Often films and novels are named after an amount of time to indicate the intensity or drama that a certain time frame can add to a situation. The easiest example is “127 Hours”, a film depicting the struggle of a mountain climber crushed by a falling boulder and his fight for survival. Taking this into consideration, and the crutch of so-called “first world problems” on which we can often lean, I want to call my drive from New Orleans to Los Angeles “39 hours”.
“39 Hours” depicts the struggles of a well-fed American with all the food and money he could need to embark on his exercise of freedom that is driving about 2,000 miles across five states to move because, well, he sort of felt like it. The most dramatic curve ball “39 Hours” has to offer is that I was pretty sick when I left and had a dog with me who, tragically, had a smaller bladder than I.
Other than pouting and sleeping too much, the dog heroically survived the ordeal and has become this generation’s Lassie. I managed to navigate the obstacles of unforeseen speed zones and other such horrors as trying, for the love of God, to decide which album I wanted to play next.
But in all honesty, when I arrived I was quite sleep-deprived and feeling pretty awful. Lousy road food and lack of sleep had turned my cold-like annoyance into an “I should probably see a doctor” kind of problem. Moving, in and of itself, can be completely unpleasant because you’ve uprooted your entire home. Depending on the circumstances you may not even have a definite destination. In my case I arrived in a new place that felt generally alien and, therefore, alienating as well.
I slept, made due and went through the day unpacking and recovering, but didn’t really feel like it was over until that evening. That evening I discovered a little Mexican eatery around the corner no bigger than a generic fast food place. It was harshly lit, full of Latinos and blaring Tejano accordion. Two years living in Austin, Texas had made me despise that accordion with more hatred than I knew I possessed. But time heals all wounds, and two more years living in New Orleans had made me miss good Mexican food with a passion that Everything But The Girl could never adequately describe.
Six dollars, some awkward Spanglish and a fat chili relleno later, I was home. I sat hunched over my relleno combo plate with ever-present beans and rice sniffling, coughing and shoving in my face every bit of delicious, rich, home-style Mexican food my then delicate stomach could handle. It was cheap, simple well-made and full of flavor. I ate more than my fill and slowly lumbered home to a heavy sleep as only greasy, refried starch can deliver. The journey was over thanks to Que Ricos, as the place was called.
I later saw that the place was open 24 hours, and began to budget my weekly self control.