An excerpt from the upcoming Novel- Ride My Highway- Coming Late Summer 2017!
“I never really meant to become a truck driver, it’s just something that kind of happened. I understand that this might sound silly to some, but that’s how it went down. You see, when I was in grade school, my dad traveled a gas and oil pipeline, and he maintained their computers which controlled the massive pumping stations that dotted the line every 100 or so miles from Texas to New York. Dad would take me with him during summer breaks from school.
I BEGGED to go with Dad on the road… we would go to restaurants and travel about, just looking and talking about the scenery.
Back then, radio was big, and he liked the Oldies, which was 1960’s and 50’ rock ‘n roll. I remember hearing all the countdowns on the “Hot Wax Weekend”. If he got tired of that, Dad might switch it over to 1970’s rock or AM talk radio on “The Big One, 700 WLW” out of Cincinnati. The thing is, all of this felt completely normal, it didn’t feel sinful or wrong…. Probably because it wasn’t wrong. It was NORMAL.
In Middletown, Ohio I went to my very first drive-in movie theatre and we also went to the cinema there in town. Dad would take me to restaurants for dinner at night, and some of these were nothing more than bars or nightclubs. In those days, there wasn’t as much of a push to keep kids out of bars as there is now, and I remember eating in many hotel lounges or local taverns. From my point of view, the notion of traveling about and eating in restaurants, of being whoever the hell you chose to be that day, was appealing to me. That’s the root of my split personality, and my better half came out to play when I traveled. So, I was always waiting for my next trip. I looked forward to my own constant re-invention as much or more as I looked forward to spending time with Dad.
During all of this, I remember the day when I understood that by being a truck driver, I could virtually guarantee myself this lifestyle with little to no effort. In a 76 Truck Stop at Franklin, Ohio, Dad and I stopped for breakfast one morning. It must have been the summer of ’83 or ‘84. Back then, Truck Stops all had similarities, but the mighty 76 Stops were a premier place along the road. Plus, they had real restaurants, complete with a counter and stools along with booths and tables. Oh, and there was always one of those refrigerated pie displays that spun around in a circle, and the waitress would go right up to it, open up a side door, and get you a slice of whatever pie looked good.
Anyhow, this one morning, we sat in a booth that just happened to have a window facing east. The morning sun was shining in through the curtains, and I dropped a quarter into our table sized jukebox, and punched whatever number played the record for “The Blue Cyclone” by Ray Stevens.
As the funny man played through that tiny speaker, I noticed all of the truckers having breakfast and drinking their coffee- smoking cigarettes and talking, laughing at jokes. They were all being who and what they wanted to be; meanwhile, none of them had anyone remotely close to them who knew who they were! These guys were miles from home and their bosses, and might stay gone for weeks at a time. Imagine, being able to be who I wanted, and to feel comfortable in my own skin. In that epiphany, I understood that an entire group had figured out how to do what I was trying to do, and that they were also being paid to do it.
At that moment, around the age of 9 or 10, I understood that my main concerns were two-fold:
- I must find a way to travel incessantly
- I must travel alone, because when I was alone… I could be myself
And so, constant travel and being AWAY from people who might know me was the path my life began to veer towards. As a kid, I had to try and fit in and get along with others. I did this from a sense of survival, but I also knew that someday it wouldn’t matter. I knew that at some point those kids who didn’t like me wouldn’t always be there, and that was alright by me. I also knew that no matter how hard I tried to fit in, with whatever group, I didn’t want to have to change “me” to suit “them”. At that early age, I understood the value of being honest with yourself, and more than anything, this included being able to BE YOURSELF.
I suppose the funny thing about all of this is that if I did grow up “normal”, without the litany of bullshit lessons, I wouldn’t be able to tell this story. So, in that way, things turned out the way they were supposed to.”