By Tom H. Brooks 3
RETURN TO THE GOLDEN WEST………………….THE CROSS-COUNTRY JOURNEY BY CAR 2007……………………..……..
I feel sorry for those people who have all
the juice of life squeezed out of them
like yesterday`s bitter oranges…
Despite my feelings of NYC nostalgia, something tells me that LA will surprise me
in a whole new way when I get back. I WILL definitely miss NY, though.
I made my last visit to the LES, Mechanic`s Alley, CHUMBO, Chinatown, Inoteca, etc….
It is our last day in NYC, our last day in Staten Island. Chiharu and I are hanging out together in
our cozy little, roach-infested apartment. It has been a great year of domestic bliss (for the most part, anyway…).
The winds of change are blowing us west again as we follow the setting sun across the vast landscape of
America. Despite the fact that we spent most of this morning and early afternoon stuck in gridlock traffic
on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) in our rented, silver Ford Explorer, I am already missing NY. Oh well,
you just can`t be everywhere at once.
Yesterday, as I was sitting in the sun in our garden, a mockingbird flew down and dropped a small tree branch
from above RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Of course, I took this as a sign and I kept it. (I have it to this day.)
New York City; I will carry a piece of it with me always…
Monday 5/7/07 After midnight (12:34am)
My last rooftop blessing and final goodbye. A blood-orange of a moon rising, as always, over Brooklyn and the
Verrazano Narrows Bridge is glowing bright in the night. Goodbye Staten Island, goodbye New York City…
5/7/07 ON THE ROAD AGAIN (apologies to Willie Nelson…)
(This is a condensed version of an epic journey because I was too busy taking pictures and having fun to write anything too detailed….
Oh yeah…..and DRIVING!! I even thought to dictate place names and notes to Chiharu for some of the trip so her writing is in my book at times…)
Left NY at 4am, the car is PACKED FULL to overflowing. We have more stuff than I thought. I think, perhaps, most of it is
little Chiharu`s clothes. I have my books and guitar. My clothes I could fit in one bag. Who cares? WE`RE OFF!!!!!!!!!!
Passed through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. We`ve been in 6 states already today
as I write this. Exit 291 in Virginia is a town called Tom`s Brook ; no kidding…..
Night one, Econo Lodge with jacuzzi; Salem, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia. El Rodeo Mexican food across the
“Gas, grass, or ass: nobody rides for free”
Route 666, Virginia; Hogback Road
Sweetwater, Tennessee; Hiwassee River Valley
The Lost Sea: America`s largest underground lake; we took a boat ride deeper into the darkness of the cave. There were blind
fish in the water and at times you could find old Civil War graffiti carved into the rock around the lake…
Route 68 through Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee….beautiful. We really like Tennessee…
Night two, Lake Ocoee Inn off Route 64: we were right on the water. Gorgeous and a bargain at only $40.00!
I`m in the bathroom in the morning, sitting on the shitter, when I hear the vicious buzzing of a GIANT angry hornet,
INSIDE the room. Chiharu is allergic, so better me than her. I finished my business rapidly and managed to kill it.
It was a battle, but it had to be done; him or us…
The third day we leave Tennessee via Chattanooga. Then I had Georgia on my mind for a spell and then stars
fell on Alabama. We stopped for lunch in Collinsville, Alabama at a local joint called Smokin` Joe`s. Talk about
rednecks! Everyone was nice though. It`s my birthday so Chiharu treats me right. She usually does.
5/9 4:32pm…..out of Alabama and into Jasper County, Mississippi. I am 38 years old now. Chiharu sang to me.
I will always remember how cute she is singing the Happy Birthday song……. “Mississippi: It`s like coming home”
on a sign as you enter….
Gulfport and Long Beach, Mississippi–beautiful and empty. There is still destruction everywhere from Hurricane Katrina;
boarded up buildings, uprooted trees, abandoned hotels. We`re feeding friendly seagulls that hover and eat right from your hand…
Applebee`s birthday dinner; there is no gourmet food in Gulfport, you know; they DO have delicious steak, though…
Night three, Days Inn in Gulfport, Mississippi…
Thursday, May 10th; went to the ocean one more time before we go inland again and then on to New Orleans…
Shrimp Po` Boy at Felix`s on Iberville…..yessuh!!
White blues man on Rue Royale in New Orleans; he`s sitting on a stool next to his motorcycle playing guitar next to a sign
that says Stoker Homeboy…
New Orleans t-shirt; “FEMA EVACUATION PLAN;
RUN MOTHERFUCKER RUN”
Stayed only a few hours in New Orleans this time; decided to move onward further into Louisiana…
Night four, Best Western in Gonzales, Louisiana in Ascension Parish. It was next to a lake with cows and horses and was
really quite beautiful. I didn`t really drive that much today. We just kind of took it easy and drove a couple hundred miles.
Chiharu and I went swimming in the hotel pool a little before sunset and had a great time, in general…(Park Place Bar…..CLASSIC!!)
What`s the hurry? No hurry, none at all…
* * *
Blood orange of a moon over Brooklyn
rising dark and majestic in the night
black lakes rippling in the moonlight
dark trees on empty shores
Warm Gulf breeze
blowing through her hair
the soft love in her eyes
reflecting a setting sun
blue shadows through
and a surreal purple sea
Old Man River, the Mississippi,
a city draped in Spanish Moss
and a soundtrack of jazz and blues
The indigo Louisiana night
the bayou and the silence
and the song of the insects
The silence of the heart
in a world of madness
towards the glow of a fiery
orange setting sun
through deserts and mountains
vast and flat horizons
to an endless ocean
called the Pacific
to an edge city called Los Angeles,
So long since I`ve seen her
goodbye to the east
and back to the sprawling
neon supernova of the
City the angels forgot….
* * *
…From Gonzales, Louisiana through Houston, Texas and San Antonio. Had dinner at
Joe`s Crab Shack in San Antone…
Night 5, stopped in Boerne, Texas at still another Best Western Hotel. Drove like 520 miles today…
beautiful fire-red sunset and an enormous fat man on the sofa in the lobby who says, “Welcome to the
fine town of Boerne, Texas…”
A billboard outside Fort Stockton, Texas says,
“WE NEED TO TALK–
…From Boerne, Texas to Deming, New Mexico, the l o n g e s t stretch of the entire journey, over
600 miles in one day…
Night 6, stopped at Holiday Inn in Deming, New Mexico; a real nice little town and I put on a fireworks show
in the desert for Chiharu and myself….
New Mexico; “Land of Enchantment”……..indeed……
“Lazy Lizard Lounge”, the Holiday Inn hotel bar;
Me “How ya doin` tonight?”
White hair bearded guy “One step at a time. Usually it`s one step forward and two steps back.” (this guy
turned out to be an old biker from Mississippi named Madison Beale, quite a character after some conversation and drinks…)
Early morning in the emptiness of Deming, New Mexico; the bright white sunlight, the silence, the song
of the magpies fills the air; mist from the sprinklers watering the green grass of the courtyard and the majestic
brown and purple desert mountains rising all around us in the distance…..beautiful……
Lovely Chiharu and I on the road; I WISH THIS TRIP COULD GO ON FOREVER…
Shakespeare Ghost Town in Lordsburg, New Mexico
* * *
HUGE blue dome of sky
vastness of the desert
Impossible to capture
with mere photos…
* * *
Bowie, Arizona; A shopping cart guy AND a bike on the freeway…
Texas Canyon, Arizona; Crazy rock formations…
Huge accident outside Tuscon; helicopter evacuation….
It is amazing to watch the landscape change as we drive 3500 miles across this vast country of America;
it changes from cities to the rust belt of forgotten industry to the high mountains of Appalachia. Then, as
you go south, the land turns even greener and swampier with more rivers and lakes and finally, after one
crosses the Mississippi, you hit the Great Plains and the land turns browner and flatter until you come
to the vast deserts of the southwest and at last, California, the Golden Coast and the deep blue Pacific….
Night 7, Gila Bend, Arizona at a uniquely CLASSIC hotel; The Best Western Space Age Lodge; you have to see
it to believe it. It was built in 1964 and we stayed in room 135. Swimming pool and all; it is hot as hell….NOWHERE IS A PLACE.
The Gila Bend night; a million galaxies of stars sprinkled across the endless night sky, and a warm desert wind.
The freight trains pass by, sounding their horns, mournful in the darkness. The vast space all around makes one
feel so insignificant. I saw like 4 shooting stars in one night out here….
Day and Night 8, still at Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend, AZ. I just can`t seem to force myself to drive or leave today. We
decide to linger one more night. The beautiful emptiness of the desert sunsets has hypnotized and captivated me…
Swimming, beer-drinking, reading by the pool and, in general, the art of leisure at its finest…
The pool is surrounded by palm trees with the strange magpie birds chattering in the trees with their unique songs and chortling……
“NETO`S BAR PASSTIME” closed because they`re doing some construction inside, but they let us in anyway and
we joined them for a few beers and had a great conversation: Wally, the proprietor; his son, Nathan; Adolf and Ozzy, all top-shelf CHARACTERS…
Advice-type quote from Adolf (married for 29 years) “Always remember her the way you see her now…”
I always love the way Chiharu calls Mountain Dew …..”Mountain Juice”…
10:32am on 5/15/07
The prodigal son returns home to California after almost 4 years; too long as a stranger in a strange land…through Yuma, Arizona and into Imperial Valley, CA…..I`M HOME…
ALWAYS RUSHING HEADLONG TOWARDS
SOME UNKNOWN FATE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Salton Sea; towns like Brawley, Westmoreland, and Calipatria…(In the future, check out Slab City…)
Next stop, Jacumba, CA
No herb; 80 cigarettes across America….DISGUSTING….I gotta get some marijuana….
San Diego, long time no see…….TACO SURF heaven!!!!!!!!!
“I`m more interested in perverts than saints.”
“It hurts to set you free, but you`ll never follow me.”
5/18/07 Friday Morning
Our trip has finally come to an end. I seriously never wanted it to end. It has been SO FUN on the road with Chiharu, ultimate freedom, indeed….
Now, the sadness I feel with her departure for Japan, AGAIN…well, there are just no words to describe it. She WILL be back and we will be together
again soon, but in the meantime, the sorrow in my heart is quite overwhelming. Damn this fucking MS!! I drop her at the airport, dump the rental
car at Budget, and skateboard to the beach to watch the sunset, alone and sad, yet happy to be back in CA. I can`t wait to see her again. I watch
the United Airlines planes take off at Dockweiler Beach (12:55pm) and I know that one of them is hers. I love you, Chiharu baby….as you fly towards the setting sun….
She makes me a better man…
“Sunrise….sunrise; it`s like morning in your eyes…..”
I have seen that when you look closely, there is both pain and beauty all around us everyday, and often enough, the two are intertwined
together like clouds mingling in an endless azure sky…
A seagull, the sun breaking through the fog, the rolling sands, her eyes hovering on the edge of my vision, the ocean, a sailboat, the pier, a lifeguard stand, the
swirling misty-blue sky, an airplane…..the juxtaposition of everything in a single moment….
When I`m alone, I talk to myself; you wouldn`t believe the things I say out here…..
With the dry, dirty palms and the brownish-green sea grass blowing in the wind, this lonely spot in Playa del Rey at 2pm reminds me of countless places across
America, mostly on the Gulf Coast. But not really….my memories are just running wild. This place is unique unto itself….
I guess I should get going home; for a good while, HOME was on the road with Chiharu….
3700 miles I drove across America via my random zig-zagging patterns. Now I am skateboarding from LAX to Hollywood (12 miles, more or less?)
3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica; It is good to see the Hare Krishnas again….
Los Angeles; it really is good to be back; I just happen to like the allure of the open road; following those dotted yellow lines into distant blue horizons….
YUCCA ESTATES….same old crappy neighborhood, same old rundown building, same CLASSIC CAST OF CHARACTERS (with a few new additions, of course…)
It`s like going back in time to be here again……
No “coastal layer” …….in Downtown Los Angeles, there`s always sunshine……
El Chubasco on East Sunset by Downtown…..
“REALITY IS ONLY AN ILLUSION THAT OCCURS
DUE TO A LACK OF ALCOHOL….”
“THE MONEY AND THE TIGHT PUSSY CAME TOO LATE.”
King Eddy Saloon at 5th St. and Los Angeles St. There is a stark naked black woman across the street being talked to by an LA motorcycle cop…..
oh yeah, welcome home, Tom!!!
The Circus never left town……
There is nothing funnier than seeing Gandalf standing on Hollywood Blvd. outside the Chinese Theatre only 10 feet away from Tony Montana and a
skinny guy in a piss-stained Spiderman suit….
Goddamn!! I kind of forgot what a police state LA can be….!
ESTADO DE POLICIA!!!
My New York sunglasses fell into the LA river and I just laughed and laughed….
This gray, miserable day sucks. This gloomy day makes me madder than all the mad people in the world….
“IT HURTS TO LAUGH”
Ever since you left, my dear, I sleep on a couch cushion in an empty room….
Nice guys finish last….
“I feel sorry for people that don`t drink. They wake up and feel the same ALL DAY.”
Frank Sinatra (Chairman of the Board)
“We drank 9 beers each. I`m just mad that I`m not drunk enough.”
“40 is the new 30 and I`m feeling cheeky…”
“It`s pretty cheeky isn`t it?”
“You can`t be a hoodlum anymore.”
“To old people complaining….oh, THANKS A LOT! Now I KNOW I got a lot to look forward too….”
David W. Polston
YOU CAN`T GO BACK
YES, YOU CAN (but things are never quite the same…)
Even though I want to have a home, I always want to be on the road…
I`ll never entirely stop being a hoodlum….just a little tune-up to my methods, that`s all….
Dave and I were skateboarding at the beach. I fell. 10 minutes later, he fell. THEN we got a ticket in
Santa Monica for jaywalking (skateboarding across the street…). It was a tall, good-looking,
tan, CA motorcycle cop with perfect white teeth and a smug, self-satisfied demeanor. I told
him that I just rode ride into the street and Dave just followed so it was my fault. He said, “Alright,
I like honesty, so I`ll just write YOU the ticket.” I said fine. I just didn`t want him to find any herb
or anything on us, because as usual, we were up to no good……
“I don`t want the long version, just the Reader`s Digest version…”
a Santa Monica Cop
Pretending I care is the worst part…
I WANT TO HELP MAKE
THE WEAPON THAT KILLS ME…
For some reason, LA makes me feel like a scumbag again….
YOU ALWAYS FIND THE BEST STUFF WHEN YOU GET OFF THE MAIN ROAD…
The power of words has a strong hold upon me
and there`s nothing I can or would do about it…
“but you are too emotional–
the way to whip life
is to quietly
frame the agony,
and put it to sleep
in the abstract…”
like the seedless bleeding
of failing moonlight…”
Blake St. John
“A Kind of Lecture on a Dull Day When There Isn`t Even a Fly to Kill
don`t kid yourself
something kills them all–
finally it becomes a matter of
dying of one thing or
cancer, a new car, sex,
warm art, poetry, ballet
dancing, a hardware store,
smoking grass, peeking out
of windows or
wiping the ass with
cheap toilet paper…
when Christ began
he had the cross in mind
if I came down off this one
it would only be to find a
meanwhile, sitting with
a drink in hand,
I know, of course,
what it`s all about;
come to the point
dismiss it, forget it;
hand to mouth
I kid myself a little…”
I`ve sat there before a
blank piece of paper,
like a universe
with nothing in it,
trying to force
but nothing happens;
It doesn`t work that way.
at the unlikeliest of
a cockroach crawls
across cracked walls
shines through dirty palms
a bottle breaks
the words flow
like a silver river
misty blue mountains….