Back in My Road Days

Prose, including snippets (mini-memoirs).
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Back in My Road Days

Post by mnaz » April 11th, 2019, 7:59 pm

I did crazy runs back then. People back home thought I'd lost it. Robert, the ex-grunt who did time on a Mojave Desert army base, declared everything below Oregon to be a "shithole." But Chef Steve understood. "It's just something he has inside right now," he said . . . I made crazy runs. I returned to the great desert playa a few more times-- to the spaces between, rolling thousands of miles in a few days. I'd slip out of work on a Thursday afternoon to cheat Friday and get rolling, but soon I came to realize the problem of motion mania. A hard run out to the edge might set up a quiet launch beyond, but if I went too far, too fast, I might miss my turn, or a fever might follow me out.

.......I traded eight lanes for four, and four for two, but even two were too fast. My first map had only lines and points, so I always ran to the next point and ignored the blankness between . . . Until I got a better map. It showed every ridge and thin trail, so I could see what filled in blankness; like hawk aeries atop cliffs; or the foolish, joyous squawks of spadefoot toads after blessed rain, out of their sleep holes to play and screw in the mud, not wasting a single precious second as their hardened, hungry predators circled closer; or maybe a rattler twisting away from my treads, at times only heard, not seen.

.......Yet even on dirt I sometimes moved too quickly; I wanted to go see every scene from every angle. But I could never get to it all, only more of it. So where was the balance between motion and connection? I was always rolling too fast in those days; it was six hundred miles out to the edge of trees and no time to get there. But I could still catch a small world's vastness, its creeks, peaks and bluffs-- things you can't get from up in the sky. No, you can't fly hundreds or thousands of miles on an airplane and get the shape of rock; you only get hazy little bumps under the wings. Huxley said we'd fly on rockets by now-- no shape at all, just a blue-brown blur . . . So I would spurn the airport, with its tinny echoes of voices and footsteps on miles of sterile, gleaming concourses, and acres of vast window systems with jet planes creeping and launching in the distance. To get the shape of rock I'd need the surface, at the speed of wheels, no more.

.......I had to get away in those days. To see other places that others had to get away from to see the place I got away from. Sooner or later we all go in crisscrossing arcs and bet the over-under, react and refract, ping peaks and set sights. So I had to make an uneasy peace with the long haul road, no way around it. But I could still find stretches of the Old Road where old classics still stood, with a poetry of their own. The best rooms had some mileage on them, some mix of cracked walls or singing pipes, splintered chairs, antique air and carpet from the Carter years worn fuzz-bare like patterns of dry stream beds. I could find them on the Old Road, the neon streets, literary places, faces nicked, some with big fat door casings beneath twelve layers of paint.

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