04 January 2008

Down And Out In Nitro, West Virginia

Nitro is a little city in West Virginia. It sits along the Kanawha River. I think the city is about 4 square miles worth. People have condos on the Upper West Side bigger than poor Nitro. A thriving chemical industry along its banks provides a significant part of the economy of West Virginia. Oh, and thats why the city was named Nitro.

The name Nitro comes from nitroglycerin, that sweet little explosive liquid that is the basis for modern gunpowder and plastic explosives. The Nitro area was one of the main ammunition production facilities during WWI and the city's name was selected by the gov'ment because of these federal explosive manufacturing plants. Nitro's plants were able to fulfill this function during WWII as well, but to a lesser scale.

Anyways, I think we used to sneak in along Interstate 64, in through Charleston somewhere. I can't remember, even if I was driving at the time. I never had to drive much because I'd get bored and fall asleep within an hour or two. I'd usually make it through Peter Murphy's "Deep" and start nodding off, veering down that familiar hallucination highway, trying to dodge those elusive purple elephants that suddenly hog the road as your eyelids grow too heavy for haulin'.

We'd play West V.A. quite a bit and always seemed to first pass through Nitro before reaching whatever town the venue was in, normally it was somewhere between Saint Albans and before Hurricane met up with 64/60. It became a rite of passage of sorts. "First, pass through Nitro, and then, and only then, you may continue onward to your destination."

But I will never forget the miniature plastic cow.

At some point in our provided directions we'd come to a fork in the road. We'd run out of dirt and we were forced to make a decision: left or right. I believe the directions called for a good, old fashioned right-hand turn. But it was when this turn was called for that left us floored.

Until this fork in the road, the directions were always pretty typical. They got the job done, thats what directions should do. There were rights and lefts, exit ramps and counting stop lights or stop signs. Maybe a landmark or two.

However, these directions, which delivered us through Nitro but not into temptation, called for serious attention to detail. And when I say serious I mean above and beyond the limits of human visual perception; several light years beyond the powers of the unaided, naked eye; taunting the very bounds of angular resolution, luminosity and colour.

It was at this very fork in the road where our collective cursor began to blink. The directions called for a pure right. Easy enough, but there were no street signs or avenues posted. It was then that we read ahead to the next line of the directions.

It told us to look for a cow in the window of a store. A cow? A COW?! OK, we'll look for a cow.

Hey, guys, does anyone see a cow? The directions say to "look for a cow in the window". The contents of the van were confused.

Was there a farm nearby? How could a cow fit in a window? Then again, this was Nitro and in a town named after a heavy, yellow, poisonous, oily, combustible liquid used in making explosives and medically as a vasodilator, I suppose anything was possible.

Just then someone spotted it. "There it is!", someone hollered.

"No way! THAT? THAT is our landmark?! That's the cow in the window?!"

We were being instructed to make a right at a miniature plastic cow in the window of a store that looked like it hadn't been opened in years.

The dollhouse farm cow no taller than two inches and no longer than three. It was a motherfucking miniature toy cow. That was our landmark. That is how they decided to tell us where to make that right turn.

We'd make this drive many times after and we'd always look for that fucking cow and sure enough, it was always there. Like a beacon in the night to a wayward sailor, the miniature, toy cow of Nitro, West V.A.

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