1. Willy Porter "Unconditional"
2. David Bowie "Heroes"
3. Journey "Don't Stop Believin'"
4. Matt Hires "State Lines"
Road trips are for me like therapy sessions without the couch. Wind from open windows blows the cobwebs from my mind and fills my lungs with the fresh air of adventure-fueled perspective. Junk food becomes healthy, familiar songs sound new, and strangers are made into friends. There is a healing power in those painted lines, and every mile marker passed offers new memories while troubles shrink away in the rear view mirror.
My family has a lot of healing to do. I haven’t had any great measure of a relationship with them for some time now, and I am not sure what the future holds for us. I am happy with my life, and sometimes the thought of never seeing them again is okay with me. There are moments, however, when I imagine one final family road trip to make it all right.
"we're crossing over state lines, and we're making up for lost time..."
Are there roads in the afterlife? I hope so.
From West of Independence page 46:
“And we are still in Oklahoma? I forgot how huge these states are out here.” Connor pulled out another cigarette.
“And flat,” I said, rolling down the windows. “You can see so far that you feel like you’re crawling, even when you’re doing close to ninety miles an hour.”
In the darkness, miles ahead of us, I could see the tiny flashing lights of a construction zone, proving my point. It took several minutes to reach the first blinking arrows, which indicated an impending split of the westbound lanes. When the time came I veered to the left, and we found ourselves speeding between parallel cement barriers. Our little car was so low to the ground that we couldn’t see over them, and it seemed as though we were driving through a canyon of grey.
“It feels like we're in the Death Star trench!” Connor turned to shout so I could hear.
I smiled and looked dead ahead, watching as the cement blurred into the grey walls of Darth Vader’s infamous death moon. The dark sky above, spotted with the bright twinkling of stars, added to the effect. I imagined Tie Fighters above us, the whine of their ion engines threatening as they gave chase. My imagination sent them careening into the walls behind us, their large, flat wings spinning off into space, leaving the ball-shaped cockpits to plow into the bottom of the trench with explosive displays of good winning over evil.
“Matthew, trust your feelings, feel the force within you!” I heard Connor shout over the thunder of battle, which was in truth just the wind whistling through the open windows.
I reached up and turned off the GPS, a young Jedi-in-training turning off his targeting system. We sped through the trench for another mile or so, and as it ended I swerved over to the right lane as if I had just fired the kill shot into that tiny exhaust port and wanted nothing more than to get away as the Death Star disintegrated into flaming space dust.
“Did you hear, that?” I shouted.
“Hear what?” Connor asked.
“I swear I just heard Han Solo shouting ‘Yahoo!”
5. Toad the Wet Sprocket "Windmills"
My demons lumber about on the horizon, just within sight. They never look my way, but why should they? I don't frighten them in the least. I am the one that is scared, and they know it. To say that I chase them is a delusion; the truth is that they lead me.
One day I will tilt against my windmills and chase them away for good. Until then, I
From West of Independence Page 50:
As we neared the Texas border, the sun came up and my bladder neared its bursting point. Connor had been sleeping through the last stretches of highway that Oklahoma had to offer, and though I really had to pee, I had not wanted to pull over and risk waking him. He looked peaceful and at rest in the passenger seat, curled up as close to the fetal position as one could get while wearing a seat belt in such a tiny car.
To sacrifice an hour or more of internal pressure and let him sleep a while longer as we sped across the open plains was no small gift that I could give to my little brother. I knew that much like myself, Connor had slept very little over the past several months, the level of physical comfort having nothing to do with it.
Cotton fields began to line the highway, the acres of white blossoms laying low to the ground like clumps of melting snow. I decided that when Connor woke up we would pull over to pick some cotton.In the meantime I spied towering windmills dotting the plains in long white ranks, their blades turning lazily in the winds sweeping across the plains. In an instant Connor unwittingly became Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote, and together we gave chase to the savage titans that terrorized the land. I thought of Ella as my sweet Dulcinea back home. She had encouraged me to follow through on my quest, and I was lucky to have her.
“Are we in Texas yet?” Sancho was awake and wondering as to our progress.
“Almost. I have to piss like nobody’s business,” I said.
“Me too,” Connor yawned.
“Ok, we’ll stop at the border. I want some pictures of us at the welcome sign.”
We passed the next few miles in silence, and I returned to chasing windmills.
6. The Damnwells "Texas"
Have you ever been so far away from someone that you've never felt closer to them? Without separation, there can be no reunion. It is in those moments of loneliness, the times when I miss the ones I love, that I rediscover why it is that I love them.
From West of Independence page 57:
Back on the road, I looked in the mirror and threw Jared a smile. After a shaky start, the trip was shaping up to be everything I had hoped it would be.
7. Ian Axel "Gone"
I would like to think that homes creak and groan in the night out of memory reflex, because they miss someone whose life they shared. Floorboards chuckling as they think of tiny feet that once skipped across them, door frames creaking as they reach out to accept the imagined shoulder of someone who used to lean on them, and walls groaning in an attempt to recreate the happy sounds of laughter that bounced between them long ago.
Experience is telling me that the secret to a happy life isn't in leaving behind a big empty space that is difficult to fill when you die, but rather in making room in your life for others, and in appreciating the space that they fill around you.
Before they are gone.
From West of Independence Page 82:
Once through the fence, we ran towards the abandoned town like sixth graders let off the bus on the last day of school. We slowed to a walk and surveyed the area as we approached the front steps of the nearest building, a little house with front porch and boarded windows. To one side of the house we could see an ancient truck. The yellow paint of the cab was mottled with rust, and it had long ago settled comfortably onto flat tires that dug into the red earth beneath them.
I followed Connor up the steps and onto the sagging porch. He entered the house, but I stayed outside, fascinated by the yellow truck. I imagined the family that had lived there long ago. I pictured a husband, his wife, and their two little girls. The young couple had spotted each other across a dance hall in Albuquerque. He had been too scared to ask such a pretty girl to dance, but both his friends and hers had pushed them out onto the floor. They were married three weeks later. Soon a baby was on the way, and he had moved them out to their own little house, far away from the pressing matters of the “big” city.
They had been happy. A second baby girl had added to their joy, and his modest trucking business had provided well enough. His weeks were long, but coming home after a haul was the greatest feeling in the world. He would honk his horn as he drew up, and his girls would come running out, waving and laughing as he parked his bright yellow truck next to the little house. He would leap from the cab, scoop his daughters up in his arms and spin them around, kissing them and loving on them, their laughter and adoration renewing his will to live. As he put them down and they spun away in dizzy circles, his wife would step out onto the porch, an apron tied tightly around her tiny waist, a smile on her face. He would approach the porch, stopping before the top step so as to look straight into her happy eyes before kissing her deeply.
It was their heaven on earth, their own private eternity. Everything they could ever want was growing old within the walls of that house.