A Scouting Life: Guided by the Sphinx

April 29, 2010 | Sam Hutchins

We made it off the mountain with much tension but no further incident. A quick inspection showed that we were indeed low on all fluids. I was feeling particularly prickly as I topped everything off. We all were.

“You know, I think Ely is right,” Kar Wai announced.

“Really, you want to lock into it?”

“No, but we don’t need to look for casinos any more.”

God forbid the man ever give a definitive answer. Slippery bastard.

“Okay then, where to?”

“Let’s go to the ocean.”

Keep in mind, we’re taking direction from a man who named his son “Whale” because of a dream he had. There was always a certain degree of interpretation brought to bear when deciphering his desires. It was like having the Sphinx as your navigator. At one point on the journey we found ourselves in Memphis. We were outside of Sun Studios late at night, taking pictures. A certain reflection in the window caught Kar Wai’s attention and sparked a memory.

“Let’s go to the place with the light in the window.”

“Can you be a little more specific, Kar Wai?”

“Yes, it was a red light. In a window.”

The look on his face indicated that I really should know what he was referring to. As we were in the middle of crisscrossing the country several times, I needed a little more help than that. I worked on drawing it out of him.

“Help me. Was it close to anything you remember?”

He furrowed his brow and thought it over.

“Hmmmm, yes. It was by the place with the hamburgers.”

“The place with the hamburgers and the fried pickles? The Hollywood Café, down in Mississipi?”

“No, the place where they did not come on rolls.”

Eventually it came to me.

“You mean Rotier’s, in Nashville?”

He just smiled at me.

“You do realize that’s a few hours away from here, right?”

He still just smiled at me. So we piled in the truck and drove to Nashville. Parking in front of Rotier’s, Kar Wai crossed the street to a strip mall. He walked up to a jewelry store window, took a quick picture, got back in the truck and buckled his seatbelt.

“Is that it?”

“Yes, let’s go.”

And so we left Nashville again. It was at that point that Darius figured out we had just backtracked several hours to take a single picture, and not a particularly notable or useful one at that.

“Sam, what are you doeeng? That was far out of our way.”

I alternated between stoic acceptance and silent fury in moments like those.


Anyway, we were now on 80 headed west. We took it over some more mountains and through the Tahoe National Forest. The highway was surprisingly busy. We’d been on the road so long without rest I lost track of the days. A quick check showed that it was a Sunday afternoon. Apparently this was a big weekend route for people from San Francisco and Sacramento, much like the drives from LA to Vegas or New York to the Hamptons. All these people were returning from their hideaways to regular life. To quote the film Repo Man: “Ordinary fucking people. I hate them.” How dare these cars get in the way of my completely random, unplanned scouting.

I needed sleep desperately.

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