Dear Dirty America

DDA

Marring My Clean Slate With A Tin-Can Rental Car

June 11
20:59 2012
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
Barney, North Dakota



CAR WRECK SERIES 4: MARRING MY CLEAN SLATE WITH A RENTAL CAR


(editor’s note: I was grossly off-topic with the first six paragraphs, but I’ve been assured by Higher Powers there was merit in keeping them in tact, as an introduction // also, this is part Four, and I know part Three hasn’t been published yet, but it’s coming — this numerical aberration will undoubtedly upset my North Korean audience, but my Western Hemisphere audience will understand that sometimes, in complicated stories, four comes before three)

From the Great Plains of very rural Southeastern North Dakota I come to you with greetings and a strong hot humid wind behind my back. It’s the type of constant gusting wind that brews enormous thunderstorms that produce fast moving walls of wind, heavy rain, hail, and even tornadoes. The heat from the day doesn’t subside even during the late hours of the night.

It’s the type of humidity that helps your body sweat out its toxins from consuming too much booze, high fructose corn syrup, and loads of simple carbohydrates. Being sweaty and uncomfortable has its benefits. It has to. You’ve just got to find them.

Normally I do my living in a city called Los Angeles, but as of Thursday evening, I have begun undertaking my psychological readjustment in one of America’s very last frontiers, North Dakota. North Dakota, although little known and even less respected by most of this country’s buffoons, will soon rise to such prominence its powerful name will be spoken millions of times an hour by the American masses.

North Dakota. The weighty imbalance in that name reminds me of the precarious swinging of a sledgehammer. The first grunting, upward swing of ‘North’, and the subsequent, gravity-aided fall of ‘Duh – Koh – Tah’. Uttering those words is like calling upon the Archangel Michael,who is armed with flaming swords and is the greatest of God’s warriors. If you’ve ever been entangled in an astral snare you know how magical it is to call upon that name. Light floods the inner vision. Consciousness swells with peaceful vibrations. Anyway:

As of now, North Dakota is still just a “fly-over” state. But mark my words. It’s the strongest, most powerful state in the union. It is rich in money and even richer in oil. It has an arsenal of nuclear bombs. The world’s greatest aviation school. Sweet clean air. Open land so flat and spread in every direction Allen Ginsburg said of it, in the 70s, he could, for the first time, imagine Infinity while surveying the wild North Dakota plains.

ND’s soil is as dark as a good cup of coffee, and it is from that earth which blooms and matures billions of bushels of grains and beans and corn. And yet some people I’ve met in Los Angeles think the mega grocery chain, Ralph’s, creates their food in the backrooms before it’s stocked on the shelves. If they don’t think of food production that way, they run around imagining wide fields of boxes of Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and buttermilk pancake mix propped and growing on green stocks that are planted in rows as far as the eye can see.

Anyway, this is not the direction in which I wished to take this article. I have trouble arranging my thoughts or keeping on task after I bonked my head against my driver’s side window in a car wreck on Memorial Day weekend (which inspired the name for this series of articles — see below for the other installments).

When I typed the first paragraph, I imagined talking about the little Chevrolet Aveo rental car I was given to replace my superior, over-engineered beauty of a car, my Oldsmobile Aurora, but instead a bunch of melodramatic words about North Dakota were punched out of this keyboard and suddenly I was racing in the wrong direction. I didn’t even realize I’d been on an Upper Midwest rant until it was too late, and I had to inexpertly switch gears without so much as a tricky or satisfying transitional paragraph.

But here the article starts. I will keep the words above to document my rattled rationale and fragmented state of mind. I suppose it’s fitting here in the 21st century: fragmentation, disenchantment, mashed up information, and no real cognitive direction.

That Chevy Aveo was a little poodle of a car. It leaped forward with striking alacrity. The Aveo looks similar to a picture of a real sedan that has been squished by a pimply amateur using a free online photo manipulation program. The Aveo I received was white, just like the car I’d lost at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Broadway that direful night.

The Aveo’s really a tin box. It’s like a tiny fish in the sea. Easy and quick maneuvering, but easily eaten by other fish. The car drives like a comfortable go-cart. As soon as you let off the gas, the car jerkily loses speed. Since I’d just been in an accident, and because that wreck could have killed me had I been hit just a second later, I decided now was the time to take risks. I ripped up the streets in my rental Aveo.

I’d been so careful my entire life. Never any traffic violations or criminal activity. I have a clean slate. Yet, it only took one elderly speed freak to blow a red to throw all my care and caution to the wind. Last summer, as I was holed up in my apartment reading Hunter S Thompson’s ’72 Campaign Trail essay collection, I got the idea of letting a little air out of a car’s tires to better grip the street during fast turns and sudden changes in direction.

The Aveo’s tires were small. Like doughnuts. I squeezed out a quarter of the air and then took off down my street. I pumped the gas pedal to get a better feel for the new rubber grip. I tore down Beverly, then up La Brea. At every block there were too many cars to really push my luck with hard turns. I ended up at the medical building where I’d gotten my head examined by the doctor who had given me sage advice about driving in Los Angeles: “Airbags. Lots and lots of airbags. Everybody’s a bad driver in this town. Drive slow. Get a car with airbags. My car has lots of them. Airbags on the sides. And by the feet. And in the dash. Can’t get enough. Not in this city.”

At the medical office I requested a copy of my invoice. The short thin nurse with the beautiful brown eyes fetched it for me, and I was off again, revving the Aveo’s engine and seeing Los Angeles’ streets and alleyways as a type of congested, pathetic maze where participants were taking the course a bit too seriously.

Wipe away the caution! I shouted out the window at two old ladies in ridiculously wide and rim-bobbing straw hats. What’s good with being careful, anyway! What a joke. Live until you die. Take calculated risks.

Perhaps I was woozy with delight from my concussion I’d suffered in the Memorial Day car wreck. Or, maybe, I was overly joyed by the Aveo’s illusion of feeling and acting like a much bigger car. At least that’s what the specs said. Don’t be fooled, Chevrolet warned to interested buyers of the tin-can car, it acts and feels like a much larger vehicle.

Especially with less air in its tires. It can take corners as carelessly smooth as a Lexus. I returned the Aveo to the rental agency the next day. The underbelly of the little white fish bottomed out on the uprising cement drive-way into the rental’s parking lot. I probably rolled in a little too fast. No worries. Nobody was watching, except for a Korean girl who worked in the office. But she smiled at me as I manually cranked up the windows.

You’ll have to refill those tires with more air, I called. Unless the next guy that borrows this car wants extra grip. “I’ll blow them up myself,” she said and completed my paperwork for the returned vehicle. I’ve got to catch a flight early early early tomorrow, I told her. So I couldn’t worry about it. Besides, I’m done being careful or prudent in this society.

Little did I know that flight would be one from Hell. I had no idea that I’d accidentally started a vicious little rumor that had one hundred and fourteen severely disenchanted plane passengers demanding a free cocktail.

CAR WRECK SERIES

Prelude: It’s good to be in the body scanner business


One: Memorializing a car wreck


Two: Men are killed by cars and other men

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