Driving to distraction

Saturday morning starts without breakfast, because God help me, I'm starting to get tired of food. I've eaten so much in the last fortnight that I could probably go on hunger strike for a month and still not begin to feel it. You could stick a wick in my bellybutton and light it with all the subcutaneous blubber I've accumulated. Stuart: the almost-human tallow lamp!

There's a brief panic when I can't find the keys to my lumpy, hired Hyundai, meaning that it's nearly half past eight before I hit the road with fresh directions from the lady at reception in my hand.

It's only an hour and a half's drive, I can do this... Eeek!

Driving on the wrong side of the road isn't much of an issue in Madison as most of the streets seem to be one way, and after that it's duel carriageway out to the highway. So the chances of my driving headfirst into an oncoming car are remote. At least until I get as far as Milwaukee. Then all bets are off.

I have no real idea what the speed limit is, so I drift along about five miles an hour slower than the rest of the highway traffic, figuring that they're all probably speeding. And it's a good job, because by the time I actually see a speed sign, I'm doing bang on 65MPH. Hurrah -- no getting arrested and thrown in a cell with someone called Bubba (who probably wears velour underwear and likes to lick strangers) for me! A country / western music station warbles out of the car stereo, so I change the channel. Another country station. I try again: more county. And again: more bloody country! And again... after about a dozen goes I just give in and listen to bizarre tales of divorce and drinking and dead dogs. If nothing else it breaks the monotony.

The only thing worrying me is the length of time it's taking to get anywhere near Milwaukee. Leaving at half eight I should have a whole two and a half hours to cover an hour and a half's drive, so it comes as a pretty unpleasant surprise to find myself still on the bloody highway at quarter past ten. And then the swearing starts.

They're digging up the sodding road. There are diversions. Thousands of neon-orange signs with diversions and warnings on them. And the carefully downloaded and printed off directions I've got sitting next to me are suddenly completely worthless. My exit is diverted and I end up in the middle of a run-down industrial estate, turning the air blue with a long line of very loud expletives. Very rude expletives. 'Take the 7TH STREET exit -- EXIT 1H -- towards CIVIC CENTRE' says the directions. "How?" says I. "How am I supposed to take it? Where the FUCK is it? AAAAAAAAAAAArgh! Roadwork digging BASTARDS! Exit 1H my hairy arse! FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!" Passing traffic probably thinks I'm having a fit.

In the end I chase a taxi till it stops, then bribe the driver to let me follow him to the Hertz drop-off point, before he runs me to Mystery One. It's a nice wee bookshop that favours hanging out, rather than formal events, which is good as it means I can let my parboiling blood pressure drop to a mere simmer as I sign some stock and chat with the shop's owners and the clan Jordan. Once more I'm not exactly a huge draw, but we manage to sell about four copies before the drift of customers stops. Then it's time for a spirited debate on American politics and 'the state of the world today', with Richard and Jon doing most of the spiriting.

Afterwards Jon, the Caffeinated Ferret From The Future, and I go off to a place called Buffalo Wild Wings where my faith in American cuisine is restored by a portion of said wings, popcorn shrimp and ribs. Mmm, chewy-barbecuey. By the time the waitress is clearing away the debris, Jon and I are heading into food coma territory, but Jen is still as perky as a perky fish can be. Oh the folly of youth... lucky sod.

I have every intention of going back to my hotel room and working for the rest of the afternoon, but having eaten my own bodyweight in barbecued meat, the bed looks far too inviting to pass up. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

There's just time to write a couple of pages before I'm off to dinner with Jon and Ruth (Jennifer calling off with severe computer-withdrawal symptoms), and I can't for the life of me decide whether or not to kill of PC Rickards in the second draft. Kill him, or let him live? The power of life over death. Bwahahahaha! Or it would be if I could make my sodding mind up. I'm guessing there's another two, maybe three chapters at the most to go before the book's done and I can start worrying obsessively about something else instead.

The restaurant is Cuban and so are the cocktails: Papa Hemmingways, which are like Mojitos, only not so sweet and with pink grapefruit juice. Just the sort of drink I could get very rowdy on. The evening ends back at Jon and Ruth's very cool house / apartment. The whole place is lined with what has to be thousands of books. It's brilliant, like living in a library where you know all the books are good, because you chose them. By the time I leave I've had a nice slug of 12-year-old single malt, eaten some of Ruth's justifiably famous apple pie, and had my damp underwear fondled by two thirds of the Jordan family.

Lucky swines that they are ;}#