Belle Fourche, South Dakota – If you haven’t been to Patty’s Place, then you’re probably safer from death by a firearm than I am. This diner in a tiny strip mall on Highway 85 is watched over by a sign at the counter that says, “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered unless need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.” I think it’s kind of a joke, but one where you laugh but then you can shoot someone and it’s okay, as long as you exhibited good marksmanship, but if you didn’t, then, oops, sorry. I think of Greedo and realize I’m pretty much in Mos Eisley.
I carefully and inconspicuously place the book I was just reading – “Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age” – into my backpack, just in case one of my fellow patrons assumes that my choice of reading material unmistakably indicates that I have bombs in my underwear. I do not, by the way. I haven’t had bombs in my underwear since I was like four, but even then the only harm they caused was that Mom would yell at me to stop crapping my pants. Which I have, by the way.
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming – It’s early morning and I’m standing in the middle of a campground next to a guy named Mark, and Mark is praying for me and my motorcycle. He’s part of a Christian motorcycle association, and he’s real chummy with God. He calls Him “man” a lot, as in, “We just pray that Abu Halen will be… I don’t know, man… just help him not get in any accidents, man.” I’m standing there with Mark in the cool, groggy air with my arms folded and my eyes cracked a little bit to see if my bike suddenly looks, I don’t know, man, blessed. It totally does. I feel like God likes Mark. Mark is super likeable. Probably Satan likes Mark, too. That’s how likeable Mark is. The world is insane, it punches itself in the face every day, but right here the sky goes on forever in blue and Mark is back-slapping with God. Maybe it’s all not so bad.