Monday, May 28, 2012

Row of Ducks

Letter to Jacob
Sunday, 27 May
Eating on the Road

It will probably break ninety today and the air is already thick enough to pour from a jug.  I’ve taken in my morning walk and I’ve cracked the windows on the Suburban.  What possible rationale could I have for holding onto what is considered to be an eight passenger truck?  As far as I’m concerned it is the best car I’ve ever had, period.  It really is my home on wheels.  It’s road worthy in most any weather condition and it’s comfortable, with room for a cooler to store food, any change of clothes and plenty of space to sprawl out in if I need to catch a snooze.  I can store my camera, some books and set out for any place on the map served by a road, or no place in particular, just whatever it is I stumble onto looking for a face to exchange hellos.  There’s no place I need to be and there’s no date or time to put me on the clock.  Where it is I am is where it is I’m supposed to be.  With that in mind I stick pretty much to the back roads when traveling.  I find the nooks and crannies of outback America by far the most rewarding.  There’s no big deals, just a life filled with a series of small stories that, over time, makes for an epic view of people and their surroundings, a space that serves for living a life where crickets are part of the night air and people don’t freak out at a whiff of tobacco smoke that drifts and lingers.  The best stories aren’t served glossed up on cable TV but in the night spots of lonely outposts where people congregate to swap lies while dogs lay flopped out near their feet.  Humanity dwells near the buzz of a small neon star and the circle of light cast from a naked pole mounted bulb.  There’s the crunch of gravel when you drive up and the screech of a screen door as you enter a barely lit cave of a wood floored room, silhouetted with a familiar mix of sturdy men and warm scented women, all dressed for easy comfort and ready for a few really good laughs that have a way of making the rounds at everyone’s expense.

I’m getting my ducks in a row.  I’m looking to sell used lawn mowers to the Indians on a reservation nearby.  It doesn’t have to be Charley Drycreek of the Pawnee nation.  It could be Ed Dreier, a machinist with the better part of two fingers missing, or Edna Woodley, known to her church-going neighbors for the great spread she cooks up Sunday afternoons following services.  I’m not fixed on selling lawn mowers, either.  It could just as easily be cheap tires from Ray’s Auto Service, romance novels from Marla’s Book Nook or the full beauty treatment from Shirley’s Hair Salon.  It doesn’t much matter what I hock. I’m looking for a microphone, found in a forgotten stucco building that was last seen in a distant field nearly buried by negligent weeds.  I want to talk root beer when its sticky and propane when breath frosts glass on the pane.  The point is that everything becomes a short story when the audience is small and the once-in-a-lifetime adventures are limited to the four color travel brochures given away for free to overnighters in motel lobbies everywhere out on the interstate. 

I’m thinking out loud, Jacob.  I’m forgetting these thoughts are all ahead of you and not now, not in the beginning point of your life.  What an adventure you  have in store.  I guess the important thing is to always keep your perspective.  If you land on Boardwalk and it has a hotel on it, that is not yours, and all you have is ten dollars to your name – guess what?  It’s not the end of the game.  You keep on keeping on.  Keep your mind filled with wondrous possibilities and your heart strong with courage.  Speak your best thoughts freely and build your dreams with your hands.  And if you find yourself sharing a table with the one person most important to you don’t let anything or anyone distract you from that moment.  Much of life seems little more than getting from here to there.  The life you want to know, the life worth always remembering, seems harbored in surprising places at unexpected times, and often with a person where, it seems as though, you almost share the same breath.  Treasure it.  You’ve just spilled out all the eternity you’ll ever know.

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