I'm some indeterminate period of time into Arian Foster's exposition on Immanuel Kant when it occurs to me that we've listened to the same album four times in a row. I reach my hand down to the mp3 player to change the selection, but he stops me with an authoritative touch on the hand. Odd, considering that for such a large man, he is exceedingly gentle. I guess the idea that the driver gets to choose the music doesn't apply when you're road tripping with an All-Pro.
"It's like, Reason, man. With a capital 'R.' Pure Reason. How brilliant was that? Elevating and critiquing the very logical substratum that underpins Western thought, yet goes on to define and influence it. Reversing the Copernican revolution. Asserting that objects must conform with our cognition instead of the other way around. F**k, bro."
F**k, bro, indeed. I wonder if four hours of the same bluegrass music always gets him thinking like this. And in what alternate universe did I land where Arian Foster gets off on bluegrass music? I want to ask him what he thinks about Heidegger but I'm worried that I won't understand most of what he says. Maybe now is my chance to change the music.
"Hey Arian, you want to try something a little different? I think I got some calypso on this thing."
"What you got? Lord Kitchener? Mighty Gabby?"
Holy s**t. If bluegrass gets him waxing lyrical about German philosophers, what effect will calypso have on him? And how on earth does he know anything about calypso music?
"I think I might move to the Caribbean after I retire. Someplace nice, uncrowded, like Dominica. That's Dominica, not the Dominican Republic. They speak English and creole there. Did you know that they still have a bunch of the indigenous people of the Caribbean there? The Caribs? Dudes look like Cortland Finnegan. A whole tribe of Cortland Finnegans. Imagine that."
I'm not so sure I want to.
Going on a road trip with Arian Foster has been an experience. Aside from the odd fact that bluegrass music makes him relive his college philosophy classes (although, to be fair, I find his thinking on phenomenology a bit cliched and trite, but that's to be expected from a running back, I suppose), he has a strange fascination with horses. As we cross the West, every time we see a ranch with horses, he has to get out and watch for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes I see him wiping away tears. I'm kind of afraid to ask him why.
Right now, we're driving under a mercilessly blue sky, punctuated occasionally by cottony cloud puffs somewhere west of the Rockies, in the Utah desert. It's like god accidentally spilled a huge can of orange paint. Bluegrass doesn't really fit in with this landscape. Calypso really doesn't fit in here. I'm beginning to wonder if Arian has taken any mushrooms. Now he's talking about literature.
"Thing is, Dune works on so many levels. You want a classic hero story? It's in there. You want a meditation on politics? It's in there. It's almost a roman-a-clef, no'm'sayin'? You want religion? Rebirth? Tragedy? Large worms that eat machines? It's got everything, bro."
At least this conversation is appropriate for the Utah desert. But we're still listening to bluegrass.
"I mean, Herbert basically created an entire universe. A political structure. A religion. Languages. And they're so real, man. So real. He was doing this shit long before ol' Game of Thrones got into the game. Don't get me started on George RR Martin. Everything in those books is so derivative. Do you think he could have made the Targaeryans resemble the Melnibonéans any more obviously?"
"Elric, dude. Michael Moorcock?"
"Oh, right. Those Melnibonéans. Gosh, why didn't I see that before?"
"I know, right? And it just goes on from there."
I decide to steer the conversation to football, since, after all, my driving companion is an All-World running back.
"So, Arian, what's it like to be an All-World running back?"
"You ever have one of those moments when all reality coalesces into a metaphysical singularity and you achieve ultimate awareness of time, space and time-in-space? When you find your third eye opening and you see time as color and space as scent? You realize that space is curved and you can run through its folds? And you realize the true nature of the non-Euclidean world in which we live?"
"Was that what it was like when you trucked those Bengals that one time?"
"Yeah. It was like ee cummings wrapped in Alan Ginsburg up against the Daleks."
Spiritual. So spiritual that I'm getting hungry.
Here's something I bet you didn't know about Arian Foster. He absolutely loves McDonald's. Loves it. Throughout this road trip, I've never seen him drink. But I've seen him tear into a Big Tasty with the same zeal that he tears into opposing defensive lines. He's kind of bashful about it, though, because of the whole vegan thing. But it's kind of refreshing to see him with a vice, and a processed, unhealthy, yummy one at that.
There happens to be a McDonald's at the next rest stop. There's also a big truck stop, but I plan on avoiding it because I worry that Arian may go into the bathroom and start calling out for Brian Cushing. He's done that several times over the last few days. I don't know why he thinks he's going to find Cushing in a truck stop bathroom. They're teammates, though, so I guess he knows Cushing better than I do.
We park. I pretend to look for my wallet when he gets out and change the music. I'm so sick of the same bluegrass album. Led Zeppelin. Good road trip music.
Inside McDonald's, I find Arian chatting up the girl behind the cash register. She's handing him a folded napkin. No need to guess why - she's written her phone number on it. He does this at every McDonald's we go to. Heck, he pretty much does it everywhere he goes. It's astounding.
One time, I asked him how he approached these women and what he said to get their numbers.
"Not much. Just a little chat about the collective unconscious and the archetypal wasteland that is contemporary art."
Oddly enough, that's never worked for me.
Eventually, we finish McDonald's. We head back to the car. The sun is setting, an orange smear against the ruddy landscape. Behind us, the first stars begin to shimmer as the violet canopy of night closes over the earth.
"One day, we'll take spider silk elevators to orbit," Arian says.
I don't doubt him. Because I've learned that doubting Arian Foster is a really, really bad idea.
"Hey, did you change the music?"
Guilty as charged.
"Hmm. I've never heard this before. Who are these guys?"
"Led Zeppelin. British."
"One day, after I retire, I'm going to buy a dirigible and travel around the U.S. in it. That would be tight."
Yes, it would, Arian. And my car speeds into the high desert night.
With no bluegrass for a change.