Slow Ride

Trashman goes for a drunken drive through suburbia

DWI/I can make it if I try
--Handsome Dick Manitoba

The heady mix of sleep deprivation, speed and booze has given me an eagle-eye vision, and tonight the city reveals itself in painful clarity: The cheerless repetition of manicured lawns is even more bleak, the awkward, oversize grasshoppers have become giant genetic freaks, the exaggerated and ugly facades of smoked-glass structures illuminated with elaborate and homogenous lighting are fronts for entrances to hell.

The light changed from a red to a textured fizzy green as if life itself revolved behind the bow of glass. It was a sign to move forward, to roll farther into the soused funnel of a swirling 2 a.m. midsummer Monday.

A midsummer night's dizzy dream. Driving through the soft-lighted stillness of this sleeping working-class burb is humiliating, like being made to stand in the hallway in sixth grade. It's a place where anything sober and with a heartbeat was participating in the city's quiet, doing "sensible" things like sleeping or staring blankly into silently flickering television screens.

Life is suffocating and deceitfully persuasive in suburbia, a place so quelled by its own habits and boring rituals it is difficult to move without restraint, much less evolve as a human being. And as a kind of restitution, we get shiny objects like home-entertainment centers, sport-utility vehicles and pastel bathroom trinkets.

The profit from the sale of our thoughts and dreams and hopes is a collected illiteracy, greedy ignorance and kids weaned on crap parenting. Great. No wonder I self-medicate.

Here, even the night birds are in full mock tone singing their evil choruses as I rumble beneath trees and wires in an untriumphant Five-O-era Ford, a car equipped with expired plates, rusted dents, and a broken side window. A car that says loudly and vainly: "My driver is a gimp for always driving me while drunk, on roads shared by new, hip cars. And if you are a cop who happens to see me, would you please be kind enough to pull us over, impound me and jail my driver? This would surely end my days of misery. Life would be peachy if I was just rid of my loser owner. He has nothing better to do but yell about how stupid people are and stay out late drinking every night because he doesn't have a job to wake up for in the morning."

Funny, my car and all my ex-girlfriends share the same dim view of me.
So far I have been rewarded two consecutive sleepless nights for the speed I did, a blunder that had me underestimating its carnal power. For a good part of that two-day spin, I have been tortured with a perpetual pubescent-era hard-on, an agony that defies explanation. My heart pumps at an unnatural clip like I had just returned from a heated run, the blood feels like sand running through my veins. And tonight I drank ungodly amounts of booze just to hasten normalcy, to at least mock pleasure again.

It didn't work: The gristles still palpitate, nerve endings still glow in misery and the head is still an anxious suicide bone throbbing. And having not eaten in two days, the alcohol hit the system hard: I am shit-faced.

DWI/I can make it if I try

When I was a kid, my old man used to down cans of Pabst and drive all over hell; vacations, work, my Little League practice, whatever. And it was then that I thought that every kid's dad had a can of beer between his legs while manning the wheel. I had always just figured that drinking and driving was a working man's rite of passage; that as an accepted part of our American suburban ritual--a blue-collar diplomatic immunity of sorts--nobody fucked with a man's beer. Not even cops. Boy, times have changed.

The road from the bar to the trailer is four miles from out of the suburb. On a good day, I can make it in seven minutes. Tonight, with no cars on the road, I have a chance. Not a cop in sight. My old man's trick of driving with one eye closed is working, barely: The car still swells gently around me, but at least when I closed the lid on one eye, the due-south road magically stopped curving to the west, allowing me to avoid a crushing blow with a telephone pole. Thank God for small miracles.

I roll past Arby's and Rent-a-Center and Blockbuster. A ghost town. The hot August air is still and smells of humid irrigation. The car rolls on.

Lights come up behind me, burning the retinas in the rearview. Two, sometimes four, stinging headlights. It is here that I remind myself that there is no greater fear than the fear of a cop when one is driving drunk. The lamps move from out of the rearview and come around. No cops. Thank Jesus.

Another car pulls up close, then comes around. Kids in their parents' Acura. They yell something at me as they pass. "Loser," was all I could make out. Unoriginal prick punk bastards.

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