Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Did you know it’s against the law in Pennsylvania to have worry beads hanging from your rearview mirror? It counts as a windshield obstruction. They won't stop you for worry beads, but if a state trooper happens to see you, say, speeding on I-80, he might, if you are lucky, write you up for worry beads instead, and save you $72 and points on your license. In gratitude, I kept it under 75 for the rest of the trip.

I also took a few detours on scenic routes. This was in on Route 6, in Ohio, alongside Lake Erie:

An alpaca looks like a cross between a sheep and a camel. It looks like something out of a fantasy novel, like those animals with seedpod wheels in "The Amber Spyglass," the third volume of the Philip Pullman trilogy.

Beyond the alpacas was a beautiful rose garden, and I doubled back to smell the roses. They were planted in a big round arrangement, like a mandala: red, yellow, white, coral, pink. This deep-pink rose was the sweetest, sweeter than Kool-Aid.

While smelling the roses, I heard mariachi music. I had stumbled onto the Lorain County Latino Celebration, in Lakeview Park. The singer, playing a guitarron (a jumbo guitar), was holding his high notes in shameless showoff fashion. Lorain, Ohio, calls itself "The International City," and between the mariachis and the alpacas, I was inclined to go along with it.

On the way home, back on I-80, just as I was getting into that part of Pennsylvania where traffic starts to build toward New York, there was a sign flashing the auspicious message “FAIR TRAFFIC.” I never thought of traffic in tidal terms before, but I guess the two rush hours are exactly that: the morning rush, or flood tide, starts at about 7:30; the ebb begins at perhaps 3:30 or 4. I was going against the tide, and with cars that is a good thing.

I arrived in Manhattan a little after 6 P.M. I can never decide, when I come back after a long trip, whether to go straight home and unload and worry about alternate side parking in the morning (once I get out of the car, I am not getting back in), or to cruise for a spot and carry my baggage several blocks. I decided to cruise, as K Street was not far out of the way (nothing), and then I might as well try the block where the good independent coffee shop used to be (nothing that wouldn’t make me feel like Cinderella’s stepsister trying to squeeze her big foot into a tiny glass slipper), and as long as I was fantasizing I visited the Sanctuary, where, lo and behold, even though the car in front of me turned into the cul-de-sac, with room for only seven cars, and paused as if to back up into a spot at the far end, miraculously it left the spot for me: the best possible parking place, good till eight o’clock on Thursday morning.

So I had to carry home a basket containing a rust-colored chrysanthemum with a crown of blossoms about a yard in diameter. It was worth it.


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