“Call Me Ishmael”

by Bill

July 31, 2011, 10:30 pm:

I’ve just hung up the phone with my fiance and I can tell she’s a little worried about my drive tomorrow because she said, “I’m a little worried about your drive tomorrow”.  Ok, I might have overstated things with that title line up there, I’m not about to set off to sea on a fruitless journey to try to kill a whale, I’m only driving a thousand miles, from Denver to Minneapolis, with all of my Earthly possessions in a U-Haul and my car on a tow behind it. (Why do people say “Earthly” there? Unless you’re an astronaut and have rocks from Mars, isn’t it just assumed that your shit is from Earth? Whatever, all my shit is in a U-Haul and I’m moving back to Minneapolis.)

At this point in the read, you’re probably pretending that you knew that title was from “Moby Dick” the second you read it. Is your life so shallow that you have to lie to yourself like that just to make it through your days? Good, you’re exactly the kind of person that should be reading this. (To those of you who actually did know that, I’m sorry and you’re smart and I’m envious of your Earthly possessions.)


Anyway, that’s the kind of mental roller-coaster you’re on when you’ve just quit your job and you’re moving again.  The plan is to get up early and be on the road by 4 am and arrive at Jennifer’s by 8 pm.  The plan in “Moby Dick” was to go hunt down and kill a whale. Oh, the best laid plans…

August 1, 2011, 12:30 am:

Fucking fall asleep already! I think I’ve dozed at one point in the last two hours, but now I’m getting panicky– I’m to be on the road in three and a half hours and experience tells me that a couple hours of sleep before a 15 hour drive helps.


August 1, 2011, 3:50 am:

I’m in the shower and I’m awake and adrenalized.  This is going to suck, but I’ve done 15 hour drives a million times– I didn’t oversleep, I’m off on time, I’ll be out of Denver by the morning drive– this is going to be a piece of cake.

Let’s go kill a whale.  I keep going back to that because my adventure became so much like Ishmael’s. What was to be a trip to sea to kill a whale became a book that is summarized thusly: “Through the main character’s journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil and the existence of God are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his own place in the universe”.  Have you ridden all day in a U-Haul lately? I’d been through all of that by the time I was chewing on my Sausage McMuffin in Ogallala, Nebraska.  Oh, plus August 1 is Herman Melville’s birthday, he would have been 192 today, the same age as all the other customers in a roadside McDonald’s at 8 am on a Monday morning in Ogallala, Nebraska.


August 1, 2011, 10 am:

I hear on the U-Haul radio that sharing this birthday with Mr. Melville today are both Adam Duritz and Coolio, who are turning 47 and 48 respectively.  Here I am, changing my life drastically on August 1, moving home to get married and I’m driving on the birthdays of two dudes who’s greatest artistic achievements are “August and Everything After” and “Fantastic Voyage”.  (Earlier in the ride I’d heard that on August 1, 1876, Colorado had become the 38th state.)  Now that I’m home and comfortable and not bat-shit crazy like I was six hours in to this ride, that doesn’t look like much, but at the time I thought it was crazy deep.  It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if all my Earthly possessions were levitating back in the truck.  A warmth washed over me as I embraced the cosmic hug the radio had thrown at me.  Here I was, almost half way done, eating up highway, cruising down a summer road, drinking deep from the cup of life.

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August 1, 2011, 10:45 am:

The house I slept at the night before my trip was the home of the Franks (my brother-in-law and sister).

On August 1, 1944 a 15-year old girl named Anne Frank wrote in her diary for the last time.  She was arrested by German police three days later.  Which is to say that shit can go wrong too.  Frank, the precocious Dutch girl who kept a diary during her time under German occupation, had written in April of ’44: “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want!  I know I can write… but it remains to be seen if I really have talent…”


My back is beginning to seize up.  The only stations left on my radio consider Conway Twitty to be punk rock.  My banked three hours of sleep is spent.  I am crestfallen when I see a map and quickly realize that I’m nowhere near half done.  Where is that fucking whale, I’m sick of this shit.

On August 1, 1794, a group of angry men in Western Pennsylvania had had enough of what they deemed an Eastern-based national government and were rising up against a new excise tax on whiskey– part of treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton’s program to centralize and fund the national debt. The Westerners felt they were being picked on, as they were the whiskey drinkers– how else to kill the night time hours way-out West?  There were no wig-wearing dudes performing Shakespeare in the fancy halls of New York and Boston out on the frontier— give us our damn booze! This uprising became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion”.

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August 1, 2011, 12:30 pm:

In what would become known later as the “Sausage McMuffin Rebellion” I pulled off I-80 in nowhere, Nebraska at the same time both completely out of gas and completely full of gas.  My first thought as I wobbled out of the cab was, “holy fuck, it’s hot!” 100 degrees and humid immediately blasted me in the face and nuts and any other body part I could still feel (which would not include my pinky finger that was positioned a half-inch from the air-conditioner and was frozen solid).  If I had been paying attention to anything other than the fact that the McBarffle wanted out of me for the last half hour, it might have dawned on me that the present temperature in the U-Haul was 200 degrees below zero.

Picture if you will a normally 5’7 man, hunched down to 5’1, lurching towards an outhouse in a million degree heat, sweating profusely, knowing that every step had the potential to start the rebellion early.  NO SEXY. If it was 100 degrees outside, it was 170 in that bathroom.  Duty done, I glanced in the mirror and wondered when the gremlin had gouged at my eyes and how Nick Nolte’s stylist had gotten ahold of my hair.

That's not me. I looked much worse.

That’s not me. I looked much worse.

August 1, 2011, 4:30 pm:

My first “I’m not going to make it” thoughts are gripping me hard.  I’m having to stop every hour or so for a variety of reasons: my back is on fire, my brain is on fire, the cars around me are on fire.  I can kind of deal with the first two, but when the third one starts, it’s time for the time-out chair.

On August 1, 1933  Carl Hubbell sets an MLB record of 45 1/3 scoreless innings pitched.


Translation: I’m being a pussy.  Nut-up and get the job done. August 1 is also the birthday of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.  Do you hate America? Then get back in Satan’s Chariot and drive!

August 1, 2011, 5:30 pm

Pulling off at another “Rest Area” just another hour later, I fall out of the back-breaking fuck-tank yelping, “I do hate America, I do!… Just leave me alone and don’t make me drive anymore!”

On August 1, 1978 Pete Rose’s 44 game hitting streak comes to an end against the Atlanta Braves.

I’ve picked basically the hottest day in the history of the world to do this trip.  My walks from the U-Haul to the rest area bathrooms turn me from a frozen person to a sweaty ball of gross in 3.6 seconds.  I ooze out of the rest area to a picnic table and call Jen to admit that I might have to take a knee and surrender.  She’s a bit confused when I try to explain to her that hitters weren’t that good in King Carl’s day, so it wasn’t THAT great of a feat anyway.  She encourages me to stop, or at least to take a nap in the U-Haul.  We hang up and I’m asleep on the picnic table 3 seconds later.  I dream of peace and serenity and not being in a moving vehicle– all of the same dreams George Harrison had when he put on the Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971.  I nap for 20 minutes and then sit there and stretch for 2o more.  I’m a sweaty mess, but I feel much better and I hit the road again.  I never liked Pete Rose.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

On August 1, 1903, H. Nelson Jackson, a physician and businessman from Burlington, Vermont and Sewall K. Crocker, a mechanic, completed the first ever coast to coast automobile trip– from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days.

August 1, 2011, 11:30 pm:

I pull into Jen’s driveway and am overwhelmed by being done.  Her pep-talk had gotten me through another three hours and I did the final two just because I had to.  I was barreling down 35-W in Lakeville in the pitch dark at an impressive 48 miles per hour as trucks zoomed by me at what felt like the speed of sound.  I was hanging on for dear life.  I actually pulled off of the highway in Bloomington for the sweet peace and ease brought to me by side streets.  A trip that I’d guessed would take me 15 hours took me 18.5 and I was absolutely worse for the wear. Bad sleep, 100 degree heat, a bouncy, uncomfortable U-Haul and a seizing back had made for a horrific trip.  I hopped in the shower and let both the water and delirium wash over me.

Two days later I dropped the U-Haul off at a small, farm-supply store in Dayton, Minnesota and I couldn’t help think of the doomed Captain Ahab’s hissing speech to Moby Dick as I glanced back at the cursed U-Haul for the last time:

“… to the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee”


Captain Ahab and all others on the whaleship Pequod ended up at the bottom of the ocean, Ishmael the lone survivor.  I walked back to my car and drove the quick five miles back to have lunch with my fiance.

Home at last.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sausage mcmuffin rebellion! Har!

  2. By the time I got to 12:30 pm, I was laughing so hard I had my own rebellion…

    August 1, three or four years ago is when the 35W bridge fell into the Mississippi river during rush hour.

  3. McBarffle. That’s awesaome! August 1st is Vi’s birthday. We were downtown having dinner when the bridge fell.

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