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Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

After dropping off Violet at a friend’s house today, an hour-and-a-half east of here, I stopped, impromptu, in Lowell. After much scratching of my head (lack of signage, fanfare, proper recognition), I was able to locate the Jack Kerouac memorial park. I don’t capitalize those last 2 words because I can’t really be sure that was the name. It’s a pretty sad thing when one of your most famous and influential residents is not given his proper due. Or maybe it is as fitting as it can be, like a sutra.

Lowell? You’ll just have to see it for yourself. In spite of early impressions, I do hope to go back on a non-Sunday, when not every sign in every store window is turned around to say CLOSED. I would like to walk along the canals and to visit the textile museums and to see, if possible, Kerouac’s house and grave.

What I did see were a lot of overweight Americans sitting on park benches, smoking, staring, most looking generally uncouth and threatening, downtrodden, down-in-the-mouth, unaware of Kerouac, of poetry, of anything but subsistence and it didn’t look like they were having a very good go at it.

Not having planned very well, and being sans fancy hand-held device, I was unable to take photos.

I only ever read 3 Kerouac books, way back in my 20s. On the Road and Dharma Bums, yes, that was it, and finally, after my dad was dead, Dr. Sax and that one rocked my face off. That was the finest book of the three. I fell in love with it. Was it the timing, because I was filled with grief and alcohol? What would I think now? I may never know, may never read it again.

Anyway, I tried to take a photo of a couple of the inscriptions on the marble tablets in the sculpture memorial, but I have a rinky-dinky old cell phone and even if I could make out the images, I have no way of getting them onto my computer. You can look up google images for the park, but not much will be viewable there, either. It’s a sad state of affairs, I tell you, as if every person who ever visited also forgot her camera.

It’s not the most elegant passage, but it’s a pretty damn elegant passage. Merci, ‘ti Jean, merci!

from The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac

22

Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.

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In 1983, I was a sophomore living in the dorms at Kent State University.

Some time that year, we got the diagnosis that my father had colon cancer. Now that I come to write about it, I realize I don’t have many details. He had surgery to remove part of the colon and when they opened him up, they found that the cancer had metastasized to the liver.

My parents were living in Sylvania, Ohio at the time.

Some time in 1984 or ’85. Our good family friends in Southfield, Michigan, lent me a giant, dark-green Ford so that I could commute back and forth from Kent to Toledo while my father was dying. I spent the summer drunk, screwing a number of non-boyfriends, dancing to reggae bands upstairs at Mother’s Junction (above Ray’s), and going to see the Numbers Band at JB’s down.

I can’t remember what job I held. I do remember the heart-wrenching misery of driving to Toledo every Friday night and returning every Sunday. The long dark road, I-80, where deer/car collisions were a regular occurrence and the tail-end of the Appalachian range flattened completely by the time you’d reach Northwest Ohio. Some damn ugly land. I remember how everything in me screamed not to go. If I didn’t go home, would he not die?

Richfield, Ohio, Kita Lyons’ property. I had written in my book that this is July 13, 1985, 2 days shy of my 23rd birthday. One of the necklaces I’m wearing belonged to my Tante Nelli, but she died in May 1986. I wonder if she gave me some jewelry earlier than I remember.

My father died in August 1985.

I decided to make my pilgrimage the following year. My mother bought me a used, silver Toyota Corolla/Tercel, a model that they made for only a short time. I think it cost 4 thousand bucks. I have no memory of how many miles it had on it. I do remember going to someone’s house to check out the car, how their driveway looked, dark black asphalt. I would pay my mother back from my aunt’s estate when I received that money. My father’s only living sister, Nelli Landau. She died 9 months after him. I know it was a broken heart, for she loved my father and had no husband or children of her own.

I decided first to drive east. I would be staying mostly in youth hostels, but also had a few connections to stay with people I’d never met. Friends of friends. I miss that spirit. I miss it.

I am not sure any more all of the places I stopped. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I stayed in a governor’s mansion because my friend’s friends were the caretakers. The wife was a New England blue blood, going back several generations. She was a fiber artist, had a studio set up in the house.

They steamed mussels we picked up fresh from a little fish shack in town. I’d never eaten mussels before. I learned what a Widow’s Walk is. I toured the rose arbor in the back yard. The wife’s name was Sydney. This is how people name their children in New England.

One night, we drove past oceanfront mansions, stopped on the damp ocean beach, got high, and watched the sunset.

I next stopped in Cherryville, Maine, the famed place of an annual blueberry harvest which gathers hippies, loafers, stoners, and other back-to-nature types for seasonal farm work. Now I realize that there must be real migrant workers who go there, not just the educated white children of middle class families.

The hostel was really an old hippie commune. My first of so many things, again. I used an ATM machine in the quaint town. I got poison ivy (sumac?) on my legs. I stood in a circle with a couple dozen other people, stoned, holding hands, swaying, singing om om om. I learned what a Clivus is and determined that some day I would have one.

Maine, Bar Harbor, a little boat trip around some of the islands where I saw seals and puffins. The first time I heard the word shoal. Acadia where I walked on some barnacled rocks for a few hours, did nothing else, and left. I met a guy at the youth hostel. I remember eating a meal, walking around the town. Saying Bah Haba like the locals over and over, laughing, tschoke shops, lobster everything everywhere. I gave him a ride to the Greyhound station in Boston. A kiss in the rain. I didn’t even like him, but he was friendly. Dark hair, not too tall.

One very clear memory is of driving on the interstate in Massachusetts and the giant granite rocks on either side, with their trees and lichen, roots, gray and yellow stains. I think of it still when we go to Boston on I-90. I remember.

I started this post thinking about every car I’ve ever owned because my 2000 Toyota mini-van is up near 160K miles and creaky.

Let’s call this Installment One of Old Girl, the story of the first half of my cross-country trip after the death of my father.

♦ ♦ ♦

Hey, I’m not saying I like this, but I went to see them live a lot back in the day. The first video is kinda shaky to start, still good to see them looking good and playing after all these years.

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Monday, April 16, 2012: Annie and I head to Montreal. The key to a successful car trip? Strange new candy, bien sur! Found on sale at the Stop and Shop. Something akin to a box of Pockys.

The highlight of the road trip north was the Vermont rest stop that has beautiful, Vermont-made objects and is the site of the Vermont Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial.

Inside the actual rest stop, Annie and I got a kick out of a record player thingymabob that you could make work (for FREE!). It was housed in an ornate wood-inlay cabinet and it had a perforated metal disc (as big as an old 33″) which made noise when it passed over little metal tines, like an old player-piano. We didn’t have our camera so I can’t show you a picture. Does anyone know the name of this kind of contraption (twinkly bonus points!!! I SWEAR they mean something, I just don’t know what yet).

There was a beautiful wooden canoe and a rocking chair and a loom which you were allowed to weave on (but we didn’t).

You already know that one low point of our trip north was the stern (think riding crop, thigh-high leather boots) border guard who chided me for trying to parle en francais. The drive went downhill from there, the Quebec borderlands being ugly-as-sin: flat, dusty farmland dotted with mostly ugly houses (except for the really old stone ones), boarded up businesses, lack of appropriate signage, &c.

The most charming thing I saw on Highway 55 Quebec were the yellow cautionary “Old North Wind Blowing” signs, but didn’t take a photo of those. I also took one wrong turn, due to the aforementioned bad signage and maybe in small part also due to my traveling companion’s relative newness as a map-reader.

That evening, we visited our friend Nora at the Shriner’s Hospital on the mountain, a beautiful area of hospitals, McGill University, old stone buildings, and Euro-style villas. This was the site of my FIRST EVER wrong-way turn onto a one-way street. (Again, I blame the Quebecois for their utter lack of appropriate directional signage).

Now, because the trip was already 2 weeks ago and I’ve bored you to tears with verbiage, I will let the pictures tell the story:

I thought it was a funny name for a spa

cow building around the corner from our b and b

hanging wabbits, vewwy scawwy

FISH SPA

(I happen to know what this is, do you? twinkly bonus points, people, but Hubby is not allowed to answer)

beautiful doorway, oh how I love thee

and another (and you know how I feel about transom windows)

cupcake shop right on our street! pretty, yummy, and a very nice proprietor: www.dliche.ca

details, baby

cherry blossoms, not as fabulous as the curlicue scroll but I like it

RANT ALERT! You have been forwarned!

beautiful anemone (-ae?) at the Biodome, which was rather a disappointment, to be honest, not only because where the fuck were all the animals, but for our folly as humans on so many levels. The Biodome, creating interior environments just for our pleasure and edification, the whole Olympic Park complex, all of that ugly concrete, all of that money, all of the maintenance, even if the Olympic pool was AWESOME and the anemone are pretty amazing as well as vagina-like and other orifices-like

I know this is long. I thought of breaking it up into two parts, but it would just be more photos, so just one more and I’ll quit

I loved the turquoise color on the walls and I like how my gaze is slightly heavenward (even if I sort of hate the way I look in the photo otherwise). I’m not even peeing or naked!

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We went to Crane Beach on Friday, which entailed about 2 hours, 15 minutes in the car each way (we stayed overnight). Not bad to get to an ocean beach (compared to 12-14 hours, one way, from Kent, Ohio where we used to live).

I’ve written about this before: kids in the car on road trips. Of course, they’ve graduated from singing songs at the top of their lungs to us playing CDs to them feeding songs through the car stereo via iPod. Not so much the radio on, but it all works, it’s fun, and it’s All-American.

Current Top Ten Road-Trip Songs (in almost no particular order):

ONE

This works especially well because we have to drive on “128 when it’s dark outside” to get to or home from any North Shore beaches. A classic.

TWO

“swear it had the power to repair itself”:

THREE

How can you go wrong with Lucinda covering Gram Parsons? We all belt along with Lucinda and we sound real good.

FOUR

You already know how I feel about Woody and Songs to Grow On. My dad used to sing this to me.

FIVE

This made my top ten Beatles’ songs on our Christmas card last year, so you know it had to make this top ten list, too. Hubby says it’s a bit obvious, but I told him baby, you can drive my beat up old mini-van and baby I love you

SIX

Who says you can’t dance and drive at the same time? Safer than texting!

SEVEN

The Man in Black. ‘Nuff said.

EIGHT

I sure can’t choose a favorite Hank Williams song, but I do have a 2-disc CD compilation that I play ad nauseum on car trips. Not a song about the road, but all of Hank Williams’ songs are road songs.

NINE

Switchin it over to AM, searching for a truer sound/Can’t recall the call letters, steel guitar and settle down/Catching an all-night station, somewhere in Louisiana/ It sounds like 1963, but for now, it sounds like Heaven

TEN

Would any top ten music list be complete without a Wilco song? Well, no, but you’ll have to listen to “Passenger Side” on your own because I wasn’t too happy with the youtube versions. Instead, you get J. Richman and the Modern Lovers again. This is sans the intro which is half the reason the song is so good. Gotta find that intro by your lonesome, too.

ELEVEN

It goes to eleven? I tried to find the scene from Spinal Tap in which Michael McKean sings “All the Way Home,” but could not.

Postscript: I am well aware of the lack of females representin’ here. Chrissy Hynde “Middle of the Road” was a thought and Aretha is good music in (and out of) the car, forever and always. I love my Mahalia in the mini-van, Sweet Honey, too…you know I may need another top ten road-trip songs some day. I am an American after all.

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Remember last Music Monday? Well, one year on our Cape Cod trip, this is the song that made the rounds. In the car, out of the car, at restaurants, at the beach, on our dune hike, and on and on and on…

Since I have had to spend an inordinate, inhuman, ungodly amount of time cleaning up after our long-haired cat, Miss Lilly, namely cleaning up her poo, this has been in my life A LOT lately. It’s like having a baby. Or two. Or a really gross baby. Or three.

So here it is, the ugly truth. It’s brilliant, really. Enjoy!

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