by Slo Mo
Here's what Dog and I have learned on our never-ending pilgrimage from Florida to Boston:
When you see a freeway sign that offers an "alternate route" to any particular city, just ignore it and stick to the directions you were given by the friendly people at AAA.
Because I believed an "alternate route" sign in Pennsylvania...
...and now we're in Kansas.
Which is nowhere near Boston.
And which also means I've managed to blow about $500 in gas money AND miss my half-brother's wedding.
Thumbs up on that part about missing Ted's wedding, by the way. But thumbs down on the $500.
And two thumbs plus four paws waaay down on the those twenty pounds of rotten oranges that are sharing the front seat of my cousin's convertible with Dog.
Because nothing stinks more than festering fruit and an ungroomed dog in an overheated convertible.
Except, perhaps, the fumes from the three liters of premium Key West rum which have leaked all over the trunk.
Which really cheeses me off, because the rum wouldn't have spilled and the heater wouldn't be on overmax if Dog wasn't such a big sissy about the cold weather.
Which all started when we took the so-called "alternate route" to Boston out of Pennsylvania... and a day later ended up in Tennessee. At which point Dog was looking pretty desperate so we pulled over to do his business at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Memorial rest stop, but he suddenly got all precious about squatting in subzero temperatures and danced around and goofed off and as a result somehow managed to get his butt frozen to a pair of historic Chattanooga railway ties, and we had to melt him free with rum.
After which I got in trouble for defacing a national monument and having an open liquor container in a public place.
It probably didn't help matters that I was still desperate for Dog to do his business, so by the time the city officials arrived I had resorted to singing, "Pardon me Dog, is that the Chattanooga poo-poo?"
Because hell yeah, we've been to Chattanooga! Which, like Kansas, is nowhere near Boston.
Also: Des Moines, Little Rock, and Munroe, Michigan.
But if at first you don't succeed, try and try again, eh? We took I75 north out of Tennessee en route back to Boston and got as far as the Michigan eastbound turnpike before I decided I needed to get the hell out of that car.
And so here's a little tip if you should ever find yourself in the karaoke bar at the Munroe Holidaze Inn: whatever you do, don't pick up that microphone!
Because even though there are signs all over the place that say "Everyone Welcome - Singers Drink Half-Price", that microphone is actually reserved for the Rita McNeil look-alike over there in the corner wearing the purple sequined dress, who went insane fourteen years ago when she lost Star Search and now thinks the Holidaze Inn karaoke bar is Carnegie Hall.
Which would explain why none of the locals go anywhere near the stage, but which we totally failed to pick up on because me and Dog were too busy chowing down on the complimentary carrot sticks and stretching our legs by the bar and just generally enjoying the complete absence of rotten oranges.
And half-price drinks sounded really good to me.
So when I got up to sing "Fat-Bottomed Girls" I didn't expect Rita to rip the mic cord out of the wall and charge at me with a platter of chicken wings.
But I sure saw her coming!
And so did Dog.
Which is why, at about the time my half-brother was walking down the aisle with his new bride in Boston, there was a warrant being issued for Dog's arrest in Munroe, Michigan on two counts of participating in a barroom brawl and one count of biting Rita McNeil's big butt.
And which is also why we drove out of Michigan so fast we took the wrong turnpike cutoff and ended up in Des Moines.
That was when Dog and I agreed that we were sick of each other.
Because there's an old cliche that says you never really know someone until you've lived with them, but I'm telling you right now that you really really REALLY don't know someone until you've sat in a car with them for five days straight in the dead of winter, staring at the white lines in the road and watching the McDonalds signs go by.
For instance, I never knew that Dog has such smelly feet. Or that he squeezes farts when he's bored. Or that he snores. Or that he knows how to shift gears with his snout. Or that the sound of Dr. Laura Schlesinger's voice makes him whimper.
And okay, the very fact that we were listening to Dr. Laura should tell you something about our slow descent into white-line madness.
But when you're on the road in Iowa, I'm afraid the radio choices are quite limited. It's either Dr. Laura, or Rush Limbaugh.
Or the Hog-Calling Network.
That's a real charmer.
On the other hand, when you've been awake for 180 hours straight and living on nothing but french fries and coffee because at some point in your life for some unknown reason you decided to become vegetarian so now there's nothing on the fast food menus you can eat except french fries, well, eventually your brain starts to rot along with your colon and you no longer hold such strong opinions regarding quality entertainment and the state of radio broadcasting in America today.
Hell, you no longer even care if your armpits smell as bad your dog's feet.
And after a while you stop noticing that your muscles have atrophied and your contact lenses are permanently welded to your eyeballs.
Did I mention that at about the time my half-brother would have been leaving Boston for his honeymoon cruise, I went insane at an Arby's drive-thru in Missouri and told the order-taker that we were Princess Diaphragm-a and Doggy Al Fayed?
But then, that's probably considered normal behavior in Missouri.
So now that I've told you all this, I'm sure you can totally identify and shed tears of empathetic joy when I say how excited and grateful and overcome with bliss I was yesterday when, like a beautiful mirage, I saw that sign for Miami rising out of the winter mists on Missouri's Ozark plateau. Amaaaaziiing grace, I once was lost but now I'm found...
Except it turns out they weren't talking about Miami, Florida. They were talking about Miami, ARIZONA. Which I didn't realize until the scenery started looking all wrong and we were already halfway there.
Halfway being Kansas.
And so, as I wait here in the parking lot of the Wizard Of Oz Museum while Dog has his picture taken with a cardboard Toto, it occurs to me that every road trip movie I've ever seen has a huge Moment Of Truth, where all the mind-expanding elements of travel finally result in the lead character experiencing a profound flash of insight about their trip as a metaphor for the direction they've taken in life, and what really matters to them, and the secrets of the universe, etc. And if this was a movie and I was directing it and it was time for the Moment Of Truth to occur, I must admit The Yellow Brick Road Info Center would be the perfect place for it.
But do you know what?
Screw the Hollywood ending!
Because the reality is I didn't even want to go to Boston for that damn wedding in the first place,and now I'm stuck in freezing, godforsaken Kansas with almost no cash left to buy gas for a borrowed convertible, which looks and smells like a garbage dump, so that Dog (who is barely speaking to me anymore) can sit there and whine at Dr. Laura while I drive around in search of a Western Union office so I can call my mother, who will also not be speaking to me now that I've missed Ted's wedding, and beg her to wire us two plane tickets back to Florida.
And so NO, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT THIS ROAD TRIP METAPHORICALLY SAYS ABOUT ME AND MY LIFE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I just want to find my ruby red slippers, click the heels three times, and go home.
But first, you'll need to excuse me, because I see Dog is being chased by a mob of angry munchkins for finally squatting to do his business...
...all over the Emerald City Cafe.