am standing in the elevator of the fifteenth hotel on the seventeenth day
of the Road Trip and I realize I don't know what floor to select.
I guess the third floor. I step into a hallway of identical doors.
Which one is mine? I could go down to the front desk and ask.
Instead, I insert the key card in the first door and start working my way
down the line.
Day 17 and I can see the Atlantic Ocean from my
window. From my window I can also see a shipbuilder repairing two
large oil drilling rigs, fishing boats tied to the piers and small
knots of intoxicated, lower-class Maine residents attempting to avoid running
into small clutches of tipsy, upper-class tourists.
Sunday, I left North Bay for the drive to Montreal. Eastern Canada
is beautiful. Tailored farms with perfectly maintained buildings
give way to rolling hills cut with elbow lakes and lazy rivers. The
drive is longer than I expect and it is late afternoon before I reach Ottawa.
Traffic picks up and I'm speeding at 130 kph (~80 miles per hour) toward
Montreal. I'm following the directions provided by the hotel and
searching for exit 720, which doesn't seem to exist. Suddenly I'm
on an expressway without exits and Montreal is in my rearview mirror.
miles outside Montreal, some help via a long-distance call to Dane,
I get the MINI turned back around. It is seven o'clock when I finally
pull up to the front door of the hotel.
first admitted mistake of my trip: Scheduling just one day in Montreal.
Montreal is beautiful. Someone comments it is the most European city
in North America and on first glance I'm agree. Not only is the city beautiful,
but it is populated with men straight from the pages of Vogue and Men's
Fitness. The hotel front desk manager is clearly on loan from the
light court at the d'Orsay.
Paris is beautiful, but the Parisians have yet
to realize they all need to learn English in order to serve American tourists.
In Montreal all the Francophones speak passable English, making it a destination
even the most nervous American can appreciate. Try and get a medium-well
streak in Paris and you get shoe leather; in Montreal you get a perfectly
done filet mignon. (This paragraph sponsored by the John Ashcroft
Institute for World Peace.)
late, I head eastward across Quebec before turning south to Vermont
and New Hampshire. Quebec is as beautiful as the rest of Canada.
The farms are exquisitely well maintained and every one has buildings with
bright red roofs.
I clear customs and head south then east across
Vermont and New Hampshire. I am driving through a postcard.
Every vista, every
view, every scene is perfect - green
rolling hills, churches
with spires, tiny towns with amazing houses and buildings (except for
the occasional WalMart and RiteAid).
much in life is a matter of perspective. Standing at the bottom of
a mountain and staring upward through the camera's viewfinder, I realize
this photograph will convey only a piece of what I see. The size
and grandeur of this spot will be lost when it is reduced to pixels.
The only way to fully understand the experience of standing at the base
of the mountain is...well...to stand at the base of the mountain.
Irvin Yalom in his textbook Existential Psychotherapy
suggests there are four basic existential questions we humans face.
One of these is individuality. In short, no matter how well we may
communicate, how hard we strive to convey to others our experiences, in
the end these are solely our own. Try as we may, we can never fully
bridge the space that separates us from others. The lyrics to a song
from Hedwig and the Angry Inch state "We spend our lives trying
to shove ourselves together again.." - the idea that we look for love primarily
as a salve to the reality of our separation.
above me is the mountain. I stare upward and then I send you this
taste of what it was. You imagine it as you will.
Having now spent two days on winding, two lane
roads through Canada and New England, I'm certain it will soon be time
for me to leave San Francisco. There is just too much planet to live
in one place for too long.
Sitting in Portland,
Maine, the smell of ocean air in my brand-new hotel room, I ponder
this question: What does it mean to "Support Our Troops"? I've read
this statement on a thousand signs, mostly on businesses, from California
to Maine. I suppose it conjures up memories from Vietnam and three
decades past. What, exactly, are these signs calling for us to do?
Are we supposed to mail rolls of Certs and little bible tracts our boys
and girls in Iraq? How about not kicking out the homosexuals who
choose to sign up for the military? That would be supportive.
that I'm done ranting I will say this last important thought: There
is a lot of beautiful country out there. Get in your car, climb aboard
a bus, buy a train ticket - just go see it. Travel provides perspective.
The world is a a giant disco ball. If we stand in one spot for too
long, we just see our reflection in a single mirror. When we
spin around, it sparkles. (Don't worry, I'm slapping my own hands
for writing that paragraph.)
So, I am in Portland,
Maine - four thousand and some miles from San Francisco. And
morning, I get to go see something I've wanted to see since I was ten years