Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the middle of nowhere

I was driving down the interstate today, thinking. What else do you do when you are driving down an interstate? Like always I'm thinking about where I'm at in my life...thinking about how I got here, thinking about where I might be going. I-80 isn't a very interesting route. Not much to look at, lots of pretty fluffy clouds, dead racoons on the side of the road, lots of trucks.

Like I often do, I notice the cars driving around me, how there is a pattern to the craziness. How you end up kind of traveling "with" someone for awhile, because they are driving about the same speed, in the same direction, and you kind of feel like you have a traveling partner, even when you know you don't. But then they get pissy about a slow driver, or take off on some exit to get gas or food, or slow down because they are nervous about a cop you've passed, and *poof!* traveling partner is gone. And suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere without your partner. Your partner that you never really had. But it was comforting for a moment, wasn't it?

I grew up in a little town that has an event every year called "The Middle of Nowhere Festival." When I was about 11, in fact I know I was 11 because it was the year my sister got married, the year my dad died, Ainsworth hosted the National Horseshoe Championship. Who knew such an event even existed? I didn't, but there we were hosting it. And there was this guy, a professional bowler, who was on Johnny Carson one night telling Johnny that he was on the way to the middle of nowhere to participate in this event. So when he rolled into town he was greeted with a huge vinyl banner that said, "Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere." I guess someone needed to depreciate the expense of that vinyl banner, because it became an annual thing every year thereafter. It's been 25 years, and I wonder how many people in that town even remember why they do this? Anyway, I couldn't help but agree with the bowler. I hated the town where I grew up. It was bland and boring and mean and I couldn't wait to find the world, get lost in a city, own some notariaty. I couldn't wait to get somewhere.

I grew up, I went to cities, I slept with artists, I read great books, explored the dives, and drank up the theatre. I gave birth to beautiful children, and I drank in the texture of the world.

And still I wake up again and again in the middle of nowhere.

What did I miss?

I got home and read some blogs. I talked to my friend. I tried to sleep. I filled out paperwork for my divorce. Finally I plugged in one of my favorite movies, even though I knew it was a dangerous choice, American Beauty. It's a weird movie, because everytime I watch it, I identify with all of the characters, some more than others at different times. I thought tonight that I'm somewhere in the middle of all of them. And I laughed. And then I cried.

Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser, and...they're right. I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this..sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.

It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about.

Ricky to Angela
She's not your friend. She's someone you use to feel better about yourself.

Angela to Jane
At least I'm not ugly!

Yes you are. And you're boring. And you're totally ordinary. And you know it.

Our marriage is just for show, a commercial to show how normal we are, when we are anything but.

Angela to Lester
Do you think I'm ordinary?

You couldn't be ordinary if you tried.

I can't think of anything worse than being ordinary.

Lester, closing speech
I'd always heard your entire life flashes before your eyes a second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand-new Firebird. And Janie. And Janie.
And ... Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but its hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. Then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

I don't know where I went wrong, or if I went wrong. Maybe I'm supposed to be in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's where it's all at. Look at the miles of puffy white clouds...the semi-trucks racing by. Look at the road kill and all the people racing to get somewhere. Look at the cornstalks whipping in the wind. Maybe there's something here I missed.

You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry. You will someday.

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