinquish the wheel to Cornbread’s expertise. Oh man, so stressful, and after flagellating myself for a while, we cruise through the old town to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and after making certain to pay our respects to the wonderful genius of Benjamin Franklin at the site of his grave, we grab an obligatory Philly Cheesesteak (Cornbread and I share one, which has mushrooms and peppers, onions and American cheese, and which is decent but not great) before hitting the road once again. I put on Dr. Dog, for they’re from that city, but we’re quickly out and back into hated New Jersey, which still smells, driving straight for Wharton State Forest, which is singularly green on the map and seemingly far enough away from people and cities
. It takes a while, but we feel through the darkness before settling on a dirt road toward Goshen Pond; it leads to a campsite, but we’re not sure how far away it is, and we sprint maniacally in the shadows down the narrow sandy path, watching our shadows triangulate before us as we run away from Pearl’s headlights. The night is alight with sound – owls and cicadas and frogs boom from within the woods – and it’s surreal in a half-joy, half-horror, completely pleasant way. Nevertheless, we can’t find the campsite after running for what seems like miles, so we camp out on a small turnoff and, after playing some moonlight music, I put on some Grant-Lee Buffalo then crawl up onto the roof in this tepid evening.
The animals flicker wildly and invisibly on all sides and it’s cacophonous, but I feel together with nature again and fade quickly asleep. How long that lasts, I can’t be sure, but I’m deep and soundly sleeping when the gunning of an engine snaps me awake. It’s a crowd of kids – bored Jersey punks – and they’re mumbling “school bus”, “California”, and who knows what else, laughing and very drunk. Rev, rev, rev, giggle giggle, one of them grabs the side door and tugs it open, and I sit up on the roof, still sticky in the residue of my aborted dreams, but they’re so drunk as to be threatened and, shrieking, yelling, laughing, they run frantically into their cars and skid off into the night
. I think – I can’t remember, as it was so sudden – I yell down to the guys to see if they were awake and alright, and they’re as baffled as I, but the night is again so heavy and isolated that my head hits the pillow and I’m out again. Until:
The bored bastard punks return, and they’re packing. Thk, thk, thk, and the tires again burn out – the kids are cussing us out and screaming, so out of their minds – and it seems we’ve been victimized by a rural drive-by. By morning, the sun reveals our poor, innocent girl to have been riddled by tasteless orange paintball, and I can only say that if I knew who disgraced her so, I’ll come after them with something a bit more powerful. You hear that, you ungrateful brats?
DAY FORTY-EIGHT: Everyone's just waking before noon, and after I get a few unwarranted pats on the back, we start purging our collective mess from Eitan’s place while waiting for Kuntz’ arrival. I get a phone call in the middle of it all from Mr. X, with whom we’d spent some time on the bus while in the city, and he’s saying how the time had shed some light, blah blah, to where he’s leaving his job and his life in New York to take passage on Pearl all the way back to Los Angeles, where he’ll begin his life anew. Meanwhile, Kuntz has just received an email from a potential employer asking him to interview on Monday, and he’s all torn up over what he should do. The decision is to stay with us for a day, and continue on unless he hears something from the hirer he’ll just keep on trucking. So Pearl’s allure, in a sense, is helping to contribute to our crumbling economy, and I can’t be a prouder poppa. We set off after picking up Mr