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Music is cut like a grid of urban streets – connected, unmoving, and planned by researchers who study the past and future practices. Why is this when mountains and rivers are cut and shaped at random, never to duplicate. Somehow they all fit together in one giant sphere while interacting, colliding, conducting science experiments on each other constantly for those who choose to observe. Non-stop Chemical reactions; wreaking havoc, all the while perpetuating serenity and perfection; and life for all will continue, so long as the law of conservation applies.
Rappahannock, Blue Ridge, Northern Neck, Appalachian, Accotink, Mount Vernon, Luray Caverns Chincoteague, Sandbridge, Great Falls, nor-easter, Hurricane Sandy, T-Storms, that big river that runs through the capitol and out to the Atlantic. And so, “The Sun Also Rises.”
Your spring Saturdays were spent pulling sheets of plastic over thick metal wires that arched over beds of sweet potato plants in need of incubation. You had to wrap your fingers around it, digging your knuckles into the wet sand that stuck on its surface, because the plastic created a giant sail against the stormy wind that wanted to lift up with the work you already completed. You had to hold tight, keep it down low, and sandwich it between the ground and a thirty pound sandbag to secure it.
Summers were spent walking up and down the rows of plants in the hundred degree heat looking for weeds to pull. Once in a while, if your older brother was able to get out of going to the farm with an excuse of having a church, school, or scout activity, you would be in charge of managing the irrigation. You learned how to bleed water into the furrows by starting hand-pumped siphon pipes that curved over the side-mounds of irrigation ditches they drew from. While you waited for the water to flood the length of the field so you could move the pipes to the next set of rows, you could take a nap in the shade of the large wheel on the tractor. Or if the plant canopy was wide enough, you could lay down just underneath the leaves in a dry furrow until the alarm you set on your watch went off.
After harvest, the crop would be taken to the packing shed, where there wasn't much for you to do except watch the workers sort the produce, listen to the holiday music playing over loudspeakers, and stay out of the swerving forklift's way. The railroad tracks ran behind the facility, and you and your brothers would find pennies in the ashtray of your father's truck, lay them across the track, and scour the surrounding rocks trying to find the flattened coins after the train, blasting its horn, rolled over them. At the end of the week, a few large wooden bins filled with sweet potatoes, too small or blemished for the market and not spoiled enough for livestock feed, would be loaded into the bed of your father's truck for delivery to church on Sunday. After the services, families would crowd around the truck and fill their bags with as many sweet potatoes as possible, shake your hand, thank you and your family, and for weeks to come, tell you how delicious they were.
Some consider Fresno the heart of agriculture in California, midway of four hundred miles between the metropolises, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and hugged by giant Sequoias to the east and the salty-cold Pacific beaches. Growing up in a farming family, you used to think you wanted your future to have nothing to do with agriculture. Sometimes when you are sitting at a desk in a cubicle, staring at a computer screen, you want go back.
When you finally went back to visit your hometown you couldn’t help but feel disconnected, and the way things were made less sense to you than they did when you lived there.
For example: You planned to meet a colleague for coffee at 7:30 a.m. at a place across town from where you were staying. As a dedicated pedestrian you decided you would put what you remembered as an often trampled bus system to use. In your twenties you bicycled the same distance in less than an hour, and could easily drive it in ten minutes. You figured if you left your host’s house by 6:30 a.m., you should make it on time. Good thing you examined the bus system’s website the night before. The closest stop operating that early in the morning was three miles away, and the schedule’s timetable said it would take an hour to get across town.
So you got up early and left at 5:15 a.m., jogged the first half of the distance to the bus stop, and walked the rest of the way, getting there ten minutes early. You were the first passenger to board the public limousine, and as you climbed the red carpet steps you made eye contact and solemnly exchanged “hellos” with the driver and dropped your exact dollar-twenty-five fare in the mounted mechanical piggy-bank. About ten other passengers were collected through the duration of the trip from different stops, where the driver was presumably ahead of schedule because after the passengers boarded, he would pull out the sports section of the local rag and read in three to four minute segments before rolling it back up and putting the vessel back in motion. These pauses allowed you to take notice of how peaceful the town’s main drag seemed at that hour, and how well the sound of fingernails being clipped travels from the back of the bus, and how furious Coltrane can make the color blue when you finally attached your headphones.
You made it to your stop after a forty minute ride, twenty minutes ahead of schedule, and hiked your final mile to the café and arrived with another glorious ten minutes to spare! Using this free time you realized that it didn’t matter that things didn’t make sense to you because you didn’t live there anymore. Miles Davis left what one might perceive as mistakes on his recordings, but you call those moments “personality, soul, human, and beautiful.”
Your Twitter is to you as my blog is to me, as her photograph is to her, as his song is to him, as our painting is to us, as their movie is to them, as its book is to it.
You headed to the train station - on foot, of course - by way of some of the most desolate streets in the city. You always found them desolate getting to train stations. You and a man gave each other the right of way while passing on a sidewalk. He was wearing royal blue house-slippers whose color seemed exceptionally vibrant in the low angled sun’s morning light. The belt for his oversized gym shorts were his two hands, each clutching fistfuls of the synthetic and porous cloth at the base of his crotch. Your eye-contact and “what’s up” head nod made him turn his head away from you toward the other side of the street, as if something had just then called for his full attention.
You finally caught up to who you speculated was the bread-winner you had been trailing for a half-mile. He stopped walking at his public limousine stop and turned to face perpendicular to the street. He wore a generic back-pack over one shoulder of his security guard uniform. As you approached him, you fantasized one of those great, old-fashioned, early morning greetings you’ve heard legends about. So you encouraged out loud, “good morning!” The worker bee made no movement except for his neck as it slowly pivoted his head, allowing his laser beam eyes to penetrate through his sunglasses’ lenses and follow your UV blockers as you continued walking by, willing to wait forever for that exchange.
Two talkative and tattooed ladies jumped into your foot-stream. You caught up to them when one stopped to remove a hitchhiking rock from her shoe. A little discouraged, you mumbled, “morning.’” The non-archaeologist of the pair quickly responded with a “Good Morning” as clear as you ever heard it in your life! All was right with the world! It was as if that reliable and consistent chain café popped up to spare you from having to drink train coffee, and they still sold bran muffins so you could finally get rid of that horrible case of traveler’s gut before you boarded the train with all the other princes and princesses and kings and queens of the valley. That train; for which you would still be ten glorious minutes early!