June 24, 2008

driving up to New Hampshire

Some people like driving alone. It's a thrill. Good for thinking, with the red line of taillights like a guide to your thoughts, and the whole country linked up through the Eisenhower interstate system, and you're alone with your rattly engine and some meditative work. Not me. I want someone there to change the tape and read the directions and pass me a water bottle. But I can do it, and I take a certain grim pleasure in the doing - mostly in my ability to do it. The apex of that particular masochism came in 2006: 2500 miles over 5 days, one of them the 14-hour haul from Des Moines to Vail. That spring I put over ten thousand miles on my car, including 1500 in one particular weekend, almost all of them driven alone. It's exhausting work, strangely, to sit in one place and stare, carefully, ahead and behind and to the side while making small adjustments to a wheel and some levers.

Sunday night I left home at 5 pm and drove more or less north until 1:38 in the morning. Up through New Jersey and over the George Washington Bridge and across the Bronx. I stopped at a little gas station in northwestern Connecticut, did jumping jacks while I pumped gas, and laughed at some teen-ager who told me he liked my car. Got sweaty and exhausted and that feeling - does anyone else get this? - that my eyes are something like the robot's in Wall-E: set way back in the middle of my head and taking up half of it, maybe more.

It's so awful but it feels good.

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