May 18, 2002

The Ride

If you want any context for my adventures today, you'll have to read the last two posts. If you don't, then dig in. There are no rules here. I'm making this up as I go.

What I set out to do today, in getting "out," was to go to the store, observe the world, hit some sales, get the big deal. As I mentioned, the soon-to-be-defunct K-Mart near my house is down to the bare bones, 70 percent off everything left, if you can find anything left.

It was enough to get me out the door. I was feeling pretty good. Daughter off my hip, free to flow with the wind for a whole 3 hours. Nothing but possibilities.

So there I am, cruising down I-75, windows down, hair down, blowing just right, nice cool day here, the kind of Atlanta day you just don't get in mid-May. I'm feeling like maybe I am all that, an apparition of RageBoy, with a new ride of my own, no responsibilities, not for now, just me, cruisin. Uh-huh. This mama's got her groove back.

Except for a few things, not the least of which is that I'm driving a blue minivan, a 2002 Chevy Venture Value Van no less, bought for the sole purpose of getting out from under our Ford Explorer, which was about to bite the dust. Requirements: Cheap, Must hold upright bass, Must hold three people and upright bass in a pinch.

The van is a vehicle of necessity, not of choice. I hate fucking minivans. I feel like my life is over when I drive it. And the "Value" in Value Van doen't mean you feel anymore valuable than a bag of fertilizer behind the curise-controless wheel. No cassette. No CD player. No power windows. Mama said there'd be days like this.

I'm at a pivotal point here. Risk going tuneless or turn on FM Radio. Oh, the humanity.

I decide to try the oldies station, 40th birthday just three weeks away. Feeling nostalgic for I don't know what. But I haven't programmed the four buttons that run this power sound system, so I press the plain black "seek" buttons up and down til I find it, 97.1. Oh they're in commercial. That's okay. I got all the time in the world. Until my ears perk up and I hear this really disarming message from the station manager, saying that advertisers are taking their marketing money to younger audiences, and their programming may not survive, so write your friends, phone your neighbors, fly your flags extra high--God save the queen.

Not really, but the marketing money thing is true, followed by the advertorial poster lady named Lila, who said she raised three kids listening to this station, don't take it away. And then the tagline: "Save our Oldies."

By now I'm thinking, if I steer this beer can on wheels just right, I could hit the embankment doing 85 and be out of my misery. Instead I vow to be rocked back to life, one way or the other, and I push "seek" again.

I don't care how much money I got to spend
I won't find my way home again
Oh the lonely days are gone
I'm a goin home
My baby, she wrote me a letter.


So take a good look at my face
You see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears

I need you, need you.

And there I learn my first lesson being back in the world. The radio is fucking depressing. But I'm at K-Mart now, and that's good. I steer the blue potato into a parking space and decide to sit and people watch for a minute or two. Catch my breath after my exhilarating ride. This place of concrete, a hundred plazas just like it in this suburb, is unremarkable. That's what I decide. And when you get to that place, you know with certainty, at least in Atlanta, it's time to buy something. Fill the void. Scissors cut paper, Plastic melts cement. Charge!

Not a shopping cart in sight. It takes me five minutes of waiting just to get my hands on one.

This better be worth it. It's my three hours of freedom, after all.

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