Dogs at the Table

...or to put it another way, "Perish, priest!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stay calm, be brave, wait for the signs

These words to live by were the sign-off line from the rather imaginative CBC Radio comedy spot called, "The Dead Dog Cafe." 

On our road trip, we also live by the phrase, "the signs don't lie."

We navigate without a GPS.  We usually check GoogleMaps or MapQuest for specific directions which we sometimes write down, but more often than not, we'll see the sign.  In the middle of sixteen lanes of metropolitan rush-hour traffic, I'm not sure I need the mechanical annoying voice of the GPS to tell me to move-to-the-right-hand-lane-move-to-the-right-hand-lane-move-to-the-TURN AROUND-TURN AROUND.

But in most  cases the signs are clearly posted above the driving lanes or along the side of the road.

The written instructions to find Progressive Field in Cleveland last night were a bit obscure, with several turns within a few hundred meters, according the directions.  But the signs were clear -- and more direct than the instructions had been.  The baseball game (Twins beat the Indians 6-5 in 12 innings) was cold and, frankly, dull (the 'Tribe' were excoriated in the morning press for badly managing and executing), but not without its moments.

It's a metaphor for life.  The signs don't lie; life can be cold and dull, but not without it's moments.

And at this point we need to go back to the Dead Dog Cafe, because it is far easier to engage with life when we are calm, brave and patient.

And that's why road trips are important.  The only way to enjoy it is to be calm -- getting agitated on a road trip is (as my doctor would say) contra-indicated.  And you also have to be prepared to travel new roads -- we can now drive four or five hundred kilometers before we see things that are new to us, and boredom erodes satisfaction, at least in my experience (that's why we've been known to do the first part of a long drive in the dark, so it doesn't matter what's out the window).

And the signs don't lie.  We've learned to trust them.  Yes, we've gone places we haven't expected to see, but mostly because we missed the signs.  Sometimes I'm so involved in driving that I can't look around, and need someone else to be aware on my behalf.

I am not particularly metaphysical or pious, but there are times that others have clearly pointed to the presence of God in my life.   I get so involved in 'driving from day to day' that I miss the signs.

And so a road trip, from my side of the steering wheel, is a good way to reconnect.

Today's weigh-in: Unknown Waiting for a sign (or at least a scale).

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's Not Jack Kerouac...

...but it's a road trip.  People in my life had better like seeing the world from the highway.  When my parents were alive, living in Burlington, Ontario, the summer vacation was always a road trip from Nova Scotia, often punctuated by side trips to amusement parks, museums, stadiums, and attractions.  When my daughter was older, I used to fly her to Chicago while I was studying there and we would drive back to Nova Scotia together (which led the way to two dad-and-daughter trips by car to New York -- twelve-and-a-half hours, by-the-way -- and  when my partner and I first got together, the litmus test for the possibility of a continuing relationship was a road trip to Washington in October, 2001where we stayed with a friend who worked at the Pentagon.  It was a profoundly emotional experience for both of us, being a month after the attacks of September 11.  Even now, we consider Boston (eleven hours) little more than a day trip.

We continue to see the world by car (although we have been know to fly to one destination and do a circular drive from there, the Sierra Madres and Death Valley trip from Las Vegas to Reno and back is still my favourite).

So yesterday, we packed up the car and set out for Chicago.  It's a solid twenty-five hour drive.  Day one:  eight hours, non-stop to Lewiston, Maine, watching the range on the fuel gauge edge down to less than ten kilometers.  Tacky motel.  Delivery pizza.   Woohoo....Road Trip!

The point is, that you can see the world go by.: The experience of the Customs interview as you enter another country and wondering if you're the car that is going to be searched;  An accident near Bangor that sent us on a blind expedition of municipal streets and secondary highways with nothing more than a sense of left-and-right turns to get us back to the Interstate; Trying to figure out if we really wanted to risk running out of diesel before we get to our motel;  Eating car candy in place of meals.  These are the things that make you live in the moment.

This is different, frankly, than air travel.  Once you have consigned yourself to the care of the airline, you are no longer in control of anything.  Yes, it's faster.  Once upon a time, it used to be kind-of classy too.  There is a level of sophistication, and paradoxically mindlessness, to the experience.  You can't improvise as you go along.

Today we noted a couple of traditional events:  breakfast in the car; a stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store; trying to recollect some of the details of our previous trips; remarking on the difference in topography between states that seems to take place in the traversing of a few miles; the colours of the leaves or the lushness of the green foliage; seeing a manicured golf-course with no-one playing; seeing the billboards advertising things in which we had no interest.

This is a road trip.  We punctuate it with bourbon in a motel room, and celebrate it with simple delight in seeing something we hadn't noticed before.  We don't use enough drugs (or bourbon, for that matter) to be Jack Kerouac.

But there's something romantic about a road trip.

Yesterday's weigh-in: 215.5 On the road to 200