It’s what you have been wondering for years: just how many Buddhist monks CAN you fit into a 1970 Buick Electra 225 convertible?
It’s 1990 and just another typical summer day in Mapletown, Indiana until Uncle Phat, The Reptile (or Uncle Mike, as he used to be called), wanders into the garage and gives his 15 year old nephew, Galen Calcoun, only about an hour to pack. The four of them, a squinting Uncle Phat, his beloved Ruby–a 1970 ruby red white-top convertible Buick Electra 225, Galen, and “the three books about Buddhism” that take their place in the middle of the front seat, are headed to Houston, Texas to “look at an engine” for Ruby. They leave a note for the family and with ZZ Top blaring, take to the road.
Uncle Phat doesn’t exactly have things figured out, the trip or his life, and now he has shackled himself to his nephew who is in the height of puberty. Both are escaping not only the monotony of their town but also the tyranny of the ‘cousins’ who by sheer numbers alone, wield chaos-based control over the entire clan, the brunt of which is borne by Uncle Phat though Galen is tiring of it too, even if he doesn’t know it–yet. “Intellectuals in a sea of morons” is how Galen views it ten years later as narrator, recounting their trip that includes lessons in French history from Vincennes (Indiana) and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Of course, they have to make a stop at Mark Twain National Forest.
Their “irresponsible” behavior is buffered by the people they meet on the trip that despite their antics, see the better side, invite them in, befriend them. This includes owners of a mattress store in Arkansas that put them on the third floor of their store in the midst of a tornado warning, and a stoic double amputee Korean war veteran whose fence they accidentally alter. After a foray in a casino bar on a boat in Shreveport, LA, where Uncle Phat reunites with a former ‘girlfriend’ while Galen decides a sexy black goddess bartender has fallen in love with him as confirmed by–they have a run-in with a bunch of gun-totin’ nature lovers on ATV’s. It could go horribly wrong but thankfully Galen gets a stomachache.
The point of the trip was what again? Oh yea, getting to Houston to look at that engine for Ruby except…all the while they are badgered by the family to stay in touch so they can get yelled at, chastised some more, bashed for acting “irresponsible” (though Georgia, Galen’s mom now has a real reason to freak out). Beginning with the first lie, the trip is predicated on more lies and when it ends, only one of them returns home to Indiana.
Wow is now.