- The Preparation -
Saturday, February 1.
Margie had a wall map, six folded maps, endless editions of pocket maps, an atlas, and an antique globe where we could chart our course. To prevent confusion, she purchased a box of red pins to mark her route choices, blue to mark mine; yellow and green were back-ups in case colors clashed. With six pins indicating her planned stops, she outlined her ideal course. I used all my blues with some greens to frame mine. Her proposed route was essentially a polygon that mirrored the interstates with points for Los Angeles, New York, Baltimore, and straight line back to Los Angeles. Mine looked like the flight path of a moth. We were planning two entirely different trips. Two days before our departure, the only thing Margie and I agreed on was that the trip started in Los Angeles.
I was fired because it took me ten minutes to walk across an art gallery; there was no way I could make it from California to New York in forty-eight hours and Margie, sure as hell wasn’t going to spend ten days doing something she could do in one afternoon with a plane ticket. In the spirit of compromise, I agreed to subtract one pin if she added one. We were on track to reach a settlement by mid-March. I had dinner plans at 7:00. After a debate, which possessed the give and take of a congressional filibuster, we decided to follow the example set by professional football coaches who script the first twenty plays and then make further calls based on the conditions of the game. If we could agree we were going to spend the first night in Nevada and the second night in Utah, our next fight wouldn’t happen until Wednesday morning.
Next, we had to deal with food supplies. Thankfully, give or take five bottles of wine, our shopping lists were similar. We had not discussed our creative, personal, and economic differences regarding the trip, but we were in complete agreement that we needed hundreds of dollars worth of sliced turkey, white wine, fruit, red wine, water and beer to get there. I couldn’t care less about luncheon meats and grapes; I was mostly worried about the booze. In my opinion, we had grossly under-bought.
The magnitude of our undertaking was beginning to set in. We were planning our route through the north in the dead of winter. It didn’t work for Napoleon, who had a complex and an army to keep him going. I was unmotivated and traveling with a relative stranger. Friends were making bets that we wouldn’t make it past Wyoming. A documentary about Americana, a road trip and the character of the United States could quickly become a story about frostbite, turning into the skid, and two angry women. I wondered about the marketability of a travel book featuring restroom keychains titled, “I Was Cold, Sober, Angry and Other Reasons I Had To Kill Margie.”
Sunday, February 2
The day before the trip was a whirlwind of preparations – for Margie. I slept until 11:00, ate breakfast until 12:30, and went to the nursery to pick out plants with my neighbor. At 3:00, I was on my way out to lunch so I stopped over to see how Margie was doing. All her suitcases were in the car, organized by size, weight, and color. Everything else was packed in individually marked Tupperware containers. If I wanted to chew a piece of gum on the road, I could find it in a bin between the ones labeled “film” and “Heather’s sunflower seeds.” One case marked “inspiration” sat on the driver’s seat. It was filled with Charles Kouralt CDs and licorice. Margie was splayed across the passenger side of the car using a piece of tape and a Q-tip to collect lint balls. Shocked by my arrival and embarrassed by my reaction to what any competent therapist would classify as obsessive-compulsive behavior, Margie sighed, “I know. I hate me, too.”
“Don’t worry,” I responded feeling confident for the first time since the process began, “In thirty days, you’ll hate me more.”