We finally managed to leave when it was approaching five o’clock in the morning. I repeated to myself a couple times that I was glad that I had been able to leave work at two in the morning instead of when my shift ended at seven. It’s hard to say when we might have left the house if I had left work at my scheduled time. It took us only about 15 to 20 minutes to actually pack what we needed into the suitcases, but my traveling companion had yet to finish some paperwork, part of which still needed to be delivered to a co-worker, this same morning, after we were finally engaged in leaving our little town and setting out to meet the world.
The morning had a familiar hue and ambiance. It was not unusual for me to have left for work, even if it had several years in the past, at nearly five in the morning, while it was usually half an hour or so after that time, and there were many times, also several years in the past, when I had taken my beloved to the airport at this same time, back when she was flying.
The car had been loaded with care and all the important things that would be needed in the cabin of the car, during what was reported to be a 26 hour drive, had been thoughtfully stowed within hand’s or arm’s reach. We made the short detour from our route to the freeway to deliver that paperwork and then pointed ourselves east and began our journey. I believe it was a solid five-thirty before we were actually progressing, directly, on the freeway, toward our destination, and the sun was still below its bedroom horizon. It’s essence made the sky first a shade of not-dark and then one of barely-light, finally bringing itself to the healthy state of certain-gray running into morning-white, and then full orange-light as our star finally pulled back the curtains from her rest and shined full upon us.
I had been awake since about five o’clock the previous afternoon and wondered how long my night and day were going to be. The plan was for me to drive till we got to El Paso, where my bride would take the wheel and I would try to get however many hours of sleep the riding and baby would allow me. I guess the Starbuck’s chilled coffee and the sodas I had consumed were a bit stronger than I imagined they would be, and served to keep me awake far longer than I had anticipated. At any rate, I drove till we reached San Antonio, at seven-thirty in the evening, where we decided to call it a day.
Bottle after bottle of Starbuck’s worked their special magic as we progressed through our Arizona and headed into New Mexico, and the great Texas beyond, and finally into Louisiana and the New Orleans that was our destination. The drive from home to Tucson, and then outside the realm of these familiars, was uneventful and the light to moderate traffic allowed me to take-in the passing landscape without taking too much attention from the roadway and my driving.
The desert greens were muted and then bright as the sun rose with her waking and illuminated our part of the world. Mesquite bosques flourished in the open desert and in the tucked-away canyons and crevasses of mighty rock and the lava detritus afterbirth that reminds us of our region’s violent beginning. Stands of Palo Verde and sweeping hills covered with forests of Creosote, Desert Broom, Prickly Pear, Cholla, Barrel and Saguaro Cacti caught my morning eye as we sped along the highway. Buzzards and hawks were overhead and Cactus Wrens, Quail, and a score of other unknown feathered creatures scuttled and fluttered from branch to branch and stalk to stem as we sped past their homes. Hills and rocks and canyons and slopes and washes of rivers and plateaus and crags and buttes and promontories of majestic, dizzying height and ancient, blown volcanic craters’ remains and the sun and breeze and gusts of blown, heated wind, pushing along the desiccated Russian Thistled tumbleweed and the mini, tornadic dust-devil spinning around the skeletal remains of the downed Saguaro whose ribs and roots and falling skin return to our Mother and nourish the little verminous denizens and passersby; and these are all ours and yours and us in one.
We passed the stopping places of a people gone-by and looked and saw the things they left behind, the homes and workshops and bars and sheds and corrals and memories of things that we didn’t know, that used to be, in times not ours but theirs and then. The gray, sun-bleached, wooden remains of those sheds and houses and lean-tos and shouts and yells and whispers and faint yet urgent baby cries and sighs and groanings of comfort and rut and despair and the mumblings of bucolic weddings and funerals and birthings and dyings beneath the apple and peach trees that had been brought-in special from back east, and the tears of joy and hate and disappointment and heartbreak leaving raindrop shadows and images mixed in the grain of the split boards and shards of memory-broken window-panes that throw their prismatic gleam onto the two lonely, letter-faded crosses inside the wrought-iron, grated fences that adorn the resting souls’ resting-places; and we kept on our way as we had a place awaiting us and memories to make.
Not too many soda cans and way too many cigarette butts adorned the interstate that took us where we were going. Roadside relief and stations for gas and food and cellophane-wrapped, conjoined, spoon-fork mutations and a fancy, six-dollar car-wash wax-job to remove the bugs’ remains were cast along our path, and invitations given to dine with Wendy and old McDonald and Taco Bell and Whataburger and Taco-cabana and Burger King and Pizza Hut or to have some home-made single-serving-sized pecan pies from one of the locals who knows the manager of the Texaco or the Chevron, or Exxon or Pilot or Giant or even Joe from Joe’s Gas Station and Eatery…and we brought all that carbonated, fruit-flavored, bottled water from Wal-Mart and were content as could be; even Boogie, in the back seat, cradled and imprisoned in his rear-facing infant-carrier with the chest clip that wasn’t engineered well enough to prevent a six-month-old from figuring out how to remove it from its safe, collared position and use it as a teething toy. The little-one was a happy traveling-companion who had hundreds of open-mouthed, toothless, slobbery, eye scrunching, nose crinkling smiles, and those, along with the miles and miles that became ours with the highway that erased the new-rubber flashing from the tires, and the gas-mileage and wind and uphill and downhill grades all combined to bring us nearer to New Orleans and farther away from the comfort of that and those which and whom comfort us when the need for comfort is upon us.
We had passed Casa Grande and then Tucson, the childhood home of my bride and still the home of both sets of our in-laws and other relations and the place where we say we all come-from; and then left for and through windblown, hazy, sandy-aired, sneeze-inducing Wilcox and were greeted by Welcome to New Mexico and visit happy Lordsburg and Deming and Las Cruces and were suddenly in Texas and El Paso.
My bride and I, we wondered at the disparity that is delineated by the verdant flow of the Rio Grande, and considered how we felt when we looked across that watery divide and wondered how they felt when they looked back at us. Do they wonder at us? Do they see the magnificent homes on the side of the hill-mountain that lies to the north of the freeway and overlooks their pastel and dirt colored homes that are stuck to the opposing hillside to the south of that grand river? We know they must look. We know they must dream, for they come across the water at various costs and become us. They become us in time and place and clothing and food-consumed and cars driven and children spawned and gods worshiped and prayed to and scorned for the troubles and inequalities and misplaced dreams that someone and somebodies isn’t and aren’t allowing them to pursue as fully and with as much rapidity as they would choose for themselves.
And that river area was ever so green. The water must have flowed so much farther out from its bank than we could see, for the life-exuding greenery extended for a hundred yards in both directions, beyond and beside the fence and dreams and pastel and dirt colored homes. Huge trees of Cottonwood and Salt Cedar and happy bushes and grasses and shrubs and more trees and probably some fish and shrimp and bugs and life and reeds and living and flowing and the taking of life and dreams away and bringing them back again; to cross and begin anew, something that we don’t have to cross a river to do. And so we don’t, sometimes.
The road brought construction zones where the fines were double when workers were present and the little, white VW Pasat that just couldn’t go one mile over the posted 55 because the driver’s white, 45-year-old-female-self just had to control something and we were in the position to be controlled behind her, and that’s not too uncommon. We wanted to go faster and she wanted us to go not one mile an hour faster than 55 of those miles, with her as our guide and conscience and protector of our finances – and a cranky bitch without a smile. Didn’t she know that New Orleans and its French Quarter and Storyville were calling me? Didn’t she know that C.Z. was calling, calling for you and for me, rather for my bride, to come and learn about the Working Model of the Child? Couldn’t she sense all of that by the bugs on our windshield and the fact that I had my lights on, hopefully bothering her in her rear-view mirror as she glared backwards at me with her ash-blond eyelash-ed gray eyes? It really wasn’t that big of a deal – just another example of power distribution and usage, those who have it and those of us who had to drive behind the white Pasat. To be continued….
September 22, 2009 | Categories: I Was There | Tags: Arizona, cacti, color, discrimination, French market, gators, Lake Ponchartrain, Metarie, New Mexico, New Orleans, plantation, Texas, travel | 4 Comments