Images from The Road. Images from the Land O’ Corn, Quixotesque windmills standing taller than you could imagine, amidst old barns and homesteads and seas and seas of genetically modified corn. Driving through tall corn an hour or two before dusk, you can get fairly mesmerized. That black loop of highway spreading out before you, the radio crackling. First your baby drops off to sleep, then your wife. You’re the last man alive on Planet Corn now. The lake water is drying in your hair.
Yesterday, on the way back from the in-laws’ lake house, we stopped to gas up at a little gas n’ go outside of Paxton, Illinois. A car pulled up just as we did, and a sun-drugged family stumbled out of sedan doors slowly creaking open and you saw their feet first, light and furtive against the pavement as if testing its density/ability to support an individual human’s weight.
A line forms in front of the men’s bathroom. I have my shades on, as does the fella behind me, an older Black man with an S-curl and a thin moustache that makes me think of Chuck Berry. “How you?” I ask him.
“I’m all right. Could do without this drive though. You?”
”About the same. Where you headed?”
”Back home to Memphis. We come up through here to Milwaukee over the weekend for a funeral.”
”Sorry to hear that. How far’s Milwaukee from Memphis?”
”It’s a long way off. Maybe fourteen hours.”
A flush issues from the toilet behind the closed bathroom door. It’s a one-seater. No urinal. The wait is endless. Momentarily, a giant will emerge, except he’s just a huge, swollen overgrown kid in shorts and a shirt. Probably the victim of some kind of glandular disorder. Towering above me, he says, “Excuse me, sir,” in a warbly soprano voice, and slides between me and the Chik-O-Stik rack. He could crush us all, but he’s gentle as a hen.
”Safe travels,” I tell Chuck Berry.
”Yeah, you too.”
Outside, a group of bikers on Harleys stomp around, grinning wildly about esoteric biker things only they could comprehend, strapping on bandanas and shades, adjusting mirrors. Getting ready to posse up and get back on The Road, which I’m happy to report is still The American Road, where America continually intersects with itself in novel ways, via gasoline engines, kismet, deaths in the family, and natural wanderlust…a need to see that black ribbon unending, and a view of the world unpackaged and unavailable for sale, distribution, ransom, or consumption. Nothing is owned, really. We only sell and buy the illusions of ownership. That’s what The Road told me yesterday anyway. I dunno though. It might have been The Corn.