Saturday, June 11, 2011
As a human species, we believe strongly in borders. How we can make artificial lines and call one side one thing, the other something else. Kind of like smoking and non-smoking sections of restaurants in the 80s.
We just wanted to get across the border into Iowa. Get away from the wind, the threat of something yet unnamed, cross the Missouri before the flooding found us. Jerry Seinfeld has an old routine about how if your seat cushion “becomes” a floatation device, why doesn't your plane just “become” a boat.
Everything would be better in Iowa. Iowa would be milk and honey and streets of gold, every promise of every mythical city. It would all be different, if we could just get to the other side.
We passed through one city whose large brick high school proclaimed proudly that it was “Home of the Cyclones.” We kept driving.
Naturally, my knowledge of tornadoes comes mainly from the “Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy banging on the cellar doors with her yet to be ruby-slippered feet, flying monkeys, that sort of thing. I have this vague of idea of a stillness involved either before the twisters twist or at the center or somewhere there is stillness. Isaac is reading the Magic Tree House series by Mary Osbourne Pope. In the books, 8-year-old Jack and his 7-year-old sister Annie go on adventures to different times in history in the magic tree house they find in the woods behind their house. At the end of every first chapter, there is the same scene/same lines. The wind begins to blow and the tree house spins. “Then, everything was still. Absolutely still.” Isaac recites the lines with us – or rather blurts them out before we can get to them.
I had a heat rash and no ankle bones, and then, before you knew it, there was Walnut. Walnut, Iowa (population 895). The antiques capital of Iowa. With Camelot, er, the Econolodge waiting for us.
And things felt different. They really did. Another border conquered. The wind probably hadn't lessened, but it's like buying something expensive – you have an investment in it being good and so you believe it is better than it may be.
We walked into the Econolodge lobby and said hello to the desk clerk. In that moment Isaac and I turned our heads toward the enormous flat screen TV where someone was just about to fire something explosive at someone else, and BLAM! The dream was dead,
The desk clerk, who was in fact the manager, a San Diego transplant, complained bitterly of his fate stuck in “Hillbilly Hell” and took refuge with his internet access to current movies. “I got 'Kung Fu Panda' on over there, if you want to watch!” This was directed at Isaac. He probably said it 100 times. I viewed him suspiciously – how does one just end up in Iowa – to stay? There is so little we have control over. But, see Iowa? should be one of those things we have total control over.
That night, Mike and I would have enough time, space and air conditioning to review what was going on for us. He explained that he felt a sense of irresponsibility to be doing the trip at all. I always knew there was a term for what I was, and all these years, it had been just beyond my grasp. Ah, yes: irresponsible. How could it have escaped me? He was wasting his time in these Midwestern towns that felt like stuck energy, “fly paper” he called them. Unpaid leave?? Who ever heard of such a thing?? He was going to arrive too late to continue the opportunity his job had given him to work remotely; they'd fire him; we'd never buy a house; we'd all end up destitute. It went something like that.
“So is the key to alter the feeling of irresponsibility, or to avoid doing the things that make you feel irresponsible?” The latter. Well, that puts us in an interesting position at the moment.