When making weekend plans with Seri, we tossed around the idea of going to the craft store, maybe a cemetery.
We could go to Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold in West Virginia, I hinted.
My suggestion was met with a resounding “Yes.” A day at an Appalachian Hare Krishna compound? Who could say no to that?! (Don’t answer that.)
The Palace is located in its own town of New Vrindiban, just outside of Wheeling; it’s reached by a series of seemingly infinite winding country roads, the kinds with curves so sharp it makes you think you’re going to plummet into a gorge if you do anything more than 15 MPH. (In other words, do not drive while receiving BJs on this stretch of asphalt, my friends.) It was farm house, cemetery, church, farm house, cemetery, church, farm house, cemetery, church for 8 miles. But it was OK, because I made a CD full of Chiodos, Circa Survive and Sade especially for this trip.
(You’re welcome, Seri.)
My gas light went on literally right as we passed what would be the last legit gas station for miles and miles; I was a little worried, but for most of the drive we were behind a rusty pick up truck, the bed of which was occupied by a lawn mower and a teenage boy, and I was sure they had a gas can in there somewhere, too. (I mentioned at one point that I thought the kid was pretty hot, and Seri rejected my opinion.) The further along this road we traversed, the more sure I was that we weren’t going to be stumbling upon a gas station any time in the near future and once we broke down, probably all of the men in the pick up truck were going to eschew rescuing us in favor of raping us and making us cook them sloppy joes for the rest of our lives.
Eventually, the curvy country road turned into a pot-holed path coiling through the wooded hillside; we promptly lost service on our phones right after Seri called Pete to see how long we could sustain with the gas light on. (For the record, he told us we were fine, but I think that’s because he wanted to laugh at us after our ride home to Pittsburgh in the back of Henry’s juice van.)
I decided to defy Pete and turned around in the gravel driveway of someone who certainly had at least two decomposed bodies propped up on milk crates in their basement and was definitely sitting in stretched out underwear on a stained futon, skinning a possum for tonight’s pot roast, and drove back to the first curvy road where we had passed a small, no-name, one-pump gas station.
(You’re welcome, Henry.)
It was the kind of gas station where the overall-clad attendant blows into a ram horn to alert the nearby hill-dwellers that city folk are on their way, get yer slingshots ready and yer inbred dicks lubed.
Except that this gas station accepted credit cards. But that probably just means they’d use a phone instead of the rams horn.
The old lady clerk had to come outside and help me pump my gas, at which point the entire pump started churning and clanging, like there were tiny mountain men inside of it, peddling wooden unicycles to make the gas spurt out of the hose.
I should probably check my bank account at some point to make sure I didn’t get overcharged so some West Virginian gas shanty could buy a new sign for the shop. Or, you know, a sign.
We headed back to the curvier, hillbillier of the two roads. This time it was four miles of trailer, forest , abandoned house, trailer, forest, abandon—OMG DEER!, pot hole, trailer. (Roadkill is implied.) We were basically writing Tobe Hooper’s next movie for him.
(You’re welcome, Tobe Hooper.)
(Please get Elizabeth Olsen to play me.)
One last curve in the road and there it was, the Palace of Gold. We entered a door at the far end of some strange wall that looked like it belonged on a Spanish villa, not some Taj Mahal knock-off, and crunched across the long gravel walkway until we reached the steps to the palace.
And that was our first indication that the palace, while a gilded architectural fairy tale from the road, was actually in quite a state of disrepair.