It was a cold morning in Salem. We spent the whole day prior getting ready, packing the car with what little we were bringing to our new home in North Dakota. I was up before my alarm, which is something very unusual for me, especially at 630 in the morning.
I scrambled about to gather anything last minute we may have forgotten. My girlfriend was much more organized and ended up getting the necessities while I toiled over whether or not I really needed to bring two razor blades. My packing was much more finite and controlled. Everything had to be accessible to some degree, in an easy to manage way. She had her things dumped and unkempt in a few duffel bags, which probably added to her stress levels even though she could have taken the time to amend it.
We stopped for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, made a last minute stop to visit her sister to say goodbye, and checked 7/11 for Xtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, my absolute favorite snack. They were all out, but everything was in order. I once again missed seeing the John Proctor Tomb, unusually situated at the base of a highway on-ramp. No matter how long I lived in Salem, I never once took an interest in the rich history of witches and the story of The Crucible. I read the book so I understood all of the attribution, but for all intents and purposes, Salem was a tourist trap. I appreciated the amazing architecture that existed in the city, for it was definitely my favorite Massachusetts place to be, but I could never get involved with the witch culture. I tried to get involved in the haunted aspects of Salem when we stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, the infamous haunted hotel in the heart of Salem, subject of many paranormal shows and séance rituals. My experience there was that we stayed a floor below the “most haunted room in the hotel” (room 612), and I ended up scaring myself silly. The internal struggle of seeing anything old-time in Salem always made my heart race with paranormal fear.
Alas, it was at its end. We were leaving. I only lived in Massachusetts for a short 3 months before I was off again. I was blessed to meet Caroline, my girlfriend, who also carried a travel bug with her much like myself. I spent all of two days getting to know her before I asked her to be my girlfriend, a week of dating before I moved in with her, and two months of falling in love before we decided to move to some place others wouldn’t even consider visiting. I made no goodbyes to friends. I did make a day to say goodbye to my mother, but for the most part we only said goodbye to Caroline’s friends living in the North Shore Massachusetts area.
I very instantly made the realization that I had never been on a multi-day road trip before. The longest I had ever spent in a car before this trip was 6 hours, which I did while on a greyhound bus from one side of Wyoming to the other. Though I prepared by getting some weed, packing plenty of snacks and drinks, and had good tunes on the airwaves, I couldn’t even fathom what I was about to go through. Of course, my girlfriend hardly trusts me driving so she took the wheel while I began sinking into my seat.
Heading southwest towards New Jersey, the bulk of our first day was spent admiring the lush forests of Connecticut that hadn’t quite begun to grow their leaves back. In fact, what we were leaving in Massachusetts was another incoming Nor’easter, and we couldn’t have been more delighted to miss it. I was so tired of being cold. Ever since October, when I left to skate across the country, I was perpetually frozen, and finally leaving it for good.
Of course, North Dakota is on the Canadian border so it isn’t particularly a warm place, but we were only going to be there from April to October, with plans to move to Arizona or New Mexico after. We very much agreed between us that we want to live in a never ending summer. The only thing that could change that would be the appeal of an Alaskan Winter and the trials we would put ourselves through to make that happen.
I learned something about myself over nine and a half hours of driving- I can’t sit still. My girlfriend already thinks I have some form of turrets and a wild case of ADHD, but I never really saw it in myself until I started entertaining myself by blurting out random words and constantly stimulating myself between chewing tobacco, weed, vape, food, drink and repeat.
We only made a few short stops on the way. Pulling into Pittsburgh was great- it was easily one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. Of course, I had the world’s greatest tour guide Alex last time, who loaned me a moped and we rode around the city seeing the bridges for their beauty in the night sky. I felt like I was back in a magical place. My girlfriend, however, found the ever changing lanes and bridges to be stressful, but who could blame her? There’s nothing fun about driving around in an unfamiliar city.
Alex greeted us when we pulled up and found a perfect parking spot right in front of his house. We brought in only a few belongings, but got straight to grabbing beers and catching up on life after 4 months of not seeing each other. We got to the idea of getting food, which became more difficult once I placed the responsibility of picking the restaurant on Caroline’s shoulders. My thinking was that since she was the only one with dietary restrictions she could pick, but I neglected to think of how probably anxiety inducing that was for her.
Settling on pizza, we grabbed big boy 22oz beers. Yuengling was the Pennsylvania drink of choice, and I was happy to indulge. Yuengling is easily the finest of shitty beers. We were, for the first time, quick to order and split a “gourmet” pizza- my half was buffalo chicken and hers was spinach feta. It was really, really good.
With a few more drinks under our belts, we went to meet Alex’s other half Sarah, whom he just proposed to recently. I was so happy for them. For someone like myself who is so against the institution of marriage, I LOVE weddings. Sarah had already picked out a few places we could go to have a fun night for our one-night stay in Pittsburgh. Having seen me perform via Facebook video, she knew I would love to do karaoke. In fact, it’s my favorite activity in the world and likely the only way to get me to go out to a bar in most cases.
Storming through the cold night, we entered the fine dive bar, greeted by smokers and a packed house to see me sing. It took a bit to get our drinks, but I passed the time by signing up to do “Bodies” by Drowning Pool. I had no idea how the audience would react, but who cared? I am fucking hilarious.
Only a few songs went by- Alex did “Night Moves” by Bob Seger, which in turn made me sign up to sing “Turn the Page” by him as well. Then, my name was called and I wondered if I was drunk enough to give my finest performance. It didn’t matter. I crushed it. The crowd was filming me, standing and hollering, and doing my backup vocals for me. I got a standing ovation and sat back down to high fives by other singers at the bar.
In between songs, Alex came back with some beers and water, spilling a full cup of water on me. I thought it was hilarious- my girlfriend wiping the ice off of me as I tried (and failed) to wiggle my way out of the tiny seats, which practically locked me in because of the large tables. I just had to take it all, and I couldn’t have been laughing any harder. I did my second song soaked to the bone.
We closed the bar down, a seemingly ritualistic activity for Caroline and I as of recently. I closed my tab and shuffled back to the apartment, fully ecstatic to have gotten an opportunity to do karaoke (and to do my favorite song!). This made it 3 total states I have been able to do my screaming song for an audience. The last time was in Columbus, Ohio, at a burlesque bar, which was equally exciting.
Back at the sleeping quarters, we winded down with some freestyle rapping, popcorn, and setting up. We debated whether my girlfriend and I could fit on the couch, but we did and were comfortable. Once Sarah said goodnight, we instantly all felt just as tired. Besides, we had to get up just as early to drive the same distance to St. Louis, Missouri.