I expressed in the PIT my wish that Tom Wolfe accompany the Huffington Post Pan-America* Bus Trip to give us his usual mordant commentary. Luckily, a rift to an alternate future opened up in my kitchen this afternoon and left a small sample of that very work. I hope you enjoy…
The bus has been cruising down I-80 for two hours now since the last stop, and The Team is getting hungry. The phone-qua-navigator says two more hours until they reach their hotel for the night. But The Team’s bellies are rumbling NOW — two hours is two too many — is there anywhere to eat out here in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania? Curtis’s position at the wheel makes him the de facto leader and he polls the journos scattered about the bus: press forward to Pittsburgh, or take their chances on the next exit?
From behind him come vague mumbles, grumbles, and equivocations:
“I could eat…”
“Yeah, I guess…”
“As long as we find somewhere with vegan options…”
Each statement is left open, just like that … Finishing the sentence would make one The Decider. Too much responsibility on The Decider for a momentous call like this…
Zeba stands up to address the group. Clears her throat. Is she preparing to make … The Decision? “This is why we’re making this trip, right? To step outside our bubbles?” Hmmmmm … no statement yet…
“Yeah, I guess…”
Zeba turns to Curtis and says, “I say we take the exit.” Wham! A period! The rest of the bus silently ponders this new path that’s been decided for them. Curtis moves into the right lane…
The phone-qua-yellow pages brings up a list of restaurants in the town that The Team find themselves in. The sun is going down, and each member’s face is illuminated by a bright square of white light as they page past the local McDonalds and Taco Bell and Wendys and KFC and Subway and Long John Silvers and Five Guys and Panera Bread — Panera Bread? What’s that doing out here? — and Pizza Hut and Dominos and Burger King and — finally! — the local joints.
Are there any restaurant-restaurants in this burg? Aha! A family-friendly BBQ Bar N’ Grill with some decent Yelp reviews. (Who told them about Yelp?) And that’s not all, says the phone-qua-tour guide, tonight is Trivia Night at this Yelp-famed institution! Fabulous Prizes! Half-Price Pitchers! Fun For the Whole Family! The Team settles on the BBQ by acclamation, and the phone-qua-compass leads Curtis on.
The bus rumbles and rocks past a strip mall, a gas station, and — could it be? yes! — a Walmart! Finally The Team has hit Real America! And there, actually located IN the Walmart parking lot(!), is the burnished-wood BBQ joint. Country music and laughter float out through open front doors to greet The Team as Curtis settles the bus up against the grassy edge of the parking lot. A flashing neon Budweiser sign in the window paints the bus red, white, and blue. Yes…the Real America hangs thick just beyond those doors … like someone kicked over a whole thurible of gunpowder, tobacco, french fries, and cheap beer…
The Team gathers their tablets, pens, papers, recorders, smart phones, smart glasses, smart watches, smart pens, smart paper, and smart shoes. The first big scoop, the first chance anyone’s ever had to understand Real America, is finally here…