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August 23, 2007


weimar.jpg We are driving home from Truckee.

Goodbye to the chipmunk blinking at me yesterday morning on the Best Western™’s monogrammed stub bin;
goodbye to the tiny, rigid, blue and yellow lizard (a sagebrush lizard?) in the hallway, which my wife and sons captured two nights ago in a foam cup and carried to the freedom of the Great Outdoors;
goodbye to the water-striders’ of Donner Lagoon with the larger-than-life globular shadows of their spindly feet;
goodbye to the great, brown, no bullshit crawfish sitting impassively beneath us on the floor of the Lagoon;
goodbye to the white-winged predator birds (some kind of eagle?) wheeling together last Saturday on Squaw Valley’s thermals;
goodbye to the dried-up creekbeds silent like cobbles as, astride Trudy, the old Belgian workhorse, I babbled to the camcorder while we plodded through the Tahoe National Forest;
goodbye to the horrified mouse dashing to safety behind the trashcan at the 7-11 on Palisades Drive;
goodbye to the overlooked plants and flowers which entranced me by entracing my wife;
goodbye to SpongeBob whom I will not see again until my next hotel;
goodbye to the great brown bear which (I hope) watched us from the trees, while we noticed nothing;
goodbye to all this town's sad ghosts, human and animal alike, all still so here;

and hello, hello, once again, to work, to school, to money — the familiar worms in our family’s apple.

One of the pleasures I find in driving through unfamiliar countryside in the United States is the unfailing Adventure of the Place-Names. In that vacant, tranquil, thoughtless state I find I slip into on a long drive, just encountering this succession of odd, romantically threadbare, illogically jumbled speech-worlds at the side of the road, as town after town slides by, makes me happy.

Sometimes, what is pleasurable is that for America there just does not seem to be enough language to go round. In my early years in the States, I remember the thrill of finding in Southern California a trail which passed along "No Name Ridge".

Here are some examples of place-names which I saw on maps or on signs as we powered the Buick over the Donner Pass and glided down from the heights of the Sierra Nevada into California’s blistering Central Valley:

Mogul (Nevada)
Verdi (Nevada)
Secret (California)
Weimar (California)
Antelope (California)
Ophir (California) [a port mentioned in the Bible and supposedly famous for its wealth]
Polaris (California)
Rainbow (California)
Cool (California)
Volcanoville (California)

I also saw a sign for "Ice House Road" (in Pollock Pines, near Loon Lake, to the west of Lake Tahoe). An odd coincidence, that. "Ice House Road" was also the name of the country street, little more than a steep lane really, winding through stands of beech, birch and larch and leading up to Crockmore House, the house where Frederick and Florence Holmes lived outside Henley.

Oh, relax, Nick. Was there ever a place, or a person, without its "twin" or double somewhere else?

Posted by njenkins at August 23, 2007 02:38 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins