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The Tour Car

Well, I know you were all worried from yesterday's blog post: my car passed inspection. Of course, does a car really "pass" inspection if it involves hundreds and hundreds of dollars in repairs? I feel like this car kind of slid by yesterday, as if its daddy bought its way into Harvard.

I can't quite seem to quit this car, even if a few of its parts are actually taped together.I can't quite seem to quit this car, even if a few of its parts are actually taped together. No big deal; it's just the stereo face, which kept popping out until I stashed a roll of masking tape in the car, which I ritually apply and remove every time I have a long trip. I make lots of jokes about how the massive dent on the rear left side of the car, acquired when a big rig rammed into me as we simultaneously climbed an expressway entrance, makes me fit into my Brooklyn neighborhood. "No one will ever want to steal my car," I say, like I'm a genius and I planned it all along. Though sometimes I think someone might set it on fire, just to put it out of its ugly old misery.

But this is my tour car! I've driven it on six tours, all over the country, to all the beautiful bookstores across the land, plus on trips to far-off cities where I've spent time on extended writing breaks. Portland; Los Angeles; Seattle; New Orleans; Marquette, NE; and points in between. I have seen America, and I am here to report it is beautiful.

Once, I was on tour driving through Wyoming during a snowstorm past jackknifed trucks, and I pulled into Laramie for the night in fear. The next morning, as I exited town, I saw a trail for miles of abandoned cars. My mind wrote a hundred post-apocalyptic novels that morning. Two days later I drove through another snowstorm on Donner Pass, and my mind wrote a hundred other kinds of novels, some involving the consumption of my juicy flesh.

Once, on my way home from a writing break in Seattle, broke as a joke, I opted to sleep in the back of the car in a park along the Colorado River rather than check into a hotel. There I met an ancient street preacher, and his wife and seven children. He read me poems about Colin Powell while his wife silently nodded at every word. His children, homeschooled in their RV, were gorgeous, smiling, and innocent, and they clung to me from the minute we met. He would have read me poems all night had I let him, but they were nonsense, of course, and frequently predicted the end of the world. I slept — barely — locked in my car until the sun rose, and when I left, the preacher's wife and her children were suddenly standing there, on the edge of the parking lot wistfully watching me drive away and waving. There wouldn't have been enough room in the wagon to have taken them all with me.

Once, I saw a beautiful sunset over the horizon and I felt very free and young and like everything was going to be OK in the end, if I could just keep going a little bit further.

Once, I had car trouble. Oh wait, that was more than once.

New Mexico is my favorite state to drive through, but there are parts of Utah and Wyoming too that blow my mind, not to mention parts of West Texas that felt more familiar than they should have — like once, a long time ago, in another life, I was a cowgirl, even though that seems impossible. I have been this neurotic for eternity, and everyone knows cowgirls aren't neurotic. They're just awesome.

I never got a speeding ticket. Because I'm a law-abiding citizen.

Did I mention I have the front fender taped together too? After 200,000 miles, that's what happens. Drive it into the ground, everyone tells me. But I think they might have to bury me in it. Next year, though. I've bought myself one more good year with this car. What will I do when I have to say goodbye?

Note: Please join Jami Attenberg at Powell's City of Books on Wednesday, June 26, for an in-store reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reading at 7:30 p.m.

More from Jami Attenberg at PowellsBooks.Blog:

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Jami Attenberg is the author of a story collection, Instant Love, and three novels, The Kept Man, The Melting Season, and, most recently, The Middlesteins, which was nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize for Fiction. She has contributed essays and criticism to the the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and many other publications.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Middlesteins
    Used Trade Paper $8.95

Jami Attenberg is the author of The Middlesteins

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