It didn’t go as planned. We were supposed to pack my mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, boyfriend and I into our mini van and drive ten hours from Kansas City to Lexington, Kentucky together. The day before we were to leave my mom woke up with Influenza B, and my grandpa woke up with Bronchitis. The trip of six soon was cut down to a trip of three, and my dad, boyfriend and I took to the road.
We took off early in the morning, and traded drivers every two hours, landing just past St. Louis around lunchtime. Carp and I squeeze into a McDonalds’ plastic booth, exhausted and road weary. With our heads pressed together as we methodically consume Medium fries with ketchup squirted on a brown paper napkin. Carp comments this might be our lowest moment together.
Back on the road, we have politically charged conversations along the road, even though I was specifically banned by my father from discussing politics around the family a few years ago. Somehow, with the rise of Trump, we are all able to overcome our small differences and come together against whatever paternalistic bullshit that man is.
Carp is reading the book “Strangers in Their Own Land,” which is an story of embedded journalism within Trump supporters. We talk in the car about the idea that the very rich and the very poor overlap in their prioritizing jobs and money over potential risks (to their selves in the case of the poor, and to others and their business itself for the rich). In that way, the CEO mindset and the working class just-need-to-put-food-on-the-table mindset overlap.
We also talk about the wave of anti-immigration, with the reasoning being that they are taking “our” jobs. My dad works in manufacturing, he said that his company was having to fly people in from Canada and Germany to work the factory line jobs because there were not enough applications in the Kansas City metro area. Americans who have been here for generations do not like to work factory line jobs or farm jobs, and immigrants largely make up the workers in these jobs. Without immigrants, we would have to work the jobs we didn’t want to work, or else they just wouldn’t get done.
My dad asks us if we’ve heard of the Peter Principle. The idea is that people rise to the level they’re most incompetent at in the workforce and stay there because they cannot rise anymore.
We make it to Lexington around dinner time, and meet my brother at a vegetarian restaurant called Alfalfa for dinner.
The next day in Lexington, we attend my brother’s college class. We hear a lecture detailing how women who out-earn their partners are more likely to cheat. Men who earn 25% more than the women they are with is the equation for the least cheating in a relationship. The professor is just unhinged enough to hold your attention.
We eat delicious Indian food for lunch with naan being thrown into a oven in front of us and served. After, we pulled up in the arboretum after stuffing our face with a delicious Indian food buffet. I don’t even leave the car because it’s cold out and I want to finish reading The Motorcycle Diaries in between fitful bouts of sleep in the backseat of the van.
A few hours later we are back on the road, and we stop to pick up a pizza and take a shit at the local Kroger. We then take a nap in my brother’s studio apartment, leaning up against the wall with a pillow behind our backs. Kate meets us at the apartment, and then we all head together to a family friend’s home on the outskirts of Lexington, out in the woods.
We eat pizza and drink beer and talk about Kentucky culture. Apparently there is a lot more clan behavior out here than in Kansas. There is also a lot more racism, or at least in a different way. I mean, Kansas was a free state, and Kentucky literally had slave sales right where we were spending the day. What this means for a culture is still foreign to me. I would like to embed a little deeper and learning Southern culture at some point.
Later that night after leaving our family friends’ we drove back into Lexington- the woods and horse pastures much more mysterious and creepy in the darkness. We went out to a local pub called “Charlie Brown,” which has walls of old books, and every table complete with a small red mood light candle flickering. We each had a beer, talked about fears and aspirations, and then headed back out into the cold night back for the apartment.
The morning starts off again with four people crowded into a studio apartment, and I decide I need some coffee and some space. I head to “Common Grounds” cafe and do a little writing. My brother, dad and Carp all head to a distillery to see Kentucky bourbon being made, and to try some choice samples. When they returned later in the afternoon the general consensus was that none of them really liked bourbon.
We all piled into the car, and drove out into the Appalachian mountains for a hike. I feel like I am generally in pretty good shape, though I don’t exercise as much as I would like. But when we started on the trail, I soon became out of breath and was sucking in air for the next twenty or thirty minutes as we climbed straight up the mountain. Once to the top, it was really beautiful and relaxing. There was a sticky note on a tree that said:
“Would you believe you are worthy of a whole and good life? Please try.”
Looking out onto the horizon you could see a forest of skeletal trees, and caves painted in different brightly colored shades of moss. Ledges and farmland in the distance past tiny furry mountains with trees covering it making you think it would feel like what a cat’s tongue scraping across your hand feels like.
There were chasing chasms mid trail, with rusted bars along the ground to keep people from mis-stepping to the depths of the mountain. The evergreen trees were the only plants still standing out along the blue gray mountainside, with their bright green needles peppered with baby pine cones.
Sitting at a scenic point, Carp was the desire to throw tiny rocks off the ledge. I am very fearful for the karmic imbalance this would create, and ask him in a serious and slightly worried voice: “Do you want a rock on the head someday?”
Finishing our hike and driving through the neighboring town of Berea, which is a mix of country Kentuckian and progressive artists. We drive through the state highway that goes through the town, with kids and roosters playing by the side of the road.
My brother explains that the city gives a two year residency in Berea’s Artists’ Collective to all graduates of their art college. We drive past the “Artists’ Village,” where artists set up shop and sell their art for two years, then moving on and making room for the next set of graduates from the college. The artists live in an Ecovillage in town, complete with decorated rain catchers connected to all the gutters.
Finding no places to eat dinner in Berea, we head back to Lexington and partake in authentic Southern food at Chatham’s in towntown. We are all so hungry from the day’s hike that we wait in near silence, filled with hungery driven anxiety for our food. Finally it arrives and we get greens, mashed potatoes, hashbrowns, eggs, gravy and macaroni and cheese. We’re still hungry after the fact, and my brother takes us to the pie shop across the street where we each get a slice of overpriced but delicious pie.
My dad, Carp and I load into the van and headed onto the road again. We stopped at a McDonald’s for coffee outside of Lexington, and then we stopped just outside of St. Louis for lunch at the St. Louis Bread Company. We made it back to the apartment around 5, and threw our backpacks on the floor and greeted Francis.