Friday, February 06, 2009

Is The Highway Calling?

When my marriage fell apart in 1990, I moved to Georgetown. I was devastated by events, obviously. But my friend who owned properties in the neighborhood, and who rented me one of hers, described the city within a city as "a good place to heal." It was, of course, but it didn't last forever. Eventually, interference with our arrangement by one of her children, and two suspicious break-ins in as many weeks, forced me to leave. (Children of the wealthy may inherit their parents' wealth, but they rarely inherit their class. Those who don't earn their own place in the world are content to ride on the coattails of others. This goes a long way to explain Caroline Kennedy, but I digress.)

It was during that period that I made a deal with myself. At least one weekend out of every four or six, I would get in my car and take to the road, for whatever reason. Pittsburgh was a favorite destination. It had a friendly dance scene back in those days, and still does, I suspect. The Pittsburgh Fall Dance Weekend was a big favorite of mine. To quote Tom Rush...

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down
And winter's closing in...

Sometimes I don't wait for the above, but that's when I usually would take off.

In the last five years, I've tended to stay closer to home. There are several reasons for that. Most people who know me locally assume "Sal" is the reason. Maybe the main one, but not the only one. Between school, scouting, and church work, not only can I not get away, but I rarely "get the urge for going" anymore.

There is a scene along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one that everyone traveling to and from DC gets to know. Going westbound and looking over the shoulder past Breezewood, you can see the town of Everett. With a 2000 census population of 1,905, it exudes a small town charm among its rolling hills, with scenes both weather-worn and bucolic. US Route 30, "The Lincoln Highway," goes through the town, as well it should, being the gateway to the real America that it is. The bestselling American novelist Dean Koontz was born in Everett. The old movie theater is converted to a stage and dance hall. The old hardware store is nearby. Even the local radio station, WSKE-FM "Cool Country 104.3" continues to operate at its old studio on 151 East First Avenue, not far from downtown. It is locally-owned, locally-operated, and you can tell by listening to it that it has not gone the way of pre-packaged "country-politan" stations.

I go through that town about once or twice a year. I visit the antique stores, I stop by the diner and order "the usual," I go to the supermarket for a several-month supply of Mrs Weiss' Kluski Egg Noodles, which are the closest thing to the ones that Grandma Alexander used to make. I tune out the satellite radio, and tune in to 104.3 megahertz. Maybe I'll hear some REAL bluegrass, not the suburban pasteurization that passes for it in Washington. Maybe I'll still hear Paul Harvey, telling me "the rest of the story," and wishing me "good day."

I wonder if other people drive by there wishing they could get off and put down roots in a Lake Woebegon place that time forgot. Then I wonder about the young man working the local gas station, who looks up at the cars rolling by on the Turnpike, wondering if there's life out there.

Is anyone from that part of the state listening?


Brian Kopp said...

I spent a large part of my residency working at Bedford Memorial Hospital, just outside of Everett. I've always loved Bedford valley and wanted to set up practice either there or my hometown of Hollidaysburg.

Interestingly, I'm glad now I settled in Johnstown, as opposed to Bedford or Everett. The latter is very much in the "bible belt" of the northeastern reaches of Appalachia, and there was not as much Catholic influence there. There were still some very backwards Appalachian type areas in the mountains and valleys around Everett, even in the early 1990s, and the first time I ever met a KKK member was there.

On the other hand, it is beautiful rural country and the people are good hard working folk. I don't get over that way much anymore, except when heading towards DC, and then we usually take the turnpike or Rt 30 bypass.

David L Alexander said...

"...there was not as much Catholic influence there."

Which is ironic when you consider that the area to the immediate west was settled in the early 19th century by German Catholics, including what is now known as New Baltimore.