The straight road from Raleigh to Charlotte runs beautifully. It was a short day of 140 miles, so I avoided the interstates and cut directly across, through the emptier highways of Carolina fishing country. The air was still cold, but the sun shone all day. I was mostly alone on the road, and decided to try music for the first time in my motorcycling career. I wedged the earphones under my cumbersome face mask and plugged in. The iPod sat nicely in my tank bag's map case. Wonderful. So much of the thrill of biking is the immersion in the surroundings, the awareness of the senses to the road. Admittedly, cranking bluegrass and indie rock while blasting down the highway takes away from this, but the combination of great music and open highway sure has its merits. I spent the day alternating between these two experiences.
I stopped at a filling-station-tackle-shop-gun-store-breakfast-cafe a hundred miles east of Charlotte. I treated myself with a pair of sunglasses (long overdue) and two coffees. The woman at the cafe treated me to a breakfast sandwich. I treated the bike to a full tank of high-octane. Then, I treated myself with a ten minute nap in the sun. I laid against one of the defunct pumps and shut my eyes behind the new sunglasses.
I was in Charlotte by one. Bozer and his brother, Fratello, lived in Plaza, a bit east of city center. I sputtered down the street honking the horn until I found him. We parked the bike in his backyard and unloaded bags. Fratello and his girl, Bree, came to meet us with freshly popped Yuenglings. I could almost taste the whiskey from the night before, but I braced myself took a swig. I might live to see Arizona, but things were starting to look bad for my liver.
We caught up on the back porch, talking past parties and other nonsense. More Yuenglings led to more stories led to more Yuenglings. I escaped for a moment to answer a call from some birding organization in Michigan. A woman on the phone. Wanting me to give a professional reference for one of my volunteers from my Hawk Watch. Despite the overwhelmingly unprofessional state of things, I obliged. The call was a bit of a wake up. Only three days in, but I'd nearly forgotten what I was going to Arizona for in the first place. I made a mental note to brush up on my southwestern bird calls.
Bozer's girl Cardine came back from her bakery shift and we offed to town for jerk chicken and fried plaintains at Mama's. We hit the Thomas St. Pub for a few furious games of drunken ping-pong before returning to Bozer's. The night degenerated quickly. Cardine's tiny white puppy made off with an unattended glass of Cabernet, leaving a trail of red splotches across the living room floor. The intoxication was comically immediate. The dog fell backwards from the futon, arms and legs flailing against the air. He turned himself and slid down the hallway, back legs skating on invisible ice.
Cardine's face flushed red and she ran to the computer google wine and dogs. The rest of us took a more laid back approach, and sank deeper into our chairs. It was quickly brought to our attention for dogs (and especially ten-pound white ones) that wine (and especially cheap red wine) was on par with poison. Trouble. Cardine was working herself into a storm, so we cleared out. She got busy inducing doggy vomiting as we filed off down the block.
We went to Fratello's and watched some movies he'd been in. Bozer and I rejoined Cardine, who'd calmed down a bit. The dog was asleep, but alive. We talked about birds some, and Cardine admitted that she'd saved a small American Goldfinch she'd found dead beneath a window. She pulled out a mason jar, filled to the brim with thick sea salt. We broke the jar and excavated the songbird from the hardened white coffin. The smell reminded me of the quail A and I used to feed to the Aplomado falcons in Texas. I felt a strong and sudden emptiness where she should have been. Cardine pulled the wings and feet from the dead goldfinch, tucking them away for some clandestine purpose, and we went off to sleep.