Before we end up facing down the storm in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, let us begin with a big bang on a motel room door in Scottsdale, Arizona, where things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Or, at least, they are rare. Or, at least, they have never happened exactly like this before, but ends up, to this point, in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
After you have been in enough cheap motels, after all, but this one wasn’t one of them, and if you are real good at pattern recognition, which is really less of a science more like, well, an instinctive thing, you can pretty much trust the bizarre nature of a particular event as worth noting. In this case, the hotel room door bursts open, waking you from your sleep at about midnight. Suddenly you are awake, your head is spinning, the door is open, your girl is gone, and so is your dog.
Everything that gave you solace during the course of that ridiculous day is missing, in fact, and the noise outside your door is a weird sort of rumbling of bodies flying against each other, rude noises, angry sounds of men in some kind of heat of anger. Some kind of riot is going on outside your door, which has burst open. There is a big dog bark, maybe two big bellowing big dog barks, for just a moment, but then that’s gone, too, and the shouting of men in heat remains as sound waves of thumping and women wimpering cascades around you. Your first thought, she is missing, your girl is missing, and these two things, the absence and the melee, are somehow related.
So you venture out your door, and what you see in the surreal night light, the luxury night light of Scottsdale, in a parking lot with a great big high-end department store logo glow in the background of your sight, a pretty place where perfect people shop and corporate America plunders ... in this soft spacious parking lot where many mall-dressed trophy wives have carried their bags in and out of the mall, and where touristas have parked their many cars, too, since it’s officially a Motel 6 parking lot, in Scottsdale of all places, there is a kind of cyclonic motion of men in tuxedos and women in white wedding dresses thumping on someone, apparently a black man with knotty hair.
By this time, the contagion of wild violence is rolling away from your door, down the Motel Six sidewalk in front of the rooms, between the parked cars in the door, and they are wailing away on the guy, in the light. Then the cop cars come, and they have dogs, too, and they are barking. Then the cops look at you, with your mouth agape, asking you if you belong here, asking you if you are missing anything, and you say no, lying, of course, because you never tell the strange cop the strange sad inner truth of what you are thinking: Your girlfriend is missing. So is your dog.
You deny your very deepest worry because you think, well, hell, they all must be related, right?
I related this little Kodak moment to you from another cheap motel room in a place called Bushland, Texas. Really, it’s a place to the west of Amarillo. And these two places, the Motel 6 in Scottsdale, and this anonomoplace in Texas, on the great rocky plain of the Texas Panhandle because they are uniquely related, too. Through me and now, as you read this, through you. You are now being impacted, in some slight way, at least, by the wedding riot outside the door of the Motel 6 and by yes, the fact it has an impact on me, here now in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
In the time since the wedding riot, all I have really learned is the insurgents were all from out of town, and they were beating up some guy because a $3,000 wedding gift was accidentally broken. There were several arrests. If you wanted to, you could go to the Scottsdale police station and get the facts. There must be a real interesting story there about that riot. You could piece it together and make a movie out of just that. But I won’t, because I’m in a cheap motel room in Texas right now, and that event may have just as well been a hurricane, and I’ll bet all of those Katrina victims never watched much TV during those one-year anniversary specials because they were probably just trying to deal, all the same, even after a year, with the impacts of the storm. That’s me, in a nutshell. Just trying to deal with the impact of the storm.
The storm is in my head now: The forty days of fire, forty days of rain. And all Europe is running amok..
But the storm is amply represented as cigarrette smoke for clouds, red ash for fire. The low pressure reading is in the chest, at the flatland level of worry. Cattle trucks are searing down the highway right now and this is one of those authentic Kerouac-like moments that maybe you wish you could experience, too, but, dear reader, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Oh sure, your girl and your dog eventually returned to that Motel 6, and the riot and the disappearance were, as it turned out, unrelated. Maybe. Maybe. But that’s not what’s in our minds in Bushland, with some crazed Korean motel keeper threatening to call the sheriff because we’d failed to report the dog, or some Brahmin sort in Mount Pleasant threatening to call the cops because you’d decided you couldn’t take it anymore. That enough was enough. That for $300 bucks a week you just might expect a little peace and quiet, some service that didn’t include crazy Apache-raiding Latinos on the roof to make you think a tornado was coming … and so on.
In Bushland, during the election season, in the fall of 2006, the dog had been successfully ensconced into the room that previous night, as you were limping back from Iowa on a wing and a prayer. But the dirt real details, dear reader, truly belong to eternity. What can you trust anymore, anyway, based on the apparent lack of information. All you know is that Saturday, a week before, your whole enchilada was thrown into the air, and then you're not sure how or why. We all have been there” Sure. Right. Have we? We know we have been lied to, by either the dog or the girl or the president ... Who knows?
We all know know we have been lied to in Bushland. We can trust that, at least. But that’s another subject. The straightforward reason for this dissertation is hardly neccessary ... it can be about lost loves, lost dogs, a little lost doggy story ... launched now from a rather impromptu road trip from Scottsdale, Arizona, to a place called Morning Sun, Iowa; on to Bushland, back to Scottsdale, Oregon, Sedona, Lake Wobegone, Mount Pleasant, whatever … it’s game over, wherever you seem to go.
That’s about 1.2 million miles. It’s got to be that distance, but honestly, I have rarely looked at the map throughout this entire trip. I know this country pretty well, by now, and one thing I’ve noticed that as big as it is, it’s getting smaller all of the time. And the winds can either help or hurt you a lot. But, for the sake of the honesty and the need for plain simple record keeping, let’s just keep this epic tale in the time frame for a road trip, and just let every conceivable lesson of life creep in.
Such as: If dog is man’s best friend, there are limits to this friendship (since man is limited, perhaps?), and therefore, so is a dog’s, um, fidelity. On that mysterious journey that night, you spent the next 12 hours trying to explain, how, exactly, the dog got away, and why, exactly, you have so many questions of its whereabouts for the Saturday in question. Eventually, the dog returned to the very same parking lot at about 10 a.m. Arizona time that following Sunday, acting like, hey, I’m back, where are all of the bad doggies now?
We are deliriously happy at the return of the dog, but still missing the truth ... But folks, there’s just this plain fact now, whatever happened the night before, if it was enough to send a dog the size of a camel running around Scottsdale in terror, it was certainly enough to send you, me, the dog, and anyone else, including the wedding party, all of the way to Bushland, then Ta’ Iowa, spinning hurling at high speeds onto the continent in any direction. Usually toward, or in the opposite direction of that point where we are born ... in great, cathartic swirls …they move, down that parking lot for words, into the deep of the night … where you turn to weep, but not before writing a few lines of poetry down:
When walking upon
the mound of white stones
overlooking the holy universal
City of the Mind,
remember to carry
seven white quartz stones,
no other. Remembering that you,
bone collector, are a creature
of bottomless desire and craving
And both good and evil
are in endless supply
And evil is available
in endless supply
and great good
is available in endless supply
And so when gathering
the marrow out of the skeletons,
remember, the heart will never be found
for it is made
of flesh and cannot be collected
For all life is suffering,
comes from the root of desire,
and so then these old bones
arise out of evil
all hearts, great desire,
is at the suffering of evil,
the marrow and the bones
Finally, in Mount Pleasant, which really isn’t either a mountain or all that pleasant, tho it certainly hath potential, you begin a quite pleasant stay in a wonderful, privately owned inn where the employees are all quite sweet, downright tender to your needs, and therefore worthy of your respect, trust and love.
But then the clouds move in, the wind picks up and the roof tiles start flying off. You run to the room to wake up the girl, the very same girl, and tell her a tornado is coming. You are quite sure. You are certain. This is how it happens. You open the room’s window to ease the internal pressure of the room, which is what you are supposed to do when a tornado is coming, and then you gasp for air, considering all of the other numerous awaiting dangers to consider.
But then you realize, after running downstairs to find supposed safety, that no tornado is on the way. It’s not even going to rain, at least not quite yet. What was on the roof was a wave of avenging Latino workers who had been called in to fix a roof. Well, to “fix,” it turns out, is not quite true, either. The fact is, the roof had been re-done only a few short years before. In fact, when you came to the hotel, the roof was in fine shape. However, the tiles had been flying off because they were being thrown off, in anarchic glee, by a bunch of people who, quite frankly, didn’t have to care about much more than getting the job done, also quite frankly, as quickly and quite sloppily as possible, quite frankly … so that they could get paid by the Brahmin owner, who, quite frankly, was trying to get the place up to specs as quickly as possible to turn it over to a giant, global, demonic corporation that, quite frankly, could barely give a damn about your sleep, your comfort, or, hell, even your safety.
For the entire week the storm is on like 1,000 aliens on the roof (a title I borrow from an old Jerome Sirlin and Philip Glass production; mythapropriated now, for your reading pleasure, to demonstrate one classic note, a single revealing point. And that is, there’s just no place to run, no place to retreat, nothing on earth, save a single ruminating connection, to the eternal, Ta’Iowa, to whatever you want to call it. Because the game is up. The Monopoly board can just be thrown into the air. There’s nothing else to say, except, just this: Be love, be pleasant, be your own mountain … and just let the storm be the storm.