Tomorrow morning at four AM, I will be on a Greyhound bus headed to Tulsa. Sounds like I'm writing a country song. You see, while everyone has been posting about the death of Gene Wilder, I have been trying to figure out a way to write about the death of our old family friend, Karen. This is why I'm going to Tulsa on a bus, to pay my respects to one of the women of the tribe who helped raise me. When I was little and had to stay overnight at Karen's house, she would make me teddy bear shaped pancakes for breakfast. The first time she did, I went home and told Mom about it. In fact, I talked for days and days about teddy bear shaped pancakes. This prompted Mom to step up her pancake skills and I woke up one morning to find a stack of elaborate elephant pancakes. When I tagged along to the movies with Janell and Karen's daughter Stephanie, I sat with Karen. She was the one that suggested we hang out in the lobby until Gremlins was over after she noticed me curled up into a a trembling ball on my seat. That movie was terrifying and I still have not seen it all the way through. Karen was also our cake maker. She made beautiful and delicious cakes. She made my wedding cake and Chris and I would talk about our reception for years and how that cake was so good. She was like a blend of Annie Potts characters. Her eyelashes, which I'm pretty sure were fake, were the most stellar eyelashes you've ever seen.
Our plan was to hang out at Randy and Katrina's cabin in Branson this weekend. Driving to Tulsa and back in one day and then turning around to drive to Branson the next seemed daunting. Driving to Tulsa by myself and then traveling from Tulsa to Branson on Friday seemed stupid because then we'd have two cars in Branson. I wanted to take the train but there's not a direct route to Tulsa. I thought about taking a flight but a quick search yielded ticket prices over $200. So, I'm taking the bus. This way, I can ride to the cabin with Randy and Katrina. Michael and the Cabbage will meet us there and we'll all be able to ride back to KCMO together. You know those critical thinking math questions on the GRE where you have a softball team with Susie, Dona, and Jessica and maybe a Samantha and someone else and you have to put them on the field but Susie can only be on the field if Dona is, but can't be on the field if Jessica is? Turns out that life is really a lot like those questions.
I've ridden my fair share of charter busses in my day. I spent summers traveling around the country with the All State Baptist Choir in a caravan of charters busses, not to mention all the other band and 4-H trips. I have never ridden a Greyhound bus. Everything I know about riding the bus, THE bus, I know from TV and the stories Dad would tell about riding the bus across Wyoming. Because of those things, I have always thought the bus was a slightly seedy mode of transportation reserved for runaways and recently released convicts. My visions of bus riding also include a romantic side. I can imagine sitting, looking out a bus window as it travels across the South West, watching the sun move across the red dirt of a desert. I'd use the cacti as sun dials and we'd occasionally stop for coffee breaks in towns that consisted of one gas station. The soundtrack would include songs like Everybody's Talkin' and City of New Orleans. I imagine that as soon as I step onto the bus that the world will take on a yellow tint, like 70s film and I expect that someone will offer me a homemade baloney sandwich wrapped in wax paper.
Of course, I realize that my bus trip will most likely be uneventful. With any luck I will have a seat to myself and be able to take a nap, read a book or watch a movie in peace. I will not have to worry about keeping my eye on the road or checking the fuel gage. I will not have to be sure to have the right amount of toll money ready for the toll gate. I'll get to Tulsa with very little effort on my part, but the imagined story of the trip is already writing itself in my head. Maybe I'll tell it to you one day.