windshield time

Sep 22

So much driving

The problem is that this trip involves a full day. The good part is that we stopped for good barbecue along the way. And, also, the weather was much better than our Saturday drive.

The other problem is that I already miss the pool, but what can you do?

This is the Rockport Generating Station is a coal-fired power plant. It features two of the largest coal units built, and is connected to the grid with the largest lines allowed in the U.S. (It is scheduled to be shut down in 2028.)

Also, this is apparently the tallest smokestack in Indiana, and, indeed, one of the tallest in the world at 1,038 feet. Wikipedia says it is the 33rd tallest, globally, the sixth tallest in the U.S. and seventh tallest in North America.

Shoutout to whomever compiles this data for the rest of us.

This, meanwhile, is a 17-foot tall fiberglass model of popcorn. It sits outside of a store that pops 90 different varieties.

It isn’t closed, but that’s one scary parking lot.

Some of the corn you can get in that store may have come out of these bins.

Or maybe these, which were just up the road.

And, look! That’s the field that fills that bin.

Just kidding. This corn goes way up to the other side of town, I bet.

Corn produces something like $3.28 billion a year in Indiana which, as a state, ranks eighth in the nation in ag exports, and is the 10th largest farming state.

It would be easy in these quiet little parts of southern Indiana to think that’s the economy, but not hardly. Indiana produces more steel than anyone. And the chief economic driver is manufacturing.

Someone has to make the popcorn, after all.

Oct 21

Concluding this little trip

It takes about 15 minutes, they said, to get your car out of the valet garage. So you call down and ask for yours and then the clock is ticking in your head. Now, we’re only on the second floor of this hotel, and it doesn’t seem especially busy, but I still have a slow-moving person on crutches and I’m carrying two people’s worth of luggage.

It’s a good thing, then, that our room was close to the elevator and the elevator itself opened into the lobby and directly across from the front door. Hauled all the stuff down the hall, banging walls and pinching fingers as we slowly went. Dropped our room keys off at the desk just as my car pulled up. Perfect timing.

I lost the valet ticket for a full day, and looked everywhere for the thing, twice. I’d resigned myself to having to say I lost it, knowing this sort of thing has surely happened before. I was planning to go with the classic “Shucks, what can you do?” routine when I had to call and confess I’d lost the ticket. Finally, though, I found it on top of the blankets on the bed. On the ticket it said you’d have to present a photo ID and the car’s registration.

Fine, can you bring the car up so I can root around in the glove compartment for my registration?

That’s not a problem. I keep a tidy glove compartment. I need to wash the car and thin out some of the things in the trunk, but the interior storage areas are well maintained. It’s a point of pride, and necessity. You need to know where everything is.

We, by the way, made it back to the house. It’s a six-hour drive. We stopped every hour or so to walk around for a few minutes. It makes, somehow, for a full day. But the weather was grand, the interstates in northern Ohio are of good quality, and once you were out of the cities the views along the way are nice enough.

The map routed us through Cincinnati. There’s a Mellow Mushroom there, so we picked up dinner for the next few nights. Pretzels and spring dough slices! The consensus best pizza in this, a college town, is reminiscent of Pizza Hut in their glory days, and so we sadly have to wait for good pizza when we travel, which, of course, doesn’t happen much these days.

Anyway, got to the house, unloaded the car and dumped all the clothes in the laundry. Walked around putting things away, basically counting the steps until I could pronounce the trip completed. The Yankee is sitting comfortably, after spending all of that time in the back seat of the car. Tomorrow it is back to work. Tonight, I’m hoping for more sleep than I got last night.

I wound up driving more today than I slept last night. Can’t imagine why I’m so tired this evening. My own pillows await!

Jul 21

Other views from the same roads, but in the opposite direction

It’s quiet and still, but don’t be fooled. They’re feeding America right over there.

Or at least part of America, right? If that was it our portions would be awfully small. There are little places like that all over the place, of course. You’ve seen them and pay them no mind, because they are quiet and still. And, of course, there are the much larger producers a bit more removed from a casual drive by.

Mostly I just like that shot because of the colors.

Did you ever wonder what it is about the occasional cloud that creates that sharp angle of light? Maybe there’s a corner or a shelf lurking around in there, and the sun has to work around it. Maybe the angels are moving furniture or something.

These are different grain bins. See? There are a lot of them, if you know where to look. These are empty right now.

We saw a volcano of clouds. It was a scenic look west, but without all of the lava.

Or smoke or ash or general destruction. Just your regular sort of Thursday evening impact.

Jul 21

Things I saw on the road

If you’re in the car at the right time, you can see something dramatic. You could see something dramatic at anytime, really. It depends on your definitions. A good stable molecular structure is all around us and that’s nothing short of miraculous, if you ask me. Maybe it depends on where you’re willing to look. Going outside helps. I should do that more. But, still the quantum nature of stuff in the house, or in the office or in the studio can be equally impressive …

But those early evening clouds, they sure are swell, aren’t they?

You know how modern phone commercials advertise everything but the actual phone? I’d like to see a few commercials that show the next practical advancements of phone cameras. You want to wow me? Make me buy a new phone? Show me a model that captures an impressive moon photo, or makes a rainbow’s photo look as glorious as the optical illusion of a spectrum caused by the reflection and refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets in the sky.

If I’d had a proper camera with me today, maybe that would be better. But it’s still dramatic in its own way. A rainbow! Shift to the left, hand in the pocket, pull out the phone, open that wondrous little app and snap a series of tries. It’s a picture of chance, a photo of opportunity. The car never slowed down. There’s no thought to composition, only that old story about the pot of gold that’s at the other end, and a wry smile about how that end of the rainbow is always moving.

If you want to improve your non-moving-car rainbow photography, there’s a lot of advice out there. You can also learn to make your own rainbows. See, dramatic anytime.

More of this tomorrow!

Aug 19

‘that only make me lay it down more careful-like’

There’s a certain joy to getting home in time, leaving again right away and somehow that being nine minutes late and yet still getting a good shot to extended parking, an easy parking place, a timely shuttle to the airport, a pleasant conversation with two people going on a cruise and a quick bite to eat, before a relatively decent TSA experience and then finding yourself at the gate before your plane arrives.

There’s a certain joy to hearing a gate agent who has no optimism at all. “This flight hasn’t been canceled yet.” There’s a certain resigned humor to hearing of a delay, knowing there’s no plane at the end of that jetway, or weather between here and that plane and knowing this is going on for a while, a run-on sentence of gate announcements that continue to portend this flight will be boarding in 15 minutes, now 45, and it isn’t canceled yet, until it is.

But who cares about that? There’s always a flight tomorrow. We’re booked on it. Because we were nine minutes leaving the house, but still had a good trip up to the airport, we could linger over food in the concourse. And because I got a refill at Chick-fil-A, by the time I got down the terminal all of the seats at the gate were taken. So we sat at an empty gate across the way, on the other side the slidewalk, but next to this cool installation:

Mari Evans wrote, in about 1992, Celebration. She was a writer, a teacher, a television producer. And the words she could write, the feelings she could bring out of you … She taught African American Literature at Indiana, and she could do some stuff with just an incomplete phrase that could pull you this way and that. It’s no wonder she taught people how to use the language, for she was a masterful user of it, indeed.

The poem Celebration was about people who were flawed and perfect and who had been through some stuff:

I will bring you a whole person
and you will bring me a whole person
and we will have us twice as much of love and everything

I be bringing a whole heart
and while it do have nicks and
dents and scars,
that only make me lay it down
more careful-like
An; you be bringing a whole heart
a little chipped and rusty an’
sometime skip a beat but
still an’ all you bringing polish too
and look like you intend
to make it shine

And we be bringing, each of us
the music of ourselves to wrap
the other in

Forgiving clarities
Soft as a choir’s last
lingering note our
personal blend

I will be bringing you someone whole
and you will be bringing me someone whole
and we be twice as strong and we be twice as true
and we will have twice as much of love
and everything

I discovered her because of this mural in Indianapolis:

It was unveiled in 1996, and she got to see it, at the age of 97, just under a year before she passed away. And while I haven’t yet read everything she published, everything I’ve read has been a joy.

The Celebration installation, above, is by British artist Martin Donlin. He produced 14 large, abstract glass murals at the airport, featuring contemporary Indiana poets and authors. These are hand-blown glass, almost 2,400 panes over the whole project, each pane weighing about 400 pounds.

If we hadn’t been a little late, but had a plane that was later, we might not have sat there, and I might not have seen it, across the way as it was.

There’s a certain joy to this. A certain restless, tired, hopeful joy to that.

As we were leaving the airport, for home, there was a rainbow off to the east. And it stayed out there all the way back to the house. We watched the same rainbow for 52 miles:

We’ll go back to the airport tomorrow, but this evening:

We’ll sleep in — until 6 a.m., at best! — and then make the quick drive for a quick flight into a quick weekend will begin. But! To have this for an hour!

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Got a little rainbow in my eye …

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There’s a certain joy to that.