Saturday, July 08, 2006

"As middle class, young, white liberals, we naturally felt guilty."

This blog has become so stagnant that I can actually smell it when I log in these days. So, as an exercise in writing (and futility), I will, in the days to follow, post some writings that I did about my trip to New York a few years ago that have never seen the light of a backlit computer screen, in an effort to get my feet back on the ground of regular writing, and since the recent posts on this wretched mess have been about travel, I considered it to be somewhat apropos. Forgiveness, please, if any of what is to come is boring or uninspired. This is more for me than you. Enjoy. Or not. You know, whatever.

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Day 1
On Sunday morning, Rebecca and I arose at a leisurely hour- 10 or 10:30- and made final preparations and object gathering for our road trip to New York. We made it out of the apartment and into the car, all systems go, by 11:00, which surprised even me. We got gas and were ready for the open road when a snag arose: I had forgotten my map of NPR stations across the country- the map I essentially paid $35 for when I pledged membership to the local station, incidentally (or perhaps not) for the very reason of road trips. No matter. We were merely one minute from the apartment, so I returned and retrieved it, and we made our way, our long, three mile, arduous way to the interstate.

Interstate 30, to be exact. In our haste to get on the road, we failed to eat anything, and we were both quite hungry, not to mention a little queasy from a night of drinking with Nick and Steve the night before- a sort of unintentional bon voyage, as Steve headed to the farthest Western reaches of the continent the following morning- the polarity of life pulling each of us in opposite directions, at once the same.

We hit standstill traffic just east of downtown Dallas, a strange anomoly on a Sunday, orange cones and police cruisers directing traffic around an invisible accident, at least as it appeared when we passed it. We were anxious to eat, and the choices are not scarce on this stretch of road, but I was determined not to stop until I was unfamiliar with the territory around me. This is how I guage progress. Had we eaten anywhere before Rockwall (which is where I worked at the time -ed.) I would have lost the sense of being on the road, and would be liable to lounge and drag my feet. Rebecca complied, and we waited until we were approximately 82 miles from our starting point, and pulled into an unfamiliar town and ate at an unfamiliar IHOP amongst the post-church crowd.

Stuffed into a tiny two seat table in the back, I accidentally got too animated in a classic Jonathan rant, and said 'fuck' a little too loudly next to a family of five, three of which were under the age of six. Oops. We distracted ourselves from talking until the food came by playing children's games of shaping and reshaping straws into makeshift hearts, which quickly degenerated into some form of flick-soccer or hockey across the table, scoring goals and changing the rules mid-flick to make the game work to our own exclusive advantage. By one, we returned to the highway and continued, or rather, began the long trek.

We traveled approximately 882 miles the first day, eventually surrendering to the hypnosis of the road in La Grange, Kentucky, where we stopped at 4:30 a.m. at a Days Inn. On the way there, we passed through, amongst other little towns, Little Rock, Arkansas, Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee. In either Memphis or Nashville, we stopped to eat dinner after minutes upon minutes of indecisiveness, at a Shoney's that, while quite crowded when we arrived, quickly cleared out as soon as we sat down. We sat next to one another, as we usually do, and faced the front of the restaurant. Soon, an overweight black woman and her daughter sat next to each other at the table directly in front of us- facing us- and in an instant we were essentially sharing a table with two complete strangers, face to face, as if we were communing with friends or family. With both of us as insecure and inept at dealing with social situations as we are, I cannot speak for Rebecca, but I for one was uncomfortable. I don't like people looking at me. Of course, I realize that this is a very conceited thought- as if the lady across from us even saw us, much less took the time to fully look at us. Her attention would likely have been focused on her daughter, who was clearly severely retarded, or mentally handicapped, or whatever it is you say these days, but even this was not the case.

Perhaps the eleven or twelve years that she has had to deal with her quite needy child had left her numb and spiteful or simply indifferent, which, at any rate, left her free to ignore her daughter and stare silently at her menu, addressing her child only when she became increasingly loud in calling for her mother to look at any number of, to the ordinary mind and perception, inane objects and details. She seemed to continually stare at us, which made me less uncomfortable than if a 'normal' person was doing it. When Rebecca got her baked potato, she hit her head on the low hanging light when she got up to dress it at the buffet table. The little girl found this hilarious, and laughed and laughed. I laughed, too. The little girl quickly diverted her attention to other things, and we ate.

After we left, Rebecca was honest enough to admit that watching the little girl eat (a ridiculously messy sight) was uncomfortable for her, and she had to stop looking in that direction altogether. I felt the same way, but I was reluctant to mention it, as I didn't want to seem like a close-minded fool, simply because a little girl ate messily. As middle class, young, white liberals, we naturally felt guilty.

3 comments:

The Fith Horseman of the Apocalypse said...

Good to read your work again.

wordgirl said...

Not young...so much. But liberal. And I live in Fort Worth. Good to see some thinking people who blog in this town...for once.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for stopping by, wordgirl. Hope you'll continue to check in. How'd you find me, anyhow? Feel free to send me links and such, being in ft. worth and all. My email's jgpool@gmail.com. Good to hear from you!