Trackday Diaries: Highway Star, Nashville My Love, You Choose My Adventure.

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Note: This is a not-quite-sequel to a pair of previous stories, Carless in Nashville and Talisman, and fried chicken, at the crossroads. And since this ain’t a Harry Potter book, I don’t have 300 pages to recap what’s already happened, dig? — JB

The TTAC Southern Tour was in full effect, so I booked a flight to Nashville for the purpose of meeting up with Bertel, Ed, and Steve Lang. Flying there was dirt cheap — $106 round trip — so instead of packing a guitar I packed Vodka McBigbra along. Just to make things interesting, I asked her friend Drama McHourglass to meet us, and the TTAC crew, for dinner.

It seemed like a simple, reasonable idea. How was I to know that, once again, I’d be waking up in another girl’s bed?

Let me tell you something about Nashville. More specifically, let me tell you something about BNA, which is the airport code for Nashville. For no reason I can understand, renting a car there is insanely expensive. The fee chart went something like this:

  • Aveo or similar — $107/day
  • Cruze or similar — $109/day
  • Malibu or similar — $113/day
  • Grand Marquis — $117/day

And guess what? All but one of the rental companies were sold out at those rates when we arrived. Luckily, I’d booked weeks previously. As I drove the Aveo out of the terminal, I realized… oh, come on. Obviously we took the GrandMarq. This one was one of the leather-bound and alloy-wheeled “Ultimate Edition” run-out cars. St. Thomas built its last Marquis in January and dedicated its final eight months of operation to building Town Cars and Crown Vics. This black-on-grey example was already at the 26,600-mile mark. While it’s not reasonable to expect a Viper to last twenty-six K, for a Panther that’s just warm-up mileage, even when it’s dished out at the hands of uncaring renters.

Vodka’s calls to Drama went unanswered as we rolled down Interstate 65, but that surprised neither of us, really; she’s not so hot with the phone-answering and text-returning. We arrived at Drama’s rented ranch home off the freeway easement to find total chaos. The upstairs was teeming with children, roommates and at least one temporary renter. In the unfinished walk-out basement which served as Drama’s personal lodging, animal corral, and impromptu hair salon, no fewer than seven cats, five of which were kittens small enough to fit into the palm of my hand, were milling in aimless yet energetic fashion. As Drama shrugged her lithe yet curvy body into a simple flannel dress, she explained,

“I’m so sorry… one of the kittens fell in a vent… burned, maybe singed you would say… the fire department was here… I need to drink tonight, I really just want you two to carry me home here… fire department… stuck… Vodka, help me here, help me get this on… no, that’s the flatiron I need, the other is for you…” And then we were back on the road, Dylan’s skyline in the Mercury’s broad windshield, the girls chattering. We were late. I relaxed my hands on the wheel and let the leash out on the old two-valve mod-motor. Off the freeway and down a steep hill. Dark shadows ran off the street and down into the concealment of unlit parks, pulling high-heeled women and clutching packages; the Merc’s vigorous pace and its silhouette made us look like Five-O moving in with authority. I was struck again by the difference between the SWB Panthers and the Town Car. Where the Lincoln lumbers and smothers, the smaller cars are alive, floating on their steel springs and darting the wheel in one’s hand. They will all jump curbs, they will all bounce over train tracks, but the Marquis and Vic are eager to do it. If you think these cars aren’t fun to drive, you need to turn up the volume, okay?

Dinner was held at “Sambuca”, where Drama is well-known to all. I may have lived in New York, and I may live in Ohio, but Drama inhabits Nashville. She knows the city. She is known there. Later on that evening, she would face me on the pillow and whisper “I can breathe here.” In the midst of the Music City, among the howling kids and the pouncing kittens, even in motion, she is at rest.

Before long it was time to part company with my bosses and go party in earnest. I spaced-out my drink orders and idly juggled salt shakers to make sure my coordination was intact — drunk driving is an unacceptable behavior for me, particularly since a good friend of mine was involved in a DUI fatality a few years ago — while the girls burned through three hundred dollars’ worth of martinis and vodka tonics. V. McB complained to me that the strippers at the club we were visiting “couldn’t hustle for shit.” I respected her professional disdain. D. McH smoked and laughed in the VIP room with a six-foot-tall black girl who kept trying to kiss her in all sorts of places. Around two thirty we were out the door. Drama spawled in the center back seat with her ankles in the air. I tried to think of a reason to adjust the rear view mirror. She was crying because V. McB had put their extra bottle of vodka in the trunk for the drive back home.

“It’s called open container,” Vodka was explaining. “It’s a law. It’s not something I made up.”

“GIVE IT BACK!” Drama screamed. “THERE’S SOME LEFT!”

We stumbled through Drama’s unlocked screen door around three. Her bed was surrounded by heavy curtains on ropes suspended from the ceiling. She pulled one curtain aside and shrugged back out of her dress and bra. Standing before us, nearly nude but shrouded and untouchable in her ferocious, shock-haired, wide-eyed energy, she waved her hands impatiently. “There’s room for all three of us,” she said.

STOP

I know that some of you TTACers think I make this stuff up, right? Of course you do. And even Drama McHourglass herself has complained to me that, “…you have invented a version of me that isnt a reality.” Although I never lie about what somebody does, every experience is subjective. Here’s your chance to play God for a moment. I’ve written three endings to this story. One of the three really happened. The other two were just as likely in my opinion. You get to choose. If you think that the evening ends in a low-voltage fashion, click . If you think I’m a morally bankrupt narcissist unwilling to face the future, my impeding fortieth birthday, or my own unwitting pathos, click . If you think I deserved the million-dollar ending, and you promise not to tell my son about it after I’m dead, then will be the one for you. Go ahead… choose my adventure.


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“Screw this,” Vodka says, “it’s late and I’m sick. I want to sleep on the couch. You two have your fun. But get your rest.” I tucked in beneath Drama’s big white comforter while the girls smoked outside. Then the lights went out, I heard the rustle of curtains on the rope, and D. McH slipped into bed next to me. I could smell her perfume, the heat of her. She came close to me and threw a long, nude, smooth leg across my battered body. I braced myself for what would happen next, stilling the vibration in my heart that seemed to be tuned into the song broadcast from hers. Looking up, I saw a constellation of glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. She’d taken a concrete-block basement and made a wonderland. I touched her leg with the tip of my finger. She didn’t move. I realized she was asleep already, breathing deeply and utterly motionless. I was trapped beneath her leg. I thought of Fitzgerald: “Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry.” And then I looked up at the ceiling and thought of Van Morrison:

Then we sat on our own star


And dreamed of the way that I was for you


And you were for me

I lay there motionless for a very long time, but then I heard the screen door move and slam shut. It was time to go find my girlfriend.


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“Screw this,” Vodka says, “it’s late and I’m sick. I want to sleep on the couch. You two have your fun. But get your rest.” I tucked in beneath Drama’s big white comforter while the girls smoked outside. Then the lights went off, the curtain rustled on its rope and Drama tumbled into the darkness beside me. We whispered at each other. Then the curtain was whipped aside. “Too many cats jumping on me,” Vodka complained. “I’m going to go sleep in the car.” I helped her out to the Marquis, where she lay down on the back seat and was seemingly asleep before the door closed.

Back through the screen door, past the curtain which I drew closed, I lay next to Drama. She turned to me. I touched her. She moved closer. I half-rolled, half-shuffled into her fragrant embrace. I felt the heat of her skin. It’s odd. I’ve always been a little bit warmer than most people. They feel cold to me. She felt hot, feverish, smooth. Without a word or a sound, I began to touch her. Her hands found my the back of my head, twisted and pulled my hair, directed me like a toy though I was half again her size. Only when she was on top of me did she begin to kiss, and then bite, me, silent and terrifying, in her heat, in the violence of her motions. I opened my mouth to speak and she shushed me even as she distantly growled her own pleasure.

She toyed with me, pushing me away with unexpected strength, whispering “no, no, no” before seizing me again moments later. For ninety minutes we made different forms of love, without speaking. Then she shoved me to the other side of the bed with both hands and crossed those hands against her chest protectively.

“It never happened,” she said. “It. Never. Happened.” So there we were. I turned away, faced the wall, and thought about walking outside and lying down on the freeway until somebody did me the favor of canceling my check. Then I thought about my son, and how much I missed him, and I crawled out of bed, pulling the curtain aside, to go make my explanations.


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Within moments, I was stretched out on the bed while these two old friends stripped down and hovered over me. Here’s the thing about pornography that you don’t realize: it’s physically choreographed, like dance. Everybody knows where to go on the stage. Not so here. Real threesomes, just like real sex of all kinds, require effort, and explanation. “No, move over… aarrrgh, not there, I broke that leg a while ago, move your elbow… okay, yes, that’s fine, wonderful.” A friend of mine, a big handsome fellow with a stellar college baseball career to his credit, claims to have had a fivesome with four fans back in school. I don’t see how he could have done it. It’s tough enough for three people to agree. Still, we did all those wonderful, terrible things together as Drama’s glowing stars winked at me from the ceiling of her makeshift bedroom. Her children slept above, my son slept hundreds of miles away, God was in his heaven, and no judgment came down upon us as we woved and thrashed in the service of our inebriated couplings. And in a real threesome, when the boy is finished, that one monkey does in fact stop the show.

An hour or so later, I awoke to hear the screen door shut. Of course. Vodka was allergic to cats, and we had seven of them in a confined space. My new “Silhouettes” glasses were gone from the bedside table, no doubt dragged away by a particularly brave kitten. I tumbled off the bed myself, groped around on the floor until I found them, and headed out to look after my girl.


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Vodka was sprawled out in the back seat of the Marquis, having copiously vomited on the pavement some time previously. I fired up the car and drove slowly to the hotel down the street, arriving under the over-bright logoed canopy and paying $112 for five hours’ sleep.

The next afternoon saw the three of us come together for a late lunch downtown. The girls smiled and laughed. I bounced the Marquis up and down Nashville’s narrow downtown streets, past the protesters in their expensive Alpine tents, past the vintage archtops at Gruhn’s, through the miniscule “Five Points” where a small ice cream shop delighted Vodka’s sore throat and I played “Wish You Were Here” on a 1986 Ovation Collector’s twelve-string. If Drama or Vodka had any misgivings about the evening, they didn’t show them. I felt distant from them, separated by my own stupid, sentimental self. I wanted explanations. I wanted somebody to… I don’t know, bless the event by discussing it. I wanted approval. I wanted everyone to stop smiling and start talking.

When I was young I thought that some things would be hard and others would be easy. I thought it would be hard to be brave. I thought it would be hard to suffer terrible injuries, I thought it would be hard to earn a living with the mark of Cain on my forehead, I thought it would be hard to hurt others or meet violence with more violence. I thought it would be hard to compete, to raise the steam of my anger in the face of someone who wanted to hurt, or kill, or merely defeat me. This was man’s work and as a boy I was frightened of it.

I was wrong. Nothing is easier than raising your hand against your fellow man, nothing is easier than hitting the bumper or delivering the final blow to the face. When the blood is hot, anything is possible. Ask the “Generation Kill” children in Iraq. It’s easy to live behind the mask of anger — at enemies real or imagined, at lovers who scorn or, paradoxically, are scorned — to feel the passion which wipes away all impediments.

What’s tough, I think, is to love. It’s hard to ask someone how they really feel about you. It’s tougher still to admit how you feel. It’s terrifying to step out into the open air and wait for a woman to catch you. I sat there, watching Drama eating her ice cream, and I realized that if this problem called for some daring driving or a chair delivered to someone’s face with a sort of uncaring panache, I could handle it. Instead I sat there and hated her even while I loved her.

Before I knew it, we were pointing the Mercury back towards the airport. As usual, they told me to go through the Rapiscan, and as always, I opted out, standing there with a misdirected fury and snapping at the TSA people as they earned an unlivable wage touching my private parts. I stepped across the threshold for the 737. I thought about when we’d parted a few hours before. “I love you,” she had whispered into my ear, but that didn’t mean anything. She loves it all. She loves the city, the neighborhood, the house, her friends, her hangers-on, the kitten that was burned and the kittens that escaped the fiery furnace. She loves V. McB, she loves her old boyfriends, she loves the boyfriends yet to come, she loves me. If you’re like me and you hate just about everything except winning a race and playing the opening chords of “Look Over Yonder’s Wall,” you realize that hate’s just a background noise. Is that true for love? Whatever. I was up into the turbulent sky. Goodbye, Drama. Like the man said,

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe


That light I never knowed


An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe


I’m on the dark side of the road


Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say


To try and make me change my mind and stay


We never did too much talkin’ anyway


So don’t think twice, it’s all right

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

More by Jack Baruth

Comments
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2 of 29 comments
  • Zykotec Zykotec on Oct 31, 2011

    Reading through all the options carefully I'm starting to think it more or less all happened, but in the exactly opposite order they are written here. ;)

  • Ian Anderson Ian Anderson on Nov 01, 2011

    That. Was. Awesome. Your writing is great, Jack. I can't even decide which of the endings to believe.

  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
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