Archive for the ‘Road Trip’ Category

I almost shit my pants. Almost. I managed to duck-walk to my hotel room, seconds before impact. I had become a character in a Farrelly Brothers movie, and I wasn’t happy about it.

Moments earlier, as my bodily functions began their doomsday countdown, I was checking into the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Louisville.

The woman checking me in, Mary, according to her golden name-tag, was a twenty-something blonde, with a dialect I couldn’t quite place. She may have been local, or she may have been from Alabama for all I knew.

Sadly, to my ears, any dialect from the southern Midwest, and most of the south for that matter, all sound the same to me. Except for Texas and Georgia. For some reason, I always know if someone is from Texas or Georgia. It’s weird.

Anyhow, Mary seemed nice, but she had a lot of questions, and I was a road worn traveler. A traveler, I might add, who ate a giant burrito earlier that day, and who was now paying a steep price for his bad decisions.

My stomach spasmed. Something terrible was happening in there. Goose bumps rose on my skin, a trickle of sweat beaded my forehead, and all the while, Mary, with her damn questions.

“What brings ya, to Luuuville?”

“Uh, work.” I replied, as I tightened my aging glutes.

“Any floor preference?”


“Did you park with us?”


“Are you a Hilton Honors member?”


“Would you like any restaurant suggestions?”


“Any directions?”


She paused for a moment, there was a mischievous glint in her eyes. She knew. I could see it, now. She was toying with me.

I bet she saw a lot of this, while working the front desk. Middle-aged business travelers, in desperate need to relieve themselves. Road weary men and women, who just wanted to check into their room, thereby granting them a private facility to do their unmentionables.

Seconds passed, she was either thinking of another question, or waiting for me to shit my pants. Probably both. I had to intervene.

“Listen, I really need to get to my room.” I said, through clinched teeth and sphincter.

“Of course.” She replied, with a slight frown. As she slowly, much too slowly, swiped my key cards on their activation pad.

In spite of of my new nemesis, and her evil plans to ruin me, I made it to my room. And soon, all was right in my world. Little did I know, my harmony would be brief.

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I decided to take a walk and find a meal. I strolled through the lobby with purpose. Mary gave me a nod, as if to say, “You got lucky… but there’s always check-out.” We locked eyes briefly, and I nodded back. My silent reply, “Bring it on, lady.”

It was a warm night for mid-November, as I arbitrarily picked a direction. About a block down from the hotel, was a heavy-set African American man. He was disheveled, and hopping toward me.

He had removed one of his shoes, and was carrying it in his arm like a football. The man appeared to be homeless. Having more than my fair share of encounters with the homeless of American cities, I did my best to not lock eyes. But it was too late. He spotted me.

Hopping toward me he asked “Hey man! Can you help me?”

I shot him an impatient look I save for just such scenarios. “Actually, I’m in a hurry.”

I picked up the pace, hoping to lose the man within a few more strides.

He called out to me as I went. “Come on call me an ambulance, man!”

I continued walking, but something wasn’t right. My stomach did that spasm thing again, but I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I stopped walking, and turned to look at the man.

He was resting against a store front. He faced the other direction. Apparently, he was taking a break. If I was to guess, all that hopping really takes it out of you.

My stomach rumbled again. Damn it. This was worse than having diarrhea. This was a case of sympathy, or maybe even empathy. I didn’t know which.

It doesn’t happen often to me, but when it does, my stomach does this weird thing, and I know I’m about to try and help someone, and it’s probably going to be giant pain in the ass.

I walked up to the homeless hopper.

“Hey man, are you okay?”

“Nah, man. My foot’s fucked up. I need to go to the hospital. Can you call an ambulance?”

I quickly did the math on this. If I called an ambulance, I’d have to sit with this guy until they came. And I had a feeling that was going to be a long sit. Also, I was hungry. And lastly, there just so happened to be a way to kill two birds with one stone.

“Aw, jeez. My phone’s out of battery.” I lied.

“I’ll tell you what, do you think you can get to the Hilton Garden Inn, down the block.”

The man warily eyed the glowing neon sign in the distance. “Nah, man. I can’t hop no more.”

His words seemed profound. As if, in a just world, he would hop on forever, but it was mortality that poisoned his hope. Yeah, something like that.

“I’ll help you get there.” I said, surprising the both of us.

“Come on. Put your arm around me, and lean on me.”

I quietly hummed a Bill Withers tune as we made our way to the HGI. It was slow going, and we adjusted our embrace a few times.

I looked down at the man’s foot and it was really, really fucking gross. Swollen and discolored, and in need of a nail clipper, but that was a different issue all together.

“Hold up, I need to rest.” The man exclaimed.

We stopped for a moment, our arms still interlocked.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, it just, it hurts, ya know?”

I did know. I mean, not about a swollen, messed up foot. But about things that hurt. And suffering is terrible, and I felt sad for the man that he had to endure it alone.

“I’m sorry.” I said, and I meant it.

After a couple more minutes, he was ready to continue. As I held onto him and kept him off of his bad foot, I noticed a small hospital band around his wrist.

“Were you in the hospital?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah, I was.”

“For your foot?”

The man shook his head. “Nah, not for my foot.”

The man glanced up at me earnestly, as we stumbled toward the HGI together.

“The doctors say I’m homicidal or something like that.” He said, and then laughed heartily.

I quickly broke eye-contact and stared up at the glowing neon beacon ahead of us.

“Well, that’s not good.” I whispered, not knowing how else to respond to something like that.

“Yeah. It’s whatever.” He said nonchalantly.

We had finally made it to the lobby doors of the HGI.

“Okay, I’ll bring you into the lobby and you can sit on their couch, while they call you an ambulance. Is that cool?”

“Aww, yeah, man. It looks nice in there!” The man said, smiling brightly.

We stumbled into the lobby together, the man’s arm over my shoulder, like two wounded soldiers making it back to camp.

Mary scanned the situation. She took in the homeless hopper, before returning my gaze. My eyes said “Checkmate, baby.” As I eased the man onto a couch.

I gave Mary a shrug of the shoulders as I approached the front desk.

“Hey, this guy’s really hurt and he needs an ambulance.”

Mary had no choice and she knew it. She’d have to let the man sit in her corporate, faux-hipster lobby, while he waited for an ambulance. An ambulance that would hopefully take the long way there.

“Oh. Yes, of course.” She replied.

I knew that she knew, that I helped our homeless friend. And she knew that I knew, that she had no choice but to also help. There would be no shooing away of any homeless folk, especially while a guest, and also clearly an upstanding citizen, was present.

I smiled broadly, before leaving Mary to it. As I turned, to head out into the night, I saw that my homeless friend had made himself comfortable.

He had taken off his shirt and laid down on the couch. It was a glorious scene. And on top of it all, my stomach thing had went away.


The next morning a cleaning woman knocked on my door, much too loudly, at 7:30 a.m. After that, it took twenty minutes to get my car back from the valet. And the icing on the cake, the coffee in the lobby was as cold as the road that lay ahead.

Coincidentally, Mary was working the front desk that morning.

This wasn’t over. Not by a longshot.


Well, the kids are back in school, the dog days of summer have buried the last of their bones, and Labor Day weekend is upon us. I’ve been more than a bit negligent with this blog over the last couple of months, and today feels like a good enough day as any for a blog post. Supposedly, Friday is a bad day to update your blog. And a Friday before a holiday weekend is even worse. But if my track record is any indication, cultivating hits to this site is not something I’m very good at.

Maybe that’s because I’m not really sure what this blog is, any longer. It’s morphed more than a couple of times. At first it was a webcomic, and when that chapter came to its inevitable conclusion, it morphed into a travel blog of sorts, and for the last couple of months it’s just lain dormant.

Mostly because I’ve been slowly hacking away at a new screenplay. One that I’m both excited about and also dread working on. I guess a minor case of writers’ block, and a new found aversion to social media (Political memes are the herpes on my Facebook feed), are both partially to blame for my absence from this blog. Not that anyone cares too much about blogs, let alone the lack of them.

All that said, this blog still remains a convenient writing exercise, for this hack.

Especially this afternoon. Seriously, I wish this stupid screenplay would just write itself. Writing most of the time is a tedious endeavor, especially if you’re doing it for free. Some might say if you’re doing it for free then it’s a hobby, or they might spout some take on “for the love of the game”. But on days like today, it’s just a glowing screen and silence.

Static and a girl crawling through a television would be preferable.

And, now I’m veering off course. So back to it. What’s new with me, you ask? This is my blog after all, so “me, me, me,” it is. Thank you for asking.

Well, first off, I’ve still been traveling for work. And while the road has lost some of its luster, I have found ways to pass the time. Some are tried and true, like the godsend known as Audible. Though my book picks have been hit or miss lately, I did stumble upon “The Hike” by Drew Magary.

It was a fine way to spend ten hours in a car. Along with my co-pilots, coffee and cigarettes. The latter of which I can’t quit. So please don’t kill me, Cancer.

Then there’s the occasional hit from a Californian vape pen (you know the ones), and after that, shit usually gets weird. The other day, I worked out for two hours straight in the hotel gym. The last time I worked out was two weeks earlier. I could barely walk the next day. And that same night, I ate half-dozen white castles in my hotel bed… at midnight. Like I said, shit got weird.

Let’s see, what else. Last month, there was a family vacation in South Haven. That was nice. The kids played with their cousins and friends, while the parents drank a bit too much and soaked up the sun. I grilled a lot, which is therapeutic for me in some strange way. I think it’s because I’m Serbian, although it’s more likely just a middle-aged guy thing.

I brought our dog with us, and in the mornings we would stroll through town together. Looking back on it, I think South Haven was a pretty good vacation spot. But sometimes, after more than a couple of days on vacation, I feel like my wheels are spinning. It’s kind of like my shifter is stuck in the neutral position, but I keep giving it gas, waiting for some sort of forward propulsion that never comes.

After days of observing other out-of-towners, I suspect this might be a common occurrence amongst a good deal of folks.

At one point, midway through our vacation week, I was driving home from the grocery store (we had run out of hot dogs and beer), and I saw a man trying to ride a bicycle to the beach, but he couldn’t get the hang of it. This guy must have been mid-fifties, yet it appeared that he didn’t know how to ride a bike.

His wife, possibly girlfriend, maybe sister, or perhaps caretaker, was half a block ahead of him. While the man, losing ground to her every second, veered left to right, catching himself just before crashing, on multiple occasions.

It was like gravity worked differently on him, playing some strange cosmic prank on this poor unsuspecting bastard. And when I slowly passed (he was all over the street) he glared at me and actually shooed me away with his left hand, which not being on his handle bars, forced him to veer off into someone’s yard.

Let’s see, what else? I was in Nashville the other day.

Full disclosure: I’m in Nashville a lot. Also, I despise pop country music. I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive, but I could be wrong. Pop country music is pop music for people who want their pop music to be more manufactured and less nuanced. Lucinda Williams rips farts with more soul than any pop country song I’ve heard on the radio.

If you’re wearing store bought, pre-torn jeans, and your teeth are too white, and you have a craving for endless cornfields, and Budweiser, then you need to stay off of my radio. But you probably don’t care, and you’re undoubtedly wealthy, and quite satisfied with yourself. So I’ll just swallow my contempt for your craft, and shut up about it.

Back to the “me, me, me” of it. I ran into some friends who were celebrating their 40th birthday, in Nashville. It was a surprising, and refreshing coincidence, which resulted in me not spending another night bellied up to a bar, with a copy of the USA Today to keep me company. We drank, listened to live music, and had an easy going, fun night.

The following morning however, was reserved for my hangover and the long drive home.

Hmm, I feel like this blog post might be a tad too negative in spots.

So, I’ll brighten the overall mood a bit.

I’ll be travelling to Detroit soon. No, I’m not being sarcastic, this is indeed the mood brightener. There’s actually something really positive about going to Detroit, I swear.

Little known fact: Detroit’s hotels have the best bathtubs in the Midwest… Seriously.

I’ve been to multiple hotels in most of the major cities in the Midwest, and over-priced suites aside, the hotel bathtubs in Detroit are a glorious reprieve. A hidden gem of Midwest business travel.

My personal favorites include the Athenaeum in Greek Town, and the Motor City Casino and Hotel.

Long soaks in the tub are something that I’ve recently taken to. Mostly, on the suggestion of my doctor. You see, countless hours of traveling takes a toll on a very specific part of the anatomy.

Namely, my ass.

Full disclosure: Hemorrhoids are a very real problem for the middle-aged traveler. And according to my doctor (after a thorough and humiliating exam that I’d rather not get into) a good soak in the tub goes a long way for the ol’ butthole. There’s a reason you always see cowboys soaking in tubs and chomping on cigars in the old west. After hours on a horse, there were no amounts of powders or pastes that could relieve a case of the butt darts better than a nice soak and a good cigar.

So, there. A happy note.



-I’ve recently sat through both a Marvel and a DC superhero movie, and I can’t help thinking that Pepsi and Coca-Cola really need to get into the movie business.

-Also watched Anomalisa, while on a solitary road trip. And while it was quite well done, I would not recommend a viewing, especially if you’re feeling a bit lonely in a foreign land. Seriously, suicide prevention hotlines are more heartwarming.

-I was listening to a podcast while driving home the other day, and one of the guests dropped a profound piece of knowledge on me. She stated that Dirty Dancing is the female movie equivalent to Point Break.

…Let the truth of that sink in for a moment. I mean, holy shit. Right? That’s the most observant thing anyone’s ever said… Like ever.

-Last night I laid in my son’s bed, while he and his brother read to themselves. The window was open, and a cool breeze was blowing into the room. It was a fall breeze. And it was just right.


So long summer. Until next time, here’s a pic of my dog.

My dog under a blanket. Random but adorable.

My dog under a blanket. Random but adorable.


The television was droning on, as I regained consciousness. McCain was being asked by a CNN reporter whether or not the birthplace of Ted Cruz should be investigated. He thought it would be a prudent move. I rolled over and let out a sigh. It was 4 am. Ted Cruz was of questionable origin. And I was in Detroit.

This was yesterday.

I rolled back over, and burrowed my face deep into the pillow. I briefly wondered if self-smothering was an actual thing. And then I smelled it. The scent was immediately recognizable. It was the smell of my Grandmother. Or to be more exact, my Nana.

She helped raise me as a child, and to this day, she still smells exactly the same. A mixture of Revlon perfume, Revlon hairspray, and old foreign lady. It can be a reassuring, even pleasant scent. Not so much, when I’m alone in a strange city in the wee hours of the morning.

Confused and in need of fresh air, I lifted my head. The fragrance danced through my nostrils. Needing to get to the bottom of this, I burrowed my face even deeper into the pillow, and inhaled deeply. This was weird, not quite disturbing, but definitely weird.

I played out the different scenarios.

SCENARIO A). The Supernatural One: My Nana has a ghost scent. It may have developed from years of working on a Revlon assembly line (which she did). And now, this phantom odor had for reasons yet unknown, decided to haunt me in the only way it knew how… by making stuff smelly.

SCENARIO B). The Practical One: The cleaning woman must be an older woman from another country. She obviously also believes in the beauty and staying power of Revlon products. As she fixed the bed, her old lady smell must have crawled its way down from her hands and onto my pillow. Until finally, it climbed up my nostrils with the determination of a hundred Navy Seals.

I chose the rational explanation. After all, ghost scents were reserved for mysterious old homes, not chain hotels. Even if this one happened to reside in, what some might consider, a haunted city.

I slowly rolled off of the bed and stood. Stretching out the cobwebs, and wiping away the smell. Unfortunately, it was still with me. The cleaning lady’s nana scent clung to my face and maybe even to the rest of my body. The thought of a nana scent all over my body, was uniquely repulsive.

I headed to the shower. After a thorough soaping and scrubbing, I was once again myself. The nana scent had released me from its clutches. I methodically trimmed my beard and combed my hair.

Then I reached into my toiletries bag, which my wife packs for me along with an occasional lunch, because I am perpetually twelve years old. I quickly removed the hairspray, and doused my head. Cementing what was left of my hair into place. My eyes went wide in terror. The scent was back. I was once again a giant, hairy, eighty year-old woman.

Shocked, I glared down at the can of travel hairspray in my hand. It wasn’t the travel size can of big sexy hair (don’t judge me), which I usually used. Instead, this was a dented old can of REVLON hairspray. The image on the can showed a beautiful woman with windblown hair, sort of Medusa meets the runway, staring at me with cold, soulless eyes. She was a mythical witch of Revlon, and she had cursed me with a scent reserved for loving foreign grandmothers, not a thirty-something salesman. A Greek tragedy had played itself out in my hotel bathroom.

I hit the showers again, and made a mental note to call my wife regarding this matter, at a more decent hour.

Resigned to my fate, I trudged into that morning’s meeting with unkempt hair, and smelling faintly of old women. God only knows what the men I was meeting with would think when they first saw me, or worse, when they first smelled me.

Hopefully they thought of their own grandmothers, and of simpler times. Perhaps reminiscing on such innocent thoughts might help propel any future business along. But who knew with these types. Perhaps, they might’ve thought I was rolling around with old ladies, and didn’t own a comb. And worse still, maybe they were into that sort of thing. I hoped not.

I guess that’s how things sometimes go. We hope for the best, but nervously fear the worst. And if we’re lucky, life falls somewhere in the middle of our imaginary spectrum. And sometimes we smell funny, and there’s always a bad hair day right around the corner.

And that’s fucking life, man.



It was a coffin factory. I was in an honest to God, coffin factory.

I had made the call two days earlier. A shot in the dark, but one that I took every now and then. New business is often without aim. A target floating in the ether, waiting on that lucky bullseye.

I was tipped off to their general whereabouts from an old colleague of mine. The casket company appeared to be doing quite a bit of welding. And if you’re spot-welding, then you’re most likely using a lot of welding consumables. These parts are made from nonferrous metals, and need to be changed out often, due to the large amount of current, and heavy force, which this particular process of welding entails.

Brass tacks: Sooner or later you need new parts. We happen to make those parts. Buy them from us and we’ll love you forever.

I should have put one and two together. A casket company, is most likely making caskets. But the word casket sounds a little too much like gasket. And my mind glazed over the word lazily. I assumed it was automotive needs that I would once again be trying to fulfill.

The company was located in a rural area of Indiana. An area which most recently made headlines for the staggering amount of new HIV cases that were popping up in its various townships. Apparently, the numbers rivaled those of New York City. The only difference being there wasn’t nearly the resources, medical personnel, or awareness, that most major cities have. Long story short, the CDC were setting up shop.

Not that any of this had a bearing on my situation. I wasn’t planning on sharing needles or genitals anytime soon, but still, news of this sort always carries a bit of doom and gloom with it. The fact that I was driving through rural Indiana in the midst of a downpour didn’t help either. My eyesight isn’t the best, but I’ve staved off the opportunity to don hip eyewear for this long, and I tend to keep that going, at least until the DMV advises otherwise. Unfortunately, a downpour can be challenging for those of us not blessed with sniper-like peepers, especially when the street signs are mostly lying face down on random dirt roads.

Although, my frustration at the amount of attention needed for the simple task of driving quickly fizzled, as I stumbled upon one of the stranger sights I had seen in some time.

While stopped at a red light, an Amish couple turned and clopped down my street, riding on a horse-drawn carriage. This was my first encounter with the Amish, and their means of transportation (Not counting Kingpin), and I stared wide-eyed in fascination. My jaw hanging and the light changing, as I took it all in.

The rain was flying in at a 45 degree angle. The drops were  the size of mini-water balloons, coming in quicker than a Cuban little leaguer’s fastball. The Amish couple kept low, their hat and bonnet impossibly glued onto their soaking heads, as the gusting wind fought to rid them of their ancient accessories. The man handled the reigns capably, as his wife, or sister-wife, or whatever it is with the Amish, held the umbrella up and out like a makeshift windshield. The scene was equal parts human innovation and cultural stagnation.

The other party in this shit show was, until now, an unseen trucker. He laid on his horn from behind me, reminding anyone within earshot, that we all have somewhere else to be. Even the Amish.

Moments later, there I stood, soaking wet inside of a coffin factory. The Amish might’ve remembered their umbrella, but I did not.

The head of maintenance, I’ll call him Jimbo for this blog, greeted me with good ol’ boy charm.

“Gotdamn. It sure as hell is coming down out the there, eh?”

“Yeah it is.” I replied warily.

“Well, come on then, let me show you round.” Said Jimbo, as he spun and headed deeper into the factory.

I followed Jimbo through the maze like turns of the offices, until we finally spilled onto the shop floor, where I was promptly greeted by hundreds of open coffins.

The sight was a slap in the face from the bony hand of the Reaper himself. I let out a stunned stammer, trying not to let my mortal fears show. Jimbo turned and smiled brightly, reveling in my surprise.

“Lots a damn coffins, amirite? Shit, we build and ship em all over the gotdamn world. This is the house of a thousand soon to be corpses. Heh!”

I just nodded and smiled, as he went on. Jimbo really loved his job.

“Imagine if this place flooded, eh? Whole damn county would be screaming and running for their lives. Floating coffins everywhere!”

Jimbo chuckled hard at his imagery, and I couldn’t help but let out a snort and laugh as well. I believe it’s known as gallows humor, and it does the trick in a pinch.

Soon, we strolled around the shop, as Jimbo showed me the manufacturing process of coffins. All the while, the coffins traveled back and forth, over our heads, and all around us, on various conveyor belts, like a conga line from hell.

Jimbo showed off the really custom ones, which, according to Jimbo, went for upwards of fifty thousand dollars. The big man shook his head when he dropped that number. He looked like a man who wished he had some chew to spit at that moment, but settled for just shaking his head again.

“Can you believe that?! Fifty grand! Hell, if it was me, I’d take that fifty grand and throw a party instead. Dancing girls, my man!”

“A lot of money.” I said, as I nodded in agreement.

I found myself morphing into an extra from King of the Hill. A yes man of sorts. Agreeable to the end. “Yup, what you said, Jimbo.” Or “Damn right, Jimbo.” It was an easy transition to make, Jimbo had ideas enough for the both of us.

And there was no doubt that Jimbo had thought out this scenario, and probably most scenarios that had anything to do with the funeral trade.

Unfortunately, our meeting ended abruptly, when Jimbo was pulled away on an urgent matter. A matter that would presumably result in an angry conference call with one unhappy deity or another, and thus perhaps resulting in a bold move toward cremation.

And Jimbo would let out a frustrated sigh and exclaim “That’s the gotdamn death business for ya.”

I drove back to my office under a sun-filled sky, with clouds like cotton balls. I hoped to steal another glance at the Amish, who undoubtedly made their own coffins, but it was not to be. Instead, I settled for a guy with a funny mustache, at the first Starbucks I could find.

Close enough, I thought.

Stratford, Ontario. 2012

On the long and desolate drive, I kept myself occupied with a book on tape, or a cd in this case. I hadn’t discovered audible yet, and podcasts still weren’t a thing. The book was No One Belongs Here More Than You. A collection of short stories by Miranda July.

They were odd and strangely beautiful, but these stories were the type of reading better suited for warmer months. And they proved all the more heartbreaking, when listening to July’s tender voice, as she read them aloud, on a very cold, and very lonely stretch of highway.

This trip would prove to be the first of my driving-while-cry-vacuuming spells. An affliction where the afflicted, has too much time on their hands, and listens to, or thinks of, something that leads to an emotional swell. While also moving at a very rapid rate of speed, in a large, and potentially deadly, motor vehicle. Cry-vacuuming is the process in which the vacuumee fights off the sudden threat of tears, with a complex maneuver that bears a striking resemblance to an allergy attack in reverse.

It’s an inner-battle that is difficult to describe, but one that most of us have had to contend with at one time or another. The trick is to think of your face as an emotional vacuum cleaner. Turn it on, and suck up your tears and snot, leaving the weight of those emotions in the vacuum bag of your gut. This will most likely kill you over an abbreviated lifetime. But hey, at least you’re not crying like a baby, on the side of the road.

In company, I’m mostly a conversationalist. A pop-culture fueled blabber-mouth, who might resemble an extra from a Judd Apatow film. Although, when planted in the solitary confines of my car, for an extended period of time, moodiness will have its way.

I debated whether or not to pull over as I cry-vacuumed the tears from my blurry eyes. Deep breaths, calm shall conquer all. It was her words, or more likely her voice, that caught me at a moment of weakness. My eyes continued to well, and I was already too far gone.

I thought of my wife, as she gave birth to our first son, Aleks. There were slight complications, and an emergency caesarian was called for. Maria, drugged and beautiful, whispering to me. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Over and over again. Why I replayed that scene is beyond me. But in those moments, when true art delivers a swift kick in the pants, we can’t help but recall something from the past. Something that might be beautiful and terrible and real. It’s a fucked up game of tag we sometimes play with art.

After a few hours in the car, I become susceptible to either laughter or tears. This is dependent on a few factors: What I’m listening to, what I’m daydreaming about, the weather, human contact, and what I’ve eaten that day.

On this day, there was a slow, constant rainfall. It pattered rhythmically onto the windshield. Earlier, doing my finest imitation of a Burmese Python, I swallowed a quarter-pounder with cheese, somewhere in Northern Michigan. I was now in a different country, and the roaming charges alone, were reason enough not to call anyone. And for some reason, I was thinking about a scary blip in an otherwise pretty okay life. And the damn rain would not let up.

The dependent factors had given word from on high: My battery was in need of charging, and in all likelihood, this was going to be a miserable day.

I pulled over on the side of the road, and paused the book. I quietly cursed Miranda July. I cursed her voice, and her words. She needed to get out of my head. I quickly ejected the cd, and threw it in the back seat. I lit a cigarette and put in another cd, one featuring a bunch of songs I burned for just such an occasion (The road trip, not the cry-vacuuming).

I was back on the road, and it was time to rock out. After a while, I honed in on Shelter from the Storm. Dylan’s bleating vocals and lyrics boring their way into my subconscious. It was on repeat for the rest of the drive. He was a traveler too. And his storm was biblical in its telling. I tried to memorize each word as I sang along through multiple cigarettes and cold coffee.

I imagined myself singing it un-ironically during karaoke at a bar. Perhaps with my wife, and a few of our friends. Maybe a girl or two from the past, were there as well. How would the scene play out? I was no longer some drunken day player at a karaoke bar. Go big or go home. This was my fantasy after all.

His lyrics, now mine. As I sang along to the song in my tone-deaf way. I was Dylan, and I sang a song about a foreign land, and my own crown of thorns. Perhaps a crush from a lifetime ago was watching intently, the passion of the moment taking her, as she realized much too late, that we had something special there, for a second.

My wife and I locking eyes, and knowing in that split second, that there was more to it all. That the adventure was just beginning. And of course, there were the assholes from different eras of my life. As they looked away sheepishly, ashamed at how they did me wrong. Soon though, like most juvenile fantasies, mine lost its imaginary steam. And the daydream sputtered out, without so much as a whimper or a croon.

After a time, I found my way to Stratford. I navigated the town and ended up at a small hotel known as the Queen’s Inn.

Upon check in, I walked through the Boar’s Head pub, situated on the first floor. I noticed it packed with locals, working their way through what I assumed were after-work drinks. I passed on a drink of my own, and headed directly for my room. I threw down my bag and lay on the bed. After a few minutes of staring at nothing, I jumped with a start. My body’s self-preservation mechanism had kicked in. Something was not right. I scanned the room.

There were way too many fucking doors. The room had four separate doors. There was the front door, which I walked in from. Two doors on the wall in front of me, and a fourth door to the small bathroom on my right. After thinking it over, it did make sense. One of the other doors was for the closet, and the other, a connector for the rooms. Still, it seemed like way too many doors for one room. Usually, there’s a turn or even a second room, which splits up the amount of doors from the hotel patron’s view.

This was unsettling. I stood, and moved to open the closet door, and then thought better of it. I imagined a black hole. Ready and waiting to swallow me up into the abyss. Or maybe a tiger. I wasn’t sure which would be worse. I needed to walk.

Stratford was a bit different, even for Canada. I hadn’t researched much about the city before I arrived. The fact being, I was there for a work-related meeting. So, I was taken aback when I noticed how many restaurants and theaters were condensed into such a small town. It was considerable overkill for a population of perhaps 30,000. I stopped to read some of the signs and posters around town.

There was quite a bit about Shakespeare. Again, it seemed like too much culture for a town of this size. And I was fairly certain the bard never got out this way. So, I didn’t think it had anything to do with historical sites on his behalf. It was all very curious. This was a case that needed solving. One that would require my finest deductive skills in doing so. Plainly put, I would have to ask someone what in the hell was going on.

The city itself had more of a European feel, architecturally, than a lot of what I had already seen of Ontario. It felt as if the town was transplanted from Switzerland, or perhaps Belgium. I had never been to either Switzerland or Belgium, but both of those countries seemed right to me for some reason.

I ate dinner at a small restaurant. I took my meal at the bar. It’s not as sad when you’re eating alone at the bar. A person, by themselves at a table, always looks as if they were just stood up on that first date, but they’re going to finish their meal anyhow. The stubborn sort, which may explain why they were stood up in the first place.

The bartender was good for a bit of company. Although, the TV news was going on about election coverage. And all he seemed to want to do was snort in disgust at anything one of the TV pundits uttered. I couldn’t blame him however, pundits have a knack for bringing out the inner-snorter in any moderate individual.

It was 2012, and Obama was owning Romney in the polls. I guess I was pleased by this. The bartender, knowing I was American, wanted a partner in his political discourse. I am not a fan of politics, nor snorting, and even less a fan of political discussions with strangers. This topic of discussion always seems to begin with that strange feeling out process. Is he one of ours? And this was further complicated by an international context, even if in this scenario, the countries were bordering one another.

Soon though, we both commiserated over the fact that neither of us liked Romney all that much. Albeit, this wasn’t a difficult common ground to find. Unfortunately, I could tell, in that salesman-y way of mine, that the politics flowed passionately in my bartender. I tried to divert our path, but it was not the success I had hoped for, and I left soon after. I made sure to over-tip, and hoped this would lighten his thoughts on folks south of his border.

It had begun to snow, on my way back to the hotel. Big flakes, dancing slow and gracefully down onto the street. There was no wind, and it was quiet, almost silent outside. A nice night for a walk, and a pleasant town to do so in. And I had it all to myself, for a time.

I stopped downstairs at the Boar’s Head for a drink. I bellied up to the bar, and had a nice conversation with a grizzled older fellow. He cared less about politics, and imposing his will on the world, and more about passing a cold night with warm conversation. He told me of the town, and the famous Bieber kid, who came from it. A twinge of pride evident, even in his ribbing of the beebs.

He answered my questions on Shakespeare’s strange influence, here. And he told me about the Shakespeare festival, and of the tourists from around the world, that would flock to it. I made a mental note of going to see more plays in general. The only one I had actually seen in person, not counting Blue Man Group, or carnivals, was a version of True West performed by a cast of college theater kids at Lewis University. A friend of a friend performed in it, and while it was entertaining enough, It left me underwhelmed.

Piece by piece, the puzzle that was Stratford came together. Its doors opening, each one revealing a bit more of its history and its people. Or what a traveling salesman from Chicagoland could put together of it, in the brevity of a single night. Still, the city had stories to tell, Shakespearian and otherwise.

I finished my drink and went outside for one last cigarette, before calling it a night. A night that found a second wind and its third act.

I watched, as across the street, a man and woman stood by their parked cars, hoods popped, speaking to one another as the snow fell. Jumper cables connected their cars, and batteries were being charged.