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American Road Trip, 1998


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1998-07-04 - 11:41:13

Cambridge, Md.

American Road Trip: Cambridge, Md.

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 1998, CAMBRIDGE, MD. — It all began today. 12:20 p.m., leaving Little Silver Boro Hall after dropping off some letters, I headed west on Monmouth Co. 537 towards Freehold and 195 — West under blue, cloud-spotted skies stretching out about the fields, bright brilliant sun shining down. It was the kind of day it should have been, the perfect way to start such a journey.

Coming down through Delaware and Maryland on US 301 and 50 was new to me, driving through open cornfields with little traffic at times, reminding me of remote Indiana. Then I crossed the bridge into Cambridge to see the sun reflecting off the water — the Choptank River — and it made me excited for all I’ll see before returning to New Jersey again.

Heading south on the open road under pleasant skies with good music made me feel free, adventurous, like I was embarking on an odyssey that no one has done in a long time. It was exhilarating.

I quickly came to discover the lovely closeness of small towns — tight communities — like Cambridge, Maryland. Accompanying Laura to the drugstore, I watched her chat with the family of owners and flag down her doctor — Doctor Mike — as he left the store. People came in just to say hi, this being the first day for Craig’s Drugs in its new location. That’s America. And at dinner — McGuigan’s — there Laura's parents knew the owner and his sister and a group of women at the next table as well. The cities can have their nightlife and culture and excitement — I’ll visit when I want that — but give me a small town with kind folks and I’ll live a happy life and raise a great family with the help of others.

Tomorrow Bryan, Mia, Kathy and Lauren arrive — no Courtney, DAMN! — and the next two days will be something. Ah ... life ...

Late afternoon bridge —
Shimmering sun reflected,
The water shines back.

Small town drug store talk —
How's the family doing?
See you again soon.

FRIDAY, JULY 3, CAMBRIDGE — Several times during the night, Skipjack — Jack — came into the room for food, his litter box, or to check up on me, jumping up to the bed to see what I’m doing. Then, in early morning, trying to get under the covers, he rolls over in an attempt for some attention, some petting, flipping his head and swinging his rear end around. Too close to the edge, his rear begins to slide off and urgency fills Jack’s eyes as he frantically looks for a claw-hold, though in vain for the front claw-less Jack who goes over the edge and hits the floor — THUNK! — He then leaves, walking around the bed without looking at me again, no doubt embarrassed. And he fetches too, bringing back the ball of paper you throw for him. He’ll jump in boxes, and especially bags, even those held three feet off the ground.

Laura and I made the drive to BWI — large airport, middle of nowhere — to pick up Bryan and Mia to exchange Hi There How You Been Hugs in Southwest terminal. Playing the Bay Game on the drive home where Kathy and Lauren have arrived. Swimming at Miss Nancy’s and then some TV before a night out at McGuigan’s, Mia and I playing Split Up the Famous Couples with Ben Affleck/Gwyneth Paltrow, John Travolta/Kelly Preston, Matthew Broderick/Sarah Jessica Parker, and Dean Cain/Mindy McCreedy winning (the last one starting the whole thing).

Remembering sophomore year drunken 7th Grace partying — there’s a picture of me on the floor of the hallway — and when it was 2 a.m., time to leave, Mia insisting on walking me up to my 10th floor room. After brushing my teeth, I go back to my room and she leaves, but not before a hug — not sure who started it, but it may have been a Goodnight and Thank You on my part — and, either going in or retreating, kissing each other on the cheek and smiling, pausing for a moment to look at one another — And I wonder now, two and a half years later, if we were on the verge of going in, of kissing there that night in 10th floor Grace drunken goodbye.

A refreshing swim
To kick off the Fourth weekend —
Late afternoon sun.

SATURDAY, JULY 4, CAMBRIDGE — Beer, Hog and Crabfest V today. Well, of course I’m not big on the crabs and only a little more so on the pig — but a good day nonetheless. It took four hours from getting up to get out — first talking and playing with Jack in the living room; then a food trip to the Kwik-E-Mart or whatever; getting wrapped up in That Thing You Do; then, FINALLY, we were off. Out to Heron Point where a wonderful, really nice family allows their son to invite a lot of college and fraternity friends out for the 4th of July holiday. Mia and Lauren each got into a volleyball game and there was music, a vegetation station with The Simpsons and later Seinfeld, a driving range out into the water, port-o-potties and lots of tents — and they live on a huge farm with a half-mile driveway (at least) and corn and soybeans on either side.

We left to go back to Laura’s for more burgers and then headed to George Wright’s for the fireworks on the river. From the Wrights’ back deck we could hear the first thunder from the fireworks, so we headed across the lawn, crossed the street, and found our spot on the grass not far from the edge of the river. In front of us, to the east, the fireworks shot high into the Maryland sky on a heavy, humid, damp July night. The colors reflected on the expanse of water in the foreground between the barge where the show came from and our spot. Looking off to our left, to the north, we could see the far-off colors of another eastern shore town’s celebration. Seeing fireworks from afar is another interesting show, because you expect the sound which never comes. It’s as if someone has muted the sky, allowing you to watch the visuals but not hear the sound.

Afterwards, George showed Lauren, Bryan and me his Williams, Ruth and Eddie Murray paintings — very Rockwellesque and wonderfully done. Then back to Beer, Hog and Crab for late-night cards and more beer — but only quick blackjack because the bugs were too much and there was no spray left. After leaving, we went across the street from Laura’s to swim at night (Bryan and I had “bathed” there earlier in the day). Playing ball, being loud, and acting like 6th graders pulling the girls in — it was fun. Mia and I were bantering like children, she calling me stupid and me denying it — “Well, if I’m so stupid, then what does it say about you if you’re my friend? And don’t deny it — I have it in writing.” — “I enjoy charity work,” she said.

We finished up with a 1:30 to 2:30 a.m. game of Trivial Pursuit in which Mia and I guessed right several times — and barely missed a few others the same way.

Fireworks display
On America's birthday
SSSS-POP! SSSS-POP-POP!

Night swimming — darkness
Surrounding the bathers there
Jump, splash, gurgle, sploosh!

— Also in the pool tonight the game — NOT IT! — any time the motion detector light went out and who turns it back on — My cartwheel antics and — “Dan, you should’ve been the Leprechaun!” and my antics after that of clapping and whooping it up — Also pulling Laura under midsentence conversation from the steps of the pool, amusing everyone. In the movie?

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