Sunday, May 19, 2013


They may be united, but these states couldn’t be any more different. Some may be red or blue, but many are pink, orange, green, yellow, and a few are very gray. Some take great pride in their states, and one in particular thinks it is the greatest place on earth. I know states can’t think, but personification is a tool I like to use like alliteration, alimony, and allspice.
One way to judge the appeal of a state is by its trailer parks – at least those you can see from the Eisenhower Interstate System. Did you know President Eisenhower was the only one born in Texas? Pennsylvania and Ohio have the most uniform and beautiful trailer parks I saw. I imagine a bunch of white trash Stepford Wives living in them. All are set on angles, spaced evenly with car ports, and every one is the same model from the same manufacturer. Palm Springs trailer parks are the only ones you can truly call trailer parks. When you pull in, you realize where Tracy and Nicky parked their long, long trailer in 1954. At first glance, you see Mid-Century Modern color schemes then you notice that the bump-outs and porches are attached to actual trailers which were towed by Mercurys and Hudsons in the 1950s. The trailer parks in South Dakota and Wyoming were dreadful. They were a mish-mash of trailers, RVs, campers and the occasional manufactured home set willy-nilly on large, dry parcels of land. I was ashamed to call myself trailer park trash, but these are the parks that give us our reputation.
Another thing I noticed about Wyoming. No one bathes there. Every time I stopped for gas or coffee, some guy with black teeth, dirty fingernails and a ripped T-shirt was working the cash register. I was careful not to touch any surfaces. However, they were very polite.
Nevada was the curious state. It was the only place where people commented on my license plates. “You are a long way from home.” I heard that a dozen times. For a state where every billboard tells you that you will win thousands of dollars playing slots at Walgreen’s, there were a lot of poor people.
Another way to judge a state is by the way they handle construction. Along the northern route, I relayed before how professionally they handled miles-long construction projects without any interruption to the flow of traffic. The southern route is another story. Let’s take Illinois, a state that gave us Lincoln and Obama. Once you cross into the land of Lincoln, you stop – literally. For three hours. Literally. Three hours. This was mid-afternoon on a Friday. The problem was bridge construction where three highways meet. The signage indicated that two lanes would become one. Apparently, two lanes became none. Once we started moving, everyone got up to speed for about two miles, until the same thing happened again. Then again. Kentucky, reduces everything to one lane from the left, then opens it up for a mile, then from the right, then opens it up for a mile, then the left again. You are given twenty-five feet of warning before merging begins again. I think the person in charge of construction does this because he likes watching people go 70 mph then slam on their brakes. One trucker actually got annoyed and blocked the lane that was merging, so traffic wouldn’t be further impeded by those wanting to get as far in front as possible. They say that if you hit a highway worker, you will go to jail for 30 years – they have signs indicating this. But, I think if you hit the guy who came up with the method of diverting traffic through construction in Kentucky, they will build a statue in your honor.
Speaking of which, are all highways in the middle of America only two lanes in each direction? The good news is everyone knows it is cruise on the right, and only pass on the left … until you cross into Virginia. I was born in Virginia, and I can say that Virginians are the worst drivers in the country with Marylanders coming in a close second. In DC, they aren’t drivers, just idiots. In Virginia, they do not understand the concept of the two-lane highway. They go over the speed limit on the right and 5 mph below on the left. If you are passing someone, they ride your tail until you complete your maneuver. And another thing you will notice about Virginia drivers – they pick their noses and text while driving. All of them. Seriously, everyone was elbows deep into their own sinus cavities while sending messages. Never borrow a Virginian’s phone. Ever.
The most annoying part of the drive was California, but don’t tell a Californian. All those earthquakes, mudslides, fires and Lindsay Lohan trials make them very sensitive. When you are on the I-80 crossing over the border, you begin the most treacherous journey of your life through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The posted speed limit is 65 mph, but you will be going 75 mph and 45 mph and 75 mph and 45 mph on S-curve after S-curve until you do the one thing they say a driver could never do – make yourself car sick. As if that wasn’t bad enough, on the way down from Upper Lake, California, after my retreat, there was an accident, so Gladys (my GPS, whom I argued with for two weeks), sent me on a different mountain road with a posted speed of 20 mph and rightfully so. The S-curves were so tight that it was like driving a space ship. Shit was flying all over my truck. I was hit in the head by a jar of Tang. The GPS bean bag would slide to one side, then the other, then the other.
After all that, I was diverted again right into the longest traffic jam I ever saw. While trying to merge into traffic, I noticed something you don’t see in my parts. People do not let you in at all. So, you have to force yourself in then they flip you off. Now, I know why drivers shoot each other in the loony state. I experienced this all the way down the state, and a sensitive Californian took umbrage at my generalization of Californian drivers explaining that only northern Californians drive like that. Last time I checked, Los Angeles was in southern California, and I had my share of similar experiences there, but again, I was insensitive. No wonder California is the rehab capital of the world.
California is also the home of Palm Springs, which according to its citizens is the greatest place on earth. All other places on earth are third-world countries with Sally Struthers standing in a mud pit wearing a fur coat and complaining about the flies and heat.
They say it is a dry heat in Palm Springs. Bull shit. Heat is heat. I actually saw an old Gay man, waiting for a cross walk, melt into the sidewalk and disappear into a puddle of bronzer and Lipitor. All that was left was a straw hat and his artificial hip. You can’t drive a convertible there unless you have Teflon seats. I lived in south Florida for five years. The temperature never made it above 95, and we had a breeze. In Palm Springs, it was 108 (by the way, that is the setting I use for a Lean Cuisine), and you have these strong, hot winds, much like an evening in my trailer after a meal of Indian food. Then I would hear, “Oh, but you have humidity in Florida.” You still sweat and stink; it just evaporates faster in Palm Springs. And, speaking of which. I have been there twice; where are the fucking springs? They have these misters, which fog up your glasses, but I didn’t see any springs. Also, what is with all the privacy fences? Everyone lives in a compound, even the trailer park people. I was told I was looking at Cary Grant’s house. All I saw was a gate with a CG on it. It could have been Carole Goosby’s house for all I knew. Who is Carole Goosby? My point exactly.
My friends want me to move there. Would you believe I am considering it? But, if I do, I am going to have the most open house with no window coverings just to freak everyone out. I am also going to say hello to all my neighbors. Do they make a sunscreen with an SPF of 236?
On the way home, I drove through Naziland – Arizona, where if you have a tan, which I do, you are careful never to stop, and you always have your citizenship papers on hand. They have a wrinkled, old bitter governor who is in love with the sheriff of Maricopa County, who only likes white people. So, why is she living in a state that borders Mexico? That is like moving to Tel Aviv and declaring you don’t like Jews.
From there, I drove through my favorite state, New Mexico, the most beautiful state. The scenery is breathtaking. New Mexico is the nation’s meth capital, according to all the billboards. No wonder the colors are so vibrant there. In addition, New Mexico gave us Vivian Vance. Therefore, I have nothing negative to say about New Mexico.
But, cross the next border, and you enter another country – literally. Good ole Texas. They want to secede from the union. I say let them.
Up to that point, I stayed in the right lane with the cruise set at 4 mph over the posted limit because where I am from, they will only pull you over if you are going 10 mph over. There I was in the right lane, going steady with all the traffic in front of and behind me and people passing me as if I were standing still, when I spotted a state trooper driving in the passing lane. He would pause by each car, and then it was my turn. Now, as I said, the cruise was set at 4 mph over the limit, and everyone else was driving at that speed. He hovered beside me for about 30 seconds, flashed his lights and pulled me over. Usually, one gets nervous in these situations, and I have never, I mean never, been pulled over in 35 years of driving. I knew this was bull shit.
What was my offense? DWJ, DWG, or DWTPT? I have a Black friend with a very expensive car, who won’t drive in Virginia because he gets pulled over for DWB all the time. I always thought driving an American pick-up truck with no identifying stickers would make me immune to harassment.
He walked up to the passenger window, which I reached over and rolled down (I know he wondered why I had no electric windows), and he said, “You are driving in excess of our posted speed limit. License and registration, please.”
While I was retrieving the documents, he asked me, “How do you like that GPS stand?”
Seriously, we are going to have a conversation? I responded that I liked it. He then asked me to step out of the vehicle and sit in his car. He commented on the size of the body bag luggage carrier and while walking over to the car, he asked if I had any weapons then turned his back to me. Ummm, if you wondered about a weapon, why would you turn your back to me?
I sat up front, and he asked me all kinds of questions including, “Where are you going?” “What do you do for a living?” “What do you write?” “How do you like your truck?” “How often do you work out?” With the last question, I was beginning to wonder what this was really about. He turned out to be an OK guy, who seemed to feel a little bad that he harassed me for being from Maryland since I gave him no grief and answered his probing questions politely. He let me off with a warning, and I didn’t have to blow him. A win-win for everyone.
As I continued on my journey, I noticed that everyone who was pulled over in Texas had “foreign” plates. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to pursue actual criminals than a Gay Trailer Park Jew in a pick-up truck with a nifty GPS, Maryland tags and smokin body?
For the remainder of the trip, I drove the posted speed limit, until I reached Maryland, where driving is a contact sport.
Although I joke, I met very nice people everywhere I went, the hygienically challenged in Wyoming, the paranoid snobs of southern California, the clean and helpful people of Minnesota, the friendly slow people of Tennessee, and even the nosy state trooper in Texas.
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

See the USA in Your GMC

If there is one thing everyone should do, it is drive cross country. Or is it drive across country? AMC did make the Rambler Cross Country, so we will go with cross country. Whatever you prefer, before you die, do it because if you wait until after you die, you won’t be able to see out back of the hearse. They have curtains over the windows as if the sun would bother your eyes.

I am going to blame my rambling on altitude sickness since I am in Salt Lake City. No, I am not converting to Mormonism. They don’t drink coffee, and I drink at least twelve cups a day, which means I would need a twelve step program to get over my twelve cups. Besides, I have just come back from walking around downtown at the church square, and they make me look like a fashionista! I do have to say that their gardener is a genius. Oh my God, the flowers were breathtaking. With my crazy magnet in full force, a little old lady in white slacks, pink shirt and matching hat struck up a conversation with me about the flowers, and I, being so shy and demure, engaged her. She wanted to know if my gardens looked like these. Poor little crazy lady had no idea she was talking to the Gay Jew in the Trailer Park … until I told her.

This is not my first cross-country trip (now see, cross works there). In 1986 with my brother and an overly-packed Chrysler New Yorker, we trekked the southern route, so I could start a new life in Los Angeles and become a famous comedy writer. How did that turn out, you ask? Talk to the crazy lady in the pink shirt and hat. One doesn’t go from the writer’s room on the Alan Brady Show to a trailer park in Jessup easily.

As I was saying somewhere in the previous paragraphs, I am on a cross country trip. I am also doing everything I swore I would never do. I am posting constant updates on Facebook about where I am along with photos taken from my car while driving, so burglars can break into my trailer and redecorate. They say you shouldn’t text and drive, but no one said anything about snapping pictures. I am totally against texting and driving, and when I see that billboard that says, “Text 312 for more information about texting and driving,” I do. My friend Frank texts while driving a 1965 Falcon with a three-on-the-tree. You can always tell when he is texting. He starts driving 30 mph in a 55 mph zone. One day he got into a heated text argument, and he came to a complete stop on I-95. Of course, no one noticed because no matter what time of day, you are always at a crawl on I-95.

Speaking of crawls, I don’t want to hear another word about how none of the stimulus money is being used. So far, every state I have driven through has a twenty-five mile long construction zone with two-lane traffic, and at the end of each zone is a sign thanking President Obama for the funds to repave and repair – even the red states! However, unlike my home region, they know how to detour traffic without backing it up. In South Dakota, they use early 2000s Buick Lesabre lead cars to guide traffic through detours in shifts. It is the most brilliantly choreographed thing I have ever seen. 

Let me tell you how I ended up on this trip. I signed up for a retreat in Saratoga Springs. After paying my fee, I figured I would drive to New York. It was not long before I found out it was at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center in Upper Lake, California. Quite a difference. Rather than get into a tizzy, I decided to drive cross country (there he goes again) and visit friends I have not seen in years along the way. Simple enough right? To me it was.

To everyone else it was too simple. There is nothing I love more than overly complicated crap, but my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and neighbors apparently love overly complicated crap. The biggest issue was my truck. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to know how I would drive cross country in a compact pick-up. I thought nothing of it. I took it to Cleveland with no issues. It has air conditioning and cruise-control; what else do I need? Apparently, when you drive cross country alone, you need a four-door car. I guess, so you can pick up hitch hikers and do your own remake of that Valerie Harper “Movie of the Week” about the housewife in the station wagon who picks up a hitch hiker who goes bananas when she plays classical music. Or was it Cloris Leachman?

I was advised to rent a car. “Why do you want to put those miles on your truck?” Ummm because I bought the truck to go places? Why would I buy it if I had no intention of using it? This I have never understood. Although my other car is vintage, I treat it like a car. After all, it is a car. I used to own a 1979 Lincoln Continental, which I would drive to the supermarket and K-Mart (before they went completely downhill) and everywhere else I wanted to go. People would ask how I could drive it so much. Ummm because it’s a car? Although I have two vintage cars, and God help me, I am about to have three, I don’t collect things. If I buy something, I use it. I have three vintage percolators, and I use them. I guess this is why I don’t get excited at car shows. The cars are just sitting there. To me, it would be like a vintage appliance show. Unless you are going to wash a load of my whites, don’t invite me. I guess I just don’t like staring at things.

My neighbor, the former dog walker, Mrs. M, was obsessed with the truck, and when I asked her to stop talking about it, she became obsessed with what I was going to pack and wear and where I would stay? She went on and on and on. She completely freaked when I said I would stay where I ended up for the day. I also asked her to stop because nothing makes me more annoyed than someone trying to make me a nervous wreck.

Here is where I am anomaly. Nobody is more anal than I am. My day is completely planned before I get out of bed. I can get more done by 10:00 am than most can do in a week. I know what I will be doing and where I will be every minute of the day. I do not like idle time. On vacation, which is rare for me, I don’t give a shit. I will be where I will be, and I will go where I will go. I once vacationed with someone we will call Roy, not to protect his identity but because that was his name. We went to Paris. He planned every single moment we were there. It felt like work. I kept looking for a time clock. He also forgot to allot time for relations, which was fine because he was lousy in bed, and my friend Christian said he looked like a cadaver. No wonder some people return from vacation exhausted.

With my pick-up packed, much to the chagrin of everyone, including my mechanic (who actually called yesterday to ask if I ran out of room in the truck), I began my journey. My first stop was to see my friends Danny and Michael in Lansing, Michigan. On the way there, I noticed they had the most beautiful trailer parks in Pennsylvania and Ohio – very uniform with all the mobile homes on an angle with manicured lawns and matching sheds and car ports. Lansing is another story. This is where the economy really hit rock bottom. Danny informed me it is the capital, but you wouldn’t have known that by the three cars on the main drag. No one can afford gas.

We had a great visit, and then it was off to Minnesota to see a man about a horseless carriage. I decided to take a quick trip into Minneapolis to have my picture taken with the Mary Richards statue because I am Gay after all. Of all the cities I have seen, none is cleaner than Minneapolis. You could eat off the streets. There was no evidence that it had snowed there just days before my arrival. Also, everyone in Minnesota is nice. They talk as if they stepped off the set of Fargo, but they are just as polite, friendly and helpful as they can be.

From there, it was off to Salt Lake City to visit Anthony and Jeff. I thought it would take three days, but I decided to do the second and third legs in one trip. That was seventeen hours of driving. I crossed three states and a time zone. I saw parts of this country many have not seen except on post cards. For the record, it was supposed to be sixteen hours, but I forgot about the time change. Oh well.

When you live on the East Coast, especially in a metropolitan area, where you are stuck in traffic three hours a day, you forget how beautiful this country really is. I am so glad I am seeing the USA in a GMC.

Also, I have washed the truck twice already. I hate a dirty vehicle. I know the people are looking at me while they pass wondering how that clean truck made it all the way from Maryland.

One last word about speed limits. We have them in the DC metropolitan region, but they are useless. The fastest I can go on I-95 during rush hour is 25 mph. I love when someone asks me if any of my cars has enough power to keep up with traffic. A Hoveround Power Chair with Chris Christie (pre and post lap-band) at the helm can keep up with traffic where I live.

I have now experienced rush-hour in the Midwest. The speed limit by the way is 75 mph. I think Caroline Appleby (that is the name of my truck) actually smiled when she saw that. During rush hour, they drive 75 mph. I could get easily get used to that.

To everyone, yes, my truck has enough room. Yes, it can keep up with traffic. Yes, I am comfortable. And to Mrs. M, I did not pack dress shoes. I didn’t even pack a dress.

If you want to see the USA in a GMC, follow me, get on my email list, share this with your friends and buy my books at