Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Road Tripping

 A friend and I make our way mid-July  from Washington, D.C., to Bridgewater, New Hampshire, stopping in a pre-Revolutionary War home outside Philadelphia and going on to multi-faceted Poughkeepsie, N.Y., headed for two nights in Stockbridge, MA., around the corner from Tanglewood, and finally reaching tiny Bridgewater (outside Bristol) on the sixth day. A total of 689 miles and no protest at all from the four-year-old MiniCooper. Philip Caputo did an even longer trip (Florida to Alaska),  creating a book out of it (see 'The Longest Road'), with homage to the wanderings of predecessor William Least Heat Moon.
 We had no vision in mind beyond a chance to drop in on familiar terrain that would remind us of the distinctly different demographic and geographic contours of the Northeast. Nothing to prove beyond the pleasure of the changing scenery, though in hindsight, Berkshire country and New Hampshire terrain (both coniferous and deciduous, ticks and mosquitoes) aren't really so different. Go with the flow and come back with new memories. Swim in a clear cool lakes and gamble on good weather (70 to 100 degrees) with history as an aside. The Philadelphia origins of our country, alongside Franklin Roosevelt's 20th century legacy laid out in the modest splendor of Hyde Park. N.Y. before coursing onto the sublimely elite Tanglewood festival scene, second home for many of New York's Upper West Side denizens .
Road trips may well be an American invention. A person doesn't think of the Silk Road in those terms. That fabled journey was meant to get you from one place to another in record time doing some commerce along the way. Modern tripping implies rambling, discovery,  escape.
It's possible, of course,  to take a road trip by foot through the city, looking up and around and poking in and out, learning as you go. There is a certain conspiratorial sense among city residents who choose to - or are forced to - stay home in the middle of summer. No better demographic view can be had of them than the barely-dressed patrons of the Olympic-size outdoor pool at Hains Point in the Southwest. Swimmers and dabblers are a mix of brown and white, sleek and slow, awkward and athletic. A cozy cross-section cheerfully engaged.

Street Scene Summer '13

The report was alarming: neighbors at dinner report elders/seniors/whoever watch the weather channel more than any other channel on TV.  (They also stated that no one reads an entire email anybody, that bullets are a necessity.) That  was enough to send me the next day out into the street again, to engage the world. First, to line up for a free preview of a new movie about STeven Jobs. Alas, all seats taken but a promise of another showing if we give the young lady our email contact. She writes it down laboriously with pencil and paper. Jobs is in the poster as a technicolor hippie guy. (The friend with me reports that her granddaughter was introduced to her first black and white movie only recently - Heidi, an old version apparently - and loved it. A touching note about generational bonding.)
So we amble the Georgetown Waterfront streets and run into a young woman introducing herself at our behest as ' Jackie', who is wearing the Google Glass and looking something like a grasshopper on patrol. She is some sort of inspector general overseeing software functioning, testing it out. This comely well-spoken friendly 30-something lass then allows us - at our suggestion - to do some testing ourselves. Glass is one-up on Jobs for sure but hardly ready for prime time. Audio is key I guess. (See Gary Shteyngart's tryout with the thing in this week's New Yorker magazine ( I only could see strange visions in my upper right eyeball, maybe real-time looking back at me. "You have matching iPhone," Jackie notes with satisfying chirpiness. Tangerine! Yes, but what good is an iPhone when I can't figure out to take a picture of myself wearing the tangerine Glass. Jackie can do that and more when I fumble around with this old-fashioned device that uses keys...