Letter to Maria


Dear Maria,

I’m in a coffee shop in Cincinnati now.  I got off the bus about three hours ago.  I barely made the bus.  I had to wait on Angie to drop off keys for Maili so she could feed my cats.  I ran into Ryan from Enid’s on the train.  Turns out he’s from around here and told me a few cool things to do.  I ran through the crowds of 42nd Street to Port Authority.

On the bus I was hungry and thirsty with no water or food.  I read The Brothers Karamazov till the pit stop in Pennsylvania.  It was great to be on a bus again, getting out of town, going to my birthplace.

At the pit stop I ate a meatloaf sandwich and mashed potatoes.  I was so becalmed by it I didn’t noticed everyone else had left and almost missed the bus again.
Another bus had had two tires blow out and everyone from there had to get on our bus, filling our many empty seats.  A guy from that bus sat next to me and told me all about the driver’s heroics.  When everyone settled he stood up and said to everyone “Let’s give three cheers for the great driving job our driver did.”  There was silence.  “We all could have died.”  After a bit more silence he sat down defeated.   Everyone was probably coming out of shitty bus sleep and didn’t understand what he said or were bummed about having to now be on a crowded bus.

I’ve walked to Kentucky and am in what I think might be a gay bar.  It’s hard to tell, everyone has a slightly feminine mullet.

I slept to Cleveland.  The guy next to me who tried to lead the cheer left and I wished him well.  He’d gotten out of a V.A. hospital to give his daughter away in her wedding today.  He didn’t seem to know her very well.

I spent the two hour layover bathing in the sunrise of downtown Cleveland.  On the bus I finished a book (I brought six with me).  It was a young adult novel called Z is for Zacariah that I distinctly remember reading in the seventh grade when I was obsessed with nuclear war.  It’s about a girl who lives in a valley that is somehow unaffected by the far off bombs.  She’s alone for a year and a half until a sinister scientist shows up in a special radiation suit.  It’s really good and dark.

I slept about an hour too.  In Cincinnati I walked up to the University area on top of a big ass hill.  I was looking for espresso and a free weekly newspaper to see what was going on.  It wasn’t that cool up there.  I asked how to get to Kentucky and walked that way.

I had to go through a haggard and lively part of town.  A little kid yelled “Happy Hanukkah” to me while his dad rolled a joint on the sidewalk.  I’ve always wanted to look more Jewish and here, in Cincinnati, I had finally achieved my goal.

While walking I heard someone yell my name.  It was this guy, Chris, that I kind of knew from New York.  We both couldn’t stop laughing at the coincidence of it.  He’s from here, now visiting and was driving around with his mom.  He’s a friend of Claud’s, the model.  I was happy to see him but at the same time it felt kind of oppressive, like I can’t go anywhere and be alone.  In Mexico I ran into two people I knew in two different cities in two weeks.  I’m going to hang out with him tonight and hopefully have a bed and a shower.  I was planning to just crash in a wooded area.  I walked across a bridge to Kentucky, really glad I came.

Sunday night, now I’m in a seedy hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

Last night I tried calling Chris’ mom’s but got a fax machine.  I went to where I told him I was going and hoped he would show up.  In the end he never did and it made me mad.  I was happy feeling independent and I spent most of the night looking at the door and trying to call him in hopes that his Mom disconnected the fax machine.

I still had a great night.  The town in Kentucky was weird with a giant aquarium and a store for Juggaloes.  I went to this place that Ryan told me about, the South Gate House.  It’s a huge mansion where the inventor of the Tommy Gun was born.  It’s now a big club with bands.  A country cover band played in the front room as the Sun set.  The bass player saw me mouthing words and, when there was a break, asked me if I wanted to sing a song.  I would have said yes but don’t know all the words to any song.

The first night of a trip is usually the best.   It helps if they’re Saturdays too.  Wandering into a strange town and following faded clues to wonderful, surprising music and the kindness of strangers.  You’re watching a country cover band in a mansion by a river.  An old Native American man walks in and starts playing along on spoons.

I talked to this guy who was in the opening band in the big room, Michael.  He was wearing an “Eskimo Joe’s” shirt, that’s how it started.  The big room was really nice, kind of like the Bowery Ballroom carved inside a mansion.  There were really good, unique visual projections behind the band’s all night.

Michael’s band, Halo, was a pretty good rockin’ and instrumental band.  They had a slow motion giant waterfall projected behind them during the whole set.  The next band, Burning Star Core, were kind of like Hall of Fame with two hippy drummers and a distorted violin player.  I started talking with Michael again.  He was really nice but couldn’t give me a place to stay.

The last band was an electronic noise collective with a guy “dj”ing images behind them.  It was amazing.  I said ‘wow” aloud a couple of times without even being stoned.

After the show I said goodbye to Michael and went to an underpass and actually slept pretty well.

The next morning I ate breakfast, did laundry and walked back to Ohio.  I went to the art museum, it was okay.  I decided to make my way out of town.  Cincinnati didn’t seem like much.

I was born there but we were in the process of moving to Pittsburgh so I only lived there a week.  It had always loomed large in my mind but seemed like I’d had the best night possible and didn’t want to sully the area.  Also, I only had a couple of days until my friend Ratty was coming to visit me in New York.

I really should have checked out the city buses because I ended up walking up and down hills with no convenience stores for water on poorly constructed sidewalks, right next to buses and traffic all the way out of the city.

I stopped to pet a cat and it teased me just out of my reach till she rolled over on the inside of the door of the four unit apartment complex.  I stooped to pet it and a raveled, country female voice squawked from behind a screened in window, I couldn’t see her.  “What are you doing there?”

“I’m just petting the cat.”

“You leave that cat alone and get out of here.”  I sulked off.  I realized that Cincinnati is kind of the South.

After I got deeper in the suburbs, about nine miles out, I started hitchhiking.  I got a ride with this older guy with a gray beard and a so-so shitty sedan.  He offered me a job in a printing shop if I ended up settling here.  “Do you indulge?” he asked, and, after Florida, I wanted to say “be more specific”, but then he pulled out a joint.  First we had to pick up his “girlfriend”, as opposed to his wife.  She comes out and I go to the back of the car.  She, a big , slightly disheveled but not bad lady.  She started yelling at him because he didn’t leave her any pot.  He described me as this guy I picked up.

She calmed down after we smoked the joint.  She wouldn’t pass it to me at first because she wasn’t sure I was old enough to smoke it.

“Actually, this day wasn’t that bad” she said.  “I watched that movie King Kong.  I never realized it was a true story.  Sure it’s a marriage, but she didn’t know what she was marrying.  They open the door and there you go.”  The man and the woman argue about what the door was made of.

Then she started talking about all the things I could get busted for, hitchhiking and all.  Even though she was an idiot, she and the pot got me paranoid.   She especially warned me against jaywalking.

“I was in court behind a lady who got busted for jaywalking here and they let her off because her BABY got raped.  I’m sorry that her BABY got raped, but what does that have to do with jaywalking?”

I felt helpless and paranoid as I hitchhiked on the thin shoulder of road after they dropped me off.  After an hour and a half I gave up.  I was stuck in Owensville, a town with no bus station, no hotels and no bars.  I sat outside a gas station asking people where they were going.  I walked to a roadhouse the lady had pointed out two or so miles down the road.  “You’ll find someone to give you a place to stay there”, she said.  There was no shoulder now and it was dark.  Everytime a car came I would have to jump into the tall weeds of the roadside ditch, imagining ticks getting on me.  I got to the roadhouse and after much pounding on the locked door they said they couldn’t help me.  I had to walk back the miles again.

Finally, back at the gas station, a nice Christian guy gave me a ride back to Cincinnati.  I checked into the seedy hotel.  I was sore as hell.  I’d walked at least twenty miles that day.  My feet, ankles, and, for some reason, my butt were throbbing in pain.  I took a shower, wrote a little bit to you and went to bed.  One would think I would sleep great but I tossed and turned all night.

The next day I bought a bus ticket to New York with stops in Columbus and Cleveland.  I went to the library to check my email.  It was really cool, there was an art museum in the middle of it that had an exhibit about the band Destroy All Monsters.

I’m in Columbus now and it kind of sucks.  I’m by Ohio State’s campus and everyone is ugly, poorly dressed and annoying looking; like no other town I’ve ever seen.  I applied for grad school here and now I’m really glad I got rejected.  Ethiopian food and there’s a punk show tonight.

Punk show was just okay but I was tired.  Had a cab take me to a hotel that I saw an ad for in the directory at the bus station.  This is a good place to find clean, nicer hotels.  The place I stayed at was very nice.  Presidential candidate George W. Bush is in town, I saw it on TV.  Then I watched Tom Green get his testicles probed and went to bed.

I hope you’re well,



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