4.5 – Road-80 Pennsylvania

In order to go from Ohio Industrial City (Rubber) Suburbs to Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County you have to take Road-80 thru Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  For a new driver it was a hard Road to Hit, full of booby-traps they don’t teach you in Driver Training. Every time I went on it there would be something like a snow storm or a speeding ticket or an empty gas tank. Even on The Great Trip me and Wings encountered The Worst Traffic Jam Ever.

All the cars were stopped in front of us and we could only go ahead at zero miles per hour.

“Dammit,” I said to Wings. “We don’t have time for this.”

In most traffic jams the cars start moving again after a second, but this time they just stayed stopped. In fact we were stopped so long that Realities started parking and getting out and walking around. I got out too and tried to look ahead and see what the problem was, but all I could see was an endless line of stopped cars. It seemed possible I could be stuck on this spot in Road-80 Pennsylvania for the rest of my life.

I thought about calling Kat and explaining the situation to her, but I knew she wouldn’t understand. What I needed to do was eliminate the traffic with my own will. I wondered if maybe The Goddess of Faith had the ability to vaporize all the vehicles in front of us.

“My Angel!” I yelled out. “I need you again!”

Then I remembered again that I hadta make a sacrifice first. Unfortunately everything seemed essential. The Wedding Uniform, The Kerouac book, and The Mix were all out of the question. I looked in Mom’s grocery bag for something, but I kinduv really wanted everything in there, too. Suddenly I was startled by a knock on the window.

“Oh no!” I thought. “The stuck-in-traffic Realities have gone crazy and are coming to get me.”

But when I looked up I noticed it was actually The Goddess of Faith! She was in a classical age tunic and looked like the Roman Empire.

“Faith,” I said. “How are you here? I didn’t even sacrifice anything yet.”

“Oh,” she shrugged. “Whoops.”

Then she laughed and came in.

“So what do you need, Bluebird?”

“We have to get to the next Reality as soon as possible, but this traffic is in the way.”

“Oh, no! What will happen if you’re late?”

“Kat could turn into the HateKat, and then it will be impossible to MeToo her.”

“Oh, my poor baby bird.”

“Maybe you can use your God Powers to make the traffic disappear?”

“Aw, I don’t have that kind of power. All I can do is give you some It’s Alright, Baby! so you don’t care as much.”

Then she reached over and gave me some IAB! and I did care less.

“Now let’s see what else we can do,” she said. “First I think you should eat one of your mom’s sandwiches for energy. Then you should read your book so you don’t get bored. And then you should definitely listen to The Mix, cuz that makes you the most happy.”

Then I did all those things, and I stopped thinking about the traffic at all.

“Goddess of Faith?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“I was wondering… Are you The Crow who rescued me from Vertigo today?”

“No, I was watching the whole thing and wanted to help, but it’s against the rules for me to intervene.”

“Well, who’s The Crow then?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was just a bird that got accidentally trapped inside the closet.”

“No, there was no way it could’ve got in there. I’ve seen this before. I think it’s from The Other World.”

“I don’t know any crows in The Other World, but I could check it out.”

“Alright, I think we’ll need to. It seems important.”

“I’ll give you a full report next time I see you.”

“I was wondering something else. Can you only come when I’m having a problem? Cuz I kinduv wanna go thru the rest of the trip without having any more, but maybe I wanna keep seeing you.”

“Aw, Bluebird, I’m not really supposed to come unless you’re in trouble, but I really do love helping you.”

“Oh.”

“I wish I could come just whenever tho.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I like Traveling with you.”

Then she leaned in and gave me a little It’s Alright, Baby! kiss on the cheek. It was the best IAB! yet, and I felt like I could wait for eternity for anything.

“I can probably stay tho until the traffic starts moving again,” she said.

“Great,” I said.

And then we ate sandwiches and listened to The Mix and waited together.

2.16 – The Calling

The next morning I woke up, and I was in La Renarde’s car, and we were already Hitting The Road back to Ohio. My face and clothes were covered with crusty dried puke.

“I’m not stopping once,” she said. “Not even if you have to puke again.”

The motion of the car was making me very sick tho.

“Where should I puke then?” I asked.

“Fuck, I don’t know. Just hold it in.”

Then I found her Road-pillow, which she said every good Traveler needed. I took the case off it and puked in that.

“Gross!” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

I knew she didn’t like it, but I couldn’t help puking in it over and over.

“This is so not Reality Travel,” she said. “You were so not Reality Travel last night.”

“I’m sorry.”

“A real Reality Traveler like Fucking Punk can drink all they want and MeToo a million New Realities and never even think about puking.”

“I’ve never drank before.”

“Gods, you’re such an amateur.”

The rest of the trip I kept puking, and La Renarde didn’t say anything else until we got back to my house.

“Just so you know, I’m not going to kiss you anymore,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“And you can just keep the pillow case.”

Then I took the case and went inside and went straight to my bed and cried.

“I hafta become a Great Reality Traveler,” I said to myself.

And that’s when I was sure I was supposta be one.  Every Reality Traveler is Called Upon by the Gods in a different way. Sometimes The Calling is received in this way.

2.14 – Fucking Punk, La Renarde, and The Lake

I’d never been in Alcohol Perception before and didn’t know what was going to happen next. We walked across huge Chicago until the huge buildings stopped cuz there was a huge lake. There was a nice little greengrass park around it, but Fucking Punk led us straight to some jaggedy rocks at the very edge of the water. We sat down on them, and they didn’t feel good under your butt.

Then we started passing the Jack Daniels around. Fucking Punk gave it to La Renarde, and she took a deep and long gulp. Then she passed it to me. I tilted the bottle back and swallowed like it was Dr. Pepper, but it felt like flesh-burning acid instead. I wanted to spit it out really bad, but La Renarde and Punk were looking at me, and I hadta hold it down so I would seem Reality Travel enough. We kept passing the bottle back and forth, and it was easier to drink each time tho. Soon everyone was talking and laughing.

“I’m teaching Jonathan all about Reality Travel,” La Renarde told Fucking Punk.

“Okay,” he said.

“Like he didn’t know anything about Reality Travel Music,” she said. “He used to listen to Mariah Carey.”

“Ha,” Fucking Punk said. “The Radio.”

“I still listen to her,” I said.

“Ha,” Fucking Punk said.

The Alcohol made him seem almost alive.  Like he almost had flesh on his face.  It made the skeleton almost smile.

Then he came up behind La Renarde and started tickling her. She laughed and got up to keep from being tickled more, and Fucking Punk got up and chased her right off the rocks and into the park. I stayed put with the Alcohol and watched.

Eventually Fucking Punk caught La Renarde and tackled her to the ground and held her down. She screamed and tried to get away, but she was also laughing a lot. Then the tickle fight turned into hugging. They held each other close and whispered things I couldn’t hear. Then they kissed on the mouth in Chicago. I didn’t know what to do except drink more from the Jack Daniels bottle. Eventually I stopped remembering things.

Maybe a lot later I do remember lying on my belly on the rocks and La Renarde yelling at me.

“Get the fuck up!” she said. “We’re cold.”

I didn’t want to get up tho, cuz I was sick. My head was really dizzy and my stomach hurt.

“No,” I said.

Then La Renarde grabbed one of my arms, and Fucking Punk grabbed the other, and they made me get up. They dragged me off the rocks and put me in a taxi. The whole thing made me so sick I started throwing up even tho I knew I was inside someone’s car. A lot came out, and it was smelly.

“Get that Fucking Drunk outta here!” the driver said.

Then I don’t remember anything else from that night.

2.13 – Adventures in Perceptionism: Alcohol

Wolf and I sat across from each other on the floor of My Nest. We had a bottle of Jack Daniels, two shot glasses, and a clock.

“Alcohol Perception,” Wolf said, “also known as Traveler Lubricant, is the Preferred Perception for many Realities. In the modern MeNotzie-infested World, fear of Domination has clogged up the machinery of the average Reality’s mind, and the gears, chains, and pistons responsible for MeToo necessary mechanisms like conversation, dancing, and sex are slow and squeaky. Alcohol Perception is like squirts of badly needed oil, which loosen up the machine and allow the Travels to run smoothly.

“Sounds like the perfect Perception, when you put it that way,” I said.

“It can seem that way, but let me remind you that every Perception has a DarkSide. Too much Lubricant and the machine starts to run too loose. Your speech will become slurred and its content unpredictable and possibly offensive. Your body will move sloppily, making it difficult not only to dance, but simply to walk forward. You may not be able to help laying down and losing consciousness. You may even start to uncontrollably vomit. And the next day you will be nauseas, fatigued, and depressed.”

“Yeah, how do you stop that from happening?”

“You must Adventure with the Perception in the right way. Which brings me to the Perceptionist Apparatus I’ve set up tonight. To ensure proper intention, moderation, and equal magnitude of Perception we are going to follow an ancient Chinese Perceptionist Tradition roughly translated into English as ‘The Power Twenty.’

“First we must both drink the same form of Alcohol, which will be this Jack Daniels you’ve chosen. Then we must drink at the same pace, and with this clock as a timer we will consume the whiskey at precisely one minute intervals for twenty total minutes. We must also drink the same amount, and we will pour each shot to one quarter full, which I have pre-marked in ink on the shot glasses, with mine slightly higher to account for our difference in bodyweight. Finally and most importantly, we must have the same intentions, so before each drink we will alternate making MeToo inspiring toasts, followed by an exclamation of “GAM-BAY!” which is Chinese for “Bottom’s Up!

“Are you ready?”

“Ready.”

Then Wolf poured the first shot while I monitored the clock. When the second hand hit twelve we raised our glasses.

“To Traveler Lubricant,” Wolf said, “because it helps me MeToo.”

“MeToo!”

Then we clinked our glasses together, shouted “GAM-BAY!” and drank. The liquid burned against my mouth and made me cough and shiver. Then I felt a warmth slide down my throat to my stomach. By the next time the clock hit twelve I could already feel a tingle in the machinery of my mind. We poured, raised again, and it was my turn to toast.

“To not feeling completely, horribly alone when you drink,” I said. “I really hate that.”

“MeToo!” Wolf said.

We clinked glasses, shouted “GAM-BAY!” and drank again. And we did it just like that eighteen more times.

2.12 – Chicago in the Rye

One night La Renarde came over to my house to lay on my bed and make out with me. I was feeling unlonely and strong.

“Let’s go on a Great Reality Travel Trip right now!” I said.

“Yes!” she said. “You’re becoming so Reality Travel.”

“After reading Catcher in the Rye I now know we need to go to a huge city and wander around like Holden Caulfield. Ohio Industrial City (Rubber) is too small now. All the Ohio Industrial Cities are too small. We can only go to NewYorkCity and kiss in the Central Park.”

“We could go there… Or we could go to another huge city, Chicago, where I happen to know a guy. It’s only a few hours away, and we could crash with him, and it would make it a little easier on you since it’s your first big Trip and all.”

“Alright, Chicago in the Rye!”

We left right away and La Renarde drove us in her car.

“If you get your Driver’s License,” she said, “then we can split the driving like the Reality Traveler Teams do.”

“Good idea,” I said, “I’ll get one as soon as we get back.”

On the way La Renarde told me about the guy she knew.

“His name is Fucking Punk,” she said, “and he doesn’t take shit from anyone. He’s the one who first taught me about Reality Travel.”

“So he’s pretty Reality Travel?”

“The most Reality Travel! He doesn’t have a job or go to school. He just Travels all the time. Oh, and he used to be in a mental hospital. Not because he’s insane, but because he chose to so he could MeToo insane Realities.”

“How did you meet him?”

“He used to live in OIC(R). We dated.”

“Oh.”

Fucking Punk was in the very center of Downtown Chicago. It was many times huger than our Downtown, and it had brighter lights and taller skyscrapers and stronger garbage smells. I was nervous and wondered if I was cut out for this level of Reality Travel.

“I love how huge you are!” La Renarde told the city.

She easily parallel parked in front of a gross and scary looking building with rusty fire escapes and graffiti and bars on the windows.

“This is the place,” she said.

And then we hadta go inside. It didn’t have an elevator, and we hadta go up a lot of staircases to get to the right floor. I felt lucky we didn’t happen to cross paths with any of the Realities who lived in a place like that. Then La Renarde led us down a hallway and knocked on a door, and when it opened Fucking Punk came out.

He looked like a skeleton. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and his skin was bone white and you could see the outline of every single one of his ribs. He had no hair and his eyes were black and hollow.

“Yo,” he said.

And then La Renarde jumped on him and gave him a big hug.

“I can’t believe we’re in Fucking Punk Reality!” she said.

Then we went in. There was nothing on the walls and no furniture to sit on. The only thing I could see were lots of empty Jack Daniels whiskey bottles. Some were lined up in neat rows on top of the kitchen cabinets, while others were just sitting there on the counter and most were lying on their sides on the floor.

La Renarde wouldn’t let go of Fucking Punk.

“Oh my Gods! It’s really you,” she said.

Fucking punk just shrugged at her tho. The whole time his eyes were looking slightly past us. I didn’t know if he even knew I was there too.

“So we’re in the far off and exciting Realities of Chicago,” La Renarde said. “What should we do?”

“I dunno,” Fucking Punk shrugged. “Drink?”

“Yes, F.P.! Such a Reality Travel suggestion as always.”

“We could get a bottle of Jack,” Fucking Punk said, “then go to the Lake and get wasted.”

“Perfect!” La Renarde said, and I went along with them.

2.11 – Goldfinch

After it got light outside I was suddenly surrounded by lots of cars and trucks with Adult Realities going to their jobs.  Some of the trucks in front of me were going way too slow, and I had to go into the other lane to pass them.  And then some of the cars behind me were going way too fast, and they got right up behind me like we were almost touching, and I hadta go into the other lane so they could pass me.  It was all bugging me, and I wished it was still the middle of the night in TheMiddle-of-Nebraska.  Then suddenly I saw a car with a “The Gods are on your side!” bumper sticker.

“Did you see that Wings?” I said.  “That could be a Reality Traveler car!”

I quickly got in the other lane and pulled up beside them to get a better look.  It was a shiny sun-yellow sports car, and there was a pretty girl driving it, and her hair was sparkly like treasure, and it seemed like she should be called The GoldFinch.  She drove well at a speedy pace, weaving around the slow trucks with quick, effortless lane changes.  I tried to keep up closely cuz I had the feeling we’d make a perfect Reality Traveler Team.  We would Travel to exciting New Realities by day and be in Love with each other by night.  Sometimes I’d drive and sometimes she’d drive.  She’d Love every song I Loved.  We would MeToo everyone in Iowa and still make it to Ohio by the end of the day.  She’d definitely be my date to The Wedding.

I decided to follow her wherever she went even if it was off the Road.  When she stopped I would stop too and explain the whole situation to her.  It wouldn’t be that hard.  She wouldn’t be creeped out.  Another Reality Traveler would understand.

At the next exit her turn signal went on, and she made a flawless high speed maneuver onto the off ramp.  I only had a split second to react, and I used that moment to think.  I thought about how maybe the “The Gods..” bumper sticker could be some kind of misunderstanding, like maybe it was accidentally the same motto as a powerful Iowa MeNotzie religious group.  I thought about how it was very possible she’d never heard of Reality Travel at all, and if I tried to talk to her she would roll her eyes and sting me like the golden haired bumblebee she actually was.  All the thinking made me drive right past the exit.

“Dammit,” I said.  “She’s lost forever now.”

2.10 – Track #7 of The Great Trip Mix – Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”

“You like Blondie?!” I said. “But they’re on The Radio.”

“That wasn’t their fault,” La Renarde said. “They were actually Punks.”

Punks are MusicPeople Reality Travelers about realizing The Radio sucks.

“They just got accidentally popular enough that The Radio played them against their will.”

“Great! Play ‘Call Me.’”

“Call Me,” is a song about someone wanting someone they like to call them. Then once on the phone, they can make plans to go on a date.

“No, not that one! The Radio plays it all the time. If we’re going to listen to Blondie, it has to be one of their non-Radio songs, like ‘Sunday Girl.’”

Then she put it on. I’d never heard it before, but it was catchy and had many of the qualities the Beatles invented in the Great List of Songs, and I liked it.

“What’s it about?” I said.

“Sunday Girl” La Renarde said, “is a song about being half in French, which is so Reality Travel cuz every other song only has the courage to be all in English. The Radio doesn’t know any other language and will never play it.”

“But what happens in the song?”

“I don’t know. Something about a girl and a guy. Maybe someone betrays someone and someone’s sad…”

“What’s the French part say?”

“Can’t you translate it?”

“No, you’re much better at French than me.”

“That’s cuz I need to know it for when I Travel to Paris as soon as HighSchool is over.”

“Oh. Well, what’s the French part say?”

“It doesn’t matter. It just matters that it’s in French.”

As we listened to the song and other non-Radio Blondie songs, La Renarde was getting very close to me and soon our shoulders and arms were touching. She kept looking over at me and smiling.

“Hey,” she said.

“What?” I said.

“Do you like this music?”

“Yeah.”

“MeToo.”

Then she got even closer and leaned her head on my shoulder.

“Hey” she said again.

“What?”

“Open your mouth.”

I opened my mouth and then she leaned over and put her mouth on it and her tongue went inside and touched my tongue. And then we did that for a while.