Monday, December 17, 2012

The Folklorist: Driving at Night

Sometimes the dog and I go for a drive. We do this at night. Of course, we drive in the day, but then it’s not simply driving but running an errand, getting somewhere. When we drive at night there’s no destination. We follow the truck’s nose. I know this is environmentally wrong. There’s the carbon footprint. And it’s expensive. The old truck gets poor mileage. You could say it was a waste. It’s not even sightseeing. We get on a highway. Not the interstate. A two-laner through hills, past farms and forests. The headlights light up cow’s eyes, mailboxes, darkened houses. The dog watches out the windshield, just as I do, leaning into me on the curves. I play the radio. The truck has AM only, so choices are few. In fact, stations come and go. You turn the dial through static and hear ghosts from far away. But that’s what I like about it. A friend told me that without sunlight the ionosphere reflects rather than absorbs radio signals, bouncing them back to earth, and they ricochet into the great distances of darkness. They ramble around, like me and dog, turning up in all sorts of places. I’ve heard Spanish from Venezuela. Ball games clear across the continent. Traffic reports from New York. I can hardly make out the words. It’s oddly comforting. Driving with the night radio reminds me of traveling with my parents when I was a little kid, faces lit by the dashboard, the sense that it was just us in all the world.

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