Matthew McConaughey, his red-rimmed eyes barely open, pulled into a trailer park outside Alberton, Montanaa town he’d never heard of in a state he’d always wanted to see. He’d been driving 14 hours, towing his Airstream trailer, one of those retro silver-bullet numbers. He calls it his “canoe on the highway,” and ever since he bought it two years ago it has served as a residence more permanent than his spread on Mulholland Drive or his ranch in his home state of Texas. Only 28 streamlined feet long, the trailer’s been retrofitted (a barbecue pit that swings out, a “sweet, good-sized mattress” for the bedroom) and reupholstered (burgundy and gold velvety interior, “earth tones” to complement the rounded stainless-steel walls). Rigged to the rear is a generator, allowing for “dry docking” wherever he feels like crashing for a night; on the roof, a satellite pulls in DirecTV and high-speed Internet, allowing him to keep up with work while spending time in podunk towns among people he refers to, with stoner grandiloquence, as fellow “independent road spirits.”
Alberton’s trailer park, though, was a far cry from the well-managed, corporatized KOA sites McConaughey’s used to. There was a forest of forbidding evergreens, dense and black, a few power outlets popping out of the muddy earth. A guy in a chef’s outfit pointed to a ramshackle lodge across the dirt road and grunted “Ask for John. Should be behind the bar” when McConaughey inquired about a spot. The lodge, wood-walled, spruced up with elk heads, was all but empty. John told McConaughey that the spot would run him $11, and just as the actor was about to say thanks, call it a night, and double lock the doors on the Airstream, the waitress sauntered over and butted into the conversation.
“Hey,” she said. “Aren’t you . . . ? Is your name by any chance . . . ? Do you work . . . do you work in the movies?”
“What in the hell are you doing out here?”
“Oh, I’m just seein’ these great states of America,” McConaughey said, because this is how he talks, a happy marriage of the earnest and hyperbolic, though he left out the more complicated reasons for his presence: the part about L.A., about how spending too much time around writers, directors, producers, and hangers-on can get tedious. Some phone calls were made, and within an hour the whole town had poured in to party with the vaguely familiar, vaguely famous actor guy. Beers were cracked open, quickly downed. Steaks were cooked, stories told, secrets shared. By four in the morning they’d launched into a craps game, a dollar a roll, everyone just playing for kicks save one fortyish woman who with every toss of the dice proclaimed: “I’m a-gonna get four new tires! You watch! Four beautiful tires . . .”
But for all her optimism, the poor woman kept losing. As the sun broke the jagged line of the mountains, everyone decided that its being morning meant it was time to say good night. Stumbling back to his Airstream, McConaughey made a mental note: Next time he was in Alberton, he’d pick up four Firestones and head to the lodge with a thank-you present.