Lesbian truck drivers and the second coldest night of my life- Part One (or: 46 minutes to write a blog about Texas)

All the way to Nashville I never had to wait more than 30 second for a ride. Maybe because it was snowing. I left asheville in an old wool letterman jacket borrowed from Gabo (initials FP on the breast) and got picked up by a man in a souped-up neon, wearing a leather jacket, curly hair oiled into ringlets and slicked back at the sides like Michael Jackson used to do. He lost his job, he said, because of the recession, and is selling his extra cars to get by. Not too shabby. Wife ran off with another man in New Jersey so he slapped her with child support.

Next ride- still snowing and they don’t have any heat so they’re bundled up in blankets. Two women going to Cherokee something-or-other, I don’t know tennessee. “Could tell I was a girl” even through all the layers. Not going very far.

A man in a tasteful wool beret stops, clears off the seat for me, spilling his coffee. “Do you dance?” He asks.

“Um, sometimes,” I say.

He’s a dance historian. A square dance historian, to be exact. He makes a living organizing and calling square dances in Asheville and beyond. We talk, incredibly, about the constricting gender of square-dance, of which he is uniquely aware.

“I call dances for the gay and lesbian communities of San Francisco,” he says, “so I’ve developed ways to get around the binary of square-dance calls.”

First thing he does is get on the mic and give the dancers a list of titles they can identify as. The gender of squaredance (ladies and gents), after all, serves only to differentiate between the person on the left and the person on the right. So you can, if you want, just go by “left” and “right”. Or whatever.

I think this ride is fantastic. He thinks it’s fate that he picked me up (eye roll). We stop at a fast-food place so he can get a burger and he points out the “FP” on my letterman jacket. Turns out those are his initials.

“You lose your jacket?” I ask, laughing.

We drive on (he’s going all the way to Nashville) and he tells me he’s got a new house outside Asheville, built right on the continental divide.

“When it rains, water off one side goes to the gulf, water off the other goes to the atlantic. Ever heard of Utah Phillips? Recently passed away?” he asks. “Good friend of mine.” He tells me he become friends with Utah through a series of fan emails he sent. “Emailed me back right away. Met up with me when I was in spokane. If you’ve got someone you admire, you should write to them. You’d be surprised.”

I think of writing to Annie Dillard, but decide I can’t, because I’ve met her kid, and her kid is kind of like me. It’s just not the same.

FP drops me off a half-hour before dark on a concrete river too far outside Nashville to be much of anywhere. I check the weather forecast on my phone. Low of 17. Seventeen! I stand with me thumb out for another hour but no-one stops. Folks don’t like to pick you up just before dark, even when dark comes at five-fifteen.

There’s a stand of trees next to the highway I can sleep in. Fuck. It’s going to be very, very cold. What to do? Build a nest out of cardboard? Trust my sleeping bag to see me through? The coldest night I’ve spent in this bag was february of 2007, waiting for the train in North Georgia, 15 degrees, and the bag was barely a week old- it’s lost some of its loft since then, aka gotten flat as a pancake from frequent use.

Across the interstate are the comforting lights of corporate sprawl, an oasis of heat and consumer goods, fast-food spiked with gluten in every imaginable way. I stash my pack in the woods and hike in that direction, scarf wrapped thirty-six times around my face, bucket-of-warmth pulled down around my ears. It’s only five-thirty, dark, and the temperature is dropping steadily. I’ve got hours to kill before my cold bedtime in the trees.

I walk and walk, cars rushing by me, bars and gas-stations and fast-food chains, strip-malls and home-improvement stores. It is the same, the same as everywhere, like plastic buildings tumbled out of a cloth bag, taking root wherever they land. Like an invasive species, the himalayan blackberries of everywhere. And I am adapted to this new jungle, I know how to find food and shelter under its monotonous, spot-lit vines.

After a while my walking pays off. A barnes and noble. I cannot believe my good fortune. Not only is the place full of books, it’s open until eleven. I’ve been saved. Sort of.

Before making camp in the bookstore, I find a gas-station for a styrofoam cup of hot water. I’ve got this sack of dried pea soup in my backpack I’ve carried with me since portland, and I mean to eat it. I buy the water (25 cents) and sit out back of an auto-parts store, eating the soup with leaves from an adorable purple cabbage I bought in asheville.

And then my computer time at the library in Texas was about to run out, and I couldn’t finish the blog. So I logged off of blogger, frustrated that things were happening faster than I could write about them, but needing the last ten minutes of my time to look for the trainyard on google maps.

Y’all will have to wait for part two of this story. And three, and four, and five-hundred-and-ten.

4 thoughts on “Lesbian truck drivers and the second coldest night of my life- Part One (or: 46 minutes to write a blog about Texas)

  1. Carrot, I wish I’d read this before you left. It would have been good to talk about lean-tos. They are easy to put together, and can keep you safe at temperatures as low as negative 30. Tom Brown spoke of them often in his books, and says when he was hired for rescue work in northern states, often the people who were the target of the rescue effort were dead of hypothermia by the time they were found, unless they had built a lean-to. A lean-to is really just leaves piled up on a simple stick structure, but leaves are a fantastic insulator.

    Having said that, I’m glad you got through the night and were okay.

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