Driving I-95 S. Through another sh*tstorm…

Monday. 5:55 a.m. I-95 S in morning drive to work. I was moving too fast to snap a shot so you’re stuck with that photo of I-95, but it’s North-bound, mid-afternoon, in bumper to bumper traffic several weeks earlier.

Back to Monday morning, and this commuter’s meditation. The hum of tire rotation on pavement. A/C chilling the cabin. Instrumental music from Iceland’s greatest export, Ólafur Arnalds.

12 minutes from the office.

Pre-rush hour traffic flowing smoothly.  75 mph, and ~4 car lengths behind the car in front.  I shift in seat, unable to find sweet spot to ease the lower back pain. It could be worse.  Tune ends, playlist skips to next Arnalds’ track. Rob Roberge: “Words can intrude when the body wants to take over. Lyrics make you think—music helps you just feel.

Then…tail lights from car in front flicker once. Then twice. Then solid red.  Slowing in speed lane on I-95? Amygdala on high alert.  I tap the brakes, eyes scan the roadway. And there she comes: Bambi.  No. No. No.  She’s looking to cross 6 lanes of highway, 3 lanes separated by 5-foot concrete divider.

I lift my right hand the from gear stick, ready to shield myself as she comes through the windshield. My left clenches the steering wheel. And then super-slo-mo.

She dodges the car in front.

There’s a soft thump on my passenger side rear fender.

I see her clear the divider with a foot to spare…and can’t bear to watch any longer to see if she cleared oncoming traffic heading North.

Yanko Flores (The Morning Show): “There is nothing you can do to stop the wind from blowing. So what can you do…? You just keep on moving. And you brace yourself for the shitstorm.”

I turn my attention back to I-95. I find both hands clutching the steering wheel, and can’t seem to release.

I keep on moving…

Driving I-95 S. With Ray…

9 p.m. Thursday evening.

2.5 hours of sleep the night before – the body (and mind) have quit. I’m done. It’s done.

An eggshell blue Extra Strength Tylenol PM caplet rolls in the palm of my hand.  Please. Work your magic. Free me of this Mind. These thoughts. These chains. This swirl. This madness. Just let go.Of me. Please.

And it does. I find Goldbarth’s layer on layer, down and down. And down I went.

5:40 a.m. this morning.

I blink to clear the plume of narcotic, misting Tylenol PM.  Both hands grip the wheel – Steady DK, Steady. There’s a giant Semi to my right, Transpro Intermodal Trucking Inc., Bensalem PA, and a five-foot high barrier on my left…thousands of pounds of concrete which I can reach out and touch.  Lane feels tight. Walls on both sides close in. Steady DK. Steady. I reduce speed to 55, glance in the rear view mirror, wait for oncoming traffic to clear, and swing the car across two lanes. The convoy of trucks and early morning commuters stream by – all racing to beat The Rush to Manhattan.  Not today Friends. Not today. I’m out.

6:05 a.m.

It’s me and a floor of empty offices and desks. The air conditioning is humming. The overhead florescent tubes buzz. I log into my PC, wait for the gremlins to load. While I’m waiting, I flick through WordPress posts.  It’s Ray on the rural roads in South Carolina.  My eyes scan his post, my pulse slows, the body softens and I’m swept away in “Take the Backroads“:

“There is something refreshing about making your way through cornfields, strawberry fields, horse farms and peach orchards at 50mph or so. It is much more relaxing than driving on the Interstate at 75mph and being passed by 18 wheelers…I made my way the thirty-two miles from the meeting back home, I drove, windows down,  through a large cornfield as the sun was setting. The air was fresh and sweet and since there was little traffic, I was able to drive well below the posted speed limit, breath deep and take it all in. When I was younger, I never would have done that. I probably should have.”

Yes Ray.

Yes.


Notes:

  • Inspired by : “One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important… There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.” – G.K. Chesterton, Robert Browning (Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels)
  • Photo: via Mennyfox55

Driving I-287 East. A long day, longer.

I duck out of the office. It’s been a long day.

Waze flashes an estimate for a quick ride home: 28 minutes.  The Dark Sky App sends an alert: Large storm is bearing down.

I’m one mile from the exit to I-95 on I-287.

The sky blackens.

A few leaves gust and float overhead.

Another wind gust blows a large swarm of leaves from the hillside, they hang mid-air, swirl and gust upward in a wind tunnel. Ominous.

Then comes the rain.

Then darkness. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 N. With Raheim.

AA2263. DFW to LGA. Early Friday afternoon, start of a long weekend, Board flashes: “Delayed“.

It’s been a long week.

Sorry about the delay folks but we were late arriving in Dallas and we had a minor repair that we had to take care of. We’ll see if we can make up time.”

He’s makes up time.

The giant steel bird, a Boeing 737-800, does a slow gentle turn over Manhattan, the Empire State Building is adorned in red and green holiday ribbons, the stage lights of Time Square light up the hulking scrapers, the grid layout frames up the streets and neighborhoods.

The plane tilts its wings softly, leaning in towards the city. Here pal, get a closer look at the Big Apple. Whaddya think, cool right?  I’m a drop of water, a drop in something so vast, so incomprehensible…

The video monitor on the seat signals 10 minutes from destination. Altitude: 8,000 feet

A text messages flashes: “Sir, my name is Raheim. I’ll meet u at Upper Level. Text me.”  I text back: “Haven’t landed yet. Didn’t check luggage. Should be ~30 minutes.” Indicator flashes: “Read.”

Miracle. All of it.

[Read more…]

Driving I-95 N. ‘Tis the Season.

~6:00 pm on the dashboard clock.  Sigh. 14 hours. And It ain’t over. ‘Tis the Season. For office holiday parties.

It’s a short drive to the event, from Work, from the office, to a suburban restaurant. The car edges forward, held back by rush hour traffic, the stop and go, and a sea of red tail lights lighting up the darkness.

How does one makes sense of it? The 360° turn. The jackknife. The Man who leaves the at-home comfort, the warm cocoon of his desk at work, to this. From Krishnamurti’s You are the Everything. To…You are something far less than that.

Irreconcilable differences.

The small room is crowded.  An introvert’s haunted house. Small talk, tight spaces, no obvious way out.

Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car…You got a fast car – I got a plan to get us out of here.

The small talk. The dread. The ever-present doom that suffocates the mind, that blackens all things. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Kramer.

It was Thursday night, the ride home from the office.  The gauge was reading less than a quarter full, 40 miles remaining in the tank.

It would take no more than 5 minutes. My body gently leans right to encourage the mind to turn onto the exit ramp on I-95. But I’m hungry. I’m tired. I could stop. I should stop. I don’t stop. I’ll get up a few minutes earlier and fill-up in the morning. I see the towering Mobil sign in the rear view mirror. I take another glance at the gas gauge: 39.5 miles  I will regret this.

Yesterday morning, I’m in the shower preparing for work. I’m running the mileage tally in my head. 36 miles in the tank. 15 miles to the office. 15 miles back. No gas stations in the vicinity near work. A 6 mile cushion. Tight.

Oh, I have been here, right here, and oh, so many times. I call up other memorable events:

  • Montana: Slash in red zone. Two-lane highway. No sign of anything. 5:30 a.m.
  • Florida Everglades: Slash approaching red zone. Thunderstorm, rain pounding on hood. Late afternoon.
  • Green Bay. February. Twelve miles from next Service Stop. Wind gusts push drifts onto freeway.
  • Northern Michigan: January. Snowstorm flurries. Slash approaching red zone. 8 pm in darkness.

Each was preventable.

All were avoidable.

All were not.

[Read more…]

Let’s Go

…“Let’s go” is on the minds of many people in these last days of summer, especially the getting-out-of-here, going-away, going-home mood of Labor Day weekend. And it is much simpler by car…The long improvisational trip by car is quintessentially American, just as the road book is a peculiarly American form. […]

Yet it is perhaps truer today to say that the road trip has kept alive the romance of travel. Consider the misery of air travel, in what constitutes an average journey by plane. Much has been written about the stress, intimidation, limited space, germ-laden air and the intrusion of other people—the oaf in the seat in front of you who lowers his chair back into your lap, the child behind kicking your spine, the agony of the middle seat. Then there is the sludge that passes for in-flight meals, or the option to pay $7 for a “meal box” of chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, three crackers and a rectangle of industrial cheese that resembles a yellow piece of Lego but isn’t as tasty, and it’s five hours to LAX. After Sept. 11, 2001, casually showing up at the airport—often at the last minute, in my case—and easy boarding became distant memories, and since then air travel has degenerated further, so that the simplest flight is a secular version of hell. […]

This is why—for reasons of dignity and personal freedom—more and more Americans are rethinking the air journey and seeking the pleasures of the open road. […]

Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom—no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will. Though the driverless cars that await us might have their uses in dense city traffic or on tedious L.A. freeways, they will certainly diminish the exuberance of a driver gripping the wheel, flooring it and rejoicing, “Eat my dust.”[…]

The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country’s spaciousness and modernity. […]

So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people’s stories—of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past. […]

Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat. […]

Though I’ve been driving in the U.S. since I got my license 60 years ago, there is an immense amount of landscape I have yet to see. Driving through the deep South was a wish fulfilled, and so was my trip along the entire 1,900 miles of the Mexican border.

But I still have plans. My Road Trip Wish List includes: driving from Cape Cod to Seattle with many detours. Heading north from Cape Cod and keeping on, past the villages of my ancestors, until I run out of road around Lac Albanel in northern Quebec. Or heading south, as I mean to do soon, crossing La Frontera and taking an extended road trip in Mexico. […]

What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth.

~ Paul Theroux, excerpts from The Romance of the American Road Trip (WSJ, September 1, 2017). No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings


Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via Mennyfox55)

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Source: (via Newthom)

Driving I-95 S. With a ‘vanity’ plate.

I’m trailing behind a late model Chevy SUV in the left lane.

It’s twenty minutes in front of the morning rush hour on I-95 S. Traffic is light, I’m cruising at 15 over the limit.

Morning news is spewing Hamburg, Trump, Putin, G-20, protesters, North Korea missile launch, sanctions, UN. Sickening. I turn the dial to 70’s on 7 and turn the volume down.

Chevy won’t give way to the center lane.

Mind shifts to yesterday. Shouldn’t have said that. Could have done that. Not moving fast enough on that. Annoyed with that. Behind on that. Need to press harder on that. Anxious about that.

Chevy is white, I mean like Snow White, not a spec of dirt. I catch the vanity plate. I stare at the plate. I’m overcome with gratitude.

Two men going to work.

Two men sitting in their car and replaying yesterday, today, 10 years ago, 20 years ago.  One swimming in nonsense, the other in horror.

I gently ease off the accelerator, he widens the gap until he disappears and I turn off onto the I-287 ramp.

I get to the office.  I can’t find a replica of the plate online but the image below is close enough.

Peace Friend. Peace.
[Read more…]

Saturday afternoon drive: Then the car becomes a meditation chamber

The basic instructions for beginning meditation are to sit quietly and concentrate on nothing but your breathing for five minutes. Simple enough, right? I can’t do it for ten seconds. I can turn down the lights, burn all the incense and play all the soothing music I want but, after the briefest pause, my brain will recommence to whirr, instantly, uncontrollably.

Until I get on that blissfully empty stretch of open road, that is. Then the car becomes a meditation chamber. It all happens by itself. Breathing slows, the benevolent sky swells out, almost always a blue so pure, clean and enamelled that even worries of climatic catastrophe recede for a moment. Maybe there are some clouds, artfully arranged. Choose your moment to leave town — I like to leave at around 5am, just before rush hour — and there won’t even be any traffic to speak of. Just the white noise of the purring engine to amplify the calm, blissful silence, which will at last find its way into even the most stubbornly busy mind.

Dropping into the Central Valley from the mountains surrounding the Tejon Pass is like breaking open a petit four, getting past the glossy, pretty exterior: inside is the cake. The urban surfaces of California are what we see in movies and on TV: slick, manufactured, shouting, cajoling, bamboozling, seducing, ready to sell you something. And then the confected beauty of the city gives way; now the land reaches far out to the sky. Your ears pop from the pressure change, and a sign advises you that the next gas station is 19 miles off.

~ Maria Bustillos, from “On the Road” (Aeon, May 2, 2013)


Sources: Quote – Andrew Sullivan, Ode to Highway. Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via newthom)

Driving I-95 S. The Last Term.

snow-gif-winter-white

3:39 am. Thursday morning. Or, Wednesday night bleeding over.
20 minutes until shower time.
I’m staring at the ceiling. Woozy.  Did you get any sleep?

Six hours ago Mom’s helping him pack.
Suitcases are open.
Zeke sets the mood, moping.

“Dad, do you have any sweatpants I can take?”
“Take anything you want.”
“Do you have anything that doesn’t look like leisure wear?”
I smile. It’s clear who mentored that sarcasm, honed now, cold steel glistening.

We’re in the car.
It’s Silent. Father and Son awkward.
He’s turning the dials, away from my 7 on 70s on Sirius to some thumpin’ Electro BEAT.
The bitter taste of scotch at 4:30am.
I let it pass. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With A Distant Fire.

driving-lights-highway

6:28am.
I hit the ignition, the middle aged lady groans but fires.
It’s 23°F and she’s not liking it.
You and me girl, still firin’. Going down with our boots on. Till death do us part.

’70s on 7 are spinning on Sirius.
Drums and Horns lead – and then the band comes in.
YOU only need a FEW bars, and you can feel it: HIT IT.

And I’m off…
Foot leans in on the accelerator.
Traffic in speed lane clears for the DK Express.
Head’s bobbin’. Shoulders’ rockin’. Karaoke winds up.

And here she comes… [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. Miracle? All of it. 

gif-driving-illustration

7 am.
Clear. 50° F. Blue skies.
I’m flowing down I-95 S.
I lower the windows and rest my arm on the door frame.
The gusts fill the cabin. November chill.

70s on 7 is spinning Neil Sedaka and Bad Blood.
Doo-ron, doo-ron, di di, dit, do-ron-ron

To hell with these nonsensical lyrics. I plug my own.

I do what I want to do.
I hear want I want to hear.
I See. Thank God I can See.
Good Blood. Good Blood. Good Blood.

And the brain train starts to pull,
the steel couplers snap between the rail cars,
the words begin to slide down the rails.
And here they come. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Wabi Sabi.

autumn-fall-highway-drive

55 F.
6:15 am.

Red tail light blinkers flash ahead.
One car after another, clears the way.
Left lane is all mine today. All mine.

Autumn hues frame the highway.
The browns, the yellows, the reds flash by.
The clouds, paintings, gliding silently overhead.

What is this?

It’s Roland Barthes in Deliberation: The window is wide open, the gray day has lifted now. I experience a certain floating euphoria: everything is liquid, aerated, drinkable (I drink the air, the moment, the garden)

7 on 70s spin on Sirius. Boz Scaggs playing Lowdown:

Nothin’ you can’t handle
Nothin’ you ain’t got

Youwzah!

17 minutes door-to-door.

Game time.


Notes:

Driving the East River Drive. Every risk, shimmering.

new-york-city-autum-fall

It was Tuesday. Yes, Autumn. Yes, New York City. But it certainly didn’t look or feel anything like this. Add 5,000 cars.  And move the map to the FDR, the East River Drive.

I’m one hour and 20 minutes on the road and Waze is signaling that I’m still 30 minutes away. 1:50 for a 0:45 min ride. And now, the crush of the morning rush.  My lower back is stiff.  There’s a nagging kink in my neck. And, I can’t settle. I shift left, then right. I grab my water bottle, take a pull. Tap my fingers on the console.  I glance at my watch. I’m going to be late. Didn’t count on this delay. I push the pace. DK won’t be late.

If you’ve never driven the East Side Highway, think Daytona 500 with a crudely straightened 3-lane track.  Three lanes made for 2.5.  Traffic, sardines, tightly packed. There’s zero room for a slip, no room for wandering. Hugging your left shoulder is a 4-foot cement girder offering a bumper car cushion. Drains (sink holes) are distributed every 1000 feet to release rain water.  Off your right shoulder, another car – open your window and finger brush the door panel.  You grip the wheel, white knuckles, and Glare, eyes panning up front, left, right and down (especially down to avoid the abyss) and then back again. The Gotham Death March.  I push the pace with the cabbies, we dart in and out, looking to gain one car length, maybe two.

SiriusXM is spinning 70s on 7. [Read more…]

Drive. And come alive.

Grant-haffner-1 Grant-haffner-2

East Hampton, Long Island-based artist Grant Haffner paints vivid landscapes inspired by the beautiful country roads and bodies of water of his hometown. Using acrylic, marker, and pencil on wood panel, the painter deconstructs the road scene into a striking series of graphic lines and eye-catching colors. Each image captures the exciting feeling of driving for miles down empty highways—watching power lines pass by in a blur, feeling the dips and turns of the road beneath the wheels, and enjoying the boundless expanse of sky overhead.

“When I drive I feel completely alive,” Haffner says on his Saatchi Art profile. “For a small moment, in between this place and that, I am free from reality. My truck and I become a motion of blurred color, barreling through space and time. I like to keep my window open to listen to the sounds that traveling makes, to enjoy the smell of the landscape. Every trip is a new one, not one sunset is the same. On the road I am a part of the painting. I am movement, color, sound, adventure and emotions. This is my landscape.”

~ Jenny Zhang, Gorgeous Pastel Paintings Capture the Endless Freedom of the Open Road


Notes:

 

Driving I-95 S. With The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

car-drive-night-lights

4:35 am. Wednesday.
It’s leaden, and anchored behind the eyes. Throbbing.
I squeeze them tight. And exhale.
No. Not today. No. 
I grab the Tylenol.

71° F.
The flirty British Lady on Waze calls out Let’s Go!
39 miles. 42 minutes.
Skies clear.  Roads dry.  Traffic light.
Manhattan bound.

Cockpit is lit with the soft glow of fluorescents.
It’s dark but for the tail lights from hulking semis.
Speed lane is clear.

I adjust my right foot on the accelerator. Flying on cotton.
It’s silent but for the soft hum of the engine and the faint spinning rotation of the Goodyears.
The A/C streams in at maximum comfort level.
Sir, you’re in First Class today. Our cruising altitude will be 39,000 feet and we’ll be flying 500 mph.  
I loosen my tie.
And grab my water bottle. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. Playing Catch-Up.

lights-highway-drive

5:25 am. Yesterday. Any day.

I-95 S.

Left hand at 11 o’clock.

Finger tips on right, spinning dial. Playing Russian Roulette with one of 4,378 tunes. DK is Living large. Letting it land where it may.

Left foot tapping. Tapping. TappingLet’s go Man. Let’s go. I’m tailing a black limousine in the left lane doing fifty. A yellow light glows in the back seat. A Suit reads the morning paper.

I re-grip the steering wheel – swing right, accelerate, and swing sharply left. Lynyrd Skynyrd…’Cause I’m as free as a bird now…

The limo is back in my rear view mirror.  I drift into a collage of Vine clips, stitched together with snippets of blog posts, movies, books (6 in flight) and highlights from my binge watching of Netflix. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. You are gulping them down. Gasping for air. Faster and faster.  And then the Nimbostratus. Katrina Kenison, on her Magical Journey, An Apprenticeship in Contentment: “Thirty, forty, fifty – how could three quarters of my life by over? Where did it go?
[Read more…]

Driving I-95 N. With Sparks.

lights-driving

There’s a difference.
When your bones hurt,
And when they’re just tired.
When they are looking to heal,
and when they are looking to get set down.
These Bones are aching, to get set down.

Sparks.
The week’s reflections as I ride up I-95.
They light warm fires of gratitude.

Yes, Mary. It is the work.
My work.
Work that I’ve made for myself.
Work that I’ve chosen to claim my life.
My adult life.

And then, a final spark,
for Mary,
who has brought me Home,
and to my handsome life.


I don’t mean it’s easy or assured, there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet. But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe – that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.

– Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. With Dancing Nancies.

olena kassian drawings pavane, 64- x 48-

Friday morning. July 17th.  77° F. 8:10 am.
Traffic?  A lava flow.
I’m in the center lane between two tractor trailers. Behemoths. Wall to wall.

The Mind, a Raccoon, ever searching, digging, anxious.
Its beady eyes darting.
Its sharp claws twitching, digging in sh*t they shouldn’t be digging in.

Shiny tinsel flashes from the morning readings.
Fulghum: The examined life is no picnic.
Remarque: The less a man thinks of himself the better he is.

And on cue, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds strum their guitars to open Dancing Nancies

Could I have been / A parking lot attendant
Could I have been / Lost Somewhere in Paris
Could I have been / Anyone other than me

A parking lot attendant? First job. Gas station attendant.
Paris? I’ll take just being in Paris, just once, lost or found.
And, ‘Could I have been / anyone other than me?’
Now, that is a question.

A copper colored Tesla jams his nose in the wee gap in front of me. I close the gap, with my nose within inches of his door panel. The mini cameras on the bumper trigger the sensors: Warning. Too Close. Too Close. He turns left to see my grill, and me, feeling the blast of natural heat. Oh, you know what you’re doing Friend. Save electricity with your Tesla. Burn me up. [Read more…]

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