You Can Go Home Again, But You’re Not Going To Like It

That’s a little misleading, that up there. It implies that I don’t like my hometown (Westlake, Louisiana), and that would be untrue. I have a great (if occasionally baffled) affection for my wee, lightly stinky on damp, windy days hometown (it is surrounded by petrochemical plants that keep the night sky perpetually purple-orange even in the depths of the evening, I am not bashing my hometown in this respect, I am stating an irrefutable fact, no one can say I am wrong, on certain days in certain conditions, there is a smell and we all know it), I like being with my family, I like that across the bridge in Lake Charles there’s all kinds of cool improvements going on downtown, I like the food, I like my hometown Methodist church (we’ve had a nice lady pastor the last few years, she’s wonderful, I like her focus on joy and light and kindness and service to others).

I mean, it’s a small town, it’s not exactly a crossroads of culture I think, but it’s nice enough, I like making visits, sometimes I entertain the notion of moving back (or near, at least… I think I would prefer Lake Charles for various reasons, not least the fact that I’ve gotten used to living in mid-size cities over the last twenty years, I need a certain amount of busy-ness and noise around me). Westlake is all right. I like it.

For perfect accuracy, what I do not like is the “go” part. Nothing in this world apart from Republican Presidential candidates makes me more deliriously hostile than driving from Dallas to Westlake and vice versa. Not one goddamned thing.

For starters, Google Maps is always firm in assuring me that my trip will not take even six hours. Five hours and forty minutes was the last count it showed me, and I snorted at the very idea. This has never once happened, it has never once been accurate, no matter which route I accepted. Even if I never stopped once, not for gas or food or a nice long badly needed stretch, it takes exactly six hours at a minimum.

(yes, of course I actually tried it once, an utterly regrettable experience that left me thirsty – that’s not the kind of trip you can drink during and expect to still not make a pit stop – and bent over in the shape of my driver’s seat for a couple of days, recovering just in time to sadly get back in the car and do the whole damn thing in reverse, although going back, I made stops)

So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that regardless of my selected route, there is a chunk of East Texas with no cell phone signal for a long enough period of time to make me anxious and angry. It kills whatever is playing on Spotify, silences my GPS, and forces me to listen to either the radio (assuming I can find a station) or put my phone’s stored music library on shuffle, which is… it’s not ideal. Since the advent of Spotify and all the times I have had to change computers and never got my external hard drive to work, I have stopped updating my phone’s music library from my computer. So what’s on there is a combination of cloud purchases (and nothing from my eMusic library, because that’s scattered across a bunch of computers because eMusic is terrible but that is a story for another time) and stuff I bought right from my phone.

If you are driving at night on the dark, woodsy roads of East Texas, it turns out my beloved Sigur Rós is less “atmospheric” and more “horror movie creepy”. To say nothing of the stuff I downloaded while I was trying my hand at writing medieval wartime historical romance (once the heart attack from the burst of organ music subsides, you’re seized with the urge to let out great Viking war-screams and floor the gas pedal), and then there’s the entire album of Italian lessons…

So there’s that.

And then. Then. There is weather.

Coming back from my last trip home in September, I was involved in a car accident near Jasper that left me deeply anxious about driving in the rain. I didn’t get hurt, not even a scratch on me – but I was nearly pancaked between a truck towing a boat and a truck behind me following me too closely. The boat truck, headed towards me, had lost control and was swerving across the roadway. The truck behind me, as I said, was too close, which was annoying me because the guy had been behind me when I had hydroplaned through a stop sign not a mile before, and I felt he probably should have been a little more patient and a little less with the wanting me to go faster. I admit I was going significantly below the speed limit, but it was raining and I had slid through an intersection and I was a little shaky, so it would have been nice had he given me a break.

Anyway, I spotted the oncoming boat truck rocketing across the road and then swerving back into my lane, it took me a second to realize what was happening and to decide what to do. Abruptly braking was out, because Too Close guy would have rammed into my back end and shoved me into the boat truck, and goodbye, Charlie. I didn’t like that idea at all.

With the boat truck completely blocking the rest of the oncoming traffic, I took a chance and yanked my steering wheel to the left and drove myself across the highway, down a small hill, and into the yard of what would later turn out to be a church. Boat Truck and Too Close Guy collided head-on, but the occupants of both vehicles made it out alive.

And I was fine, mostly, but that whole thing has left me really, really not cool with driving anywhere in the rain. Or through that particular section of Jasper. So I went the long way around to avoid it on this trip down, but I could not avoid the surprise rain that began to fall, which made driving across the single-lane bridge on my new route (also unavoidable) even more terrifying than I would normally find it.

(they are rebuilding the bridge, both directions of traffic have to use one single lane, lights are up at each end of the bridge controlling when one direction is allowed to go… it is sort of awful to sit there feeling like a sitting duck and watching cars drive towards you, swerving into their own lanes at the last second, to say nothing of when it is your turn to make the drive and there is nowhere to go if someone at the other end decides today is a good day to break traffic laws)

I spent a lot of my drive home on Christmas day screaming, literally sitting in my car and screaming as I drove. Anxiety! Always a fucking party, excuse my language.

By the time I was crossing into Louisiana it was well after dark (another thing I’ve decided I dislike, driving at night, especially when there are no streetlights anywhere, it’s unnerving), it was raining, it rained harder every time I tried to go over forty miles per hour, I was gripping my steering wheel and digging grooves into it with my fingernails and my mother was texting me things like, “you could have taken major highways”.

(there would still have been the problem of bad lighting, rain, and sporadic cell phone service, plus the bonus of there always being crazy mad construction on major highways…I know, because I took them when I drove back to Dallas and if anything the cell phone signal droppage was worse)

I made it, though, and had a lovely visit, though I had to stay an extra day when all those tornadoes whipped through the area and sent rain down all along all my projected paths back up to Dallas. I worried about my cats being alone another day, but it turns out they were fine, if a little cold because I had turned off the heat as it was 80 degrees when I left Dallas, and no indication at all that it was going to suddenly plunge to 30 overnight Sunday. Still, they have fur coats and access to fleece blankets on my comfy bed, they were fine. I was more concerned than they were. They just wanted their wet kibble dinner, being tired of the dry stuff I left out for them.

I fed them and, exhausted from eight hours of driving (only occasional screaming this time, helped by a pair of Diet Cokes and a box of Star Crunches), fell into bed after a mercifully quick-to-heat boudin dinner.

So I like being home. I just don’t like the going part. Or the returning one. I wish flying were more cost effective or that Amtrak actually stopped in Lake Charles or something. I am really, really done with driving, I think I am going to take Greyhound next year and be done with it. It might take ten hours to get there, but I can knit or read and relax, and boy, that just sounds wonderful right now. I’ll have to figure it out.

But the visit, that was lovely, and, oh. There’s this…


Book Two, all just-under-three-hundred printed pages of it. It is not secured into that binder; it didn’t fit and also I forgot to buy hole-punched paper. But the binder is keeping it more or less tidy. I am off all the rest of this week so I am going to spend some quality time with that manuscript and my sparkly purple pen (note to self: go buy a sparkly purple pen) making some corrections before I send the file off to my editor for the first round of work on making it a sort of decent book.

(also pictured: my friend Charlotte’s very wonderful book The Sidhe, which I loaned to my aunt who did not like it nearly as much as I do, inexplicably enough… since she’s the one who got me into fantasy fiction in the first place. I would have disowned her from the shock of it but she had just given me cashmere-silk yarn for Christmas and so as bewildered as I am, I will still call her my aunt. I guess)

Now, I have been writing this post in between removing Trilby from her stubborn attempts to curl up in my lap, and now she is flat out lying on my left arm and that is giving me some trouble with typing, so I am going to take the hint and go snuggle with my cats.

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