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American Road Trip, 1998


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1998-08-12 - 12:15:41

Springwater, N.Y.

American Road Trip: Springwater, N.Y.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, SPRINGWATER, N.Y. — Driving through Ohio during Trucker Appreciation Week. Not sure if it’s a national thing, or just in Ohio. But, thank you, truckers, I appreciate that you slow down to 70 when you come up behind me, rather than plowing through me with your rig like you probably could. Also in Ohio found some interesting writing on an overpass — “You might be a redneck if ...” — it said, “I love Todd,” then, added after that, “Is an asshole.” Maybe Todd pissed her off.

Finally get to see Nick and Jane’s place up here in the Finger Lakes. A good view from the mountain here looking out over the valleys cut away with the lakes nestled in between. It is a cool night here, much like Colorado was — and Maine will be. We had a great dinner of ribs and corn and potatoes and sat on the deck talking while the food cooked. We talked about my trip, but as always, with this family, we talked a lot about the past — the little that I remember, and new stuff Nicky brought up. The best — in her first year of teaching, Mom still thought islands floated on the water — “I don’t know how they can put them on maps since they don’t know where they’ll be.” And one Christmas (Mom’s was at Thanksgiving) Johnny came home with a beard and one of his handmade pipes, walking in all hippie-like and an argument at the door with my grandparents. He-he — funny stories.

Leaving South Bend was good — I really needed to get away. I thought about a lot of things on the drive — as I always do — and I know Michelle and Heather crept into my thoughts, as usual. I play scenarios out in my head, contributing both sides of dialogue, always, of course, with it turning out good for me. Hopefully it’ll help with the movie writing.

And another thing — Cleveland traffic. LA has indescribable traffic. Boston has uptight, elitist, annoying, frustrating traffic. NY has aggressive, boneheaded traffic. Cleveland has it all. IDIOTS. JERKS. ASSHOLES. I think YIELD signs there are for decoration — “Hey, this intersection needs something.” — “Yeah, some color. Maybe a little red.” — “I know, we could get one of those ‘yield’ signs or whatever they are.” They don’t even pause — I doubt they look at the oncoming lane either. And I saw more people drifting into other lanes nearly hitting other cars today than on all this trip. And when I needed to be in the two right lanes to be on the right highway, this punk in a pickup shot past me on the right rather than giving me room — which would have required only his taking the foot off the gas pedal; my rear tires were lined up with his front ones — at best. Eeediots.

Starry, Starry Night
Crisp lights in New York August
High above our heads

There was a night last summer in August when we went outside into the crisp Maine night to watch an annual meteor shower. The stars so far shine brightly on moonless Maine nights and up there I’ve seen more than any anywhere — the Milky Way stretches across the entire vast blackness like a banner, or a basket handle stretching across a big Earth basket we’re all sitting in, woven out of the trees on every horizon with the dirt for a bottom. All around the Milky Way band are more starts than there are numbers for, making me wonder if there really are as many stars as there are grains of sand in the world. On this particular night we look for shooting stars, meteorites burning up as they enter our atmosphere. In this part of Vacationland (Maine’s motto) there are few airports (and the closest is small) so few planes trick us in our shooting-star gazing. Then, near the horizon in front of me — the Eastern Horizon — I think I see a shooting star clearly, then realize it’s going the wrong way, so I decide it’s a plane, way high up. But it moves steadily in a perfect path and I realize and point out that it’s a satellite, hundreds of miles up there, stuck in its orbit over Whitefield, Maine, put there maybe by the United States or perhaps Russia. I follow it as it moves perpendicular to the North-South Milky Way, gliding East to West across that big black background higher over my head. I stand, firmly planted, and watch the dot, barely the size of the stars up there, as it continues its course, and I don’t move my feet or turn around, so that by the time it has gone over the house and out of sight behind me, I’m bending over backwards, arching my back with my hands on the back of my legs for balance. It’s a sight to behold.

Years earlier, in high school my sister and I went up there with our father, and I brought my girlfriend at the time along. At night Jess, Heather and I would put on warm clothes — even August nights in Maine are into the 50s — and lie out on the deck, a dozen feet off the ground, on our backs gazing up at the sky so high above us. Shooting stars would stream across our vision fields and we’d point them out, just lying there talking and wondering what the heck we were doing here at this time, the three of us not knowing what was ahead, caring little for what was behind, and simply enjoying where we were.

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