on the road

Am feeling much better today, thank you. The only remaining symptom of my week-long sickness, whatever it was, is that my sinuses still continue to decongest, a process which takes the form of me soaking one Kleenex after another by filling my lungs with as much air as they can hold, then blowing for as long as I can. The stuff that comes out of my nose when I do this is as dark and slimy and scary as a Stephen King novel.

Hey, you came here to read this. I just write the stuff.

I have been not writing much in my blog these days because the stuff I’ve been thinking about is not the kind of stuff I can write in an offhanded, flip and funny way, the way I like to write stuff that goes in this blog. I don’t know why that should stop me, but it does. And it’s not for lack of trying to write about it in a funny way. I know it can be done. I see people doing it. But either because of my demeanor, or my age, or because I just don’t think it’s funny that our country is governed by politicians who are determined to bend us to their fucked-up vision of how they think we ought to behave, I simply can’t find it in myself to write funny commentary about it. It’s not funny, it’s tragic. I weep for the days when I believed politicians were merely ham-fisted instead of malevolent.

That said, I have to tell you that, for my money, the stable of writers at Seth Meyers’ late-night talk show are unquestionably the most hilarious when it comes to lampooning Trump, hitting just the right note time and time again. I still think what’s going on is tragic in the extreme, but those guys can always get me to laugh at the worst of it, and god dammit I need that every so often. Okay, every night. Also, I think Meyers himself does the best Trump impression. The others are pretty good, but Seth’s combination of voice, face, and gestures makes me chuckle the most often.

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, driving hours and hours to the farthest reaches of our great state for reasons that are, honestly, too boring to get into even in the rolls of a blog titled “This Is Drivel,” and you can believe me when I say that sets the bar for what makes things boring. Maybe I’ll explain it later, with a spoiler warning so you can bail out before you get to it, but for now I want to talk about the hours and hours on the road, which are sometimes boring and sometimes not, depending on where I’m going and who I’m going with. I should very quickly add that none of the coworkers I travel with bore me; I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and in the hours we’ve spent criss-crossing the state they have told me things that are right up there with the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard. Even so, if I put you in a car with the most interesting person on earth and set you on a course up the interstate from Madison to Superior with only occasional stops at a Kwik-Trip here and there to break the monotony, I guarantee that by the time you caught sight of Eau Claire through your windshield, you’d be so numb that you’d be perfectly happy to sit in silence for the next two hours. There’s a reason they call non-stop trips “deadheading.”

Most of our trips are not that long, thank goodness, and usually about half of most trips are not on the interestate, but on the much more interesting country roads that wind through countryside I can’t help but describe using words such as pleasing, picturesque, quaint, cozy, homey, or just plain old pretty. There are also places that are run-down and awful, but not many. Having mentioned that, I can’t help but add there are places that are not run-down but still godawful. There’s a stretch of road through Oshkosh that has to be the ugliest part of Wisconsin I’ve ever seen; for the better part of a mile you have to drive through a gauntlet of billboards that look like the montage of messages flashing past the eyes of some poor bastard who’s being brainwashed by a grinning evil genius. I avoid it whenever I can because it gives me nightmares.

When we’re not admiring the pretty stretches of countryside, or we’re not being numbed by the interminable stretches of interstate, we pass the time by picking a topic ripped from the day’s news, exploring the edges of it at first if it was maybe a little controversial, and what news story these days isn’t? Even the weather, a topic that was once so safe and boring that it was a staple of every conversation between strangers and family alike, has become controversial. I stay away from it these days not because it’s political, but because I’m so militant when it comes to the subject of human-influenced climate change that I know I’ll end up ranting, and nobody wants to see that.

Somewhat surprisingly, the latest stupid thing our president has done or said is often a topic of conversation, surprising because I’ve long been led to believe that you should avoid talking about politics in mixed company if you can help it, and Trump is nothing if not a politically-charged topic, but he’s always in the news and he’s always saying or doing something monumentally stupid. And it just occurred to me that some day, someone’s going to put a monument to Trump in a city park somewhere, and when that happens, I will drive for hours and hours cross-country just to see pigeons shit on his head. I’ll post a selfie here when I do. Watch this space.

Even more surprisingly, I was asked on one of these long road trips for my opinion on the second amendment. If that’s not a politically-charged topic to stay away from, I don’t know what is. But my coworker wanted to know what I thought, and I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the subject, so I took a deep breath and let fly. Then, just to show her that I was as willing as she was to listen to other people’s opinions on a controversial subject, I asked her whether or not she believed that NASA landed men on the moon. When she said no, I had to admit to myself that I was not as willing to listen to controversial opinions as I thought I was. Actually, when she said no I thought at first she was messing with me and waited several seconds for her to laugh and shout, “Gotcha!” When she didn’t do that, I asked her why she didn’t believe it and we had a long conversation about conspiracies and the cold war and in the end I think I got her to believe it, or maybe ninety-five percent of it.

I’ve known for a long time that people say the moon landings were faked but even so, the first time I met a couple of them I was absolutely gobsmacked by their steadfast determination to disbelieve that it was even possible, much less that it happened. Those first two were of the “Well, you weren’t there, so you don’t really know” school of thought, which made me want to drag them up in front of all nine (at the time) of the surviving moon walkers to see what kind of doofishness they would continue to spew in front of the very people they would have to consider to be credible witnesses. If I could have just one super-power, by the way, it would be a bloodhound-like tracking sense that would allow me to find those people, a steely grip that I could use to grab them by the back of the neck and the seat of their pants, and the ability to leap far enough to give them a bum’s rush all the way to the moon, where I would give them a tour of each and every one of the six landing sites. My super-power would also have to include some way for both of us to hold our breath for a long time, and not freeze to death in the icy vacuum of space, or the whole exercise would be sort of pointless.

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