Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lost in Yonkers

I'll post the outline of my talk at the Little Berks in a bit, just as Knitting Clio did before we met and Tenured Radical had done earlier today. I will avoid going on about the great discussions that took place among the incredible women that I met there out of respect for their wishes not to become characters with no control over their representation in my blog. Suffice to say that, if you are one of their students, you are very fortunate.

After a lovely weekend, I turned my car homeward. First stop? Radio Shack for a GPS device. This is it:
(I had to get provisions, too -- That's my Dora the Explorer CD player, incidentally, and Roots on CD):
One of the women at the conference told me that she had named her GPS device, as had a friend of hers. I felt compelled to do the same. I was going to name it "Charley," after the standard poodle who accompanied John Steinbeck on his journey in Travels With Charley. Maybe because I am closer to the age that he was when he wrote that book, and interested in the historical changes in the landscape, as he was in that book, I found it a much more compelling road story than Kerouac's On the Road. For me, anyway.

In any case, "Charley" just did not fit this device. I kept thinking "Kinda free, kinda wow! Charlie" and not Steinbeck. Also, the device has a female voice. So, I thought of dogs that I have know who would have made good traveling companions, much like Charley.
Klyde was a dear bassett hound who kept me warm on many a crappy camping night. Often, we would ride on vacations together, my brothers in the back of the car or van fighting, my mother shouting back at them to "cut that shit out." He would lift his fuzzy head from my lap and look up at me with woeful, "how soon will this be over?" I would cast him an equally woeful look and say, "I wish I knew."

"Klyde" might work, if the device had a male voice, preferably an older sounding, black male voice, like Morgan Freeman. Klyde looked like that would be what he sounded like if he spoke.

Gretl came after Klyde. Gretl was a mini-dachshund. She wasn't so much my pet as my familiar, like a witch's familiar. She traveled very well, sometimes sitting on my lap to help me drive. She might also perch in the passenger's seat, earnestly looking out of the side window as if she couldn't absorb every sight fast enough. You could always tell when she had ridden in the car because her little nose prints covered the window about an inch above the sill.

Plus, the Gretl in the fairy tale went on adventures into the forest, and adventures in the forest (albeit with a road and a not very good map) led me to purchase this device. So, the device is named "Gretl." Silly, I know!

Gretl led me across the Berkshire mountains to the Taconic Parkway. Past one of many, very huge barns:
Oooh, if this were further west, it might be Sleepy Hollow! Spooky (and quite picturesque -- I was nearly overdosed with picturesque and idyllic this weekend!)

Ride, ride like the wind! A lot of this was going on all over the roads this weekend. I envied them. This guy was fortunate in that he had found a road with no traffic other than myself.
Here are some of the sights on the Parkway:

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.": Ossining, home to Don and Betty Draper on Mad Men, and to a big old prison.

The next exit south? Pleasantville.

A gang of Honda convertibles. Bad ass.
A big gas-guzzling, black truck, with "Black Gold" painted on the tailgate. Kind of ironic.
I was certain, in all of my prejudice, that a large, black man would be the driver. Because he was going so slow for so long, I knew that he MUST have a fuzz buster in the car and knew something about the state troopers on this route. After about half an hour of being passed by every single car around me, I decided that this dude just drove like an old lady. Funny thing about that. As I passed, a little, old, blue-haired white lady was behind the wheel, with a little, old, blue-haired white man in the seat beside her.

Look! Tuckahoe!
Frederick Douglass was born on Tuckahoe Creek, but about 6-7 hours of driving further south. In one or two of his autobiographies, he says that some of the local people in Talbot County beleived that the name "Tuckahoe" was a slurred version of "took a hoe." That hoe would have taken pretty damn far, if that story were true!

And here is where my journey ended for the day:
Not off of the exit ramp, at a 2 star motel, but right there, at that precise spot. My car is stalled in that picture, and I am sitting awaiting the tow truck.
Just before I took this picture, the squealing that I had been hearing for the past two hours -- the squealing that made me think, "I should take the old girl in when I get home," which made me think, "I should also look into AAA just in case my car should break down on a similar trip" -- yeah, that squealing abruptly stopped with a thunk. Then, then car began rolling, rather than driving.
"Shit," I thought, "a thrown belt." I actually considered seeing if I could repair it right there, but the belt had actually snapped.

I called 911, and the Yankee version of Bubba -- and I say Bubba with the utmost affection in this instance -- showed up with his tow truck a few minutes later. Had the accent been different, from a warmer climate, but no less pronounced, Yankee Bubba could have been my brother or one of his buddies, or any number of the guys that I grew up around in Texas. He shared with me his hatred of the Red Sox, and I earned butch points by knowing more than a smallish, graying woman might expect. After all, I was tear-gassed in the crowd around Fenway when the Sox won the Series.

Yankee Bubba took me to a mechanic, where we left my car and the broken belt. He didn't charge me to drop me off at a motel.
Yes, it is a motel, as in a motor-hotel. Given its one-story design and it's position along a state highway and an interstate, it probably dates from the 1960s. The tile in the bathroom is also a clue:

My great grandmother had those same tiles, except the trim color was black rather than burgundy. Black and pink were very 1950s.
I don't complain, understand. This is the sort of motel that I would choose. All I need is a bed, a t.v., hot water, and a certain modicum of cleanliness. If there is also a microwave and refrigerator, then I think I'm in high cotton.

There are tiny clues, however, that indicate that this place is maybe a notch or two below my usual lodgings on the road. The first is this, on the back door (yes, there are two doors in the room):
That lock is not doing a whole lot of good, and looks like it isn't the first on that door. In fact, the cracks on the frame suggest that some of its predecssors may have been forcibly removed.

The second are the condoms in the vending machine. Condoms. In the Vending Machine. Next to the Snickers. Outside. I would have taken a picture, but there was a dude across the parking lot watching me in a way that made me think he would like to put those condoms to use, with or without my consent. (That, or I had toiled paper stuck to my shoe.) I decided not to dally.

So, this is where I sit, lost in Yonkers, awaiting the repair of my car so I can return to Maryland before my acting class tomorrow night. (Fortunately, I don't teach until Tuesday morning.)

1 comment:

spadamchrist said...

I propose that we begin our sacrifices by locating a virgin on the faculty, of any gender, and sacrificing hir in front of North College, in an appeal to the Money Gods to come to our immediate aid. Difficult as it may be to find a virgin on the faculty, it will be worth the effort, since history shows that, were we to sacrifice a more senior member of the faculty, one closer to retirement age for example, that the budgetary advantages would be outweighed by the gods' displeasure that we actually thought a gnarly old member of the faculty would do in such difficult times.
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