Montana


Start out going east on W. 2nd Ave. toward S. Elm St.

Start thinking about what you're doing and where you're going.  Remind yourself the jeans you're wearing are the only pair you own that fit, that you've been wearing the same monthly disposable lenses since Corvallis and there are more practical things to spend your money on.

Turn right onto S. Elm St.

Remember you haven't eaten all day and hit up the only gas station you know of that takes food stamps.

Turn left onto W. Sunset Blvd/I-90 Br. E. Continue to follow I-90 Br. E.

Place burrito on dashboard and turn up the heater. Curse at the radio and at the driver in front of you.

Turn right onto S. Maple St. Merge onto I-90 E via the ramp on the left.

Remind yourself thirty bucks for gas won't make or break you, that there's no such thing as being broke or not broke, just varying stages of how much broke you are.

Pass the Washington-Idaho border and get the B-52's "Own Private Idaho" stuck in your head.

Pass Coeur D'Alene Lake and mutter "Jesus" to yourself, wonder why you haven't thought to come here before and remember you didn't have money.  Turn up the radio as you pass, and as the first song worth a wank comes on:

When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars The peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars

this is the dawning of the . . .

Consider what anybody would think of you listening to this song, then turn up the volume.  Eat half the burrito and drink some pop to give your stomach the false sense of being full when you don't feel like having the taste of anything in your mouth except tobacco.

Say "Jesus" out loud a couple more times as you pass the snow-sprinkled evergreens, sparkly lakes and misty mountains.  Start feeling at one with the universe, like it's beautiful and was meant to be so, and how some God must have had a hand in all this after all, how it couldn't be all coincidental and God must be good because of the feelings his creations make us feel.

Dismiss the thought and start ashing in your tea when the ashtray in the car spills over.

Pass the Idaho-Montana border, replace the acclamations of "Jesus" with "holy shit" as you pass horses, barns, quaint, white-roofed taverns in the middle of grassy fields, churches on hilltops and trees overgrowing mountains so tall they shade the freeway from the sun.

Start thinking all that really matters, and all that can be expected, is living and getting in as many moments like these as you can between cradle and grave.

Try and remember Kerouac's phrase.  Eyeball kicks.

See a sign for "100,000 Used Books All Kinds Next Exit."

Take the Petty Cr. Rd. exit toward MT-507.  Turn right onto Petty Creek Rd. (Portions unpaved).

Start wondering where the fuck this bookstore is at.

Turn right onto W. Fork Petty Creek Rd.

See it to your right: a massive Mecca for the bibliophile, out of place in what is a one-road town with lower-middle class housing on both sides, a grocer and a tavern being the only establishments within proximity of the bookstore and lying to its left and right, respectively.

Have a cigarette before you go in whilst rummaging through the cardboard boxes full of books on the store's front porch.  Wonder whether by the fact they're not inside the store, they can be considered gratis.

Walk in and realize this beats Auntie's.  Browse through aisles so narrow you can't pick anything up without knocking something else over, shelves so tall they block in light from the outside, necessitating lights in every row that are turned on by pulling hanging switches.

Head for the C Fiction section.  Realize you already have a Chandler novel at home you haven't read yet.  Pick up Balzac, Pirandello and Ibsen.  Get pissed off that you've read the three of them enough, and there must be something good here you haven't read yet.  Head for the W's and note the sorry lack of Welsh, even Trainspotting.

Walk down to the basement.  Pass the crime section and turn around when Dig a Dead Doll catches your eye.  60's Pulp.  See the back cover saying, "A Guy, A Girl, A Boat, A Bottle . . ."

Pick it up.

Pass the history section and lament your sorry ignorance of the field. Choose to remedy your ignorance and pick up Vietnam: Between Two Truces and The Polish August: The Self-Limiting Revolution.

Browse the other titles in that section.  Have a sad nausea hit you when you realize the world hasn't stopped being stupid when you stopped watching the news.  Start getting pissed off and head to the register.

Pay.  Exit.  Smile at the guy across the street.

See the tavern next door.  Go in and ask if they serve food.  Order a beer when they say yes, they do.

Access the crowd and the locale.  See how the bumper sticker over the beer cooler says: "We don't give a damn how they do it in California."

Nod at the grizzly, flannel-clad logger to your right.  Realize you might be out of your element.  Consider how many beers it will take for you to feel in your element and estimate that number to be about one more than you've already had.

Order another beer.  Get the romanticist notion that here you are, kicking it with the real people, the honest, tax-paying American public who work hard, drive trucks and don't know Pound from Plath.

Start thinking about ways to get these people to buy you drinks.

Make people laugh with a witty comment and give up your seat to a regular who walks in.

Order another beer.  Refuse his offer to buy you one.  Talk about the merits of manual Nikons vs. digital, and nod along to each other's life stories.  State your qualms about driving while intoxicated and the crucial appointment in Missoula you have to get to.  Exit and promise to come back again.

See the sun has set over the mountains and you're still thirty miles East of Missoula, and if you drive there now you'll reach your intended destination and will have less reason to take this trip again.

Look above the row of houses across the street and note the looming evergreens above.  Consider moving here.  The simple life, a part-time gig at the bookstore and fishing trips on the weekends.  Note your tendency to romanticize whatever place you're not in, and realize if you'd live here you'd be driving out to Wyoming on the weekends, waxing poetic about it.

Decide to drive back home.

Start out going southeast on W. Fork Petty Creek Rd. toward Outback Tr.

Weeee!

Turn left onto Petty Creek Rd. (Portions unpaved).  Turn slightly left onto Fred Thompson Rd.

Woo-hooo!

Merge onto I-90 W via the ramp on the left.

Realize three beers might make you legally drunk, but comfort yourself with the fact there's no cops around anyway.

Gaze off at the shoulder of the road and think how comfy, warm and inviting it looks.  Think how if you'd take your car eighty miles an hour into it, you might resolve the age-old discourses of theologists with a single flick of the steering wheel.

Sober up and start feeling sleepy.

Take Exit 280A toward Maple Br.

Realize how this town almost feels like home.  Wonder if that's good or bad.  
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