I don’t do much long distance driving these days, except to western Ohio to visit my 91 year old Aunt J. She was the last the 3 girls born to my grandparents. Paradoxically, she was the one always in ill health. She had trichinosis in her 1930’s childhood and barely survived. She had spinal fusion during the 60’s—not an optimum decade for surgical tinkering with the skeleton. Though she’s weak as a kitten—between busted spine and unused muscles—here she still is in 2018—breathing and talking, as full of opinions and stories as she ever was. A perfect description for her would be Shakespeare’s: “though she be but little, she is fierce.”
ALL my female relatives were spacey in one sense or another, so I come by it naturally, but with my aunt, I am just beginning to note a faint slippage between her past and future selves. Aging is such a bitch, as it takes place on in both body and brain. Read a Thurber story, like “The Night the Ghost Got in” and you’ll have a acquired good sense of what my family is/was like. (Even the cousin who has become a big shot cousin politician.)
I’ve done a lot of traveling on I-70 over the last thirty years, always making the “homeplace” pilgrimage. In the beginning there would be mixed messages when I arrived. Yellow Springs has acquired a Disneyland quality in my mind. When I was nine, I chronicled the tears in a diary, written on my way home from “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” on the train. We were little and good.
Later, my family and I developed a troubled relationship. There was a rift between their perfect 1950’s genteel world and what I saw acted out by my parents during and after their divorce, and later, traveling around the UK and West Indies, dealing as a teen with my mother’s alcoholism. When I passed 30, mother wrote me off, and so therefore did my grandmother. This, even though I paid tribute to the old girls (Mother and Grandmother and even both aunts) the old fashioned way with 19th century letters sent almost weekly.
Physics—a long side by side train of vehicles emerging in a long snake as we go west out of Columbus, OH. Construction, construction, on I-70 and on I-71, as well as I-270, causes a pinch point of driving stress. The semis are rolling; FDX with pups, Crete, and they are not the only ones, the heavy equipment long bed, except for some big chains, want to run back for the next load at 75-80 mph, and a whole bunch of what I am told are called by the professionals “Roller Skates” are sharing the road with them, driving like fools. There are some grayhairs out there beside me, but I flatter myself that I’m the best driver of the lot.
The rest are “Kids” which is now, in my book, anyone under 50. Of course, the real kids, the backwards hat twenty-thirty somethings—both male and female—can be a real problem. A couple of them in a beat up black Japanese something or other—maybe a fifteen year old Civic—decided that the tiny crack between a semi and the aforesaid heavy equipment long bed would be a good spot into which to wedge.
Maybe they were playing automobile roulette, or maybe they thought they were still in the video game they’d been playing earlier, the one which automatically resets the players at start. From my vantage point, there appeared to be no sense that where we were, this could be "game over," --and not only for them. I took a quick look at the shoulder in case I had to escape. I, at 73, have much less faith in this kind of magical thinking, so, instinctively—I was traveling the inside lane so I had a clear sight line of their dice with Death—I tapped my breaks, just to tune up the guys traveling (naturally) too close behind me.
The long bed hit his brakes and the back of the rig lit up like a Christmas tree. I don’t know if the dopes who’d just asked the truck driver to perform a miracle in order to keep them alive—this, while the poor working stiff is just out there trying to have a decent day in the office. I prayed he did have a decent day, and cast a glance to my right--the shoulder. Fortunately, that part of Ohio is still flat as a pancake, even beside the sculpted earth vandalism of an interstate. No ditches, fences or trees—good! To my great relief—and I don’t think I was the only one in the queue who noticed—there was no collision. We and the backwards hats were spared one of those fatal lessons in the laws of physics.
Yellow Springs: 1.9 square miles surrounded by Reality.
The Sixties landed and never took off from this town (my hometown) in a sometimes less than pleasant way. Some things delight me, the flash back pipe shops, the book stores, the import and antique/junk/clothing shops, the deli, restaurants, and Tom’s incredible grocery store, full of organic free-range everything. It’s the attitude of the visitors, and of many of downtown folks and new residents too that grates. Some towns have town drunks, but YS also has it’s downtown tattooed/pierced posers, coffee table sitters, scattering cigarettes and dog poop indiscriminately. I mean, you can be tattooed and pierced and have green hair—no problem—just be polite. Smile and say hello to people—and don’t let your dogs bite me –or more to the point—my aunt -- in the leg as we pass by. And of course there’s the 21st Century too, to contend with. The cell phone users who insist that everyone needs to listen to their very important conversation, the ones in cars who can barely operate the vehicle because they are busy talking, the scofflaws who don’t use the crosswalks—of which there are a plethora.
Birds—black vultures and where they hang American Eagle by Mcconnellsburg—probably dropped down from Raystown Lake.
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