Adam and The Beast
Ah! Cape Cod. The place where I was raised, the place where I thought I’d live out the rest of my days, and the place where poorly modeled whales occasionally emerge from the waters to say hello. On my 36th birthday, my parents finally bought me that motor vehicle they’d been promising since I turned sixteen and waved goodbye as I set off to find fortune and fame in the moving picture business over in the fabled City of Angels.
THANKS FOR EVERYTHING OLDSTERS, NOW IT’S TIME TO RIDE
The last thing they said, as the dirt and mud spattered their faces, was a warning of sorts: “Do not let the lights of Las Vegas bedevil you, my child, for few can resist the temptation of dice, music and the flashy dance moves of Roberto de Leon.”
“His chest is often bare.”
I didn’t know what any of that meant and barely heard them anyway, seduced as I was by the growl of the car’s engine. I decided to christen the car and it’s name was The Beast. Later that day, as I travelled south toward New York, I followed up the christening with a baptism.
The goal of my trip was not only to reach Los Angeles but to arrive before my nemesis Brendan Caldwell. He would be travelling through the north of the country, navigating mountain passes and flirting with the Canadian border, and I knew that if he beat me to Hollywood, his devil-may-care attitude and handsome features would land him all of the plum movie roles I coveted. That could not be allowed to happen.
Therefore, despite my desire to experience the country I had never known (I hadn’t left Cape Cod before that day), I knew that I’d have to be cunning. Travelling via New York and New Orleans, both cities I longed to see, would bring me to the far south of the country, and once there I would head directly west until I hit the coast. What could possibly go wrong?
New York passed me by – or rather I passed New York by – a distant skyline, and then I was speeding through pleasant scenery and heading toward Washington, the nation’s capital. Even though the schedule was tight, I planned to see at least a few of the sights, like that one big pole and some white buildings.
A slight detour to the Pentagon didn’t go to plan and I found myself trapped behind security barriers, all the while wondering if the massive, boring building that I’d crashed into could really be HQ of America’s Department of Defense. There had been no police response to my repeated ramming of an entranceway, so I guessed not.
Leaving Washington behind, I headed for New Orleans.
The weather was glorious as I arrived but the clock was ticking and instead of taking in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street as I’d intended, I sadly saluted the Superdome, which still reminds me of Hurricane Katrina, and left the city, finally heading West.
That’s when the weather turned. I’d expected to be hitting desert country but instead I was in swampy territory, and the rain was pouring down. The long stretch of road toward Dallas was bleak and somehow unnerving. My grand road trip had taken on an ominous tone, and Los Angeles seemed a million miles distant.
The sight of Dallas in the distance cheered me; not only was it a milestone, it was a far grander city than I’d imagined. Quite what I’d expected of The Big D, I couldn’t say for sure, but it certainly wasn’t the metropolis standing before me.
As I drove through downtown, I began to feel positive again. I was making good progress and the rain seemed to be keeping traffic off the roads. Maybe I’d have a clear run right through to the coast?
Soon, with the bright lights of the city behind me and a snaking road ahead, a now-familiar sense of loneliness crept back into the car and into the passenger seat. To be accompanied by loneliness might seem a strange thing, but then this was a strange trip. The farther I travelled, the bleaker the country and its climate seemed to grow.
These were haunted roads, I was sure of it. A Mission spoke to a history I didn’t fully understand and a graveyard of planes that stretched as far as the eye could see made me shiver, even though The Beast had top notch heating. This was a desolate place.
And then I saw them. The sad-eyed manneqiuns of the Mojave Desert. I hadn’t seen a person, bar the faces of drivers illuminated in my headlights, since I left Dallas, but suddenly the roadside was populated with eerie figures, sitting in the desert rain beneath umbrellas and staring out across the land toward…what? I tried not to make eye contact, though I couldn’t be sure that they weren’t sightless, thoughtless things, relics of a happier time now past.
Some of their homes had seen better days. I hit the gas, hard, and made an abrupt decision. I couldn’t tolerate this awful place anymore. I needed to see life, I needed to see love, I needed to see vice. I needed to make a huge detour to the city my parents had warned me to avoid. I was going to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas, it turns out, has a heck of a security system. I could see the Strip and it looked like exactly what I needed – an antidote to the horrors of the road – but somebody had constructed a wall around the city. It wasn’t a very tall wall but my car could not climb or jump, and I couldn’t leave it for even a moment because it would surely be stolen, desirable as it was.
I eventually found a way around the wall, crashing through carparks to reach it, and soon I was heading toward the Strip, not caring to brake if anyone stepped into the path of The Beast.
It’s a magical place. I saw ancient castles, a New York every bit as splendid as the one that I had missed earlier in the trip and promises of all kinds of entertainments, including MUSIC, Rides-a-Fun and ‘lime’. Sadly, the fun was only available at 11am on a daily basis so I had to content myself with the bare chested thrills of that master of dance Roberto de Leon.
My innocence lost but my good spirits regained, I set out once more into the dark, cutting through the Sequoia National Park. I’m sure the trees were magnificent but it was too dark to see them and when I tried to cut through the forest, hoping to make up for the time I’d lost in Las Vegas, I fell down a hill and discovered an abandoned cafe, alone in the darkness. I was forced to flee when two ghost cars approached from the shadows of the trees.
After some panic and struggle, I found the road and sensed that Los Angeles was close. I sensed it by looking at my map and seeing that there were but a few miles to go. I sped, throwing caution to the wind.
And there it was. The city of my dreams. It looked damp and gray and I longed for the beautiful sunsets of Cape Cod. I missed my parents.
I drove onto the beach by Santa Monica Pier. The rain hadn’t stopped. I felt like it would always be raining. A billboard on the freeway had shown me the truth of my mother’s words, her warning about the distractions and debauchery of Vegas – on the billboard was a picture of a man and that man was Brendan Caldwell, my nemesis, and now the hottest property in Hollywood’s hottest franchise.
Looking out to the sea, I wondered what worlds lay beyond, over the waters. A ship drifted into view.
Total time: one hour and fifty-six minutes.