Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I remember taking the backroads. We took them because after a while, they were the only way. The highway turned into two lanes, which wound around a field, getting dustier and more littered with roadkill all the time until it was just a dirt road with no sign. And I'd fly over that hill in my uncle's silver two door-something. At the end of the road was a tree-tunneled driveway and if you followed that to it's very end there was a red house with flower boxes on the windowsills and my grandmother's silhouette. There were times when I practically lived there and times when I hadn't been there in so long that I had forgotten that grandparents age, and so driveways need to be paved to be more safe and less wild. I always wish that I was there when I am feeling afraid and directionless and wishing that I was less wild. To sit in the hot kitchen and watch the hummingbirds while she hums and bakes bread.
There is a bakery in a shack beside the ocean. With creamy, rich coffee and sinful French tartes. The back room of the kitchen smells of yeast and weed and the man who makes the pastries could, all physics aside, be Jack Nicholson from The Shining but with dreadlocks and bare feet. If I wanted a cup of his coffee I had to budget in roughly 20-50 minutes of conversation with him when he would ask me some version of the same three questions and about 20 random, new questions during each visit. It always involved me turning down a drag of his joint and him telling me the best beach to go for a Pacific sunset (which was different every time). I decided that every beach was the best for a Pacific sunset, and I concluded that because I, being from Wisconsin, was a newby when it came to the beach and I was thrilled that it was sand and not snow, and that I didn't need any sort of drug to enhance that thrill for me. However, the little,fat palm trees that looked like pineapples, the creamy coffee, and Big Sur were not able to keep me tucked away in the lazy town on Monterrey Bay.
But now I've come to the city. Where there are only wide, busy asphalt roads that lead everywhere and bleed together in dizzying tangles. I try to leave my car hugging the curb of my street and instead ride my bike. My mom's Huffy from the 90's that we tore apart and practically glued together with chewing gum. I painted it pink because something about that makes me feel young and carefree and safe and that's exactly how I feel when I'm weaving around the city sidewalks around people who are giving my nasty looks for not using the bike lane. But, I'm too afraid of the bike lane, and it makes me feel too much like I'm driving a car. I don't like using my bike to get places. I only like it for aimless rides around the old, victorian neighborhoods where there are still crumbly brick and cobblestone streets and hitching posts in people's front yards. And in all of the serenity of a Thomas Kinkade print, the sun starts to set, the old stone houses with their crawling ivy and not-too-groomed hedges glow in the sun and the streetlights begin to flicker on, and I turn and take the few blocks home.
I am always comforted to hear the late summer buzz of the cicadas in the oak trees in the city or the suburbs because it reminds me that the country and the city are homes to the same creatures, just living in different homes with different chores. Even my grandmother in her floured aprons and rows of carrots is only a half day's drive from the heart of Manhattan where other old women bake the same bread, but wear fancier aprons. Even my small urban apartment is only a few hour's trip into the heart of the North Woods and all of the wilderness that it houses along the shores of the Big Lake where I take a wooden canoe along the curvy rivers rather than my mismatched bike along tattered cobblestone.
At home my cat flops on the windowsill, watching the neighbor's shadow on the curtain bounce here and there in the orange light of the street lamp. He isn't amused by the whine of the ambulances or the clattering of the recycling bins. He twitches his whiskers, only mildly entertained by the squirrels than run along the power lines- which happened to also be the highlight of his afternoon while he lived in the woods. Windowsills are all the same and I am always the same.
Velcro shoes and training wheels or high heels and a taxi ride. Growing up or aging. I'll leave it all at the intersection of McFadden Road and Ocean for a nap on 7th Avenue West.

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