Thoughts From The Road

June 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

I just got back from a two-day vacation with my family. Thinking about being away from social media, even for that short length of time, sent me into a state of panic. Of course, I knew I wouldn’t be totally isolated—I still had my smartphone but, let’s face it, it’s not the same as a seventeen-inch laptop screen and full access.

As vacations go, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about social media, or my lack of writing, until, on the last day, I was delegated to sit by the pool watching everyone’s “stuff.” Great opportunity to people-watch, I thought. But, alas, I had no paper or pen! All I had was a miniature version of post-it notes on my cell phone, and the battery was dead.

I would have to rely on memory.

For whatever reason (and I’m not bitter here, really I’m not), I was left by the pool for an interminable amount of time. Even if I didn’t have any way to record my thoughts, I had to occupy my time somehow, so I resorted to studying every person who passed by, like the CDC might study a newly found–and mankind-ending–bacteria under a microscope and to try to save it to my biological memory drive.

I came to a few conclusions rather quickly. One, there are very few normal-weight teens or pre-teens in America. Two, one out of five people have tattoos and three of those have multiple ones.

Sorry, America: not a good look.

But, happily, I did come up with a few outstanding similes out of those traumatic few hours watching the multitudes parade by me in all their swimwear (or lack of) finery. And, luckily, I remember some of these gems while on the drive back home, where I was delegated (do you see a pattern here?) to sit in the third-row seat. I found a pen in my purse and stole paper from the driver’s console and starting frantically jotting down my observations by the pool before they could escape me. Then I started jotting down what I saw as I stared out the window—just random things that caught my eye. After all, it isn’t often I actually venture outside my writing room. I had a goldmine of sensory data streaming outside my window!

So, here they are: my jottings. I don’t know if you’ll find them interesting or not, but some of them will, undoubtedly, show up in my work somewhere. (Of course, I can improve on them, but these were my first impressions.) Nothing earth-shattering here, but reading the observations at some later date might help spark my imagination, maybe yours too.

At the pool:

The young boys like pterodactyls, all beak-faced, thin-limbed and bony-jointed, wings moving in awkward angles as they walk.

The girls like long-necked swans, gliding across a placid, shiny pond, oblivious to anything but themselves.

The boy was bent in a bottom-heavy S-shape, his mouth hanging open with full lower lip jutting out before him.

On the drive home:

Looking down from the bridge, I see patches of bright sun-yellowed grasses

Sun reflecting off the sea-green leaves of cauliflower, running like the ocean to the edge of the horizon

Bridges level with church steeples holding dominion on everything below

Pretty girl in thin pink headband driving a black GMC Denali truck, all smiles, caressing the steering wheel like some grand prize, with her sugar daddy in the passenger seat.

Mexican man holding the steering wheel with determined stick-arms, gaunt hollow eyes and big lower lip in his shrunken face

A woman like an owl, flat-faced, sharp hooked beak, snapping her head in all directions

Kudzo

Three Rivers

Knee-high-by-the-fourth-of-July cornfields

Kudzo

Thump-thump-thump-thump Thump-thump-thump-thump

Power lines like giant six-armed sentries

Water lilies like green rag rugs spread over placid ponds

New cars stacked on trailers — Motor City detritus

Furtive-eyed man sneaking a drink, he catches my eye and, before he looks away, I see a look of sadness and remorse

There’s the same woman we passed five miles ago—how did she get ahead of us?

Ohio farms — long, wide fields of soy, potatoes, corn, cauliflower

Miles and miles of concrete stretching before us like a white snake

Country music on the radio

Periwinkle blue skies dotted with peaked buttercream frosting clouds

Pyramid shapes of a gravel pit – “I ain’t settling” lyrics come over the radio

More slack-jawed children looking forlorn out the window – why are there so many slack-jawed people in this world?

Endless line of orange-stripped construction barrels

Carpool/Vanpool (Arrow)

Concrete igloos

DETOUR (arrow)

Kudzo, kudzu, kudzu

Backyard above-ground swimming pools with American flag flying high

Refuse tossed from cars gathered on embankment – our highways are not a garbage can

“Whatever makes you feel like a rock star!”  on the radio

Overweight black girl talking on her cell phone while switching lanes

THE HENRY FORD

No Trucks Over 14’ ft

The potato….perfected – Mickey D’s

Baker’s Gas (…and Welding)

Little girl in her car seat, swinging arms and legs, saying, “happy, happy, happy.”

Four-story concrete Piston’s basketball next to oil refinery

Play Here! – MGM Grand

Slower Traffic Keep Right

Stacks and stacks of pipes

Ren Cen, Cadillac building piercing blue sky

Geometric patterned Mosque towers

Boxcar graveyard

Red, White, and Blue

Miles and miles of squalid, sad-eyed buildings

Mexican Town! Xochimilco Restaurant – haven’t been there in years. Where has this city gone?

Ambassador Bridge

Soot-cover church spires

Lane Ends – Merge Left

Grand Trunk skeleton

Old Glory

“After you die, you will meet God. Call 1-800-555….”

Old Mariner’s Church (Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald)

Stained glass dulled by grim

Lion’s flags fluttering blue, like royal banners

Ford Field

Eastern Market

Heading home…

This Lane Only

Hall of Juvenile Justice

“Traffic and Weather Together”

Low 57  Now 73 Tomorrow 82

FIREWORKS!

Exit Only

Legal Crisis? Call Ven. Ven can make it better.

Ice Age – July 13th

Low drone of tires on bridge

Habitat for Humanity (we all fall down)

White birds riding invisible spiral currents

Biggie Drinks — Small Prices!

FIREWORKS!

GWKR orange and black gang graffiti

One donation does make a difference – The Salvation Army

Buicks, Camrys, Caravans, Audis, Kias, Jettas, Cadillacs, Chevys

8 Mile Road

Dull army green Chevy with tattooed arm sticking out the window

Senator Stabenow votes down pipeline…

Carriers of explosive flammable material are prohibited

Share the Secret

Magnetic Christian Fish on trunk of car

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Music

Duo Card – Debit and Credit in one

Slicked-back hair, white crisp shirt, talking on cell phone, making a deal

UAW Local…

Big Beaver Road

Under New Management

Hill City Grille

Old Glory flying high

Dickey’s BBQ

Orange-flowered Michigan lilies everywhere

“Forever and ever, amen.”

LOTTO – ATM! Here!

Deep frowns on evening commuters

Green, green grass of home

White-peaked fresh-produce tents

Thin, old woman with straw flat cap, scarf, white shirt, khakis, flat shoes

Billion-Dollar Mile! — McMansion Row – Eminem lives down the road, wonder what he’s doing today.

Been away for one day and everything old looks new again

Bittersweet

It’s always good to be home

(Where’s my laptop!)

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§ 4 Responses to Thoughts From The Road

  • Lovely stuff. I’m sure you’ll use some of those. And your perceptions of Americans around the pool? I’m sorry to say it might as well have been Australia. All those overweight teens is a real cause for concern.

  • J.S. Colley says:

    Unfortunately, I could barely read my own handwriting. (Don’t do much handwriting anymore, do we? And it’s bumpy in the car!) So, many of my observations will take a little more deciphering!

    Yes, Greta, it is sad about the overweight kids. And sad that it’s an epidemic all over the (civilized) world, it seems. There are so many factors involved, I couldn’t list them all here.

  • Bill Kirton says:

    I’m glad it turned out to be a rich break after all. I actually do the same thing on a smaller scale. If I’m stuck or the narrative’s beginning to feel stale, I take a 15 minute stroll into the centre of town and just look around. There’s always some out of the way thing, some individual strangeness happening – something which suggests stories beneath what I’m seeing. Then I go home and write it into my narrative. In fact, before I changed my writing room, it used to be at the front of the house, so I’d just get up, look out of the window for a while and, usually, see something worth embroidering in the same way.

    • J.S. Colley says:

      Unfortunately, I live in the suburbs. I love the wide-open spaces and nature surrounding me, but it’s lacking for good people-watching. It would be great to live in a small town where I could take daily walks. Sounds wonderful.

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