Juliet Escoria & Scott McClanahan’s Honeymoon Tour Diary (Part 2)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 9 2014
DENVER TO OMAHA
SONG OF THE DAY: NEIL YOUNG “GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY”
SCOTT: I liked driving through Nebraska because I’m a big Willa Cather fan. This was our loooooong day of driving and we were in the car for 9 hours. I think we both got a small case of what truck drivers and bikers call “monkey butt.” Definition?
Monkey Butt (noun): When the back parts of travelers get permanently red and give off a strange odor that attracts wild animals.
We also almost ran into a tornado during the middle of the day. The storm turned over a couple tractor trailers along the highway and we started getting nervous about tornados and being carried away.
I don’t have anything else to say about Wednesday.
UPDATE: Two hours after emailing Juliet my Wednesday section of the tour diary this happened.
JULIET: Why are you being lazy about the tour diary? This is the second time you’ve done this. I guess you expect me to do all of the work.
ME: I just thought maybe we could organize it slightly different. That’s all. I hate those big block sections of text. They just bore the fuck out of me and I don’t have anything else to say.
JULIET: It’s not my fault you took two hours to write a few hundred words. There’s no reason to be precious about it. It’s a tour diary. Just do it quick.
ME: I’m just bored with the whole thing. Tour diaries are always long as hell and I mean nobody reads these things anyway. Like what’s this whole song of the day shit? And these links in the text. I’ve never clicked on a link in the middle of a text in my whole life.
JULIET (Pauses for a long time and then says completely serious): Why are you being so annoying and shitty about this?
ME (Gets angry and shouts): Annoying and shitty? What? Okay, fuck it. I quit. I’m not doing it anymore. I quit. None of the stuff in the notes is funny anyway.
I finally calmed down and Juliet repeated I should just write about what happened. She told me I should write about our trip to Wal-Mart in Nebraska or my analysis of her humor and how funny she is. For instance, she believes if you repeat a joke enough it will eventually become funny even if it’s not funny (or she’ll remind you of jokes she made days before and laugh at them again). And if that doesn’t work she will increase the volume of the joke or punchline or throw in some silly dancing at the end of the joke and think this will really sell it. And if that doesn’t work she will just throw in a bunch of vulgarity like “shit” and “fucking shit” or “motherfucking shit” and expect you to laugh at it.
One of the things that she does around her friends when she wants to make them laugh is put food in her mouth and then chew it up and then open her mouth and show them the chewed up food like she’s a child. She also does this strange thing where you’ll be having a normal conversation and saying something serious and then after you’ve said it she’ll get completely quiet and then all of a sudden blurt out “my pussy.” I call this the “yo momma” portion of her humor.
But I don’t want to write about her humor or Wednesday or us talking about the Platonic ideal or how Tennessee Williams died choking on a pill bottle or how trucks have safety guards on the back of the trailer because of Jayne Mansfield crashing into the back of one and getting killed or how we called Wednesday the Day of Zen after we called Tuesday the Day of Hate or how we joked about how every gas station we stopped at in Nebraska reminded us of that Tod Browning film Freaks, or how we listened to Neil Young singing a cover of “Girl From the North Country” and how it completely changed the meaning of the song because it was a whole album of cover songs he was singing to his mother. Instead of the line “please see for me that her hair hangs long/it rolls and curls all down her breast”—instead of this line being about the sadness of nostalgic lust— it was now about something else. It was now about his mother. And he was a little boy. He was the little boy Neil Young and he was nursing at his mother’s breast and he was remembering long ago. He was singing for a mother who had died years before but he was still trying to reach her.
And so now I see that this is what I want to write about for Wednesday. FINALLY.
I want to write about the stuff we didn’t put in our travel notes. I want to write about how Juliet cried on our first night in Las Vegas because she was leaving her dog behind but she was also crying because she knew she was going to miss her mother and father and all of her friends. And she knew nothing would be the same as it once was and had been for the past two years after she moved back to San Diego. I want to write about how nothing EVER stays the same. And I want to write about how we saw a double rainbow, but it wasn’t a rainbow of doom. I want to write about how a rainbow is always a covenant.
I want to write about how she looked in the morning with the sun in her face and how she looked in the evening with dusk in her eyes. I want to write about how she laughed and listened to NOW That’s What I Call Music 50 and I want to write about how sometimes I watched her driving and she didn’t see me watching her. I want to write about how I went and found her a Reese’s Cup later that night at the hotel in Omaha and I want to write about holding her hand. I want to write about how I told her everything would be okay in West Virginia and I was going to make her happy. I want to write about how everything changes in this life and it’s the only mercy we have. Changes. I want to write about how I know this fucking portion of the tour diary is too long now, but if I started writing about what I really want to say about her it would take a million years.
JULIET: I LOL’d a bunch when I read the part about what I do to try to be funny, and the end of Scott’s diary made me feel all warm and squishy on the inside, but then I got pretty mad about the whole thing. It seemed too good and like I would have to “top it,” and, I don’t know, I’m not very logical sometimes. Anyway, I was so angry!!!! Felt like what he wrote left me with nothing to write, that if I tried to add my part it would just seem like a pissing contest.
But I will say this, because Scott can’t…
When we stopped at the first gas station in Nebraska, I went inside to use the bathroom and buy Red Bull, and I looked around at the people inside and outside the gas station and thought, “Flannery O’Connor novel.” And at the second gas station, I went inside to use the bathroom and buy Red Bull and I thought, “JT LeRoy novel.” Which is why I feel good about moving to a place like West Virginia in the first place. After growing up in California and going to school in New York, my frame of reference for the rest of the country is movies and books and stereotypes about fat people, which has nothing to do with life or the living.
I never wanted to be like the people I grew up around in my upper middle class “beach community.” I wanted to be different. I wanted to be real. I didn’t know what that meant, really, I just knew that what I felt on the inside was the opposite of what it looked like on the outside. I don’t know if places like Nebraska and West Virginia are any more “real” or “authentic” than New York and California but they’re different than what I know and I want to learn something new. I want to be bigger, softer on the inside, and if that means pain or loneliness or living somewhere “shitty,” then so be it. This is what fate has given me and given my heart. It gave me a man to love and if he is in West Virginia, then that is where I will move my home.
THURSDAY, JULY 10 2014
OMAHA TO IOWA CITY
SONG OF THE DAY: WAYLON JENNINGS “HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN”
JULIET: We stopped taking notes after Wednesday and I have the world’s worst memory but this is what I remember.
We went to breakfast/lunch at a bougie restaurant in Omaha where everything was “rustic” and the drinks were served in mason jars. Scott ordered a meal made almost entirely of vegetables and I was proud of him because I don’t want him to die too young of a heart failure, like his ancestors. We went to Urban Outfitters in the shopping center that Saddle Creek owns and I bought two cute t-shirts because it seemed like something you would wear if you were a stepmother and I want to be a good stepmother, with appropriate clothing.
On the drive to Iowa City, Scott read aloud from Crazy Horse’s Wikipedia page and I thought it was possibly the best life and death story of all time but then he read aloud from Sitting Bull’s and I was no longer so sure about that. I also told him as a joke that he should send an email to Iowa’s MFA program telling them that he will be in town for the night and if they would like the privilege of having him talk to their students, they should PayPal him $500. We thought that was really funny so we sent the email and posted it on Facebook and laughed a whole bunch because we are so sooooo funny.
We got to Iowa City in time for dinner and we went to a bougie restaurant where everything was “rustic” and the drinks were served in mason jars. We went to the bookshop and bought books. I had told Scott previously that Ben Lerner’s poetry was “too smart for me” but I couldn’t remember why, so at the bookshop I flipped through his poetry books and there were at least 2 GRE words on every page, which is what made it too damn smart for me. Before bed I straightened my hair, because the next day was Chicago and we were doing a reading and I wanted to have pretty hair when everyone stared at me as I read.
FRIDAY, JULY 11 2014
IOWA CITY TO CHICAGO
SONG OF THE DAY: THE KILLERS “READ MY MIND”
SCOTT: So now this: Picture a hotel room on Friday morning. It’s a Holiday Inn. We’ve slept in too late because we’re both tired from driving. I only have one bag so it takes me about fifteen minutes to brush my teeth and stuff my dirty clothes in my bookbag.
The night before I bought a Mishima novel and a book of Charles Portis’ journalism and I’ve been reading on Peter Ackroyd’s new re-telling of the Canterbury Tales. So I sit down with my cup of coffee on the bed and I start looking at my books. As soon I sit down I hear Juliet say in a grump ass tone, “Why don’t you help us get ready.”
I shake my head and say in my own grump ass tone, “What?”
Juliet says, “Why don’t you help us get ready since we’re running behind instead of just sitting there doing nothing.”
Doing nothing? What the fuck?
Let me explain. Juliet has four bags that she brings in every night to my one. Her stuff is scattered throughout the room. Also she is the one who sets the alarm each night and she is the one who has hit the snooze at least four times since the alarm first went off this morning.
And now picture this: We’re suddenly in a fight NOW. I say something about her being the one who we’re waiting on and how I’m tired of having to deal with Godzilla every morning. Juliet gets really pissed about the Godzilla reference for some reason which makes her say something. And then I say something and then she says something and then before you know it we’re yelling at one another. And then I’m back sitting on the bed again and then I see Juliet really get mad about something I’ve said (something mean) and then I see something flying through the air. I think “Is that a water bottle coming my way?”
And you know what?
The water bottle is now spinning towards me and then BAM. It hits me soft on the left shoulder. And then this happens. I look up and it’s all in slooooowww motion and the coffee that I was drinking a moment before is now rising up up up into the air and now it’s falling back down down down and I’m thinking, “Hey that coffee should be in my cup. What the hell?” But it’s not in my cup and now it’s falling on me. It lands on my chest. I pretend like it’s burning, but it’s not. I’m just trying to get leverage for the fight. I say, “Oh it burns. It burns.” But it’s pretty obvious I’m faking it. I can’t tell if Juliet can tell I’m faking it. I have the upper hand now.
Finally I go to the door and I slam it behind me but before I do I say something about Juliet finding her own way to Chicago. She laughs and thinks I’m going to take the car. But inside my head I think I’m going to go and hop on a Greyhound. I walk outside and look around, but there aren’t any Greyhounds around. My Greyhound idea of fleeing the argument is completely irrational and so I go back inside the room. I no longer have the upper hand.
A few minutes later we’re on the road and we’re both laughing about it. We chuckle at the funny lines we said and then I give an analysis of Juliet’s fighting behavior. For almost a year now I’ve said this.
- 1. She is a master tactician on the level of a Napoleon.
- 2. She can very easily take something that happens on a macro level and shrink it to the micro level. You may think you’re winning the battle but some small mistake trips you up and before you know it the nature of the battle has changed.
- 3. Like Napoleon she is at her most dangerous in retreat. She is at her most dangerous when you think you have won. You may start the battle on the offense and then end the day watching your own troops in retreat struggling to save their lives.
And now THIS:
- 4. The woman can sure as hell throw a water bottle.
But now we drive and we watch what still looks like the land of Cather disappear behind us. My favorite passage from Cather is when she talks about everything becoming part of the same earth and becoming part of that same quiet. Everything becoming one and rotting together. And then I remember reading to Juliet how Crazy Horse was shot in the jaw by another warrior because Crazy Horse had run off with his wife. Our lives get angry sometimes. AND THEY SHOULD. Crazy Horse would paint himself and ride naked into battle as if he were a ghost.
And then I remember reading about Sitting Bull to Juliet. Crazy Horse was the mystery of the nations, but Sitting Bull was the politician. The chief. There was an element of humor in his life. He was married to a woman named Scarlet Woman and also Seen By Her Nation. These felt like the names of women you’d want to party with. When Sitting Bull’s world disappeared, he turned to show biz and entertained thousands and at the end of his life even adopted Annie Oakley and gave her the name “Lil’ Sure Shot.”
And then I saw Chicago in front of us. I saw that great city rising before us in all that nothingness. And I thought of what name I would give Juliet if I were a chief. I looked at her arms from when she was a teenager and I thought about calling her The One Who Fought to Stay Alive and Did. Or I would give her the name that her mother gave her long ago. I knew I would call her this. I would call her The Little Warrior. But then I saw that this name was wrong too. So I changed it to this. I changed it to My Little Warrior. My Chief.
JULIET: Things I would like to add…
- 1. I brought in four bags each night not because I need that much shit everyday but because my entire life was in that car. The four bags were: 1) My overnight bag, 2) My laptop, 3) Assorted electronics, such as my Kindle and my external hard drive, and, 4) My document case, with my birth certificate, diploma, etc.
- 2. I think it is good to yell sometimes and I think it is good to throw things sometimes. It is even OK to break things sometimes. It is not good to throw things at the person you are angry with, though. From here on I solemnly swear to not throw any keys, water bottles, etc. in Scott’s direction.
- 3. I have had this picture in my mind of Scott and I driving in a car, going somewhere far away while listening to the Killers, for a long while. I think I’ve had this image in my mind since before I even knew that I liked Scott as anything more than a friend. We got to do this that Thursday. It wasn’t like I imagined it, though. In my imagination, it was sunny and the windows were down and we were going fast. In real life, it was cloudy and the windows were up because even though it was cloudy, it was hot and muggy out and July and Chicago, and we weren’t going fast because we were sitting in Friday traffic. Even though it wasn’t exactly like I’d imagined, it was still beautiful and magical. We were sitting in traffic, but we were also floating.
THE REST OF THE WEEKEND WILL BE COVERED IN THE NEXT AND FINAL INSTALLMENT OF OUR HONEYMOON TOUR DIARY.