Friday, September 26, 2008

Early Morning Thoughts

Currently. As I write this, it is early Friday morning, just after 1:00 am. We are at the Schneider facility in Fontana, California, just east of LA. Terry is sleeping, and after I write this, if we still don't have our next load, I may climb into the top bunk and grab a nap myself.

We just delivered a load we picked up yesterday in Ogden, Utah, to a place east of here in Redlands, California. Now we are just waiting for our next load.

Things since I last wrote have been going very well. I'm feeling great, sleeping well, and I am loving driving the night shift after doing it almost a month. We are supposed to trade back after our time off next week. I think I'll miss the night driving.

We have been getting good loads, good miles, and have been out west more than anywhere else, so all those things taken together make for a very good driving and teaming experience for both of us.

Much of the routine I followed as a solo driver has been replaced by other rituals, routines. I am not reading as much, am not on my computer as much, not listening to books very much on XM radio or on tape. Now when we have down time like this, I'm more likely to sleep than anything else. And driving, I am more likely to listen to my own music, especially driving at night. But those changes are not bad, merely different.

The things that I love about teaming are balancing some things I miss about driving solo. Driving down some lonely highway out west, amazed at the outlines of mountains surrounding me on every side, looking at stars strewn about the sky like change poured from a jar onto the sidewalk, listening to one of the playlists I'm currently enjoying, suddenly, the curtain separating the front of the truck from the sleeping area parts, and Terry stumbles up front, still half asleep. And we talk. About the beauty of this country, even at night; about politics; theology; relationships; reliving memories we share from the past 25 years, laughing. And when I'm working on the next segment of the story I'm currently writing, bouncing ideas off Terry for his feedback or evaluation. Or, last night, on I-80 in Wyoming, asking him about some lines of poetry I've been working on since Laramie. Those are the things I love about teaming.

The Magic of the West . After driving a truck for almost four years, seeing every part of this country multiple times, having great experiences, and some not-so-great ones, it amazes me how much I (and we, for Terry echoes these sentiments) still am entranced and in love with driving out west.

The first year I was driving, and everything was new, I shot lots of video of places I would go, most of the time my first time there. I dug those out a couple of days ago, and watched them for the first time in several years. Footage from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada -- everywhere I went in those days. Watching those old images just reminded me again how even after several years, I love driving those roads as much as when I first saw them, and they captured my heart.

I have the best job, the best life, in the world. You have permission to be jealous. I don't blame you.

"Belle of the Monday Night Ball." It has been years since I have written any poetry at all. I'm always reading it, and always playing with ideas for writing it. But the last poem I wrote, which was also my favorite, was one I wrote for Charlotte on Valentine's Day back in 2000 (it was part of the Valentine's Day blog entry I wrote last February).

But last night, driving through Wyoming on I-80 in the wee hours of the morning, I wrote a poem. It's nothing I would trumpet as necessarily good poetry, and was mostly an exercise for me to sort of divert my thoughts from wrestling with the story I'm working on. For weeks, most nights, I have spent hours and hours thinking, mulling over, considering, meditating, and working out ideas for that story. And I felt like I needed a break just to let those different things settle down for a bit so I could come back to them later to see how they arrange themselves.

So, back to the poem. Last year, several times, for different reasons, Terry and I shut down in Dallas overnight, and stayed at the motel Schneider used there for drivers (they now use a different one). Most of those times, we would go to the small bar in that motel and shoot some pool and just hang out.

On several occasions, we noticed this one woman, probably late 20's or early 30's, there. She was usually the only woman in the place, and it wasn't crowded anyway in the middle of the week. She was always by herself, but would be hanging out, playing pool, drinking, talking with a group of guys.

One night, Terry remarked as a sort of joke that she was "the belle of the Monday night ball." We laughed, but later both agreed that that would make a great country song. So, over the past year and a little more, at various times, we've talked about ideas for writing that song. We've talked about the woman, who she might be, what brings her there -- alone -- and all the things that would go into making a good slow-dance honkey-tonk song.

Neither of us has done more than talk about it, just for amusement, never with any real serious intention. But last night, as a diversion and for fun, I began to work out some lyrics, and ended up with a short poem instead of the song I'd intended.

Terry liked it, and I like it okay, so in that light, I share it with you, pretty much the way it came in the night in Wyoming, between Laramie and Rock Springs.


"The Belle of the Monday Night Ball"

Monday night finds her again

on the edge of town

at a place called Sloppy Joe's.

Couldn't hold a candle

to the weekend girls

but tonight she's

the belle o' the ball.

Belle of the Monday Night Ball --

she drinks with the guys

beats'em at pool

dances cheek to cheek every song.

And at the end of the night

the prince of the week

gets to take her home.

She's the Belle of the

Monday Night Ball.

From Russia With Love. You know one of the things I like doing in these blog entries is talking about the interesting people I meet on the road. I met such a person last week at the Schneider facility in Dallas.

We were passing through, and had stopped there for fuel, a shower, and a meal. There was a wait for showers, so Terry and I went ahead and got some lunch and sat down to wait. No sooner had we sat down than they called Terry for his shower.

So he left and I sat there and ate, guarding his lunch until he returned.

It wasn't long before another driver came and sat down across from me at the table. We talked about trucking things for a couple of minutes, talked about Schneider, other things. He seemed like a nice enough guy.

Then he asked me if I was married. I told him I wasn't. Suddenly, he pulls out a business card and hands it to me as he tells me I need a Russian woman for a wife, and he's just the man to set me up.

He's married to a Russian woman, he told me (his second, actually), and he highly recommends them. His selling points for Russian women were that they "are more assertive than American women, and they aren't rich, so they are frugal."

So, in Dallas, Texas, in the twenty-first century, I run into a guy running a mail-order Russian bride service on the side.

I tell him I'm not interested -- well, maybe if he knows any Russian women who look like Anna Kourni-(omg)-kova from the recent issue of Maxim magazine, I might sign up. But all the Russian women (besides dear Anna) I've ever seen look like . . . um, Russian women. Guess I'll pass.

Oh, but that's not all. He wasn't finished with me. (Where is Terry? How long can it take to get a shower? Why don't they call me?) He began to talk about how he would never marry a black woman -- "I don't believe in mixing the races, nosir" -- and how if the Civil War were ever repeated, he knows whose side he'd be on.

Keep in mind, there are people all around us, including black folks. And Mr. Russian Ambassador talks to me like I forgot to put in my hearing aid.

Oh yes, he continues, his sister was a cop in Chicago for 25 years, and she used to get on to him for saying things about black folks, but now that she's retired, she talks about them more than he does. (Terry, hurry up, for God's sake!)

On and on. Finally, after about 100 years, Terry finally gets back to the table, they call me for my shower, and I leave him to talk to the guy who should have stayed in Russia.

Family Ties. In about a week, we are scheduled to shut down for some time off. We will shut down in Atlanta, I will drive up to Rome to see my family, and Terry will fly to Little Rock. It's been three months since I was in Georgia, so I'm looking forward to seeing people I love. Hopefully, none of them will try to set me up with a mail-order bride from anywhere.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . making choices and taking responsibility . . .


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