MAD DOG: On the Road - Part I

A few years ago I had a girlfriend who used to say God laughed like Ricky Ricardo -- in big, loud hyena-like guffaws. After only a few days on the road I can safely say she was right.I'm in Day Five of a three to four week cross country trip that's taking me from Virginia to California. Just me in a rental car with a trunk full of my belongings. Oh yeah, and fourteen AAA maps, a jar of hot peppers stuffed with proscuitto someone gave me as a last minute going away present, and a collection of Graceland souvenirs that includes an Elvis Presley fly swatter, a "Taking Care of Business" shot glass and a Christmas Ornament that ought to play "Blue Christmas" but doesn't. What the hell, I bought it anyway.But back to God and his sense of humor. One of the first things I discovered by taking the scenic route is that country people enjoy driving farm vehicles on the road as slowly as they possibly can because, well, it's too wet to plow right now and besides, there aren't many things in life as enjoyable as antagonizing us city folk.The next thing I discovered is that there is indeed a sense of justice to life, which lead me to formulate Mad Dog's First Rule of the Road: The more beautiful the countryside, the worse off the people who live there will be. This is a part of a master plan designed to drive the well-heeled tourists absolutely insane. For no matter how nice their house is, no matter how much money it cost, it still can't compare to the incredible view of the cliffs seen daily by people whose houses are three quarters of the way to biodegrading. Here's an example: I went to see Cumberland Falls, which is a magnificent sight near Somerset, Kentucky. This is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, the first, of course being what's streaming out of my bathtub since I just realized I forgot to shut off the water before I left the house. Actually, the largest is Niagara Falls, which you may remember is the capital of honeymoons and barrel-rafting as well as the site of a famous routine by Abbott and Costello. The irony of Cumberland Falls is that you have to go through Wayne County to get there. According to a friend of mine who lives in the area, Wayne County holds the honor of having the highest incidence of incest and inbreeding in the country. Yes, God is laughing like Ricky Ricardo.(IMPORTANT NOTE: This fact has not been independently verified by me, my editors, or the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse. Any residents of Wayne County who play the banjo, look like Jason from Friday the 13th, think Deliverance is a historical family documentary, and like hearing grown men squeal like pigs are asked to please not take the preceding comment seriously.)While we're talking about interesting sights, this is the perfect time to point out Mad Dog's Second Rule of the Road: Always look at your breakfast plate before eating. This wasn't formulated, as you might think, at the Blue and White Restaurant in Tunica, Mississippi over a plate of scrambled eggs and brains (which interestingly is an adjectival reversal of my own personal problem). The truth is, if you're driving down Route 61 and you're hungry I highly recommend stopping at the Blue and White for breakfast. There are, after all, plenty of things on the menu which don't contain curried cerebral cortexes. Actually my second epiphany occurred in Nashville when I saw a cinnamon bun that looks exactly like Mother Theresa."Big deal," you're probably saying as you stop mashing a rutabaga that looks like Richard Nixon as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. "Don't all cinnamon buns look like saints if you squish up your eyes and let them go out of focus as you shove the whole thing into your mouth in one bite?"Well sure they do, but they don't look as good as this one. Unlike more traditional religious sightings, like the image of Jesus seen on the billboard for a spaghetti restaurant (supposedly true story!), this Immaculate Confection is a solid, three-dimensional object and is on display at Bongo Java, a coffeehouse in Nashville. It's really startling. There it is, lacquered for posterity in a glass case under the cash register, surrounded by an assortment of voodoo-like shrine accouterments and a sign that says, "Do not use flashbulbs." Now untold numbers of bleary-eyed cappuccino drinkers can start their day by pointing to the Holy Cruller and saying, "Give me that cinnamon bun that looks like a dried apple doll. And while you're at it throw in a Shroud of Turin scone too."But in the interest of charity, goodwill, and any last hope for salvation, I think they should send this cinnamon bun where it can do the most good -- Calcutta, India. No, I don't harbor any naive ideas that it would go very far in feeding the hungry masses, but I am pretty sure it would be an inspiration to the 100 nuns who are gathered there trying to choose a successor to Mother Theresa. They've been having a difficult time of this. A coffee break might do them some good. Besides, I'm sure God could use another hearty Ricardo laugh right about now.


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