Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going to Town

It's what we do when we run out of food, gas, or entertainment. A one way trip can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. Fog, rain and wind are a factor in the journey, as well as traffic volume. The experience changes seasonally, and can be dramatically different if you are driving your pickup filled with treasures for the dump v. say, the hotel's van on a laundry run or an SUV load of kids going to a soccer game.

"Going to town" is an expression that works both metaphorically and literally: We go all out when we go to town, most of us making that drive at least once a week. According to Rootsweb, for our American Wild West ancestors the phrase meant going where the action was, while the Urban Dictionary reminds us that in Ye Olde England, the phrase referred to something a little naughtier.

The Big Sur Town Trip phenomenon proves that yes, it is possible to run errands for 6, 8, 10 hours at a stretch. Detailed town to-do lists are generally left behind on the refrigerator, and often an odd juxtaposition of tasks takes place. This can be comic, as when we get our teeth cleaned on the same day we get the kittens spayed, or a real pain, say when I had our taxes done in the morning, and suffered through a mammogram in the afternoon. Squeezed mercilessly twice in one day!

Strange things can happen on the road: not just the frightened drivers who navigate Highway One at a snail's pace, the occasional motorcyclist with an obvious death wish, or the sad-faced hitch-hikers with signs that say "South". Once I found a delicate gold wedding band abandoned on the blue tile sink of a gas station restroom. Another time, when I was traveling at 50 mph, a vision-impaired owl smacked the top of my windshield and flew on, leaving a few soft feathers glued to the glass.

If "the Road" is a metaphor for Life, then the citizens of Big Sur live that poetic reality every day on Highway One. At one end of the spectrum, some make a dedicated effort to rarely leave their nests. At the other end, one can (as an old boyfriend of mine once claimed) suffer the "Jack Kerouac Syndrome" and constantly be on the road, again.

And this process of reflection has led me to recall the lovely Sikh lullaby:

May the longtime sun
shine upon you.

All love surround you
And the pure light within you
guide your way on.

Now, that's a song to come home to.

Photo "Bathtub view" by Linda Sonrisa