Traveling with Knives
We had about 1,259 miles to travel and we got a very late start. I slept late (we had that party the night before) then woke up, then went back to sleep. Then woke up and finished packing. There’s always more to do. Always about three more trips to the truck you need to take. Stuff to pick up at the office. Food to eat. A box to stuff the cat into.
Knives hated going into the box. I can understand why. It took me four tries, and when I finally got her in, she started throwing herself into one of the walls trying to knock it over. I stood there watching it for a while, mouth open, wondering how the fuck we were going to drive for 18 hours in this state. But once I got her in the truck, she must have entered some kind of a trance state. She just stopped moving or making any noise.
We didn’t actually depart until about 7 p.m. Thursday night. I had to be in Denver
the following night to sign the lease. Also, the minute I started driving I got incredibly sleepy. Not the start you want. But I had a full pizza on the dash and an entranced cat in the shotgun seat. So I drove. And drove.
About 3 a.m. I got delirious-tired. The point in a late night drive where you start feeling things crawl on your legs, and seeing things dart in the corner of your eye. We were somewhere in Idaho, and I pulled off into a rest area. I let Knives out of her box, and she carefully ventured out. I offered her food.
“I’ve been in a cardboard box for six hours. Fuck you and fuck your food,” she said.
“Fine, I’m going to get some sleep,” I told her. “Explore if you like. I left a miniature litter box on the floor.”
“Fuck your miniature litter box.”
I budgeted time to sleep for about three or four hours. Two of those I spent trying to find a comfortable position. I found out the best way was to lay down on the bench, head by Knives’ box, and then fold my legs and rest them on the car door window. Sort of a horizontal lotus.
Pain woke me up, and I decided it was time to drive. Knives was astoundingly calm and not as angry. She laid on my lap for a while, then found a spot she liked right on the dashboard. I turned the heat on to the defroster to keep her warm and she cuddled against the glass. Occasionally she would wander directly in front of me, like a little furry hood ornament, leading our way, and I had to push her out of the way. But for a surprising length of time, she surfed the dash, watching the stars.
I think it was when the sun came up that she got a little overwhelmed. I stopped to get gas and when I came back she was gone. I found her behind the pedals. I turned away and lost her. I panicked. I thought she crawled into the bowels of the dash. Was there some way to get into the engine from the cab? I reached my hand around and finally found her behind the bench barely reachable. Okay, I figured, I’m okay with it if you are.
I drove for about another hour and started to fall asleep on a busy stretch of freeway in Utah. I pulled into a Perkins parking lot and slept for about a half hour and started up again. She’d come out every now and then to see where we were, then back to her cave under the seats. She ate a little.
I ate pizza when I got hungry, drank Gatorade, soda and coffee in rotation. We were very lucky; the day before the highways through Utah were closed for high speed winds and snow. Utah wasn’t bad, but Wyoming was gnarly. Blowing snow, packed snow on the road nothing but commercial trucks on the road and me. I found an incredible radio station.
When the sun went down, Knives came out again to her spot on the dash. She even used her miniature litter box. By the time we were rolling into Denver, she had curled up on the passenger seat next to me and slept.
And then we made it. At about 10 p.m., 1200 plus miles and almost $500 in gas. I cruised through downtown, past Coors field and the glittery skyline. Into Colfax, and the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Friday night and the main drag was busy. Snow in the gutters of the streets and sidewalks, to my right the state Capitol was lit up greenish-blue. Downtown loomed behind me. Past the crowded Fillmore and the Ogden theaters, Argonaut Liquors. My new apartment was right in the middle of the beat poets’ old stomping ground. And I got a huge smile on my face. I had been so fixated on leaving Portland, I forgot that, goddammit, I love this city. My new home. This must be the place.