There’s a surprise today.

Before I got out of bed this morning I texted –Wh 22601, to (LOCATE) and voila – I had my breakfast arranged because there was a Waffle House five minutes away. I left the Waffle House at 9:54 AM, it was 72 and not a cloud in the sky. I had finished the coffee and the bacon first and purposefully left one last bite of waffle smothered in syrup because I wanted to savor the taste as long as possible.

I made my way out of Virginia quickly because I had a lot to do today. I listened to Brad Paisley as I drove through a back road in West Virginia that reminded me of Vermont. And then all of a sudden in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, it happened. I had driven 3,500 miles and avoided any run-ins with the law, but in West Virginia that all changed. I was just cruising along when on the opposite side of the road I spotted a local police. I quickly glanced at the GPS because it has my speed and the speed limit conveniently displayed side-by-side. I was in a 55 doing about 58. I held my breath as I drove passed the sitting police officer and desperately hoped he stayed put, even though I was going at a reasonable pace with the flow of traffic, but technically speeding.

As I passed I looked into the rearview mirror and he pulled out. And then he put his lights on. I knew it. I was nailed. A search of the car would turn up that toxic bag of Bold Chex Mix and I would be accused of planning a terrorist attack and held as an enemy combatant under the Patriot Act, or Military Commissions Act of 2006, and probably sent to Guantanamo Bay. But, today, the law wasn’t after this Yankee. The car directly behind me pulled over and the police followed close behind it. I was spared by the grace of John Brown’s ghost. I breathed a sigh of relief. Brad Paisley sang –A man ain’t got to die to go to hell.  I thought to myself, he ain’t got to die to go to heaven either.

I listened to John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads, and when you hear a song while in the region that’s being sung about the song takes on a whole new meaning. The elevation was about 500 ft in West Virginia and Maryland. Crossing into Maryland and seeing the Chesapeake Bay was magnificent. When I hit the I-70 heading toward Baltimore life seemed to be bustling again. The beginning of Tupac’s How Do You Want it is nice when you have it turned up loud enough to feel it. I rapped along to -Sho nuff/I keep my hand on my gun/cause they got me on the run.

I tuned into AM 1570 for some local sports when I hit some traffic in the north Baltimore Metro area. Of course, Bulldog and somebody else were talking about the Red Sox, specifically a collision involving Saltalamacchia. They also talked about a secret meeting behind Bobby Valentine’s back. I had had enough. Fortunately the traffic cleared up quickly. I scanned the dial and heard about West Nile Virus cases in Maryland and decided that the world other than the small space I occupied was too scary and returned to music.

I stopped at a rest area in Maryland and there were people everywhere. I hated it. I paid a $6 toll after going over a bridge and the view of the Chesapeake was so nice I thought I could see to the Flemish Cap. It was almost worth $6. Then I saw a very plain blue sign welcoming me to Delaware, then they charged me a $4 toll.

After I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line I listened to the Spinto Band, who was the only band on the Delaware playlist, and they were not getting it done, so I put on one of my favorite inspirational songs, Opus – Life is Life. I pictured the awesome video of it playing while Diego Maradona demonstrates his will over a soccer ball. I listened to it twice.

The New Jersey playlist was one of the ones I was really looking forward to, so after a short stay in Delaware, in which I didn’t even stop, well, except to pay a toll, I let it rip. Frank Sinatra sang that he’d been in love more times than he cared to remember, and that love has kept him cool in July and warm in December. The Gaslight Anthem sang a line that sticks out to me whenever I hear it, yet I don’t think I completely understand it –My first sin was the fear that made me old. I love the Gaslight Anthem because their songs are catchy and nostalgic.  I sang all the words to Thunder Road with Bruce Springsteen. Jon Bon Jovi and I sang Born to be My Baby together like this:

Jon -My heart beats like a drum

Me –ALLLL NIIIGHT

Jon -Flesh to flesh, one to one

Me –AND ITS ALL RIGHT

So that was fun. Even the songs that seem over-played or that you’ve gotten used to, and are maybe even sick of, sound good on the road away from home and you remember why you love them.

I popped the lid off my empty coffee cup and Chevy looked at me like –WTF? But I was only reaching for my sunflower seeds, not the tobacco, so things were all good. Later, I stopped at the J Fenimore Cooper Rest Area to have a lunchtime snack. It was 88 and sunny, not too humid. I got a coffee, a coconut water that I paid too much for, and a Cinnabon just to make sure I was getting enough fat and sugar on the road trip. I only had three bites of the Cinnabon because it was disgusting. A total waste.

Also in Jersey a guy hunched over on a motorcycle passed me wearing sweatpants and tall white socks. I wondered if there was anything less cool to wear on a motorcycle. I noticed that the beginning of of Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory sounds eerily similar to Hannibal Lecter telling Clarice Starling the fava beans and Chianti line. That sucking, slurping noise he makes.

Then, like days ago at the Mississippi River, I laid eyes on the mightiest of the mighty, I got my first glimpse of New York, New York, where the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp beside the golden door. It appeared before me, sprawled out over what seemed like 1000 miles. I have been to the city many times, but today, approaching from the south, it felt like the first time. New York is more and bigger. Everything about New York is larger. The buildings are taller, the lights are brighter, things are more expensive, and the traffic is worse. There are more people – they’re fitter and more good-looking, their boobs are faker, and they are moving in a hurry because where they’re going is more important. New Yorkers love New York. Everyone loves his or her city in proportion to the size of the city. New Yorkers refuse to call New York anything but –The City.

The tolls are more expensive too. I paid $12.55 at the Lincoln Tunnel, then another one at the Queens Midtown Tunnel was $6.50. The GPS temporarily lost it senses and took me through the busiest street in New York city, 42nd street during rush hour traffic. I wanted to check to see if the settings had changed to find the most possible traffic and tolls. People were everywhere and traffic was a standstill. I wanted to close my eyes and be transported to a cornfield in Iowa. I wouldn’t have minded but I had to go to the bathroom, and, more importantly I was headed to Long Island to meet up with two college friends who I had not seen in a while.

The night I was in Jackson, Mississippi I planned out the stops for the rest of my trip and I had a little extra time if I kept on schedule, so I messaged the wife of my college roommate, Ryan Collins, to see if showing up there Thursday night was doable. She got back to me and said it was so for the next few days I plotted the surprise. I was also going to pick up another good pal, Jay Lucey, at the train station. The traffic delayed me and the sun began to set so I found myself in another race. This time against an insurance salesman from Long Island on his way home from work. I wanted to get there, park Chevy a few houses down, and be sitting in his favorite chair stroking his cat when he walked in the door.

On the Long Island Expressway Lady Gaga distracted me and helped prevent me from wetting myself, and for that I’ll always be grateful. Collins was due home at 6 PM and it was 5:52 when I pulled up to the Dunkin Donuts where Lucey was waiting. I parked Chevy, and by parked I mean I ditched it in front of a fire hydrant with the engine running. I ran right passed Jay Lucey to the bathroom. When I got back we had a few minutes to spare before RyGuy arrived, so I put on College – A Real Hero and booked it.

When we got to the house we parked a few blocks away and Sara, his wife, let us in. We discussed the cinematography of the entrance and peeked out the windows. There are videos below of the actual event, so I’ll skip to the dinner portion of the evening. We went to George Martin restaurant in Rockville Center. I had the crab cake to start and a blue cheese encrusted filet mignon with asparagus for an entrée. Both were excellent. The four of us had a wonderful time like old friends always do, and then I had the best key lime pie that I’ve ever had. They told me that I was a man of extremes and that I always said that. I just said –Fuck you guys. It was the best, and I really believed that.

When the bill came things went bananas. Money wasn’t the problem and I’m not sure what exactly happened but four educated people could not figure out how to pay the bill, a credit card fell in chocolate sauce, and finally after much commotion the waitress saved us from ourselves.

We left Lucey at the train station and it was sad to see him go. The three of us drove back and Collins and I sang our favorite song together, Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexa. My favorite part to shout is –I worked my fingers to the bone so I could own my Downeaster Alexa.

When we got back to the house I became obsessed with learning about the Gilgo Beach serial killer. Bodies had been found at Gilgo Beach and authorities believed a serial killer was responsible for them. Ten to fourteen victims are believed to be associated with the case. One of the victim’s younger sister’s had even received taunting phone calls from the killer from her missing/dead sister’s phone, which the police triangulated to Times Square and Madison Square Garden. The whole thing is crazy and scary, and I was sure I’d have nightmares.

Right now, I’m in the Collins’ guestroom, with comfortable accommodations and I couldn’t have been any happier to see my pals today. I’m going home tomorrow.

***The videos I shot were too long to upload so it links to youtube.com. The bastard took so long to get out of the car that I had to film it twice. If it gives you an error message just hit refresh, and repeat if necessary. Oh, and mature language is used. You’ve been warned.

Take #1 – the build-up

Take #2 – moneyshot

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P.S. Collins would admit later that one of the first thoughts that ran through his head when he walked through the door was – these don’t look like Sara’s sisters.

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