Friday, September 14, 2012


I woke up in my motel room in Cleveland Ohio this morning around 7:30 A.M. Eastern Time, and now I am in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago, and I don't know what to write.  The morning started out well.  Approaching downtown Cleveland around 10 A.M. my pulse jumped up about 20 beats when I spotted a Doritos truck up ahead.  I stepped on it hard and jockeyed through morning traffic to take some video of it.  I was alive and I knew it, and the chip truck was barreling through traffic.  It was headed to drop off a load of corn chips somewhere, corn chips for hungry Americans to snack on in their cars and offices.  The sky up ahead spelled heavy rain, weather blown in from Hurricane Isaac.  My morning exhilaration stopped hard—rather it was transformed into hyper-focused adrenaline when my car penetrated the center of the storm about 20 miles west of Cleveland.  Windshield wipers went on full blast.  If someone could design a truck that does not create an intense screen of spray when barreling full tilt over watery roadways, that person would become the God of road safety.  Interstate 90 is a truck route, the most important vein of commerce that connects the two great, industrial power-houses of the north, New York and Chicago.  At one point the tail-lights ahead of me vanished in the morass of precipitation and spray.  When entering a storm on the interstate, it seems to be the habit of drivers to act as if nothing is happening.  Visibility is drastically reduced, but the tempo of the traffic is a slow animal to respond.  The truckers, carrying freight, dominate the tempo, and they cannot afford to lose a minute.  Eventually traffic did slow down.  It simply had to.  One couldn't see more than fifty feet.  I found an exit for a service station through the screen of solid grey and pulled off the road.  This was the worst of the day.  The rest was sunny and gorgeous.

I got off the interstate around Montpelier, OH (exit 13), and headed south on Ohio state road 15 toward Bryan.  When I was planning my route this morning in my Cleveland motel room, I couldn't help but think about my roommate back home in Massachusetts.  He spells his name B-R-I-A-N, but B-R-Y-A-N was close enough for me.  I would get off the interstate around Montpelier and take Ohio 15 down to Bryan where I would pick up US HIGHWAY 6 and take it west.  This is The 6 Motels Western Adventure after all, and my on-board compass read "W" most of the day.  Bryan, as it turned out, was a classic, old middle-American town with a healthy-looking Main street—prosperous mom and pop businesses and well cared for period architecture.  I kind of loved it.  Of course, Bryan did have its share of modern glitz.

OK, so maybe some metallic streamers don't amount to modern glitz, but it's close enough for me.  What I liked about Bryan from a glance was that it was decidedly sticking to its roots, but not sticking to them so hard as to be insane.  Ohio is one of the political battleground states, and this particular Ohio town seemed to be very aware of its identity.  Perhaps its identity is a little stuck in the past, and perhaps some of that identity is misguided and unfortunate—pesticide and herbicide ridden soybean and corn fields stretch from horizon to horizon, and there is land for sale everywhere—but Bryan has some pride of place.  This world might not be perfect, but our town is still worth loving, so Bryan seemed to say.  South of Bryan, I picked up US 6 and headed west into Indiana.  Indiana, one of the most troublesome states of my heart.  But that is another story.

Northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio look pretty much the same, and I imagine that apart from a few minor political differences and a couple state laws they are the same.  They are both soy and corn based economies—fuck, so much of this country is—and their landscapes are pretty much the same, too.  Rolling hills, grain elevators, straight roads and hardwood trees along fence lines.  At one point in our history, this was the western frontier.  People from the east came out here to stake their claims and make lives for themselves.  I imagine that they were enterprising farmers.  I imagine that they were blond Europeans, too.  I saw a lot of chunky blond-headed Americans along this stretch of highway.  I saw them in their cars at traffic lights, and I saw them with big Cokes at gas stations.  It was like blue skies, green fields, silver grain elevators, and white people.  I saw a lot of American flags, too, and I wondered about the upcoming election.  When you live in cultured and educated place like Northampton, Massachusetts, you forget how anyone could ever be a Republican, or rather, how anyone could ever fall for the jingoistic rhetoric of RED WHITE AND BLUE.  But the important thing about the flag is that it includes all three of those colors, not just red and not just blue.  If only it included a couple more colors, I would be happy.  I did take a detour to look at a beautiful lake.

I did also pop this shot of an Amish woman on her bicycle.

And famished, I did also stop for an Arby's beef and cheddar sandwich.  

It seemed only fitting to eat one, seeing as I was surrounded by corn fields whose kernels of corn were destined to become feed for cheap beef.  I am not a foodie.  In fact, I hate the word.  Food is something that I love and respect, and I do go to lengths to eat good food, but there is no food I am above.  This sandwich was more than a little smooshed, and it didn't taste all that great—the meat was slippery and the cheddar was fake—but it was sustenance and I loved it all the same.  The re-hydrated onions stuck to the tips of my fingers as I passed farm vehicles as soybean fields receded in my rear view mirror.



1 comment:

Cameron said...

Ha, looks like you would've gone through Waterloo, which is about 4 miles from where I am volunteering on a homestead. Turns out it will have heartbreak associations for me. Too bad as it's the state of my birth, also.