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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

THE DIVIDING WALL

footpaths



Here's my trail to the mailbox. A lane for each foot with a dividing wall in between like they're putting up on interstates to keep cars and trucks on the right side of the lines. One of the more memorable sights in my visit to Miami 20 years ago was the cement wall between directions on I-95 all the way from FtLauderdale to Miami. It was then covered with black tire marks all over it, bottom to top, like spontaneous graffiti. I can see one every once in awhile, but the entire distance the wall was covered with tire marks, both sides. It looked like every one of them wrecked. They're like crosses along the side of the highway in Mexico, where Ricardo and Juanita left the road and died in one way or another. These crosses are all along the mountain highways.



If those markings on the dividing wall were thick then, the entire wall must be black by now. I don't get it. It really doesn't take much of an IQ to stay on the right side of the dividing lines. We do it every day. That wall is a record of really bad driving by an awful lot of people. If people in south Florida can't drive any better than that, I'm glad I'm not living among them, though that's not the only reason. One's life would be at risk every time you start the car, serious risk. It is anyway, but on that stretch of highway the message is written plainly on the wall for all to see in legible sign language, people here can't drive. I imagine everyone who lives there already knows this. Every black mark may tell of a traffic jam from hell. A wreck means cars backed up for hours.



I happen to appreciate graffiti art, so when I saw that wall covered from end to end with spontaneous black marks, each one unique, like those pictures that are black with white lines of electrons jumping out of their orbits, I'm in a living museum. Both the white lines on black background and the black lines on gray background are depictions of consciousness. I'd guess the black marks are records of challenged consciousness, like mentally challenged, distracted, someplace else in mind like past and future. Every one has its own story and all the stories are lost in the past like the music of fiddlers in the time before recording.



I'd driven to WPalm Beach to see my aunt Teat I'd not seen since I was in jr high when she divorced Uncle Roger after Deena graduated from high school, married again and moved to Florida. I didn't leave her place til after midnight. A long drive to Miami with not much traffic. Coming into the outskirts of Miami around 1:30, I was going along in my 78 Toyota pickup, probably 75 or so, and a red 89 Cadillac passed me on the left like a bullet from behind that missed. I thought he's a good candidate to leave a black mark or 4 on the dividing wall, a potential artist and he doesn't even know it.



The dividing wall of snow between the paths of my left and right feet brings memories of Miami every time. That wall between the lanes on 95 is the one thing that stands out in my mind first of Miami. Little Cuba is quaint and nice, Coral Gables a lot of middle class houses and cars, Coconut Grove a lot of trees, a glut of parked cars. Houses, cars, signs, businesses, signs, traffic lights, continually. Custom in Miami is a drag race when a red light turns green. I was in a side to side, bumper to bumper, race with new BMWs, Jaguars, Mercedes, Cadillacs. I didn't know it, but slower cars took the back streets. I'd go through the gears as fast as I could go to keep up with the car in front of me, then hit the brakes hard. I didn't have anti-lock brakes either.




Once, I slid sideways when the pink new Cadillac in front of me lit up in brake lights, the tail end went up in the air, and I hit the brakes, pedal to the metal. The rear end of my truck came around 90 degrees so my door stopped about a foot from the Cadillac's rear bumper. People in cars all around looked at me like if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen. I chose leaving the kitchen.



I went to Miami thinking it an interesting adventure to see a place I'd never seen, but it was little more than sameness in abundance and carried an edge of danger at all times everywhere. I left the city the day before the verdict in the very public trial of a Cuban cop who shot a black man and woman on a motorcycle because they drove by too fast. Moving target. Wow. Bang. Got him. Law enforcement was bracing for riots. I was see ya later alligators.



These are the memories that flood my head when I walk my narrow walkway to the mailbox. At the road where the snow goes above my knees, I have a hole for each footstep. It works. Dumptrucks with scoops on the front have gone by here half a dozen times. They have the roads clear. The meadows, the woods, the Christmas tree patches still have a foot of snow. The snow has melted off the Christmas trees and other tree limbs by now. 47 degrees outside. It slid off the south side of my roof this morning. They say freezing rain is next. Then ice. Then oblivion, I suppose.

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