I am totally knackered.
I cannot feel anything beyond the heaviness of my flesh and I search my mind for the edges of my limbs but all I can identify are the worn cotton sheets. My motivation is the kerig machine to the right of the door and around 8:30 am I stumble to it and smack down a cartridge and was welcomed with a hot water hiss. I pound down the first cup of coffee while gathering all the socks, shorts and t-shirts I had scrubbed out in the sink and hung to dry in the shower the night before. I am getting every damn penny out of this motel room, which I have made into a laundrette, bar and mental health center. Midway through the second cup of coffee I get a call from the front desk. I won’t need to switch to another room today, so I can relax and not have to bundle together all my hobo bundles before 11 am. Last night I decide to heed the advice of a friend and take a rest day (for my knees! i’m so tough I never need rest, ha ha!). My knees desperately needed a break and I couldn’t fool myself that I had the energy for anything besides eating crispy snacks while half reclined. I scrub another round of filthy gear and hanging it up before sliding on a sweater and heading out to find breakfast.
The second I stepped foot out the motel room door the smell purged every square millimeter of my nostrils. It was as if someone had placed a contained of spoiled seafood chowder into a paper bag with some fists full of hair and lit the entire thing on fire. I stumbled to the restaurant across the street and it took a few minutes for stank to dislodge from my nose. I sat down and barely glanced at the menu before ordering coffee, french toast and sausage. I glance around the dining room which has a giant map of Italy on the wall and painted wooden signs with slogans about wine and friends and a few Halloween decorations for good measure. The big screen TV is tuned to the weather channel and after watching for a few minutes I realize I hadn’t checked the weather report the entire trip.
Which is odd considering how relevant weather is to my every waking second, but I dunno if it was ever worth the bother. The french toast arrives and it is a Canadian beauty, stacked high and dusted with powdered sugar and it is egg whipped and light with all the edges crisp and a goddamn delight. I start to mow into it when I overhear the waitresses at their station trying to figure out their time cards. I instinctively start to call out “hey, don’t worry, I’ll fix it later” but then remembered I am an office manager no longer. I’m just a stranger with a sunburned nose struggling to open a tub of maple syrup. A tinge of loneliness. I soon pay my tab and swing by the motel head office to drop off the charger I had borrowed from Boss Lady the day before. The young woman who was cleaning the rooms offered me one of her plug-in USB adapters “I got a lot of these at home”. MY LIFELINE MY CELL PHONE JUICE. I thanked her profusely, as I had planned an entire day of noodling on the internet and tapping out new blog posts. It’s hard to express gratitude sometimes, in the grandness for what it really is. I return to my motel room, plug in my phone with a silent cheer and roll into the rumpled bed for another heavy sleep.
I wake up around 2 pm without feeling rested and head to the grocery store, bracing myself yet again for the stench wave. I wander around in a daze and then buy 2 frozen chicken pot pies, a quart of raspberries, bunch of bananas, knob of fresh ginger, more ramen and a red pepper. I eyed a small section that featured Indian products, wondering if there must be Indian transplants working in the mines or if the local townsfolk had a particularly adventurous palate. It is difficult trying to use clues to answer questions like “why are you selling a giant bags of turmeric and jars of chutney” and “where is that awful smell coming from” but I’m still too timid to ask anyone directly as I don’t want to appear as if I’m gawking. CITY SLICKER MARVELS AT SMALL TOWN PECULIARITIES. I walked to the LCBO next door (all liquor stores are run by Ontario province) which is newly built and one of the swankiest building I’ve stepped into since arriving in Canada. I grab more grapefruit radler tallboys along with a pilsner and a cream ale in the walk in cooler in the back and head towards the front, musing about getting whiskey. I shoo the woman behind me in line towards the register, telling her I have nowhere to be and she can go ahead of me. We start chatting and without warning my vowels are deepened and extended and I dig deep into the words around me. It is a little known fact but I am a natural parrot and repeat back any accents and intonations I hear. My inclinations to people pleasing extend even to language itself. I mention my bike tour to her and she asks “are you retired???” and I give my spiel “over 30, no husband, no kids, can do what I please.” I ask if there is anything going on around town and the woman responds “since it’s Thursday, it’ll be wing night at Drifters, which is really the most happening thing around here.” I thank her for the tip and grab my paper bag of cans and wander out the door when an older woman stops me in the parking lot to ask me more details about my trip and she asks where I stay most night and I tell her about warmshowers.org so she can host her own bike tourists and she seems very excited, elbowing her husband and whispering “we need to do that!” A few minutes of pleasantries and I’m back into my motel room.
I settle in and devour the red pepper and raspberries first, hoping that all the fiber after days of industrial starch eating doesn’t cause an accidental intestinal cleaning. A vision of spicy wings danced in my head but even the few minutes of conversation with the women in the liquor store were overwhelming and I didn’t have patience for any small town bar politik. I spend the next few hours sipping on all of the cans of booze and watching hour after hour of VICE channel and I develop a brief infatuation with Matty Matterson and his gooey lasagna. It’s those Canadian vowels and meat sauce in tandem that just make me swoon. I still don’t understand Action Bronson though. It’s mostly just about displays of wealth through food. Expensive fried chicken eaten with organic wines on a Sydney rooftop is the new slick automobile. One fat black fly buzzed around the room as I spend hours sprawled out, the only activity is shifting the ice bag from one knee to the next or cracking open a fresh beer. I feel lazy. I try to build up my own myth and appeal to my teenage self and explain that I am On The Road and instead of Midwestern apple pie and ice cream I’m gauging geography through pancakes and side orders of sausages. I look up the quote from Kerouac and realize that it’s a dull sentence, that I remembered it having much more zing. I’m in this motel room in rural Ontario, closed in and realizing this Beat dreams were childish at best and it isn’t very adventurous to sip on booze in strange sheets. Not alone anyways. What especially echoes is Truman Capote’s critique of those Beats, that “it’s not writing, it’s just typing” as I feel the frustration overwhelm as I tr to compose coherent sentences on my phone, to keep plugging when all I want to do is nothing at all.
I stayed up til midnight again, my body rushed with anxiety and booze calories and I’m nervous from the picnic table of men drinking and smoking cigarettes a few feet from my door, reminded of the strange 3 am phone calls from the night before. But I realize if I can hear them laughing and talking, I at least know where they are. At some point I drift off, finding human warmth in the voices that float past the locked door.
MILES RIDDEN: zero
QUOTE: “I forgave everybody, I gave up, I got drunk.” Jack Kerouac, On The Road