8:00 p.m. Nov. 19
I just downsized my holiday road plans because I dropped $99 for a Rickey Henderson autograph at the Sun-Times sports collector's show held earlier today near O'Hare Airport in Chicago. The Style Dog--now there's a guy who always knew where he was going. I don't collect a lot of autographs, but Rickey is one of the most complete baseball players of my generation (1,406 stolen bases). Plus he was a colorful cuss, sometimes known as the "King of I" or "Rickey Flash." I've never paid that much for an autograph. Rickey signed a picture of himself screaming and holding up home plate after he hit a home run to become the all-time leader in runs scored (2,246). I said, "Thanks for the memories."
The Style Dog laughed and I walked away into the sweaty, unshaven sea of lonely sports collectors. I bought some wacky stocking stuffers, a 1976 Greyhound bus brochure promoting the art of the stolen base, a football card of a guy named Jerry Tubbs. My payback is that my final road trip of the year will now be spent in fleabag motels where a lone lightbulb dangles like a sad participle.
So it is time to share these tips for the Provident Traveler:
The list of road trip tips was inspired by the Texas band Reckless Kelly, who over the summer released a live DVD and 2 CD set called "Reckless Kelly Was Here" (Sugar Hill Records). They're a great bunch of guys who early in their career sounded like a great bunch of gnarly Steve Earles. There's a common ground between that attitude and the attitude of Rickey Flash.
The DVD has some bonus footage where Reckless Kelly offers pointers from a well-seasoned touring band. Some of their better tips were:
MAKING COFFEE: Combine the decaffeniated and regular complimentary coffee filters offered in your motel room for a stronger brew.
KEEPING TRACK OF DIRTY LAUNDRY: Roll clean underwear up and secure it with a rubber band. Once the rubber band is removed, you know the underwear has been worn.
CLEANING UP IN A GAS STATION: Place your head under the sink, then use your t-shirt as a towel to dry off. Use the now-damp t-shirt as a wash cloth to clean other areas. Put on a new shirt.
BONUS TIP FROM DAVID HILDAGO OF LOS LOBOS: Turn your iron into a hot plate by placing it with the handle down on top of an empty tissue box. Turn the iron on and place the food on top.
PREVENT MOTEL ROOM THEFT: Turn the television on, raise the volume, and place the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob. Lots of people do that.
But here's some road trip tips that Reckless Kelly missed:
MIRRORS ARE UNDER UTILIZED: Get some eyeliner or lipstick and dedicate a haiku to your maid on the nearest mirror.
LOOK UNDER THE BED: During the 1985 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, I spent one night on the floor of a dive motel near the airport. When I awoke I saw a fedora and a perfectly good pair of slacks underneath the bed. The ensemble would have fetched at least $15 at a Chicago Salvation Army.
BEST CABLE STATION TO GET A LAUGH TO START YOUR DAY: Country Music Television, especially if you catch country music videos in the morning. They're cheesy-mini soap operas. No matter what mission you're on when you leave your hotel, it won't be as bad as this crap.
BE NEIGHBOR AWARE: When stopping at a roadside motel during the Holiday Season never get a room next to a unit where a Weber grill and lawn furniture are situated outside the front door.
FOOD THAT NEVER GOES BAD: Mountan Dew, Tostitos Light (with one gram of fat) and one Keebler's Chips Deluxe cookie before you go to bed.
OHHHH JESUS! It sounds like your neighbors in 202 are on their honeymoon night. Or on a sordid affair. The walls are knocking, the Thomas Kincaid artwork is tilting and you can't get to sleep. Call the front desk. Say YOU are in 202 and kindly request a copy of the Gideon Bible since 'yours' has been removed from the room. The front desk will always promptly deliver the Bible and you're off to dreamland.