I speak the title line of this post to my three cohorts—aka my family—from behind the wheel of our vehicle for the past week, the silver Saturn Vue. My family faithfully ignores me. Both my wife and our older boy, Maxwell, are on their iPhones, the former sending emails to the animal caretakers with the news that we’ll be a day late, the latter sending texts and instant messages to his recently-made friends from summer camp. The second boy, Nathen, is blissfully too young—14 months old—to understand river crossings, let alone sentences that begin with dependent clauses. He also responds with silence. He may be asleep in his car seat, or he may just be staring into space.
Many differences distinguish the crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington and the Continental Army in 1776 and the crossing of same by my little family in present time. For openers, the Father of the Country completed his task several miles to the south, near Trenton. He also did so in the dead of winter—Christmas Day, I believe—and by means of boats, as opposed to modern automobiles and freeway bridges.
We have been motoring east on Interstate 80 all the way from the southern suburbs of Chicago, and we will be continuing to its eastern terminus just before the George Washington Bridge (there’s that name again) and onward into New York. Our nighttime crossing of the Delaware River feels momentous for several reasons beyond the historical. While East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, may not confuse with a major metropolis, its lights are bright and its commercialism is tempting. Then comes the bridge, which passes through darkness. Driving across I struggle to picture what lays on the other side, even if I know darned well that it’s only New Jersey.
What I want to imagine on the other side is a gas station, because the needle is hugging E for empty. My plan all along was to avoid gassing up in the Keystone state to save money. We filled up in Youngstown, Ohio, for $2.56 a gallon, and I gleefully sped past the Speedways and Sheetz and BPs of Pennsylvania that advertised much higher prices. Indeed I make it to New Jersey, pull into the first available enterprise—a TA/Mobile truck stop—and find the price of gasoline to be….$2.99 per gallon, no savings at all. Oh well, at least New Jersey still insists on full service at the pump.
Among the soldiers who fought for the fledgling American nation under the command of General W, I doubt that any imagined that their efforts would lead, over time, to a country that spans the continent, connected by a vast transportation system of concrete highways, motorized carriages, inns proclaimed by bright electric signs and entered with magnetized key cards, and restaurants that prepare a variety of hot foods very rapidly, which customers may have served to them in paper bags. I hope it all lasts long enough, in a recognizable form, for my two sons to engage with their families, should they have the desire and fortitude.
One of the benefits of a long road trip is that it channels the mind into thoughts that differ from the norm. Nothing profound, mind you, but at least a change of pace.
We enjoyed the Rotary Botanic Gardens of Janesville, Wisconsin, which are expansive, beautiful, and serene. We observed the elaborate and delicate glass objects in the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Art Museum, which provide infinite value compared to the price of admission (which is FREE, although the catch is $7 parking.) In the Wayne’s-World suburbs of Chicago, at the Suburbanite Bowl, I rolled a 107 and a 109, besting Maxwell substantially in both games. The two of us pass baby Nathen back and forth; one holds the baby while the other bowls. The boys’ mom was occupied elsewhere.
On the very last leg of the trip, the call goes out for coffee and/or dinner, and the result (thanks to my wife and her iPhone) is the Romanacci Pizza Bar, located a few minutes off the Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, Connecticut, where we enjoy calamari, lobster ravioli, a white pizza with sausage and spinach, and Italian coffee. The baby has a wonderful time but keeps grabbing at my eyeglasses, and so I take them off and eat blindly (or nearsightedly, to be accurate) for the evening.
Did you know that you can buy souvenirs of the Interstate Highway System? T-shirts, stickers, holiday ornaments, etc. etc are available; check out the link below. I’ve NEVER seen anyone wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of an interstate highway, but I’ll wager that fanboy is out there, behind the wheel of a car or pick-up or eighteen-wheeler, feeling good about himself and life in general. Or maybe a fangirl feeling good about herself.
The vacation is now over, and notwithstanding the upcoming Labor Day weekend, my regular work-a-day life has resumed. I am heartened, perhaps unreasonably so, but still, I am heartened by the unexpected ascension of the accomplished, charismatic progressive Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, to be the Democrats’ nominee for governor of Florida. In the November election he will face some Republican poseur who wraps himself in the MAGA flag of Trump. We need to get Andrew elected! Go Gillum, go get ’em! Let’s make it happen, people!
Of course, we are talking about Florida. So many human souls in their many subcategories, including the natives, the snowbirds and retirees, as well as immigrants from the islands of the Caribbean and points south, and don’t forget the good ol’ boys and gals from points north. Every Floridian I’ve met acknowledges that Florida is…well…there’s no real word for the description, in any language. So I’ll try another way.
At night, regardless of national origin or politics, the spirits of all Floridians descend around a giant inky cauldron that fills a sinkhole in the center of the peninsula, near Disney World. As they perform the exotic dances of their tribes and recite the incantations of their religious traditions, into the cauldron they toss assorted unsavory body parts of alligators, manatees, and other native fauna, sometimes in a puree with handy chemicals, such as herbicides or pesticides, or orange juice concentrate. Those ingredients have been stewing for many years now, under the heat of the unrelenting sun and the warming of the carbon-filled air, and blessed by the transient hurricanes and floods and red tides and algal blooms. No one has any idea what New Entity will eventually emerge from the cauldron. But emerge it shall, one of these days.
I don’t envy the office of Governor of Florida when that day arrives.
Back to that last leg of the car trip, when we are driving through Connecticut, my wife asks me what the date is. It dawns on me that I don’t rightly know, which is certainly a sign that we’ve been on vacation, with normal demands and protocols on suspended leave. So I look at my watch, which displays the proper information, and I announce, to my personal surprise, that the date is Friday, August 24th, 2018.
Well, we made it home to Massachusetts without incident, and now September is just around the corner. Enjoy the fall, and the Jewish New Year if you celebrate that—or even if you don’t.