Tuesday, August 14, 2012

road trips and plums

A commenter, half wishing I had taken that trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota,  writes – A road trip ... I love that. That is my favorite thing... Well there you have it. The great cultural divide. This is why I know that I will always live on the margins of this society. Passport issued by the Dept of State notwithstanding, I’m not 100% of here.

I’ll tell you, no Pole from my generation ever, ever said – a road trip... I love that. Oh, sure, Poles, even in the years of my childhood, traveled by car. To get somewhere cheaply. Pack in as many as you can, along with skis and beach towels (maybe not for the same trip) and head out. But the joy is in finally unloading and locking up the trunk until the return home.

I tried to be one of you, I did. When I came back to America, as a student, I got right to the classifieds and looked for a used car. And I found one. An old VW bug in Brooklyn. Never mind that I lived in Manhattan and merely finding parking daily would be a headache beyond the imaginable. The car looked like the parts barely stuck together. You want it? The guy asked. I got scared. No...

Much earlier, my parents had planned the ultimate road trip. My sister and I found our place in the vinyl backseat of their Chevy Impala (this was during my first stay in America, when I was just a kid). We roadtripped our way from NY to LA and back again. My father smoked heady Camels up front in the driver's seat, my mother nudged him occasionally to slow down and I busied myself studying the AAA road book, looking at listings of motels we couldn’t afford.
This one has a swimming pool! 

In Las Vegas someone ran a light (I ain’t tellin’) and there was a crash and though no one was hurt, we had to stay in place until the Impala got a new body. So when I think of road trips, I think, too, of slot machines and my poor mom trying to find things to do with two small kids in Las Vegas, in the hot summer of 1963. Can we see Summer Magic again in the movies? Sigh... Alright. Just one more time.

As an adult, I’ve roadtripped to the east coast and back so many dozens of times, I haven’t the stamina to do an accurate tally. The last time was with Ed, three years ago in his pickup truck and I swore I would never do that again. It wasn’t until we reached North Caroline that we were able to get the smell of mice out of the vents.

Road trip... Diners, picnics, gas stations where the attendant spits on the cloth and wipes your windshield and wishes you a good trip – I know you all long for this in the same way that you long for your mac and cheese and your apple pie, but I’m not with you on that one. That ribbon of highway for me is no vision of great beauty. I’d rather be above, moving quickly, or in a train car, with someone else navigating.

Even though I think, before I slip into some permanent coma of old age, I will probably do it again, with Ed. But I wont necessarily like it.

In other news:

Remember this day for me, will you please? It started cool. A light sweater was called for on the porch, you know, for breakfast – with summer fruits and Languedoc honey (I know we have good honey in Wisconsin, I know... the time will come for it). And Isis and Ed.

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And then it’s not cool anymore and I roll up shorts and take off the sweater and go to our front patch of herbs (once  the place for our peas and lettuces and strawberries – mostly lost to wild animals feeding off the farmette) and add the small roses we loaded into the red donkey just yesterday. (Say what? Red donkey? Well, I finally stuck on the Catalan donkey to the trunk of the bumper-less Ford and so now it is my 'donkey car' – a fitting name for any number of reasons.)

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Remember this day when we didn’t quite play tennis, but we made it to Paul's cafĂ© and Ed did paint some more boards and I wrote brief paragraphs and the sky went from bright blue to gently cloudy, like a thermostat controlling the heat out there so that it felt just right all day long.

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As I wrote on the porch, Ed brought me warmed tomato slices with melted curds again...

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...and I said no, I can’t, I shouldn’t, take them away, but he put the plate down and soon I took one and then another and another and it was all so fresh and terribly honest.

Remind me of it when I complain at any time about less perfect days with too much work and bad weather. Tell me then that no one person can hog the plums of life all at the same time.

Today, though, was a plum. Soft and slow-paced and very kind.

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When night fell, or, in the minutes just before, I sat out on the porch and watched fireflies and bats do their thing.