I am tearing down the highway with the music pumped up, singing at the top of my lungs. With enough racket going on, with the landscape hurtling past, I am Patsy Cline, then Willie Nelson, on to the Statler Brothers, Hank Williams, and Tammy Wynette, with a few noisy detours into George Strait, Eric Clapton and Leonard Cohen.
The highway — well, let me count the ways it sucks the big one. It’s I35 between Austin and Dallas, 200 miles of simmering asphalt, gigantic trucks hauling immense concrete pillars, speed traps, cowboy drivers heading to their last roundup. Somehow, it manages to be boring, unsightly and dangerous all at one time.
Oh, so, big deal, I claimed I loved mass transit and being an enthusiastic, aggressive pedestrian while in New York City. It was true, too. But that was then and this is now, and right now I’m behind the wheel of my own car, which I haven’t driven in months. Once in the car, back in Texas, everything else falls away. I feel free and light, which is ridiculous on this deathtrap of a highway, but you can’t argue with emotion.
The CD continues, playing all my favorite songs, since I thoughtfully recorded it for myself. Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind? I scream. And, You’re just a Coca-Cola cowboy. And I don’t want cry so early in the morning.
Who cares if I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or a barrel or any receptacle of any size? My eardrums are shattered, even my earlobes are bleeding, I am flying along, I am bursting with emotion. I’m going to Dallas to see friends, then back to Austin when our house is finally free on Saturday.
I loved our time in New York. I had the time of my life. I felt nostalgic about leaving.
But here, I feel grounded, I feel a part of everything, even this miserable highway, where I notice a big truck smoldering and smoking on the side of the road, blackened by flames. You can’t ever relax on I35.
I’m not close to relaxation, though. I’m screeching the songs, piloting the car, driving like I never stopped. I can’t help it; I’m a Texan. I speak the language here. Something, even in the overbearing summer heat, feels good. I’m home, dammit, and it just feels right.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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