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
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
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
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?
Soot-cover church spires
Lane Ends – Merge Left
Grand Trunk skeleton
“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
This Lane Only
Hall of Juvenile Justice
“Traffic and Weather Together”
Low 57 Now 73 Tomorrow 82
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!
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
Big Beaver Road
Under New Management
Hill City Grille
Old Glory flying high
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
It’s always good to be home
(Where’s my laptop!)