Archives For February 2013

Communities

February 4, 2013 — 3 Comments

A week ago I woke up and decided to drive to South Carolina. This is what I do now. Drove through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee. Couldn’t bear another dinner of roadside fast food, so I got off the interstate, searching for a historic district and an interesting place to eat. Downtown was empty and streetlight haze-dark and I wandered back to the strip of chain restaurants and ate a disappointing burrito.

Quiet man with a soft Tennessee drawl in a Super 8 late at night, says they have Wifi throughout the hotel. Room seems 20 years from a decent renovation, somewhere tucked into the beginnings of the Great Smokey Mountains. Faded hotel with worn-out towels and free wireless internet, some strange collision of the future and the stubborn past.

The mountains become the Piedmont and I’m in the South. Shuttered beachwear shops and me in short-sleeves in late January. Coastal community along the Intracoastal Waterway. Borrowing my aunt’s condo, sitting empty for a few weeks, cousin Mary two doors down.

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Spend my time reading Martin McDonagh plays, watching DVDs of the glory years of The Simpsons, and trying, trying, trying to write something decent. Ponder where the new one should go, tinker with the structure of an old one, trying to raise the stakes, deepen the dramatic conflict. Mostly failing. Hand is still numb, feet and heart want to take me back out on the road, hop from place to place and explore the different villages and communities.

Myrtle Beach, a canyon of mid-century beach hotels, packs of Snowbirds mixing with seedy clumps of men strolling along the strip. Shabby chic of Pawleys Island and a deserted beach. Deluxe shopping center tucked inside an ancient forest of Southern Pine and Palm.  Upper Strand vs. the Lower Strand. Egrets and herons and an occasional lone hawk circling overhead. Old ladies drinking rum in an outdoor bar on an overcast day. New York voices eating liver and talking about Indian Wells Golf Club.

The deli at the nearby grocery store had Lebanon bologna in the case, Pennsylvania Dutch-style salami. Something from my youth, and my ancestors from the Lancaster County days. Guy behind the counter says he’d never heard of it until a few years ago, but they started carrying it to feed the Yankees that all come down here on holiday. It’s pretty bland-tasting, nothing like the Weavers brand Grandma would order by mail decades ago.

It’s been cold here, relatively speaking, but nothing like what’s been going on back home. There are beaches, but no downtowns, no sidewalks, really. A short boardwalk along the marsh lined with empty restaurants with names like “Bovine’s” and “Drunken Jack’s.” People seem in pretty short supply around here.

In a few weeks the Canadians will come, I am told. They come here every year around this time. It’s too far to drive to Florida. 554291_10151477908183552_863910637_n

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Recently Haroosh and I got talking about our trip to Washington D.C. to attend the second inauguration of President Obama. Sometimes we spend 10-12 hours a day in the car, as we travel through all these United States, and you need to do something to pass the time. So having a conversation with a small baby chick seems the perfect thing to do.

If you’re wondering who Haroosh is, and why I’m having conversations with him, I suggest you start here.

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Near Grantland, Maryland

Haroosh: Where were those people from?

Me: Ohio.

Same as last night, at McDonald’s!

Yep.

And they were at the Inauguration too?

Yep. And now we’re all heading back home. What did you think of it, by the way?

What? The Inauguration?

Yeah.

It was…it was really something.

Is that it?

No…I’m just trying to find the right words. Do you think a lot of people will be upset that I went?

What do you mean?

Well, I know a lot of people don’t like President Obama.

Ahh. Right. Well, maybe it’s best to think of this as not about politics, but more like history.

History?

Well, sure. First African-American president.

But that was four years ago. It was a bigger deal then.

Well, I suppose. But being reelected means something, too.

You were telling me about what it was like on Election Night, in 2008. All those people, and they were so happy.

Yes. One of the most amazing nights of my life.

Did people really think he was going to make everything better, just like that?

Well, no. But there was a… feeling, I guess. That maybe things would start getting better. That everything wouldn’t be so… ugly.

Do you think he’s made everything better?

It’s not as simple as that, Haroosh. He’s done some things I’ve liked, and some things I don’t like. That’s the short answer. But you didn’t really answer my question: what did you think of the Inauguration?

There were a lot of people.

Yes there were.

Especially while we were waiting for that subway train. And they were shouting sometimes, and those old ladies were fainting. And then they said the train was broken.

That was not the best moment, no. But did you listen to the speech?

Yeah…it was hard to concentrate, though. We were standing there a long time. And I’m pretty small.  But I liked it. He talked about people that don’t get talked about a lot in those types of speeches, didn’t he?

Yes he did.

And that’s what America’s supposed to be about, isn’t it? Opening the door for more people, granting greater freedoms and liberties. At least, that’s what I remember from what you taught us in fifth grade.

Yes. We didn’t get a chance to go look at the Constitution, but that’s what we’re supposed to be all about.

I think I know what you mean about things not being so…ugly now.

Well, we have a long way to go. And presidents can only do so much. But think about all those people standing in front of the capitol building, or waiting for the subway, or driving back home to Ohio or Alabama or other parts of America. Black or white, young or old, for them, it’s still a big deal that he’s the president. They’re counting on him to make things just a little big better. And yeah, I know a lot of people aren’t happy that he was re-elected. That’s a different kind of ugly that won’t go away for a while. But I’m okay with the vision of the United States of America that the president talked about in his speech. That’s the country I’d like to live in.

I wish he would have mentioned something about baby chicks, though. He won’t forget about us chicks, will he?

I don’t think anyone will forget you, Haroosh.

It’s good to be back on the road, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it is. I’m glad you took me with.

I’m glad you’re with me, pal. It wouldn’t be as much fun if I was doing all this by myself.

So. Where are we going next?

I have no idea. Wherever the road takes us, Haroosh.

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