A few Fourth of July notes from today’s road trip to Mount Laurel, New Jersey, from our home in Arden, North Carolina; tomorrow, I drop off my son Nicholas at week-long Dragonfly Forest camp — autism-week edition — near Philadelphia:
- Getting up at 4 makes a long drive shorter. It also makes a short night shorter.
- Virginia State Troopers take the Fourth very seriously. There was a trooper at every single exit-entrance and every single trooper crossing thingy starting at about 6 a.m. (um, not sure people were drinking for the Fourth yet — well, among non-collegiate adults), very actively raising state revenue like, um, troopers for literally a couple of hundred miles. People were pulled over everywhere we looked for two to three hours until we passed the dragnet. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it: very intense.
- I-81 in Virginia was the road we were on the longest today, and it glides by sumptuously gorgeous country. And a lot of state troopers.
- I did not see one car pulled over in New Jersey.
- On this trip we winged through Northern Virginia and on the Beltway lipping D.C. I spent my undergrad years at Georgetown, lived in D.C. and Arlington, and got engaged and then married during those years. I hadn’t been back — even to the limited extent I actually was “back” today — since college, other than attending a BookExpo America trade show in D.C. for New Age Retailer magazine a decade or so ago. Even just passing by and through was surprisingly and deeply affecting and memory-triggering.
- To drive up through Jersey to New York on the Turnpike in a car is now $13.85 (see pic above) — happily, we didn’t go that far. The tolls in other states were already higher than I remember them. Um, from 30 or so years ago, when I was growing up in New York. I will temper my outrage.
- If my mother were still alive, she’d still be outraged that a newspaper costs more than a nickel.
- By tomorrow, if you count D.C. as a state for Nicholas’ purposes, we’ll have at least lipped through eight states to get him to camp: N.C., Tennessee, Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I’m fairly convinced there is no state named Delaware; it’s a fictional entity wittily conceived by Maryland just so it could put up still another toll booth.
- My son Nicholas remains the best car companion ever. We alternated between singing and dancing (top of bodies only on both of us: click it or ticket) to CDs — Songs in the Attic (Billy Joel), It Happened One Night (superior Japanese
version of the Holly Cole live CD), the second (Count Basie) 1966 CD in the Sinatra Vegas box set (we like the 1987 fourth disc best, but it’s pretty scratched up, as my car CDs all eventually become), the Billy Joel Storytellers boot, Cash’s American IV album, and Gravel & Wine by Gin Wigmore — and napping. Nicholas, that is, was napping, unfortunately not me: he refused to drive again. Other than that, he’s the best car guy ever. And I wonder what I’ll do one day when he surprises me and agrees to drive: I really do ask him. But that would only be legal in Delaware.
- Tonight after we settled into the hotel, we went out to pick up some soda. I talked for a while to the woman at the checkout. As we were driving away, I was thinking about something she’d said, and somehow I realized that she had a hard New Jersey accent. I didn’t notice it at all as we talked. Both my parents were born and raised in New York City, I was born and raised on Long Island, and growing up all the variations of accents in the area never even occurred to me: they all sounded perfectly natural. They still do, apparently. By contrast, after eight years of living in the South, I still notice Southern accents — which come in a myriad of forms, sounds, and degrees — each and every time.
Nonetheless, we persevere and celebrate: Hope y’all also had a happy Fourth. Yo.