Thoughts from the ammo line

On the road, Ammo Grrrll has traveled SOUTH AND EAST. She writes from the road:

The reasons for this journey are many and varied. Perhaps the very first is this: PRISON BREAK! After 15 months of lock-up, lockdown, mandatory masks, take-out food and ABSOLUTELY NO HUGGING, NO GATHERING (except to burn and loot), it feels great to be on the road again. Let me amend that just a bit: it feels AMERICAN to be free to travel.

The EMICs (Elite Morons In Charge) cannot bear to let loose of us. “Maybe masks will have to be worn forever. No wait, DOUBLE MASKS.” “Can we possibly enforce some kind of Internal Passports for Vaccination?” “Enjoy that festive gathering of three family members on the 4th of July. Maybe. If we let you. Sparklers only.” “Oh my God, the VARIANTS are coming! The VARIANTS are coming!” And so on and so forth. So this wild ‘n crazy trip is about being a free American citizen, not that being an actual citizen counts for spit any more.

Secondly, it is about “doin’ it while you can.” The years roll by. We all plan to be youthful and vigorous forever. Especially the Baby Boomers. Why, we will live in jeans and t-shirts with funny sayings and defy authority and even gravity. Hey, 75 is the new 45. (Right – as some clever wag said, “and 9:00 p.m. is the new midnight.”)

Not so fast, Boomer. First, you have some sort of “procedure,” nothing to worry about. Then you have a stupid fall and tear a rotator cuff. We won’t even mention the truly serious stuff that people deal with every day. Then someone you know your own age is diagnosed with macular degeneration. Two of my very best long-term friends have passed away in the last three years and literally dozens of classmates are gone. One of our classmates has taken on the role of Class Historian and I now tense up every time I see his name in my email In-Box. We lost three people in one week recently.

Right now, the famous novelist Max Cossack and your columnist are both in REASONABLE enough health and fitness to travel for many hours a day, to see to drive, to read a map (Max only), to program in GPS (Max only), and to get in and out of cars, though perhaps somewhat less rapidly and gracefully than years past. It’s more like a PROCESS now…

Oh, we each have small deficiencies that make us less than perfect travel companions. For example, I tend to be just a teeny tiny bit irritable – you could hardly even notice, really – when things don’t go exactly according to My Grand Plan. And Joe Walsh (a mad rock guitarist who routinely destroyed hotel rooms) would never share a hotel room with Max because he would find Max too messy. So I don’t know how many of these great adventures we have left in us. But I know we can do it right now. And if not now, when?

Third, the last big swooping trip the year before COVID went West and North. It included Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and North Dakota. We saw spectacular sights and met fabulous people. The scenery definitely played an important role as well.

On this trip, the scenery is still awesome – you can’t go five miles in America without some kind of beautiful vista – but the main purpose is people-driven. After enjoying PL’s unique commenters and readers for more than seven years, and with the great time meeting several last trip, we have deliberately set out to connect with even more commenters in person.

Or as our son put it: “Let me be clear. You and Dad are driving 6,000 miles around the country, seeing Grandpa and then visiting STRANGERS that you met on the INTERNET?”

“Uh, yes. But they aren’t strangers. I hear from them every week.”

“You have no idea who they really are. TonyP could be some 14 year old kid living in his mom’s basement. You guys are getting close to the age when I should just take your keys.”

Ah, children. Ann Landers once did a survey in her column and was shocked to discover that, when her readers were asked to weigh in on whether or not in retrospect they would have had children, 75 percent said NO. I would not have been one of the nay-sayers. Motherhood has been the greatest blessing of my life. But, to my shock, it seems that I raised something of a smart aleck. How did THAT happen?

As of last writing, we have traveled from Minnesota through Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. I had really only flown to CITIES in those places, to perform when I was a standup. The reality on the ground is very different. We both fell in love with rural Missouri, through the Ozarks, and rural Mississippi. Places that the EMICs make fun of. I could live in either place in a heartbeat. Flags flying from every farmhouse, with Trump signage on barns, cars, on fences and banners. Strangers greet you in gas station stops, black people wish you a blessed day. It almost made me cry.

In Missouri, on three separate occasions when I had not moved into the proper lane early enough, I had to signal and hope someone would let me over, and sure enough, the driver behind me just let me in. In California, random passersby will rent a car to prevent you from merging. (Of course, in Minnesota, when someone lets you in, you must give the little Thank You Wave.) If YOU let someone in, and don’t get the little wave, it is very disappointing.

We were traveling from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on a Sunday and I predicted (accurately) that there would be very little traffic because everybody would be at church. I guess Obama was actually right about something: these Red State people DO cling to God and guns. Churches definitely outnumber gun stores, but not by much.

So far, we have connected with 7 sets of beautiful Power Line People. I have promised anonymity, of course. I would never divulge any information about them…without vast quantities of either chocolate or money. All have been even nicer, smarter, funnier and more fascinating than my highest expectations. This trip will surely be a highlight of my life. We were just given a walking tour of the Bear Bryant Museum and the Bama campus. I thought Northwestern University was lovely in 1964 when I fell off the turnip truck to begin Freshman* year; but, the Bama campus is the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. I would say “Roll Tide,” but by now am in Gator country and don’t wish to lose our free housing.

*Freshman is a hideous triggery word containing within it the toxic word “man.” I cancel myself. When I was a Freshman, I was so unwoke it never once occurred to me that didn’t include me! How many opportunities were lost to be perpetually offended and enraged? Instead, I loved college, life – and men! Pathetic.