I am all kinds of happy in my pants to welcome Amy Lane to Pants Off, in celebration of her joint release Country Mouse with Aleksandr Voinov. I really liked Country Mouse, and you can read my review here. Amy has also brought a great giveaway and you can check the end of this post for the details.
The Joys of Travelling on a Budget
By: Amy Lane
I forget why this suddenly became so important right before I entered the credentialing program and after I obtained my Bachelor’s degree, but suddenly it was. Mate and I had been married for a year, and his dad had bailed on the wedding because he didn’t want to make waves with Mate’s mom, and suddenly it was terribly, painfully important for us to visit Mate’s father.
Mate’s father lived in Delaware at the time. We live in California.
We were waiting tables and working in the kitchen at T.G.I. Fridays (yes, it was the late 80’s, why do you ask?) and our income was barely enough to pay my tuition. The Internet was unheard of, which was a shame, because if anyone needed cheap airline tickets to the east coast, it was us. We went Greyhound instead.
Ah, the joys travelling on the bus during the burgeoning age of crack, meth, police corruption and child abuse. A friend of ours who had grown up in the Texas projects offered us a gun. Several times. He just didn’t want us to go through the bus station at Chicago without one. He seemed to feel it was important, but we declined.
Our luggage went under the bus, and we brought two small packs, each one contained a wallet, a change of clothes, two pairs of underwear, tapes for the Walkman, a book and a beach towel. (If only I had known how to knit back then. I would have finished that trip with at least three pairs of socks.) The beach towels were the best things ever. Blankets, pillows, things to wipe our hands on—they saved our necks almost as much as the music, especially when the air conditioning broke on the bus between Kansas and Chicago, when the bus was so full it was standing room only. Hey—something was needed to sop up the sweat.
Anyway, it was dismal. We lived on vending machines, diet coke and water. Children were free as long as they sat on their parents’ laps, so parents would board the bus with five kids and not a book or a toy in sight. They’d bribe their kids with chocolate to stay quiet and then lose their temper when the kids lost their minds on the next three-hour stretch between stops. Mate and I talked, played games, immersed ourselves in music and books, and generally tried to be happy because we were together.
We were happy we were together.
We saw the Purple Mountains Majesty as the bus was climbing the Sierra Nevada, and Amber Waves of Grain as we were crossing Kansas without air conditioning. I stayed up one night as Mate slept next to me, somewhere in Nebraska, and watched as a violet sky spat heat lightning at a plain that went on to infinity. We made it through the crowded confines of the Chicago bus station without getting shot—and with a thorough education in how to purchase and disburse illegal substances, should that ever become something we had an interest in. We saw a transvestite and his girlfriend cuddling sleepily as they caught the morning bus from Pittsburgh to Wilmington, perhaps two places I’d never suspect to see a transvestite, but they seemed happy nonetheless.
When we were in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I took my pink bandana (which was not a standard gang color, and this was really important in 1990, trust me!) a handful of Boraxo (remember that? Powdered bleach cleanser that we used to wash our hands?) and a pop-bottle full of water and tried to bathe my pits and my creases in the metal stall of a wooden-floored bathroom while impatient women hammered on the door. While I was in there, Mate called his father from a pay phone and said we were getting close to Wilmington so his dad could pick us up.
“Where’s Amy?” his father’s wife asked.
“In the bathroom, trying to bathe,” Mate answered.
Mate’s stepmother is from Wales. She was not aware of the bathroom situation of a bus stop bathroom in Pittsburgh. “Oh,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful that they have facilities like that here?”
“No,” Mate said. “No, they really don’t.”
We arrived in Wilmington exhausted and stinky and desperate for a shower. My luggage had not made one of our bus transfers. I got my shower, but I emerged to greet my in-laws wearing my husband’s underwear, his tie-waisted parachute pants with the logo for the Rolling Stones dabbed all over in fluorescent ink, and his largest T-shirt. Even at my thinnest I, uhm, have a couple of assets that Mate does not. I, uhm, crossed my arms a lot.
What followed was a lot of fun! My luggage eventually arrived, and we had nine days to visit and explore. We managed to get lost in Baltimore and if you ever saw Homicide: Life on the Streets, you know you did NOT want to take the wrong bus in Baltimore in 1990. Yup. Did that. Lived to tell about it. (I suggest if you’re ever on a bus in Baltimore, you pay attention to where you need to get off so that you might not experience any undue anxiety in the physical safety department, but I understand Baltimore has gotten a little less scary-nighttime-television-esque since 1990. I’m saying prayers.)
So anyway—that was what travelling meant to Mate and I when we were fresh out of college. It was shoestring living, bathing in the bathroom stall, going through the Chicago bus station without a gun. It was seat of our pants and a whole lot of faith, common sense, and a belief that we could laugh about almost anything as long as we could walk away from it intact.
It worked for us. It gave us one hell of a story. It was something you do when you’re young and brave.
It was that sort of attitude that I wanted to give Owen in Country Mouse. I wanted him to be a little anxious and a little brave, and a lot willing to be impressed by this new and exciting place he’s found himself in. With that in mind, when he meets Malcolm, he’s ready to be impressed but not run over, enchanted but not taken advantage of, thrilled by something new, but only on his own terms.
Malcolm does a bang-up job of giving Owen exactly what he needs—but first he has to adjust his thinking. Just like my in-laws had to accept that the loud-mouthed woman wearing the Rolling Stones pants might actually have something to offer my beloved Mate, Malcolm had to accept that Owen really had enough spine to be someone who matters. And just like I had to let my in-laws take me to the mall and buy me some clothes (and holy blessed Jebus a frickin bra!), Owen needed to allow Malcolm to take the lead and offer him some blessings from a home that Malcolm loved.
Travelling when you’re young and inexperienced is fun, flighty, and frightening—but it’s also something you put in your back pocket, that doesn’t weigh a thing, and that you can pull out and examine for the rest of your life.
Hopefully the souvenir that Owen gets in Country Mouse is something he deems worth keeping.
Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head. She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies. She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.
You can find Amy at:
Her website: Green's Hill
Her blog: Yarning to Write
Facebook: Amy Lane
Country Mouse: Owen may be a bit of a country mouse, but he’s loving his vacation in London. After a long day playing tourist, he’s on the hunt for some cheap beer and a good burger. Instead he finds a man hunting him, an arrogant prick with only one thing on the brain: the kind of meat that doesn’t come on a bun.
Eighty-hour weeks at a trading desk don’t leave Malcolm Kavanagh much time for meaningful relationships. Besides, in his world, everything’s a competition—even sex. When his newest one-night-sub fails to show, Malcolm sets his sights on the pretty young Yank on the bar stool beside him.
Owen’s all for an adventure with a native, but he’s not the pushover Malcolm thinks he is, and Malcolm’s not as shallow as he tries to be. They both soon learn that nothing's too intimate to share with a stranger, and the strangest things happen when two people share the most important pieces of their hearts.
*Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov are releasing Country Mouse this week, available from Riptide Books. If you’d like to win a piece of yummy Country Mouse swag, simply comment on this post and I’ll pick a random commenter to win!*