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April 12, 2015

Journal From the Road: New Bedford, MA

     Journeys are not in search of fulfillment, although the Travel Channel would have you believe they are. You are supposed to feel the romance of tourism from your comfortable armchair. Maybe you won’t be leaving the chair tonight but I will be squinting at the headlights, lost in the backwaters of a town that could be all towns at 1:00am: steam from the grates, a raincoat in the shadows, the blinking warnings that caution me to slow down for utility workers who are home in their beds, the empty taxis and buses, the steel gated storefronts, the odor of piss and vagrancy, the siren of a speeding police car- while the huge crustacean of civilization lies asleep deep within its shell. It all says no to romance.

I travel as a means of storing up my stories. But when I'm traveling there is no future or past, only the present. The hours in a motel room are lost to the doldrums. Chunks of time vanish mysteriously as I write down my thoughts. The phone is unplugged. The tv is a continuous blue and red monologue of talking heads muted by my remote control. I own to a restlessness that’s echoed by the sound of someone pacing in the room above me like a prisoner in a cell waiting for parole. After so many years on it, I realize that the road has been following me, not leading me. I look over my shoulder more often than I stare ahead. Is it gaining on me or is that an illusion?

As long as humans have migrated we have clung to the false notion that the search for Place is like physical hunger- somewhere it will be satisfied. That hasn’t been my experience. Believe what you want, I more or less live in transit. The palliative for these travel pangs is nowhere to be found.

Real life is in motion when you are at home in your routines, among your loved ones and your collections of special junk. In many ways, life stands still when you travel. All too soon you become detached like a whirring mechanism whose teeth have been sheared off. You move because nothing impedes your momentum.

Tonight the sky hangs above me like a tight fist pounding out angry sparks for stars. I know it’s irrational. I know I’m on a fool’s errand. But try as I might, I can’t stop hoping to find it out here, whatever it is.

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