Imagine the horror and the beauty

Over the past week, I’ve had more time on my hands than usual, and I love it. You know those people who say, “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t work?” Seriously?!

I really despise the word “Staycation” but that summarizes what I’ve been doing. Let’s just say, I may or may not have applied for a job that would have required us to move, so we didn’t make any plans. Turns out, I’m so exhausted from this past quarter, it’s just been plain heavenly to sit, think, write, daydream, cook, knit, watch movies, and listen to music.

Truth be told: I need some distance on the past four months before I can truly reflect on what I’ve learned. It’s been the best of times and worst of times, if I may use a phrase from Uncle Charlie.

A few days ago, I spent some time with my GoodReads profile. After reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, I decided I’m going to read the 100 books I’ve currently marked from 2012-to the present. Of course, I’ll let myself get off track by taking on recommendations, but I’ve been inspired by Nina Sankovitch. I deleted a bunch that have been on my list for a few years, and that somehow made me feel better. For all of my ed. tech love and OER, I still crave books. Sometimes I use the iPad for eBooks, but I mostly read novels printed on paper.

I just finished reading Carsick by John Waters. After seeing him on the Colbert Report, I bought the book the next day. Waters advises single people to go hitchhiking instead of using dating websites! I don’t usually buy hardback books, and from 2009-2012, I made the financial decision that I wouldn’t buy any books—or very few of them. Everything had to come from the library or from the Internet. Taking a hard look at the budget, I realized that it wasn’t uncommon for us to spend $25-50 here and there on books. We had to be either bibliophiles or bike geeks; we couldn’t be both.

So when I was “made” last year at my job (I like to use mafia language when I talk about positions in higher ed. ), I relieved us of the no-book-purchasing-edict, and we started buying books again. Life has begun again!

Water’s book appealed to me because I love hitchhiking (Gosh, I hope my Mom doesn’t see this post). In the 90s, I hitchhiked a lot in mountain towns. People in small mountain towns were cool, and tourists loved picking up locals. The only time I had two dudes my age make me feel uncomfortable, I asked them to stop so I could call “my really hot friend who I knew would love to meet them. ” They let me out of the car, and I disappeared behind a convenience store to use a pay-phone, and I broke into a run. A mile up the road, a senior citizen woman on her way to The Goodwill picked me up, and we had a lovely time talking about Oprah. Those sketchy dudes never saw me again–but what if I had had a cell phone then? How would I have gotten out that situation? I often lament the disappearance of the pay phones and phone booths. But I digress.

I loved the idea of a hitchhiking book—and all I could think of was—How would you NOT know that was John Waters on the side of the road?

During the time that he was on the road traveling, I would have been in full-on-graduate student-adjunct-horror mode, so I didn’t really have time for silliness on the Internet. So I missed his play by play record with folks writing about it on the Interwebs—and I’m putting off looking them up because I have to get my own thoughts down.

First of all, I love the structure of the book. Leave it to a director to create the same story three different ways. He sets out on a journey from his home in Baltimore, MD to his other home in San Francisco—all by hitchhiking. One section is the worst case-scenario, one is the best-case scenario, and the other is a record of what really happened. In the real-time account, he uses examples from the nightmare and the ideal as flashback references for the reader. Genius!

I’ve been reading this book at night before I go to sleep, so it’s taken me about two months to finish it two-three pages at a time. I’m pretty sure my husband is thrilled that I’m done because I woke him up several times by trying to stifle my laughter which only shook the bed and woke him up anyway. (How this man patiently puts up with my brand of crazy still shocks me).

I used a pencil to mark my favorite quotes and all of the song references. Turns out he lists the entire sound-track at the end of the book. Oh, John, I so wished I had been in the middle of Kansas to pick you up!

Here are some parts of the book that I marked, and I’ll try not to spoil anything should you want to read this, and I won’t list the page numbers. It’ll be a 5 star on my GoodReads, btw, and I’m glad that I read it slowly. On some of those nights, I really needed a laugh. Numbered below are direct quotes and the indentations are my thoughts.

1. He reflects the last time he hitchhiked prior to this book was with Patty Hearst, and called them “a hitchhiking comedy duo.”

I do a wicked imitation of Hearst’s SLA declaration: “This is Tania. I’m going to read a declaration of war.” When I get my husband’s voicemail, I like to leave just that quote.

2. Oh, no! Not again! Another fan thinks I’m Steve Buscemi.

I mistook Buscemi at first for Waters’ cameo, so this is hilarious.

3. I look out the window and all is silent. It’s like a happy Jonestown.

So morbidly fantastic.

4. My dentist warns me off Jujyfruits, but I say Fuck Him, I brag.

This is from a section where he meets a trucker, btw.

5. I have been obsessed by Connie Francis’s late career for years and know she still occasionally performs, even doing four-and-a-half hour “greatest hits” concerts. God, if you can imagine the beauty and the horror* of these shows, you will understand why I continue to be her devoted fan. (*credit for my blog title).

Next to Grease, Where The Boys Are (the original, not the crappy 80s version) warped my brain about love and womanhood as a young girl. I watched those movies over and over again. And I love, love, love Connie Francis.

6. I struggle to put on my pants and run up to the highway and begin waving my hands to oncoming traffic as much as Marilyn Burns did at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I can’t top that.

7. Also, I hate to tell you this, but can’t you see? Your cat hates you.

Or that.

8. But God knows, he looks like the real thing. Almost like the Hells Angels. Which makes me feel warm and fuzzy because I’m a real sucker for these guys.

Every mention of biker dudes kills me in this book. I won’t quote the best one so you can discover it all on your own.

9. Sure’—he laughs—‘who’s gonna pick up ‘Charlie Manson Jr. as you call me? You know what they say about Kansas, don’t you?’ What? I bite. ‘Come on vacation, leave on probation!’ I could fall in lust.

I’m totally using that for all my friends who come to visit WA state from Red States. ‘Come on vacation, leave on probation!’

10. He reminds me of all the real bikers I know and love from the Holiday House…Turns out he is biker. So was his father. So was his grandfather. A long line of bikers! Almost like the flip side of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Okay, this is magical for two reasons: DAR women would die a million deaths to be compared to bikers. And my grandmother waited tables at the Howard Johnsons–The Holiday House–in East Pittsburgh for a long time. My uncle once told me that when his friends met her, they all thought she looked like Judy Garland, and he was so proud. My grandmother had lovely red hair before it went gray, an infectious laugh, and she liked to write letters.She bought me a book-of-the-month subscription for Christmas every year when I was a kid. I miss her. And Mr. Waters ends his book with a reference to Judy Garland’s San Francisco.

Eat your heart out, young pop stars. Check out her completely on-the-fly-moves with the microphone. All class, that Judy.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
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