The Perpetual Pit Stop

Well, I’ve officially been in Kentucky for a week and have a few more days to go. I arrived in Bowling Green to research an article on the meth problem for In These Times magazine, but the research slogs on. Today, after my ride along with an undercover drug agent here in Warren County, I intended on bouncing down to Nashville. But last night I received a call from another recovering addict who I’m interviewing Saturday morning. The agent I met with today is on meth-lab call this weekend and said he’d ring me to tag-a-long if he went to bust one up. I was on call last weekend, but nothing happened. The weekend before I arrived four labs were busted up. It’s hit-or-miss.

I just know that if I leave the meth-lab call will come as I’m rolling into Nashville. However, the agent today told me that because more meth cooks are using the shake-n-bake method – basically throwing all the ingredients into 20-ounce soda bottles – “You might get there and say, That’s a meth lab?”

While I’ve had lots of down time between interviews, there just isn’t anything going on here to write about. And I hate that feeling. Bowling Green is a sprawly city. Big box stores with massive parking lots line its three main arterial roads. There is a mall, but it houses the same stores as every other mall – JC Penney’s, Abercrombie, GAP, Gloria Jeans. It’s downtown square is itty-bitty. Ten minutes and you’ve walked around it twice. There are a few parks that I’ve never seen peopled, even though they’re well manicured and some even offer free wi-fi.

There isn’t much foot traffic anywhere but the campus, which is isolated from most of Bowling Green and isn’t much of a campus. Most students seem to filter toward the small square or Starbucks. I haven’t seen a single museum or cultural center, though something along these lines must exist. I hear on Saturdays there’s a decent farmer’s market. I may check that out if I’m up for some disappointment.

Yesterday I went with Brittany Baize, the recovering meth addict I wrote about previously, and her son Colin, 4, to Lost River Cave, where it’s rumored Frank and Jesse James hid out while on the run from the law. Unfortunately, the recent floods destroyed many of the overlooks and trails. One of the park employees we met, who was kind enough to let us venture a little deeper than permitted officially, was caked in mud after a day of shoveling it off the trails.We browsed the gift shop for a while. I bought some postcards. Brittany bought rock candy. Colin wanted a rubber band gun. He got an ice-cream cone instead.

Good company always goes a long way in tempering despair. (Okay, so that’s a little dramatic… Really, I’m just antsy, not despairing.)

But I have learned a lesson from this: writing long stories and keeping a travel blog – or traveling at all – aren’t always compatible. Research obstructs travel and not traveling lends itself to feelings of being stuck which tends to make one who is supposed to be traveling a tad morose. I’m beginning to feel like a resident. Two days ago I realized I had retired my GPS. I know street names and where those streets lead. The baristas know me by name.  Now I’ve been given a May 19, deadline for the article, which means more time in cafes and less on the road. But hey, a brother gots to get paid, right?

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