Sunday, July 20, 2014

On a track, pie-eyed and leanin’

It was one of the quieter rides into Marquette that I have ever had, and I realized this somewhere between Carla’s Cozy Inn and that restaurant in Michigamme that’s famous because a scene from “Anatomy of a Murder” was shot there.

I can’t remember the name of the place.* But I know it. I always drive by it. Duke Ellington played piano there, for the movie, and Lee Remick was dancing, perhaps drinking a bit too much. Jimmy Stewart was playing with the Duke, playing piano, and he probably tried to get Lee Remick to sit down or settle down or something. Anyway, it was somewhere around there that I realized there had been no radio, no Springsteen, no nothing, just quiet inside the van ever since home.

Josie was asleep.

We passed more than one dead skunk.

We passed and dispersed many murders of crows picking over roadkill.

Well, that’s interesting. A group of crows is called a “murder.” A gaggle of geese, a passel of hummingbirds, a murder of crows.

Certainly there’s a mystery novel in there somewhere.

One car passed me. A bit later, I passed a car.

That is it. A quiet drive into the Marquette Farmers Market with Josie asleep by my side.

train going one way

I had a train of thought going. What a cliché, I thought, as I thought how I had a train of thought going. But it’s apt and it works. There is a track. There is a wheel. There is a groove in the wheel and it fits on the track and it catches hold and it goes and it goes and it goes. It goes along smoothly, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Just a soft clickety-clack, clickety-clack. If nothing gets in its way—no pebble, no robbery—what is to stop it? Each murder of crows scuttles and hops to the side of the road and the train stays on its track. If the murder did not move and one hit the murder the description of being derailed would be apt. If the murder did not move quick enough and one felt compelled to slam on the brakes the screech of steel on steel might well be, metaphorically, heard.

But the crows move every time. Just in time.

A bit of an overcast, then the sun shines through like a hole punched in the sky. A bright yellow hole with jagged edges. But the sky cannot be punched through because it goes on and on and it is endless. It starts here and it goes there and there is nothing here and nothing there. What is there for the sun to punch through? Oh yeah. The clouds.

It was a quiet ride with a train of thought, a train that has not yet reached its destination.

train going another way

Perhaps it was in Ishpeming that I turned on the radio. Just to see. The first song I heard was “Lean on Me.” I thought of an all-staff meeting (or whatever it was called) many years ago in Chicago for Hull House Association and I was there and at some point we were all standing in groups around tables where we had had lunch and we were singing this song “Lean on Me.” It seemed kind of hokey—how did it get started?—but then, it’s such a good song, and don’t we all know the words? And I really did like my co-workers, the ones I was standing with grouped around this table of picked-over food, so singing “Lean on Me” with Peter and Curt and Rachel and Ed, who I suppose were all there along with whoever else, well, that was very much fun. It was, maybe, like, 20 years ago?

The next song to come on the radio was a silly one. A Hall & Oates song. Every time I sang the “hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo” part Josie kissed me. He had awakened at the first stoplight.

* Oh yes. The restaurant is Mt. Shasta.


  1. At 10 AM I got a friendship request from Leslie Allen on Facebook. ???!!!!???? Could it really be? After all these years? Now, it's 1:36 PM and I've read about dogs and cabins and travels and orphans (read the whole thing!), abandonment, new love, word songs and dancing.... What an unexpected delight! So much of what you have said rings so true for me, too. We left Chicago for the "wilderness" at about the same time: you in 2004 and me in 2005. I landed in Paducah, Kentucky, and like you, have roughed it in an old shack. It's warmer here but I've never been colder in my life than living through winters here.

    So, you made me smile and cry (real tears ran down my cheeks). Both of us with long white hair and dead dogs now.... New dogs and wanderings... Make Kentucky a stop on your next road trip! Seven hours south of Chicago, cross the Ohio River and here you are. I guess I better head on back to Facebook and go accept that friendship request!

    1. And now, with the Miracle of the Internet ... Rachel! I never would have guessed you were in Kentucky. And really, it gets cold there? Never mind. "Long white hair and dead dogs" is a good title, for something. Will think about that.