It was 1990 and I had just returned home to Maryland after a year of pretending it was the 1960’s. After my high school graduation, 2 friends and I decided to spend the year trudging around the United States braless in Birkenstocks. We attended Rainbow Gatherings and followed the Grateful Dead back and forth across the country six times. I believed in long armpit hair, patchouli, LSD…and miracles.
I was 19 years old and had been accepted to The Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida. No, it was not a fucking clown school and I have never heard that one before. If I had ever excelled at anything, it was art, and after a year of living in a VW bus, bathing in rivers with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, and eating out of dumpsters, it was fair to say that I was pretty stoked about college.
My hometown boyfriend Paul and I had been dating since my senior year of high school; he was 6 years older than I and did not have a job or house that tied him to Maryland. That is unless you consider wearing a shirt with an embroidered logo that reads “Cover The Earth!” stacking pallets of paint in the Sherwin Williams warehouse a career. And that is unless you consider a home to be living in a 2 bedroom apartment with a male roommate and his cat “Spooky,” and Spooky’s litter of kittens, and a large electrical spool for a coffee table and a 6 foot wide banner across the wall that read “Taste A Pasta Masterpiece” as a decorative touch. So after careful examination of our current circumstances, we decided to move down to Florida together. He would find a job while I went to school.
Our plan was in place, we had a house rented and waiting for us, and it was time for the move. My father owned a refrigerated trucking business, so he had given us a truck to use. The plan was, pack the truck, and Paul and I would drive down in my VW GTI while his stepfather, also named Paul, followed us in the truck. Once we arrived in Florida and settled in, Paul The Stepfather would drive the truck back home to Maryland. Solid plan, right?
And so we begin…
We had our refrigerated truck jam-packed with all of our belongings. What a hodge-podge of shit that was. Any furniture that we actually owned was made of either wicker or PVC pipe. It was essentially a flea market on wheels. We all hit the road at 4am, Paul and I in the car, and Paul The Stepfather in the truck.
It is imperative to keep in mind that this was before the luxury of cell phones and navigation systems and GPS. It is also imperative to keep in mind that I was a total stoner. It is also imperative to keep in mind that Paul cannot make a decision without a solid 20 minutes of agonizing self-doubt.
We all set out southbound on I-95 into the bizarre and deserted darkness somewhere between night and morning where you feel like you are an actual character in “The Stand.” It was about 430 miles to South of the Border, so we figured 8 hours would give us plenty of time to meet there for lunch.
The last 100 miles of our drive to South of the Border were spent in juvenile hysterics over all of the “Pedro Says” signs that are strategically placed every 5 miles. Each new ridiculous sign led to another 5 minutes and 5 miles of I-can’t-catch-my-breath-because-that-is-so-fucking-funny-laughter. We made up our own sign names, such as, “Pedro says Go Fuck Yourself!” or “Pedro Says Our Marketing Sucks!” Did I forget to mention that we were stoned?
We had lost sight of Paul The Stepfather in the truck way back, so we figured he would be another hour or so because we didn’t know which was slower, the truck or Paul The Stepfather. We filled up with gas and followed Pedro’s signs to an incredibly cheesy restaurant. Laughing loudly, eating free bottomless tortilla chips, drinking margaritas and annoying the shit out of our waitress. She was probably all like, “86 those douche bag campers at table 12.”
It had now been 8 1/2 hours and no sign of Paul The Stepfather. Jesus, what the fuck was taking him so long? We gave him another 1/2 hour then decided to call Paul’s Mom to see if she had heard from him. As luck would have it, she had! The truck had broken down in Dunn NC, approximately 80 miles back. Hooray!
We climbed back into the car and backtracked an hour or so to Dunn. We met with Paul The Stepfather at the local shit hole truck stop/motel where he had managed to make it before the truck had basically decided to explode. What a fucking nightmare. We found a local repair place that worked on that kind of truck, and after inspection and a few phone calls, it was determined that it would be at least 3 days before they could get the part needed to fix it.
We all tried to settle the stress level by having a few beers and dinner at said motel truck stop shit hole restaurant while we decided upon a new course of action. After a good game of back and forth, finally, we had it all worked out. We would all feel much better after a good nights sleep, at motel shit hole.
The next morning we awoke and went to meet Paul The Stepfather in the adjoining extra brown restaurant for some extra brown breakfast. Paul The Stepfather stood about 5’8. He was roughly 300 pounds and looked like his normal unhappy self. He wore a yellowed button down shirt, brown polyester pants, and had very nicely combed his 3 strands of hair over to the side. We slid into the brown vinyl booth and the brown polyester uniformed waitress took our orders as she poured dirty looking brown water into our transparent brown bumpy plastic cups. Ahhh, with a big stretch I gazed past the brown wood paneling through the window that was framed by thick brown curtains. Thank god I had taken a few hits from my brown bowl of my brown weed.
We finished our breakfast, paid the check, and gave Paul The Stepfather a big hug, thanked him and said we would talk to him in a few days once the truck was fixed. We apologized for the huge inconvenience and told him to have a safe trip back.
He looked at us like we had just escaped from the local sanitarium.
“What the hell are you talking about?” He said.
Paul and I looked at each other in utter and complete confusion.
“We are all riding back to Maryland in the car!” Paul The Stepfather barked.
Holy shit, what the fuck was happening here? It was if Paul The Stepfather was abducted last night and a strange clone with a different agenda had appeared.
“What? No, Tracy and I are going to fill the car with the necessities and drive down to Florida because she has registration that she can’t miss, and you were going to take a bus back.” Paul said.
But Paul The Stepfather had heard something entirely different apparently. And Paul The Stepfather was pissed. I opted out of this debate and began filling my little GTI with “the necessities.” Necessities, loosely translated meant completely random shit. There were a few boxes of plates or something, a suitcase or two, a cooler and two ridiculously ugly pale blue lamps protruding out of the sunroof.
I never spoke to Paul The Stepfather again, but I did watch him storm off. It was a dreary afternoon in Dunn North Carolina, and I sat looking back out of my rear view mirror as Paul walked back towards me. He was looking down, shaking his head, as if trying to make 2+2 equal 5, over and over and over.
Well that ended well, I thought to myself. I was so Dunn with this.