At age 35, it would be nice if I finally understood how time works. Instead, this is what it looks like when I try to take a late afternoon hike:
90 minutes before sunset: Intend to go hiking.
50 minutes before sunset: Actually leave to go hiking.
40 minutes before sunset: Arrive at destination and proceed to walk original intended distance, due to inflexibility.
10 minutes before sunset: Run to cover more ground until darkness makes this an unwise course of action.
Sometime after sunset on the line between dusk and night: Arrive back at car with no dire consequences having befallen me, thus reinforcing that I can get away with this, whether or not I actually like it.
It’s been especially fun when they show up because we’re watching a lot of 80s cartoons lately, and the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that rainbows are the gold standard in fighting evil, fascism, dark magic, people who hate fun, and people who live in castles that are very dark and pointy.
I’m not a car person, so I can only describe what passed by me on my walk in my rural New England town as a retro-future, cyberpunk Indy 500 car with strips of neon green lights blinking along its edges.
It was blasting not the synthy industrial action music that is its birthright by genre, but one of the more emotional Goo Goo Dolls songs.
If you didn’t think it was possible for a month to physically assault you, I’d like to introduce you to July. Yeah. It’s hot.
And before we even made it to summer, I’d already had three sunburns on my neck. Sunhats aren’t my style, but one was obviously called for. After way too much searching on Amazon, I found one that makes me look like the silent ghost of a murdered widow. Or at least like a witch who has been reluctantly dragged on a beach outing.
But the sun is already setting earlier each day. Halloween is coming.
A car is a tool, in the broad sense of the word, and since I live in the country, it’s a necessity. A means to an end. It’s a mass-produced machine, not a work of art, and many identical cars are still on the road. Yet, the moment that large, expensive machine stops working evokes all kinds of weirdly sentimental feelings. Even for someone like me.
Baby chickens turned out to be fascinating, and I didn’t expect that. Despite being on board with keeping chickens as part of a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle, I’ve always kind of viewed chickens as fairly …
Even though I enjoy exploring the woods beyond the beaten, dog shit-lined path, I like trail markers.
Maybe it’s simply the sight of a colorful splotch of paint on rough tree bark.
Maybe it’s the secret code aspect of trail sign, bits of twigs arranged in symbols and arrows, miniature rock cairns reassuring you that “this is the way.”
Maybe it’s because I’ve been a hiker my whole life. I can remember all the way back to when I was three years old, running through the woods, ahead of the rest of my family, following the bright paints. Because the trail markers showed me where to go, I could run from the hot sun to the relief of tree-shade and be safe, cool, and alone for a moment, until my family showed up.
Trail markers went with shade, rocks to climb on, and a canteen full of sun-warmed water.
It’s weird, but I have a mild fear of becoming lost. Weird, because I’m good with directions, and have only been truly lost a couple times in my life. If I’m driving somewhere and want to try a different route, I can usually wing it and end up in the right place. Winging it does not include GPS, which is no fun. It’s hand-holding, and on the inside, I’m still the kid who ran ahead of her parents. Trail markers, maps, and compasses reassure me, but I can get by without them unless I’m in a totally new place.
I’ve been writing a children’s chapter book with the working title “Pumpkin Goblins.” The main character is a kid who’s having the worst Halloween ever, and I gave her my fear of getting lost. Only for her, it’s not a mild fear that crops up now and then. It’s a big enough deal that she wears a compass around her neck at all times. My own fear may be minor, but it made me curious. I didn’t know why being lost scared me until I wrote most of “Pumpkin Goblins.”
Becoming lost is a loss of control. And if you keep a tight enough hold on your map and compass, if you keep your trail markers in sight, maybe you never have to experience it.
It might not be immediately obvious what’s wrong with this picture.
The map is a portion of Clinton, MA. Note the address of Lou’s Diner.
At first glance, it looks like there’s some kind of glitch with Google Maps that caused a diner from Las Vegas to appear to be in a town north of Worcester, MA.
But…but…but… Google is infallible, right? Google doesn’t glitch. And its eventual planetary hegemony will be a good and benevolent time for the human race, won’t it?
Of course! Because of this, it is seems rational to entertain the possibility that there has actually been a space-time distortion, and a diner from Nevada now exists in Massachusetts. It raises a lot of questions.
Is Nevada now actually a part of Massachusetts? Is Massachusetts now some kind of geographical bag of holding (or pseudo-science-that’s-actually-magic term that means the same thing) that can contain oversized states from way out west*? How do Massachusetts gambling laws affect the State of Nevada now?
Furthermore, do I still want to stop by this place to grab a bite, knowing that the anomaly could cease and I could be snapped up and transported to Nevada, a place that I imagine as a vast desert crossed by a handful of infinite highways and a splotch of neon-lit gambling?
For someone with an extreme aversion to hot weather (like, over 70 F) and an overblown fear of snakes, the desert is easily the worst place in the world.
Would you dare enter such a diner, knowing the risks?
UPDATE: Driving through Clinton, MA the day after I wrote this post, my partner and I did not see any sign of Lou’s Diner. While it’s possible that we were distracted by talking about the Wachusett Reservoir, or Klingon language issues, it seems just as likely that Lou’s Diner has been returned to Nevada where it belongs.
*I use the term “way out west” to signify the western part of the United States. This is in contrast to the Massachusetts meaning, which may indicate any part of the state west of Worcester.