The International Writers Magazine: The Road to Pittsford
Upstate New York.
Ivan Maddog Noble
Some stretch of stone between Albany and Syracuse.
I was heading West on New York's big Highway 90, a long and delightfully smooth trail from Albany to Rochester, and beyond. That weekend had turned out to be a real scorcher; it was the end of an especially warm June, and the temperature was nearly unbearable.
The first leg of my pursuit was a 300 mile dash from my own familiar Connecticut compound and a lovely safe-house in Pittsford, near Rochester. If you've never been to Pittsford, the bridged canals and honest architecture stirs a deeper membrane in every heart. The clever slogans painted beneath every riveted arch bridge evoke a sort of leidenschaft; leidenschaft for the daring, hospitality, wit.
Like most adventures taken in the blistering heat of a bleach summer, I expected to be driven indoors by the fast and unrelenting sunshine. Yet unlike my previous journey to the Lakes, the radiation didn't bother me one bit; I had become accustomed to the heat; the sunshine was in my eyes now, and a healthy tan drawn onto my left forearm.
The most wonderful vision I have from this drive was the way the pollen from Catalpa and Sambucus trees hung about in the air, lazily taking in the sights and sound of passing our speeding automobiles. The yellow haze, whitewashed by the passionate sunshine, obscured in the most passive way, the contrast of the dark overpasses against the blinding blue sky. The natural wind had fallen back into Leningrad; the Sun's gamete blitzkrieg settled into my car, flowering only the textured dashboard. I was in love, still am, in fact. That memory will stay in my mind until I join the bright, cloudless sky.
Quick and sideways recollections from those bushy five hours on the Massachusetts/New York speedway. Just too many months have passed since.
There I was, just a kid with a borrowed Toyota. Running away … Again. I wore faded Nantucket shorts, a thin white camp shirt splattered with black Hindu patterns, aviators – my usual choice in wanderer's garments. The air crested at my driver's window and swept through my hair, rolling also across my chest. A nearly-full aluminum can of Coca-Cola suspended by my dancing hand; pointer-finger free to twirl and trip with the invigorating blazes of a solo played by Big Brother & The Holding Company:
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
About that time I was doing upwards of ninety-five, whipping the teeny Japanese four-cylinder to the red line and back. I was on the rising swell of a marvelous high; the wind, the rays, the soundtrack were symphonic together, pure disco: Pax Americana.
Speaking of.. The simply surreal visitations of a pre-war America appeared and disappeared with the horizon. Ancient farm houses built at the dawn of the 20th century, and labored in through the Depression, and prayed in during the times when life seemed like an uphill battle. Generations of forgotten old men lived in these timber palaces. Each husband and wife worked for chore, living, and self-satisfaction on their own farms, an independent lifestyle, free from the smog that settles in the Big City.
Nostalgia? Some things swell in my chest when I picture the long established cliché of a farmer rising with the yard's brave rooster, who honorably gives salute to the new day. His precious old wife milks Betsy and collects the hen's eggs. The boys and girls jump from their room and rush to help Pop in the barn, they know if he's about a good mood later they'll get to go into town with him in the bed of the '48 pickup, columns of dust gently wafting into the early afternoon skies.
Christ, I'm a hopeless romantic.
||The ideal farm aside, I can't help but think about how this asphalt ribbon I cruise on was received by the communities along the roadside. How did Joe the sixth-generation farmer react when he was posted a notarized letter from the US Government politely informing him (in typewriter font) on the decision to pave an interstate through his town. What did Helga from Rome, NY feel when the civil engineers waved about in steam shovels to unearth a swath of turf not fifty yards from the home her mother had been born in?
It must have been exciting, scary, and confusing, even. Big Highway 90 cutting their family farm in half! Positively surreal. I would like to sit down and talk to any man or woman who might give me perspective on that.
There's no exaggeration here, I could see the paint on the porches beginning to flake and peel, they were that close.
A smile twists onto my sweaty face as I consider all the points about the farms here. The powerful emotions wrapped up in the torn shingles hanging from the roof; a nearly overwhelming flavor steams in my brain. I'm a nerd for history, I loves stories of when and where. The eroticism of a past life, the plenty of things, devices, ideologies that were around before I was. How the highway mixes itself up in the lives of these farms, adding a new and potentially fatal dimension to their story.
1958. A few local kids in their cousin's cherry-red pickup spin in the freshly turned earth of the construction site after the workers have retired for the evening. Earthen berms, that have yet to resemble the on-ramps they will become, are tried and tested as small jumps and inclines for teenaged skylarking. Failing to outrun the police, the driver (our mutual cousin, Jason Allen, 23) is summoned to court at the local fire-house. Charged with trespassing, destruction of property, and reckless endangerment, he's staring down at eight months in the brig – but the judge, himself an Italian Campaign Veteran, offers to drop the charges if Jason enlists in the Army. Jason agrees, and swears he'll volunteer to avoid jail time. He does nothing of the sort and the whole issue is forgotten within a couple of weeks. He lived in that gray farm house I just passed, the one that just disappeared behind my shoulder and the one I will never glance at again.
I feel spirited to coast up and down these hallowed lanes, cruise back and forth from free-thought, indulge the cornerstone of conscience.
I turn off at my exit, heart pounding with fear that I will be forgotten.
© Ivan Maddog Noble
12 October, 2015
noble.ca256 at gmail.com