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So Late Into the Night
Elinor Nauen

III: PINK HIGHWAYS

Now it’s time to shout “Allons! Come with me!”
As we hit the road, see the USA
By way of auto and thumb. My hobby
Is driving, but in an earlier day
It was my life. If invited, I’d be
Avid to split, or I’d spirit away
Alone. I had friends I was devoted
To all over the land, and I toted

Myself often to see them. No money
So I usually hitchhiked. I might veer
Off for weeks or months on a journey,
Or rumba a thousand miles in a mere
Weekend. Motion was all I wanted. Funny,
I don’t feel that different now — to steer
With no output still seems the ideal life
Although these days I’m a worker and wife.

A few summers back I drove with Becky
From Eugene, Oregon, to the East Coast.
That is, with Becky and her two wacky
Springer spaniels, Emma and Jake. Foremost
Quality of springers is anarchy
Of attention and compliance. Milquetoast —
Not them. These dogs need to be tended to
All the time or it’s a traveling zoo.

Springer spaniels are white dogs with brown, black
Or liver-hued patches and silky hair.
Excitable? Understatement! They lack
Decorum! Insanely friendly, with rare
Joy. We had to stop often, to unpack
Leashes, collars, dishes and let them tear
After birds. They’re pointers, who spring straight up
Off the ground (hence the name), even as pups.

We’re packing to leave Oregon. “Oh god
I hate change,” Becky says with a deep sigh.
She’s picking up quarters and nickels, dod-
Dering around her little house, so I
Am not certain which “change” she means. A nod
To the dogs. They leap in the car — they’d die
Rather than be left. And two “girls” alone —
We need these savage pups as chaperone.

Becky’s traveling trick: “I’m taking all
My oldest underwear — the crappy stuff
That’s stretched-out and unsightly and fall-
Ing apart, and every day I’ll slough
It off.” She flings her arms to show the sprawl-
Ing pleasure of America rebuff-
Ing her panties. We also like driving
For its inertia in the guise of moving,

And ‘cause it’s a daydream you can follow
To its end (assuming you’re away long
Enough) and because we don’t have to go
Over the Throgs Neck Bridge. I trust the throng
Of driving gods to get us home. My beau
Is a ton of real steel, singing and strong.
It pulls me like kids to a holiday.
I have no advice for the highway.

I love the highway for its industrial
Driving, its ramalamadingdong.
But the pink highways — the skinny radial
Roads — are pretty and soothing too, singsong
Easy driving. Many folks take parochial
Pride in staying off the freeway. Less headstrong,
I don’t care, I like any road I’m on.
Never an ugly duckling, always a swan.

But now we’re glad to be off the highway —
Also called freeway; in South Dakota,
Interstate; in Michigan, expressway.
Route 11 north to Walla Walla,
Washington. The cool thing here is that state
Road numbers are in George’s head. What a
Great country, full of towns with such names as
Walla Walla, Pukwana and Ramses.

Me ’n’ U Deli in Mapleton, OR.
Wild Winds, which I assumed was a peerless
Road sign. Nope, gated community, Flor-
Ence, OR. Autopia — I sigh in bliss.
Thistle Dew Antiques. The Pink Hole in Or-
Ofino. Fort Fizzle. Thrill-Ville U.S.-
A., an amusement park. InstaLawn
Back in Eugene: “We keep rollin’ a lawn.”

I was happy in Musselshell County
To indulge a hotel hobby — to “fix”
The art. On woodland scenes (firs and Mounties),
I draw dead dogs and peeing men, a mix
Of subjects that is easy (a bounty
For bad artists) and, I daydream, graphics
That may dissuade with my fiddle-faddle
The designs of someone suicidal.

In Montana, an older gentleman
With a springer fell for Beck. You’re it, he
Cried, come be my bride, we’ll live in my van
With our dogs. She declined. Though I could see
Why, I urged yes, with half a mind to can
Our trip: Imagine two hideously
Hyperactive kids in a small plane. You’ll
Want to bail. One good point — these dogs don’t drool.

In the old days you could hop on a plane
An hour after the thought occurred to you
To go somewhere; you didn’t have to pay
Four times as much as those people who knew
Seven, fourteen, thirty days ahead that they
Intended a journey. One time I blew
Up Johnny’s computer. In a panic
Decided to flee to Maine and Janet.

Fast taxi to LaGuardia airport.
Where I see an archetype from any
Year: A man pats himself down for his passport;
Some folks are reading, some sleeping; many
Eye the overhead TV. The sport
I’ve long relished of leaving town when e-
Vents grabbed me is booming. How great it is
To have planes like autos at my service.

I called Janet: “What’s going on tonight?”
“The gang’s in Hancock,” she said, “otherwise
Just hanging out.” “I’m on my way. It might
Be Bar Harbor — wherever the plane flies.”
In an hour I was enroute, and that night
I partied. Sudden movement satisfies
The itch to subvert space-time, plus disengage
Mad husbands and other troubles of the age.

 
 
 
 

 

 
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