Pop cult lore lisps its way through my hippocampus.
And all I was doing was passing through a small village in the southern tip of New York.
But Sufferin’ Succotash! You know how life is—I’m sure you can relate to the moment. There you have the perfect cumulation—all the stars aligned, top-o’-the-world kind of vibe going—taking a casual cruise up Route 9 (target: Adirondacks - with hills full of that Grand Ol’ American Pasttime-supporting lumber) with your meaningful other(s); in and out of a string of folksy Norman Rockwell-pastiche towns. Vertical wooden two-stories, a church steeple jutting heaven-ward every three blocks, an American flag atop the stationhouse wafting in the late-afternoon breeze. No hurry, no worries. One of those Boston tunes on the box, punctuating your pathway:
Well I’m takin’ my time, I’m just movin’ on
You’ll forget about me after I’ve been gone
And I take what I find, I don’t want no more
It’s just outside of your front door.
. . . and then the Daffy Ducks of the universe descend on you like a blight of bad credit. Blotting out the sunlight; darkening the horizons; distorting the crystalline images of your world. They—the Daffies, not the Norman Rockwell images—come barrelling down the two lane blacktop in their metallic-blue Hyundai SUVs and slam into you rear end, jarring you out of your middle-American, pre-post-industrial paradise.
Or they slam into the rear end of someone else who slams into you, thereby jarring you out of your pre-post-industrial paradise.
Making someone do their daftardly work for them.
They say that everything in life is connected, which must be so, because if I hadn’t rented that car on that day, if we hadn’t stopped at those universities and talked with those admissions officers, if we hadn’t stopped at Rosie’s Roadside Grille and Healthspot and ordered up those onion rings, BLTs, broiled chicken breasts on sourdough, and Ginger Ales, then we wouldn’t have been positioned at that traffic light at the precise moment that some bozo—fiddling with his cell or searching for that renegade stogey swimming solo in his lap—forgot to decelerate, thereby mashing his bumper into her bumper into our bumper.
Thereby proving the theorum that not all forward progress in life is positive.
Unfortunately, in life, there’s fun and then there’s paperwork. And after some Daffy-assed lamebrain outside Suffern slams into someone’s rear end and then she promptly slams into yours, there’slots
of paperwork. Mountains, in fact; for one and all.
Fortunately, that’s what they make cops for, and so, other than an inordinate wait while the man with the brass nameplate of “Timmons” took down all our pertinent drivers and insurance information, then decided if and what charges might be placed on Daffy’s duckbill, we were back on the alien, peripatetic road. Timmons had the obligatory cop mustache, shoulders broad enough to lay a foundation on, and that well pressed navy blue uni that makes all American males seem so noble. Which is neither here nor there, but editors call this “atmospherics”.
For us travelers, though, sufferin’ in Suffern, only an hour lost. And, on the bright side: a mountain of paperwork gained. Forms to fill out and send to State Farm and Allstate and maybe even to the bank for a now-necessary loan. Because—Suffern Succotash!—there was the matter of the hospital visit—24 miles out of our way—as we had to go retrieve the daughter/sister who had been spirited away in an ambulance for a neck check.
More adventure for alien visitors to liven up their New York stay.
It wasn’t quite like the airlift in Babel, but the ride on the gurney in the siren-whining ambulance was probably worth the price of all the aggravation. At least for my daughter. One more event to enter in her diary, one more tale to share with her grandkids.
“Guess what I did on my summer vacation.”
Back on the road, late at night, walking through the Walmart just outside of Albany, feeling numb and externally-othered like an alien wandering through a warehouse packed with countless unrecognizable realities. Crafting one such state by selecting the odds and ends that would become the picnic gracing the bedspreads of our hotel room—salami and cheese and crackers and grapes and tortilla chips and flaming hot salsa and spring rolls and fig newtons and wine and soda, assisted by stainless steel forks and knives and plastic cups and a corkscrew (which would later be confiscated by FTA officials at JFK)—the world is a mix of strange events coupled with essential objects and calming routines.
But those alien events. Like an impromtu fender-bender on a foreign country road. One wonders what Brazilians do who have the misfortune of being rear-ended in, say, Saskatchewan, or what the French do when they get whalloped in a rented car in Sasang, Korea. What does a Namibian do when he gets dinged in Surrey or Suffolk, Great Britain.
Maybe they simply stare up at the heavens and do just as I did. Utter the phrase of their favorite cartoon antihero . . .
You guessed it: West Suffix Succotash!:
Sci-Fi Author Ursula LeGuin's Stories of Class War, Religious Dissension, Identity Politics and More