There are 106 miles to Chicago

We have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses. The previous sentence, including the title of this piece, is spoken by Elwood Blues in the film The Blues Brothers as they are about to race to the Cook County property assessor’soffice to save the Catholic orphanage in which the brothers had been raised. By the way, in the movie, the clerk at the assessor’s office is played by Steven Spielberg. I thought of this line recently while my mother and I were on a road trip to visit my brother and his family. One of the more enjoyable moments of many I share with my mother is when I play music for her. She has been gracious enough to be a guest on my podcast, A Fistful of Faceful, but more often than not we listen to music while driving. She’s a huge fan of Billy Joel, but that doesn’t stop me from going directly to Ozzy’s Boneyard on the radio. Although, these days, we tend to listen to The Bridge. Often, I’ll inundate her with trivia about songs; for example, if we listen to a Fleetwood Mac song, I’ll remind her the band name came from Peter Green, one of the original guitarists, who named the group after his two friends, and bandmates, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Or, when “Alone Again Naturally” came on, I told her Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie for sampling the music for Markie’s song “Alone Again.” The verdict, which ruled in O’Sullivan’s favor, became a landmark Supreme Court decision in which all samples needed to be cleared. Up until that point, music could be sampled without compensating the original artist. On other occasions, our sessions can resemble an Abbott and Costello routine. When giving her a clue to guess the band KISS, I said 

Andrew: “Think painted faces.” 

Mom: “I’ve never heard of them.” 

Andrew: “Green Light” 

Mom: “I haven’t heard of them either” 

Andrew: “No, you have a green light.” 

More recently, we revisited Ozzy’s Boneyard which produced this gem. 

Andrew: “Awesome! Walk by Pantera.

Mom: “Walk by Pantera?” 

Andrew: “No. ‘Walk’ is the song. The Band is Pantera. The opening line is ‘Can’t you see I’m easily bothered by persistence.’”

Mom: “Why didn’t you give me time to guess that?”

Another memorable moment from the trip occurred when we were at my brother’s house. The three of us played the card game Milles Borne, which we used to play frequently when we were much younger. The object of the game is to win a race by accumulating a thousand miles. Along the way, your opponents can sabotage your trip by giving you hazard cards which include a flat tire, out of gas, a speed limit of 50 mph, and a stoplight. My brother’s favorite part of the game, this time around, was giving hazard cards to both me and my mother. A player can only suffer one hazard card at a time, but I said we should amend that rule. While someone’s flat tire is being fixed, why not be able to puncture their other tires or siphon gas from their tank? We ended up sticking with the original rules, but it reminded me of other enjoyable moments I had spent with my brother throughout the years. Many of us spend a lot of our time trying to replicate those moments. Sean Carswell once wrote an excellent short story entitled “The Fiction of Old Friends,” about his friendship with my cousin Mark. In it, he wrote, “I assumed Mark to be a static character. Like Sal Paradise in On the Road, Mark should be the exact same Mark every time I chose to pick that book up… I realized that the characters who are our friends are constantly being rewritten, growing, developing further with a mass of back story that never makes it into the draft we get to read.” Dealing with this phenomenon was magnified while I recovered from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and I had difficulty adjusting. Listening to the “Secular Buddhism” podcast with Noah Rasheta, specifically about The Five Rememberances, helped. The fourth remembrance: “Everyone and everything that I love will change, and I will be separated from them,” allowed me to put things into perspective. Over time, as my brain healed, I was able to wrap my mind around it. Certain things will never change; others will, but they can always be enjoyable. My brother and I may not play prison rules, Milles Borne, I may or may not continue to inundate my mother with music trivia, but the opportunities for wonder will continue to exist.  

Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website:

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