Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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On The Road

The hulking Wasatch mountains whiz by me in much the same way my 28 years in Utah are flashing before my eyes. I've never lived anywhere but here. All my life I've dreamed of New York City and now it's looming on the horizon. Granted, two thousand miles away isn't exactly looming, but I've pictured it so often in my mind's eye I can already see the Statue of Libery beckoning me.. Come now, she says. I've been waiting for you.

"Did you fart?" The Surge casually asks me.
"You know I don't fart" I admonish.
"Never. I can forgive you for asking this time, but let us never speak of this again."
"Musta been Max" As if to confirm our suspicions, Max pulls his big, black head in the window of our rental moving van and gives us what appears to be a wicked grin.
"Max!" The Surge giggles. Max, unconcerned, shoves his giant dog melon back out the window and continues lapping at the wind.

Every so often a pocket of air catches his pink and gray speckled dog lips and flips them nearly inside out, revealing his dazzlingly white set of choppers. Each time this happens I burst out laughing because Max looks like a cartoon dog, cackling madly at the wind.

"Goodbye Utah!" I shout dramatically into the crisp mountain air above Park City. "Farewell town of my birth! So long ex-boyfriends who I'll never run into again! See you in a while, fucked up family!" I push my head out alongside Max's and let the vortex of chilly air whip my hair into a Bon Jovi do circa 1985.

It is truly surreal to be driving away from everything I've ever known. I've secretly dreamt of this moment for most of my life. Many of the books I've read growing up take place in New York City. Dozens of favorite movies were filmed on the cities storied streets. The trash mags I peruse have oodles of shots of celebrities strolling casually around neighborhoods with names I've heard my entire life. Names like TriBeCa, Chelsea, and Greenwhich. And Brooklyn. The city where all rappers are born, or so it seems.

Because he's been on the road with a rock band for most of his adult life, The Surge is a citizen of the world. He belongs nowhere, fits in everywhere. As such, he has amassed a collection of magnets, the likes of which would frighten young republican yuppies everywhere.

His collection spans the globe. From Stockholm to Missouri, Spain to Vancouver, the boy loves his magnets. This means that we are obligated to stop at every promising appearing truck stop, many which sport the unfortunate name "Kum and Go!", along the interstate from Wyoming to Pennsylvania.

The Surge prowls along the aisles, periodically shouting the discovery of such gems as "A stuffed turkey! Can we get it? Please?"
"Look! A big foot statue!"
"A magnet shaped like a pheasant. Did you know the pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota?"
"Wow, check this out. Pickled quails eggs! These are usually found further south. I wonder how old these are? Can we buy them?"
"An Alabama cassette tape! Awesome! Lets buy it!" As an afterthought, "Does the moving van have a tape deck?"

I relent on the pheasant shaped magnet but draw the line at pickled quail eggs.
"I don't know what kind of shit you put in your body when you're on the road with the band, but I'm sticking with stuff that won't burn a hole in my stomach." I lecture haughtily while stocking up on Doritos, Chile Cheese Fritos, jerky and Diet Coke.
"I'll have you know that jerky you disgustingly slobber all over before actually chewing is dried animal flesh", The Surge sniffs sullenly. "And highway patrol officers use that rot gut Diet Coke you mainline to clean up blood from traffic accidents on the freeway."
"They do not!" I giggle.
"Suit yourself." He shrugs and returns to perusing racks of rainbow colored fishing lures.

"Scuse me, sir?" My words take forever to penetrate the wrinkled ears of the man encased in dirty denim overalls, sauntering along the side of the road. I smile when I realize he's stereotypically chawing on a thick stem of wheat.
"Howdy. What can I do ya for?"
"We're trying to find I-70 but we seem to have lost our way."
"Where yew headed?"
"Ultimately New York City, but we just need to find--"
"New Yorrrk City! I'll be damned! That's a long way off from here."
"Yeah, if you could just tell us---"
"Mighty big rig yew got here. What kinda mileage she get?"
I shrug and look at The Surge. "I'm not sure, I've filled the tank twice since we left Wyoming." The Surge says.
"Well I'll be!" The old fella fondles the inside of his left nostril affectionately.
"She run on diesel?"
"Um, yeah?" I venture.
"I got a rig what run on diesel too. Used ta be diesel was cheaper. It done catch up with them other kind though." He leans companiably on the door of the truck.
"Yeah." I offer.
"Where you folks comin' from?"
"YOU-TAW!" He exclaims gleefully "You wunna them polygamists? How many mamas you got?" He snorts at his joke, revealing a row of blackened teeth and a clump of tobacco tucked inside his lower lip.
"Ha ha.. That's funny. I've never heard that before." Sarcasm is completely lost on this man.

Just when I'm about to tell The Surge to punch the gas and leave the man to his ball scratching through the pocket of his oversized overalls, the old boy finally begins to explain how to get back to the interstate.
"As the crow flies, it's about two miles from here. But it'll take ya a good ten minutes what with the construction on main street."
Surprisingly, just as our man explained, we were back on the freeway cruising at a comfortable 75 miles per hour just inside of ten minutes.

Another mainstay of The Surge On The Road is coffee. To be exact I should say a splash of coffee with his cup of sugar.
"Mayday, Mayday!" The Surge shouts from his driving throne. Max, used to this tired exclamation, lifts his heavy head from my numb lap, rolls his eyes toward me as if to say "THIS guy..." then settles back into his favorite position, nose pointed uncomfortably close to my crotch, inhaling what is apparently the fragrant aroma of my naughty bits.
"Mayday! We are out of coffee! I repeat, WE ARE OUT OF COFFEE!" The Surge never tires of this "fun" game.
"Oh lord." I pause the book on CD we've been listening to for the past six hours. "Here we go again." I mutter. Loudly I say "I saw a sign for services a few miles back."

Five minutes later The Surge negotiates the moving van next to a gas pump. After filling the tank he gallops toward the tiny convenience store, coffee mug firmly in hand. Out of sheer boredom, I decide to document The Surge's passionate love affair with the brewed bean and haul out our digital recorder.

As expected, I discover The Surge at the coffee pot, sniffing the freshly brewed java like a coke fiend in a hollywood night club bathroom. Silently, I press record on our camera and zoom in on The Surge's lusty inhalations.

Once his ecstasy is complete, my new husband begins to dump sugar into his mug. This process is expedited significantly if he can avail himself of a sugar dispenser with a sizeable hole in the metallic top. If sugar packets are involved, I usually hunker down and pass the time reading bumper stickers like "CORNBELT GIRLS KNOW HOW TO SHUCK!"

Fortunately, this time there is a glass sugar dispenser The Surge can rape. Three minutes later, the container nearly depleted, The Surge finishes his sugary pillage and turns his attention to his cream options. Thus begins the finite process of blending milk into the sugar. This is BEFORE coffee has been added, mind you.
"It's delicate, the mixing of milk and sugar." The Surge has repeatedly informed me. "But once you get the right combination, you can proceed with the next step."
"What if there is no milk or cream?" I had asked stupidly.
He didn't respond right away. There was an audible intake of breath before he patiently explained to the "coffee impaired" that The Surge doesn't use powder in his coffee. He spit out the word powder as if it were a bitter pill. Powder, his longstanding arch nemesis.
"Using powder is like watching The Godfather on an eight inch black and white television." He further explained as if THAT cleared up everything.

At the moment, my camera is capturing The Surge, tongue clamped between lips in concentration, stirring his perfect blend of milk and sugar. Once that tricky task is complete he commences the delicate job of blending coffee with his milky sweet concoction.

"The trick here," The Surge has explained on numerous occasions, "it to pour AND blend simultaneously. This is how the folks at Dunkin' Donuts do it. I find it makes for a better blend all around" he continued earnestly, oblivious, or choosing to ignore my mock sincerity.

He finishes the blending process, closes his eyes and takes his requisite test sip to make sure the flavors are happily married. He holds the liquid in his mouth like a snobby wine connoisseur, finally nodding his head affirmitively as if to say, another job well done!

"Oh my god that was priceless!" I burst out laughing. "I totally caught your whole coffee routine on tape!"
The Surge swaggers past me in a scarily accurate impersonation of John Wayne and says "coffee ain't no laughing matter lil' lady."

In Pennsylvania, we drop down to Philadelphia, The Surge's hometown, so he can pick up a few of his belongings from storage.
We load the van, adding The Surge's stuff to mine until his curious array of boxes, coffee mug collection, strange lamps and weird tables are nearly exploding out the back of the moving van.

We slam the back of the van closed and scurry through the frigid air to the cab of the truck where Max is waiting. Our dog is sitting in the middle of the cab and, like a cow chews cud, is working a rawhide bone I'd given him a few hours earlier.

The Surge and I slam our doors closed sealing us into the eerily silent cab. The quiet is alarming considering Max's usually loud bone slurpings. Both The Surge and I turn to look at Max at the same time. He's gasping for air, only he isn't taking in any. His head is working back and forth as he tries to expel the chunk of soggy rawhide apparently lodged in his throat.
"He's choking" I shout, "He's really choking!"

The Surge jumps into action, prying open Max's powerful jaws, fingers disappearing down our dog's cavernous throat. The seconds tick by interminably as The Surge struggles.
After nearly twenty seconds tick agonizingly by, Max begins to panic, squirming wildly in the seat.
"I can't get it!" The Surge shouts. Fear colors his voice a frantic shade of orange. "It's too far down!"

There is a terrifying moment that passes between us, our new family, that rocks me to my core. Helplesness continues to paralyze me as Max begins to buck crazily in his frenzied effort to take in air.

Panic spurs me into action at last. I do the only thing that I can think of. Balling my hand into a tight little fist, I rear back and slam Max's barrel chest as hard as I dare.
"WOOOOMP!" Immediately, the sound of sandpaper scraping wood issues from Max's gaping jaws and a huge, wet, wad of chewed rawhide launches from his mouth and lands on the dashboard with a juicy "SHHHLLLLMMMHP!"

The three of us are frozen, save for the rapid rise and fall of our chests as we pant for air.

After our heavy breathing subsides, Max drags his bubble gum tongue along the side of my face and settles back down in his favorite position, nose inches from my crotch.
"Did that just happen?" The Surge asks in disbelief.
"Holy shit." I reply shakily. Then, "I rock! Did you see me? Wasn't that the coolest? I am the coolest!"
I proceed to reenact the Monica Saves Max scene for most of the drive from Philly to New York.

"There it is! There it is!" I shout excitedly. Max, fully recovered from his near death experience is wiggling around, tail thumping and wagging wildly. The Statue of Liberty. Just as she welcomed millions of immigrants throughout the centuries.. she is welcoming this little girl from Utah. I am home.

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Reader Comments (6)

I never did hear that "rescue" story EVER! I had to do the same thing with spliff about 9 months ago, but after I sat and sobbed my heart out. Scared me to death! hey! I have the videotape here at the house of your New York trip. You accidently left in the camera when I got my camera back. Maybe I'll sit back and watch. Any objections to that HuuUUhhh Serge???
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
That was great, Monica. Max sounds like the sweetest dog/child. I'm sure you couldn't imagine leaving him behind. It kills me when people move and drop their pets at a shelter :(
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha
Tabby! I'm a big ol' dog dork.. I would be ashamed if anyone ever heard me talkin' to my Maxer the way I do..
February 13, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Nothing to be ashamed of....I'm guilty of being a dog dork too :) My boy is a rescued redboned coonhound and is the sweetest, dopiest love of my life.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha

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March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDon York

seriously. you are just a few revisions away from writing big... you are THAT good...

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

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