Well, it would hardly be suitable for the self-professed 'International Librarian of Mystery' to jump on the first plane home when the chance to continue my foreign adventures dropped into my lap (so to speak).
So, yes, after probably far too short a time of weighing up the scenario, I decided to head out on the great US road-trip with Bertel
, my new Scandanavian rock-star boyfriend. I emailed the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet telling them I'd love the job
, but that I couldn't really start for another month or so. Could they hold the position? The reply was quick, and brief: no. Ah well.
Before we left town, Bertel bought me a lovely hippo t-shirt
as a reminder of SXSW. Probably not the sort of thing you'd normally consider buying for a woman you were trying to impress, but, as well as the souvenir value, Bertel also told me it reminded him of the Moomin stories he had been bought up with as a child. I had to laugh when I actually looked up the Moomin characters on the web to find out what he was on about, and found this character, Moominpapa
, who is, and I quote: "...innocent and boyish, but still quite proud of his masculinity. While he is enormously loyal to his family, he is a dreamer partial to dubious individuals and whisky." This summed up Bertel so beautifully as to make me change my attitude to the t-shirt from one of bury-at-the-bottom-of-my-bag to one of worn-with-pride-everywhere-I-go. It's now my favourite bit of clothing in my admittedly limited travelling kit. Except the World dress, of course.
Bertel and I drove out of Austin in the early morning to get to Memphis in good time. After some cursory glances at the passing scenery, I decided I wasn't much interested in Dallas or its surroundings in the middle of the night, and I slept most of the way through. The drive usually takes ten hours, but Bertel got us there in about nine. It came as no surprise to me that he's usually the van driver for his band when they go on tour.
We eventually hit the Mississippi and followed it northwards. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the near mythical river, and, well, what can one say? It's big. It's brown. It's muddy. Even still, it does have a certain power, and, without wanting to get too philosophical on it, you can nearly feel the divide between East and West. I can honestly say that seeing Ol' Miss and hearing the odd lonely train whistle in the distance when we stopped for occasional food, gas (as they say), and comfort stops, made me understand a little better the call of the road and the wide open spaces. It was exhilarating and, for a small-town kiwi girl in a hired car with a barely known Scandanavian musician, a little scary. My decision to kick back the DPMC job
came back to haunt me at this point, and, for a moment, I longed for the claustrophobic comfort of familiar bookshelves and my morning tea cup of Milo.
The moment passed, aided by another scene-setting tune from Bertel's iPod. He'd loaded up a heady mix of atmospheric spirituals, country blues and hillbilly music from the territory we were traveling through. It was providing a (not so) surprisingly effective soundtrack for the landscapes we were travelling through. He also had some demo versions of the songs that Bertel's band are planning to record, and these were on high rotate for most of the trip as well. Having heard the demos about, ohhh, a hundred times now, I reckon his band's album has the potential to be fantastic. Really.
Anyway, when we weren't listening to the iPod - or 'Baby' as Bertel had curiously named it - we caught bits of the local radio stations. There was a lot
of religious programming - there was no
mistaking we were in the bible belt. We also found some rather sweet country stations as well. A couple of songs stuck with me, not so much for their musicality (to be honest they sounded pretty much alike) but for their lyrical view of the world. The plaintive song - "I'm gonna hate myself in the morning but I'm gonna love you tonight" - was sure something. It was topped, however by this one - Red Dirt Road
. Here's some of the lyrics...It's where I drank my first beer,
It's where I found Jesus
Where I wrecked my first car, I tore it all to pieces
First of all - it has to be pointed out that if you speak 'Southern' then 'je-sayus' and 'pee-sayes' rhyme perfectly. The song evoked memories of youthful revelry and blessed sanctification and made me think fondly of a boy I met over New Year's at Mount Maunganui, but then lost as he was due at bible camp the following week. Ah, memories.
Also blogworthy is the discovery that on some Christian radio stations they run a competition where you can win concert tickets of your choice for 'you and your pew'. That's right - your and your evangelical (usually) posse can "git along" to the gig of your choice.
Ahh, how I was falling in love with America!
To be continued...