OK, 62

Time was, I would drive happily across the country to drop off a car. Drop it off somewhere at midnight in New York or San Francisco and go look for fun. Usually took me three days, back then.
     Those days are gone for this cowboy.
     Last weekend I drove from Vermont to Washington, D.C. to visit my brother – 460 miles one way – and it damn near killed me. And not because I am 60 years old.
     OK, maybe it is because I’m 60.
     OK, 61.
     My parents taught me that travel is a wonderful thing. They took me to Europe, to Mexico, to Glacier National Park. “Go,” they said – “Travel.”
     I realize now they were just trying to get me out of the house.
     “Thank God he’s gone,” they’d say, closing the door.
     I jest. I think.
     I still enjoy travel, but I don’t understand why sitting on my butt in a car for 8 hours listening to Beethoven takes more out of me than pedaling my bicycle over mountains for 4 hours. But it does.
     I blame it on the Jersey Shore.
     From Vermont to Washington, D.C. you drive through seven states. Mostly small ones, true, but still, one-seventh of all of them.
     Massachusetts is thin, in that direction: no problem.
     In Connecticut it was strange to drive over the lovely placid Housatonic River past Newtown: a beautiful place that our country will remember for several months, until the next school shooting.
     New York has the worst roads of those seven states. This is because the New York Legislature is corrupt, and sends its public works money to connected contractors, after legislators take their cut. (You see the same difference in roads as you drive from Missouri to Illinois.)
     Approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge there are two suicide signs: “Life is worth living,” they say – then a suicide hotline number.
     I lived in New York City, back in the day. I loved the place then, and I like it now. Pardon me for living, but I think it’s a riot that the state authorities realize that a natural reaction to the prospect of entering New York City is to jump off a bridge and kill yourself. So they posted signs to tell you not to.
     After New York, New Jersey.
     It would be wrong, and reprehensible, to condemn an entire state of 8,950,000 people because of the actions of a few of them.
     So I’m wrong and reprehensible.
     I was traveling with my dog, OK? A very nice and handsome dog named Chester, who would not hurt a fly. In fact, he would defend the fly if you tried to hurt it.
     Perhaps New Jerseyans don’t like 100 miles of stop-and-go traffic any better than I do.
     Perhaps 100 miles of stop-and-go traffic is an average day in New Jersey.
     Perhaps all those people were so desperate to flee, or get to, the Jersey Shore, that they forgot that dogs, and people, are human.
     For whatever reason it was, I found people in New Jersey rude and obnoxious. Willfully obnoxious.
     I realize that several fine people have come from New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen and the late Clarence Clemons, and Walt Whitman.
     Maybe there was another guy. Actually, I remember an alto sax player named Anthony who came from New Jersey. He was a nice guy.
     But you can have the other 8,949,976 of them, with my curses. I mean, blessing.
     Delaware is not really a state. It’s a privy for corporations.
     Finally, Maryland, and the Susquehanna River.
     What a beautiful word: Susquehanna. It looks like Huck’s river – slow and fast-flowing past green islands and wooded banks. Indian Country. Makes you want to light out for the Territory. Even if you been there before.

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