Hello America

James McAllen
7 min readMar 14, 2022

They set out shortly before noon; her in a Calvin Klein sweatshirt, him wearing a Venice Beach hoodie with an old Yankee hat perched atop his head. The air was raw and damp as a March storm was making its way across New York City. They had planned this excursion weeks prior, not knowing what the weather would be like, nor for that matter, what the climate would be like around the world, but it was planned and paid for, so with no hesitation, they set forth from their humble home and headed south, into the teeth of the storm, consequences be dammed.

Ah, truth be told, this is the only week we could take at the same time. She wanted to go to the Bahamas; he of course, wanted to go back to Los Angeles, but it’s been over two years since I saw my brother — the Christmas prior to Covid in fact, so when I said, “I don’t want the last time I saw my brother to be the last time I saw my brother”, we both agreed that sandy beaches and sunny climes would have to wait; a road trip was in order.

But let me backtrack for a moment. When we last encountered our intrepid warrior couple, they were diligently prepping for another family Christmas. By that I mean, she was doing all the work, and he was complaining about how much it was going to cost him. But they managed to make it through the holidays without too much strife, although he swears that he gained 20 pounds. Given the fact that she started cooking the day before thanksgiving and didn’t stop until Little Christmas, I may have undercounted.

Shortly after the new year, I was having a decent Friday; I got in a good workout in the morning, then did a few chores before Val came home and made dinner. After that, we spent the evening on the couch watching some C-list movie before I went up to bed around 11:30pm.

At 2:30, I woke up from a sound sleep, bolted upright and announced,
“I have Covid”

“Go back to bed, you’re dreaming” she replied before rolling over and going back to sleep.

“I’m serious,” I said.
It was no use, she was gone; back to the land of slumber.

My shoulders and back were aching like I had been playing football the day before. I made my way down to the kitchen and got one of the at-home testing kits from the medicine cabinet. I read the instructions carefully; I swabbed and scraped, and then put the q-tip into the gizmo, and waited patiently for the pink line to appear.

When she came down at 7:30, she found me at the kitchen table, scouring the internet, while wearing an N-95 mask.

“What’s going on?” she asks, with no memory of our late-night conversation.

I toss her the results.
“Well, either I have Covid, or I’m pregnant.”
Being the natural skeptic that she is, she scoffed at my claims.

“Let me take your temp.”
She retrieved her trusty rectal thermometer from the closet and proceeded to take my temperature with all the aplomb of a German nurse.

(ok, that last part was a lie. I just went for the laugh. It was a regular thermometer, but the result was the same.)


After breakfast, I sent Val and Brandon over to the local testing site, while I spent the rest of the day in bed. A few hours later, she woke me up with a scowl on her face and a piece of paper in her hand.

“Of all the things you have given me, I like Covid the least.”

She too, was positive.

We were lucky; all we had was a fever and a few days of body ache.
Brandon was spared.

But given the number of people that we both know who have succumbed to Covid, we counted ourselves lucky. Once we recovered, we started making plans for the rest of the year. 2022 was going to be our best year ever, and we were going to start it off with a 7 day road trip to visit my brother in Dayton, Ohio. I mapped out a route, and then made the non-refundable reservations.

Then the price of gasoline doubled.

Undaunted, we vowed to press on.
Then, on a Friday night two weeks ago, my youngest son called to tell me that my trusty Hyundai Sonata had died at a red light on 14th ave. A day later, a quick diagnosis by my local mechanic revealed my worst fears; the engine had seized. So I took my trusty Hyundai Sonata to the local Hyundai service center and plead my case.

“Not to worry,” the attended responded, “you might still be under warranty.”

Two days later, the call came back;
“Sorry, you’ve been rejected, you never got the software upgrade back in 2019”
I went into my best John Belushi impersonation;
“But I moved, I never got the mail. My wife had brain surgery. IT WASN’T MY FAULT!

“Ok, let me see if I can use a hardship claim, sometimes that works.”
Two days later, I got the call.

So, with non-refundable reservation at three different hotels, the price of gs rising faster than the ocean at high tide, and a car out of commission, I rented a Kia Sportage, and we set forth, into the eye of a late winter storm, heading to Washington D.C, the cradle of democracy, on the first leg of our journey. We arrived at 5pm; tired and famished, but thrilled to be here. The wind outside howls like a December blizzard. Tomorrow should be interesting. I hope you stick with us.


10 hours.
10 complete, uninterrupted hours of blissful sleep.
I haven’t had that in a long time.

Last night, after finishing up with the first part of the blog around 11pm, I shut off the laptop and crawled into bed with my wife. I usually don’t like sleeping in a strange bed, (they are usually too soft for my liking), but this one seemed ok, and I was asleep within seconds.

I was out.
As in out cold.

Except for a few woken moments to roll over, I slept straight through til morning.
I didn’t even get up to pee.

When we woke, Val looked at me with a smile on her face.

“We slept til 10 am.”
I was incredulous. I thought we slept for 11 hours until I realized that the clocks changed last night. Why we still change the clocks is beyond my level of understanding, but if I ever run for President, that’s going to be the first thing I change. Trust me.

After a shower and some exercise, we headed out to find a place for breakfast. Someone recommended Lincoln’s waffle house, so that was our first destination.

It was 40 degrees and sunny when we left the hotel, but as soon as we turned the corner on E street, we were met by the wind. Now I’ve lived in New York my entire life, and I’ve always battled the “Hawk” as we call it, but the DC wind in no joke. Every corner has its own turbulence. I can’t imagine what Chicago is like in the winter.

We arrived at the waffle house to find that there was a line out the door. This is usually a good sign, and it was. The breakfast was great, but legend has it that Abe Lincoln ate breakfast there every morning. I’m pretty sure that’s just a legend.

After our morning meal, we headed over to the White House to see if we could start some trouble. I haven’t been here in quite some time, but it’s vastly different than it was. You used to be able to walk right up to the outer fence and slip your hands through the bars to take pictures. Not anymore. They had barricade upon barricade set up to prevent you from getting anywhere close to the fence, and beyond the fence was a 10-foot white wall that prevented you from even seeing the lower portion of the building. I had to settle for a picture from about 14 miles away.

There were a few people carrying signs and protesting on the street outside. One older white woman was protesting against any American involvement in Russia. She was saying that the US has been the most violent nation on the planet, while a younger Asian man objected, saying that the US has been the world’s peacekeeper. Being the obnoxious asshole that I am, I felt compelled to interject; “Both can be true” I said. Both the man and the woman stopped arguing and looked at me, before both nodding in agreement.
“Yes, that’s true”, the man said to me while the woman nodded continuously.

Common ground. My old man always told me when you want to convince someone to do something, find common ground.

I solved world peace in 10 seconds. My work here was done. We continued to wander around the grounds; working without a plan, until the wind and the cold took its toll and we decided to head back to the hotel for a respite. We hailed a red cab and were amazed to find that our driver, who was clearly foreign born, spoke perfect English. Not only that, he knew where he was going when we told him the address. This is a home run in NYC. In fact, it’s a unicorn to find a NY cabbie who does both. He even pointed out a few of the lesser known sites along the way home. We’re only here for the day, there’s too much to see and too little time. Lincoln awaits us at night. In the morning, we’re off again, to a small town on the Ohio-West Virginia border known as Parkersburg. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. Until then,

God Bless America.

Post Script — — Same bed, different night, worst sleep ever.
Ya win some, ya lose some.
Off to Parkersburg!