Monday, August 25, 2008

tour... flying east is flying west...

We'd somehow managed to drive 3,000 miles on our rental car, 2,900 more than we were allowed. So we felt perhaps things were turning in our favor. We cooked a large breakfast the following morning at the home belonging to the band Blanket. Sort of a fantasy L.A. bachelor pad... every room in the house had a deck overlooking a gorgeous swimming pool. So we swam and frolicked, sure of our good fortune from here on out.

Before leaving town, we met up with Jon, who works at Aperture Music. Earlier this year, they'd signed {{{ SUNSET }}} to a music placement deal. Essentially, they place independent music in big-budget films and split the money with the artist. I'm not sure what I was expecting when we headed down to Culver City. I suppose my visits to the Capitol building had created a strange lens through which I view the music business, especially out in L.A.

Culver City wasn't all that impressive, though. Very bland suburbia with highly trafficked streets and people looking bored siting in their cars at stop lights. Willis, Will and Jon ate at In N' Out Burger and I watched. Then we swam at Venice Beach and it smelled kind of funny. My mind wandered to lunch, when Jon said swimming in Venice Beach was like "swimming in your own urine." We didn't stay in the water long.

From Venice, we headed just a little North to Santa Monica and hopped on I-10. The road home!

Things went fairly smooth for a few hours. Out east of Indio, the trouble started. Uncle Buck started sputtering, the engine shaking and convulsing in fits and spasms, and I watched with great alarm as our speed dropped and kept dropping, eventually topping out at around 20 mph.

Now, keep in mind we're on I-10, with trucks whizzing by at about 90 mph, hours from anywhere, the middle of the desert, the middle of nowhere. I pulled onto the shoulder to let the trucks fly by, and fly by they did. If I'd put my arm out my window, it would've been knocked clean off. So we drove down the highway in what I would without a doubt call the most intense driving experience of my life.

The highway's shoulder was littered with remnants from 18wheeler blowouts, tire treads shredded and spread across the whole shoulder; we had no choice but to drive over these pieces. They shook the car and Will was shuddering in the backseat every time we ran over a shredded tire, car bumper or other pile of debris. The car chugged along in this way for around 3 hours; I started laughing every now and then at the incredible absurdity of our situation; Willis and Will looked at me like I had completely lost it. Maybe I had?

A cop pulled us over about 7 miles outside of Blythe.

"What the heck is going on here guys?" The police officer was laughing at us. Seriously.

"Well, we can't get above 20 miles an hour."

"Well, uh, guys, I pity you." He laughed. "You know, there's a motel about 7 miles up called the monarch or the butterfly or something. It costs 30 bucks." He stepped away. "Stay safe, and stay away from the trucks."

A big-rig whizzed by, right on cue. We all shuddered. I started the wagon back up and we limped further up the road. That evening, we stopped at a California fast-food chain called "Del Taco." On the menu, I noticed a curious item called "Bean and Cheese Cup."

"What is the bean and cheese cup?" I asked into speaker.

"It's, like, a cup of beans and cheese."

My drive-thru "waitress" didn't mention the congealed red gelatinous goo on top, nor the bit of styrofoam that seemed to have melted into the beans. Oh well. I ate around it. My bean burrito came with the green sauce, which looked alarmingly like the ectoplasmic slime in "Ghostbusters." I ate it anyway.

At the motel, the front-desk lady chastised us for squeezing extra people into the room.

Without provocation, she yelled, "You're cheaters! That's what you are!"

She was old and fat and angry for no good reason.

"Is this how you do things in Texas? This is California!"

Despite all her bluster, she charged us the normal rate and we proceeded to the room, where we watched infomercials, drank a 12 pack of Milwaukee's Best, then bit our nails through that gripping thriller, "Basic Instinct." I'm kidding, of course. What a bad movie. I guess Sharon Stone is pretty, o.k., but is there anybody who doesn't immediately know she's the killer? Of course she is! The only real suspenseful part of that movie is wondering how long before she and Michael Douglas hit the sack again.

We all drifted off while two info-salespeople hawked a "revolution in lawn care."

I woke the next morning wondering what the hell I could do. I called rental car agencies in town, but nobody would do a one-way trip to Austin. U-Haul would do it, but it would cost $1300. So I drove our ailing Uncle Buck into downtown Blythe and stopped at a small repair shop called "EZ Lube." The extremely energetic owner shook my hand and smiled and admired my vehicle, shooting off praise in a thick Italian accent.

"Beautiful vehicle! What a beauty! But she a-drive-a-slow." He kissed the hood and rubbed it and told me he'd change the fuel filters and that would solve my problems, and it did. The man was an Italian prince in mechanic's clothing and true champ and his name was actually Luigi.

So we pulled out of Blythe early that morning and flew through Phoenix, flew through New Mexico, and pulled into El Paso just as we ran out of waste veggie oil (the stuff we'd picked up in New Mexico on our drive out). So we agreed to find some WVO (waste veggie oil) somewhere in El Paso, but first we stopped at Taco Cabana and had our fill of decent quality fast-food Mexican. Queso, beans, rice, and more until my stomach felt full and happy.

Then we set off, searching grease traps behind restaurants all all the I-10 frontage road. We would pull up to a restaurant and find its dumpster area. Some places collected their grease, some didn't. Most of the places I saw had metal 55-gallon barrels whose tops had been removed and, by the looks of it, somebody else had recently drained all their oil. Some other oil stalker had hit up the area already. At the bottoms of the barrels was a thick, white congealed clump of grease. We ventured off the highway a bit and, score! Behind the Panda Inn Chinese restaurant, we found 10 gallons of used soybean oil.

Searching further, I stepped in numerous sticky piles of disgusting goop that had spilled from various grease traps. My shoelaces are still greasy and I have to wash my hands when I tie my shoes. That stuff really does not come off.

Another grease trap I looked into behind "SUPER CHINESE BUFFET" appeared to be filled with blood. I started dry-heaving and spit up a few chunks. That was the worst smell, like if a megaton bomb filled with dog shit had been allowed to "age" for a year before exploding inside of a meat rendering plant. Then the whole place caught on fire and the ashes were put into an enchilada.... it smelled kind of like that.

We kept driving and stopped for the night at Balmoreah State Park once again. Slept under the stars, then woke early the next morning, filtered the previous evening's oil, pumped it into the car, then hopped back into Balmoreah's cool blue waters.

We drove further, stopping for a breakfast in Fort Stockton that probably took a week off of my life... the greasiest beans ever, of all time, ever. I think the restaurant was called "Bueno Suerte" (good luck in Spanish).

We were now driving full speed, running on the previous evening's veggie oil, and feeling quite proud of ourselves. At some point, diesel vapors had invaded the car. I pulled over and Uncle Buck appeared to be bursting diesel fuel from about five different places. Will again mentioned death, and how he wasn't ready to die. Well, I wasn't either. I changed the inline filter, which looked contaminated and like it wasn't really doing its job. I then took off for a test drive, leaving Willis and Will at the gas station. If the vehicle was gonna explode, I figured I could take the heat.

But it didn't explode. So I picked up Will and Willis and we sped the brutal last hours into Austin, five hours more of Uncle Buck... no a/c, diesel fumes, thoughts of death. All in a day's work.

We arrive back home and, well, what can I say? I'm ready to go again.

In the end, the tour went through several names.... from "Fry into the Sun" to "Deep-Fry into the Sun" to "Will Billis and Will" to, ultimately, the most apt name, "Struck Down by the Gods Tour." Struck down, but not out. Look out America! We'll be back.

1 comment:

nhennies said...

Fuck yeah. The dream will never die!!!