Sunday, February 10, 2019

THEY SAY THE NEON LIGHTS ARE BRIGHT

The Church of the Open Road gets some culture

It could be reasonably suggested that more culture exists in the average Petri dish or unattended vegetable drawer than exists within me.  That said, on rare occasion, I’ve made it to New York just to get a dose.


They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.  And whoever they are, they’re right.


Our plan was to see Jeff Daniels in Aaron Sorkin’s new stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  And we did.  


Sorkin and Daniels teamed up to provide a 21st Century take on a 1930s circumstance that, sadly, is still all too prominent.  Had seeing “Mockingbird” been all we'd do in the city; the trip would have been a huge success.

But “Chicago” was continuing its decades-long run and Cuba Gooding Jr. would be featured for just a few more performances.  


The songs, the story, the choreography all made it unsurprising that – even on a cold Thursday evening in February – the show would again be a sellout.

The wild card Broadway show was “The Band’s Visit,” a lesser-known musical about an Egyptian “Police Band” visiting Israel to perform for some official opening but finds themselves stranded in a small Israeli village for the night after having boarded the wrong bus.  


A soulful café owner, a heart-broken kid waiting by the phone, a timid, self-conscious teen are matched with the uniformed Egyptians (all of whom play their instruments during the show) as both comic stories and painful relationships develop. 

 Of the three shows, it’s the one I’d want to see again.  (For Candi, it’d be “Mockingbird,” and I’ll gladly go with her.)

As a child of the west, I enjoy a good canyon.  A narrow one with limited, winding access.  One where history took place that most people fly over.


But canyons in New York City are quite a bit different.


They are straight-edge straight paved routes where the winter sun might make it to the bottom for twenty minutes on a clear day.


Were it not for the sirens wafting up from below, the traffic’s roar from atop the Empire State Building sounds surprisingly like the rushing current of a spring time, snow-melt filled Feather River back in northern California.  Almost soothing.


The City does a good job of setting aside some very pricy real estate for open space.  Central Park is grand as long as you don’t try to compare it to the Tetons.  And city blocks, here and there as set aside for sitting and chatting and having a cigar.  Very pleasant.


In this urban environment, I was delighted to catch glimpse of something natural going on in a rather unnatural place.


A few shout outs:  The Park Terrace Hotel on 40th Street is a four-years new construct walking distance to Times Square and the theater district.  https://parkterracehotel.com The staff is more than accommodating and delight in hearing about our day.  Across 40th is Bryant Park and the New York City public library – an architectural masterpiece that deserved our visit.

Astro Restaurant at 6th Avenue and 55th Street is a place I’ve stumbled into twice now. http://www.astrorestaurant.com/index.html   I’ll go back next time for another pastrami on rye and some fries.

Fine & Rare https://www.fineandrare.nyc offers enough choices in Bourbon and whiskey to make me more pro-choice than I already am.  Menu, presentation, preparation and service are outstanding – more than the average country boy might expect.  And the every-night live jazz featured this night a melodious songstress offering her take on the Great American Songbook – sometimes in French [pause for heart palpitations] – and a bass player who made me wish I’d practiced more as a kid.


The first time I’d visited the World Trade Center, several years ago, I must admit I shed tears at the two pools built on the footprints of the once-mighty twin towers.


This time, we took the additional step of visiting the profoundly moving museum assembled beneath where those towers stood.

Remnants of the foundation’s structure tell us something about the fallacy of foreverness…


… and the hulk of Ladder 3 reminds me not everyone who wears a badge or dons a uniform is a hero. Circumstance will determine who’s who.  New York City’s Fire Department(s) lost 343 souls in one day. Each a hero.  


More tears.

New York is a fabulous collection of contrasts: rich people and the down and out; soaring high rises and tiny historic chapels in their shadows; rushing traffic sounding like a wild river... 


...and from a distance, a still life of humanity’s greatest triumphs and greatest failures.

As we fly west, I wonder if I’ll ever be called back…


…and I revel at the open space beneath me.  From 36,000 feet, it feels more like home.

© 2019
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, February 2, 2019

THE SEARCH FOR EDWARD’S CROSSING

…a backyard adventure…

After an evening of drenching rain, a walk in the woods near our house seemed in order.

The brook, we find, has grown almost to creek size…



…and the trail – groomed though it is – is wet and slippery.



Bay leaves, accentuated by the moisture, offer their distinctive fragrance…



…and the madrone reach skyward, slick and shiny.


Sonoma County trail volunteers had recently widened and manicured the network of trails created by those of us who’d trespassed the area – even to the extent of adding stout and substantial bridges.


Now, I’m told by an acquaintance of mine who happens to be mayor – mayors are easy to meet in small towns such as ours – that the trails committee is seeking names for the paths and points of interest in the area.  

Edward and Candi chug up the trail, looking for that special place – the place Edward clearly enjoys – where he can wade and splash while we, the people in his entourage, try to negotiate a creek crossing on available rocks.


A section of the route clings to the edge of a wash-out.  One false step would surely be painful.


At last, Edward finds the old spot where he’s frolicked in the cascading rill – the place we’d named Edward’s Crossing – now bridged by a… well… bridge. I’m not entirely sure how he feels about this improvement.



To my acquaintance or the trails committee, I think I’ll suggest the appropriate name for this place whether Edward likes the new bridge or not…

© 2019
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, January 17, 2019

“THE LONG HAUL” – A BOOK RECOMMENDATION

There but for the Grace of God… 

I pedaled LTL (less than load) freight during college and for my first few years in teaching.  A buddy hooked me up with a Northern California outfit and during a couple of ten-week stints in the summers, I made almost as much as I did in nine months of teaching.

Never driving line, I envied the independence and freedom of the guys who took to the open highway and, while putting the pedal to the metal, probably enjoyed the vast reaches of our great land.  So much so that during my first several months as a self-doubting classroom teacher, I thought a lot about trading my credential for a class 1 operator’s license and hitting the road with ‘em.  The romance of the open road stuck in me pretty good, so I considered the option again with my first self-doubting months as a school principal.  And again, as a district-level administrator.

Finn Murphy writes of his decades-long career hauling home furnishings across the nation.  Turns out that the furniture folks who drive for United and Allied and Bekins and North American find themselves in different league than those who drive for Werner or Schneider or Swift or Prime or Crete.  The freight guys essentially pick up a loaded 53-footer from a dock and go to the next dock, back ‘er in and clock out or wait for the next call from dispatch.  The furniture folks have to meet with the shipper (customer) analyze that which is to be moved, arrange casual (local labor) assistance, pack cartons, load the trailer like some sort of three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, get from point A to point B on time and without damage, unload, unpack and place everything.  It’s a days-long process with days-long-only relationships. The driver is an independent business person who deals directly with the customer – a customer who all too frequently looks down upon the individual with whom they place in trust the most valued of their possessions.  Odd, when you think about it.  

The furniture hauler can be shackled by weigh-station officials, many of whom are intent on exercising an outsized amount of authority; and disappointed by dispatchers who promise a lucrative load that doesn’t materialize after having dead-headed (driven empty) hundreds of miles to pick it up.  A week of driving for Allied is a lot more taxing than a week driving dock to dock.  But it pays a lot better.  Sometimes four to ten times as much.  Thus, the furniture guys are shunned by the freight guys wherever a good shunning can take place.

Murphy, a well-read, well-educated individual, turned his back on the conformity demanded by parents who sent him away to college. It seems he couldn’t shake the “romance” that came with his college-years summer job.  His story of unsuccessfully backing his trailer down a twisting drive, feathering the brakes down a seven-mile stretch of curving, icy roadway rather than chaining up, and of not being entirely sure the second story deck could support the weight of the grand piano and his two helpers makes for an entertaining read.  I was captivated by the wisdom of his insights about the people he’s met and his thoughts about what America both was and has become. 

I’m glad Finn Murphy drove truck and wrote about it.

And, looking back, I’m glad I didn’t.

See your local independent book seller.

o0o

“The Long Haul.” Subtitled: “A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road.”  Finn Murphy. WW Norton. 2017. $17.

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018: THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN ROAD’S YEAR IN REVIEW

Another year of travel and adventure…

Click on any picture and they'll all expand.


Sunshine, an old barn and dry pavement.  An upside of climate change might include that January 1stis a good day for a little ride.



Pigeon Point Light Station in silhouette.



Discovering the place where old Willys Jeeps are born again.



Sand dollar and its track across the beach.  Who knew?



Old Schoolhouse #1.



Study of a Lake County marsh.



Evidence of Bruce Wayne’s rather unceremonious demise.



Manzanar, again.  Lest we forget.



Return to Simpson Camp.  Will revisit with Mom in May 2019.



A full-to-the-brim Pinecrest.



All-too-frequent hillside scene #1.



The Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds.



View from Wallowa Peak.



All-too-frequent hillside scene #2.



Old Schoolhouse #2.  [Hells Bend School. “Gimme an H!  H! Gimme an E! E! ... ”]



The family adds a new member.



Budapest cathedral.



Danube panorama.



Czech village.



People you meet on the road.



Into the Klamaths.



Art you can drive.



Going for a physical.



A perfunctory picture at Portrait Point.



Our carbon footprint gets smaller.



Shots of the Year:

3rd Runner-up:  The cat who owns at least the barn – maybe the entire ranch.



2nd Runner-up: Shades of “The Great Escape.”  Seventy-five years ago, people died trying to cross the Czech-Austrian border.  We breezed through in a tour bus.



1st Runner-up:  Enrico, the Yamaha, heads toward the Marble Mountains seemingly without me!



Shot of the Year:


Sunrise in Central Oregon.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press