Friday, May 8, 2009

Things on the Side of the Road

When it gets warm out, I go for an awful lot of walks. It's always been that way. When I was in Minnesota, I had a route for whatever mood I was in, but my favorite was on a road that eventually turned to dust and dirt, which cut through fields of soybeans. That was all you could see for miles: dirt road and soybeans. One day while I was walking that road and kicking up dust, a busted-up farm truck passed me and the boy sitting in the passenger seat leaned out the window. I thought he was going to whistle or swear or say something sly, but he put a duck call to his mouth and quacked at me instead.

Today I went on a walk to explore my new neighborhood. It was the middle of November when I moved to the new apartment, and I wasn't much in the mood for walking then. Snow was just around the corner, and I was in a bad mood because of a boy. I spent weeks under the covers in my bed, drinking blackberry vodka mixed with ginger ale. Anything that required I be away from that bed or the TV just beyond it was not a priority.

But now it's spring, and everything is green, and I am in a much better mood. Last night I put on my new satin high heels--the ones with the rosettes--and chose a cute outfit for underneath my gown, hood, and hat. I watched three hundred seventy-five students walk across the stage to get their diplomas and, afterward, cookies and punch.

This morning when I woke up--in a fantastic mood--I decided it was time to see what was what in the new neighborhood, and so I took off. This area of town is interesting. I live near the municipal airport, so there's always lots of coming and going. From my office window, I can see tiny planes scaling the trees, building momentum to fly up the coast. And today on my walk, I got to watch a few planes land on the long green stretch of airport lawn, which made me miss Mankato and those times Dan took me up in the plane to float over the flatness of Minnesota. But I didn't dwell on the old days for too long--mostly because there was an awful lot to see. It's junk week here, and everyone has dragged their weird what-do-I-do-with-this trash items to the curb, so there was plenty to admire. Still, some of the most interesting stuff wasn't even in the junk piles; some of the most interesting stuff had just been tossed into the ditch.

My two favorite things were these:


A sign on someone's garage that identified it as Asshole's Garage. The beefed-up SUV that sat in front of it had a Yankee Candle car freshener--pink--hanging off its rear view mirror. It was a great image, and I figured the man and woman who lived there were inside, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbons and listening to Winger. He was probably talking about the bike he bought--without her permission--and was trying to fix up. She was probably busy adjusting the ribbed tank top she'd cut to short to expose her stomach and thinking about that guy who works the cart return at the grocery store, the one she always winks at when she was on her way inside to buy cigarettes.


A unicycle--short, gold, glitzy, the type you'd expect to see in a circus. It was in the ditch. Seriously. It had just been abandoned in the ditch. Parts of it were rusting, and a section of it had sunken into the mud. I kept walking, hoping I'd find something that went along with it--a top hat, a sequined outfit, an organ grinder--but no such luck. Still, you can bet I'm saving that, that I'll use it someday--along with other small details I'm picking up from this side of town (the corner variety that sells pickled eggs and toilet paper and mustards and ketchups that expired in 1999; the shrine to Mary that is missing the ceramic Mary and is now a giant empty halo; the huge plane that's parked next to the airport tower--it seems too big to have ever, ever, ever made a safe landing on the short, grassy runway, which of course makes you wonder just how the hell it got there anway.)

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