Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Driving at Night


Silent house. Only light from the streetlamps, and that damn security light in the neighbor's backyard that stays on all fricking night. I carry my boots so that my footfalls don't wake Mojo. Children tussled in knots of jammies, blankets, lovies and stuffed toys. How does Missy kick off her ENTIRE blanket without waking up? Tuck it around her - she rolls on her side, sighs, sleeps again. Her cheek is like warm velvet.

Chilly outside, scent of smoke, dew, cold iron. Fog forms on the windshield immediately. Slow rhythm of the night traffic elides me, dark houses, empty lawns. Glare of St. Johns, pale green bridge arching over the broken glass reflections of the Willamette.

Linnton; relict of the mill town useless neon and idle storefronts. Cavern of dark highway spooling out before me. Tire hiss. Forties memories from the radio, brassy beat eight to the bar.

Urbanity retreats; scattered houses in farm and field, sheds and barns ghostly in the yellow gleam of a single sentinal light. Black trees, arching branches pale-lit from underneath like white arms raised in dancing pose.

Cluster-shot of towns: Scappose, Rainier, Goble. Decadent civilization has reached St. Helens with a Starbucks. Hot coffee, dark as sin and bitter as grief and sweet cream steaming in the paper chalice. Into the bigger darkness as the Great River shrugs northwards around the Coast Range.Radio fades in and out, accepts strange crackling invasions from Canada or Montana. The Jesus station is playing militant hymns full of Roundhead passion enveloped in lush harmonies. His blood-red banner streams before, who follows in his train? I can feel Covenanter blood responding, face flushing with the sweet desire to smite the Godless. And here's the news...

Nothing now but dark hills, dark earth, dark sky and the moving tunnel of headlights. Gnat Creek, Clatsop Crest. Single light at Alston Mayger: former home of sour Rick and loving, giddy Mona and wise little Octobriana Marie...lost friends, where are you now? The long hill down into Clatskanie, cold wind from the marshes to the north seeps through the cracked window. Back into the night, long stretch of winding hills, past timberlands, inverted bowl of stars diamond-bright above the ragged sleeve rising south, gleam of the river flowing west, all the compass rose stretching away in the hissing night of empty road and silent forest.

House. House. Two houses, a shed, a motel. Slowing, the road rises winding to meet me, false dawn to the west the lights of Astoria, hotcakes at the Pig n' Pancake, streets slick with washing. I yawn and stretch, and the pink and azure glow behind the hills to the west promises the coming day.


pluto said...

What an interesting post!

I've done the pre-dawn patrol all too many times in my life and the details of your venture were an interesting combination of the familiar and items unique to Oregon.

Hope the rest of the day went well.

sheerahkahn said...

Somehow i have an image of you, Chief, standing before a mircophone in a smokey basement, with exposed brickwork, berets and wreathes of smoke encircling your audience heads as you read forth your morning. While a snare-drummer sweeps a brush across the taunt face of the drum in time with your observational changes.
You are most certainly from a different gen.
And I like it.

FDChief said...

It was a good day, guys, in general. And I've always liked the pre-dawn hours, the feeling of moving through a sleeping world.

And you're right, sheerah; I'm in love with the sound of my own voice. That's a big reason why I do this. Shamelessly egotistic and all that, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

That is a nice picture; I can see it, feel it and smell it.


Lisa said...


Yes! I see that, too. Very beat. But I also hear, They Drive By Night, and every great film noir.

This was very evocative, Chief, and I enjoyed it immensely. I often drive during daylight hours, enrapt in the same reveries.

sheerahkahn said...

"That's a big reason why I do this. Shamelessly egotistic and all that, but there it is."

Shamelessly egotistic?
I call muggins!
Artistic...yes, deep yes, egotistical? BAH!

No more of that now, makes me feel uncomfortable blowing sunshine up your backside.

FDChief said...

Lisa: GREAT flick...and, yeah, there were some thoughts of the black-and-white streets of Hollywood Babylon, always wet at midnight, where the dark dame with the cool eyes matches her smoke and looks up from under her hatbrim at you with an expression that sends a shiver down your back.

Sheerah: I'm blushing, can you tell?

Lisa said...

Ah, for the days pre-Britney, where some things were hidden, and subtlety was king.

Publius said...

Being out and about in the early hours is kind of a mystical experience, and, depending on the circumstances, it can be really cool.

For example, it may not be too bad if you're: getting an early start on a road trip with a hot cup of good coffee (the road unwinds amazingly in the early AM); up and about with a little one (ever notice that the little ones never have BO or bad breath and are always bright, alert and super-sweet first thing?); stopping off for breakfast after an all-nighter and recapping the night; or, heading off for an early tee time.

It may not be so great if: you're a paperboy; a commuter heading off to work; it's snowing and you're heading off to work; you have to catch a flight to go somewhere you don't want to be; you're a person who actually works that shift; or, if you are in a combat zone (I recall going down the deserted streets of Saigon at 3-4 AM, with nothing but a Thompson and an M1911; it was weird and scarier than being out in the bush because in the bush, you had others around you).

Pre-dawn is a strange time. It's the alone time. And it's when we die. The death clock isn't weighted equally: far more of us die in those early hours. And we all die alone.