Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Berm Girl

As part of our quest to find our next house, this evening we were driving through a particular neighborhood in Maryland that we would like to live in, admiring houses that we wish were for sale.

Because there are no good houses amongst the hundreds that are for sale in the 100 mile radius that is our targeted area so we have taken to driving slowly through desirable areas and sending out mental please-sell-us-your-house vibes while also hoping that someone will see us driving slowly and stop us to ask if we want to buy their house.

On one street we had turned on, we noticed a teenage girl sitting all by herself on a berm.

Wait, did I just use the word 'berm'?  Who uses that word?  It feels like it's an old-fashioned word. Do people even know what it is?  No?

This is a good example of a berm:

It's kind of like a raised hill, usually separating one thing from another. An embankment, if you will.

In the case of the girl tonight, the berm she was sitting on faced the secondary road we were driving on, which ran parallel to the main road.

So she was just sitting there, all alone in her hoodie with the hood up, watching traffic on the main road from her spot on the secondary road.

I watched her carefully - because she was me decades ago.

Berm-sitting was my teenage thing.  Sneaking cigarettes may or may not have been involved, purchased easily at B00 Bea's, the luncheon/magazine/newspaper shop down the street.  It wasn't really called B00 Bea's, but the address - 1300 - and the actual name - Bea's - were printed on the awning and the kerning of the lettering was off so that the 1300 was squished together and looked more like...well, this:

(if you look at this long enough, you'll see it)

Renaming Bea's to B00 Bea's may or may not have had something to do with marijuana that my BFANF (Best Friend Apparently Not Forever*) Karen and I may or may not have smoked from our frequent perch at  the elementary school directly across the street from B00 Bea's and our frequent visits to B00 Bea's to quell what may or may not have been the munchies.  For a brief period of time, Karen and I were the late 70s version of Jay and Silent Bob, albeit female, and with bonus rhyming names, Sharon and Karen.  Good times.

So when I wasn't loitering at the elementary school with Karen, I was doing a ton of loner kid stuff.  It should be noted that I was not a lonely kid, but I was most definitely a loner kid.  I was never sad if there was no one to hang out with as I had my own company and I was always my own perfect companion (nothing has changed in the years hence).  The girl with so many interests and an overabundance of imagination.  It meant I was never bored.

And that's what I saw in the berm girl yesterday.  It seemed like she was just sitting in her spot, being her own perfect companion.

When I was a teenager in Union, NJ, we lived around the corner from I-78, the interstate highway that runs from the Holland Tunnel in NYC to Harrisburg, PA.
If you were driving on that road through Union, NJ, and you happened to look toward the berm on the eastbound side of things, chances are you would have seen a young girl sitting there with her dog, watching traffic.  And if you checked back in an hour or two, she probably would still would have been sitting there, dreaming up stories about the places people were traveling to and their reasons for going to where they were going.

I love the noise of travel.

And, oh, how I loved that spot.  People whose heads are in the clouds regularly often have special places of their own where they go that maybe regular people wouldn't think to go to.  You might think we go to these places to escape but that's not really correct.  We go to them to arrive, because they help us to be who we really are. I have probably had dozens of such places in my lifetime thus far and I never stop looking for new ones.  Some of them are quiet and private, and others are not so quiet but still private.

My dad, divorced from my mother, had us on Sundays.  He had a massive case of wanderlust (that I inherited) and so Sunday was Fun Day as we always set off on some adventure.  He was flat broke but that never ever stopped us from wandering.  At the time in the late 1960s/early 1970s, we lived in Elizabeth, NJ, which is right next to Newark, NJ.  Newark Airport was not the international metropolis that it is now but there were planes all day long and for my Air Force plane-loving father, that was all he needed.  The roads behind the airport were unfinished back then and there were bridges over railroad tracks that would end on these roads that turned to dirt on the other side of the bridge.  Some road planner with terrific foresight or insight knew that one day the area would explode but at this particular time there was never any traffic on these roads because they literally led to nowhere.
So my dad would park on top of one of the bridges and we would lie down on the hood of the car and watch planes take off and land right over our heads.  The ground would shake and the noise so loud that I would cover my ears, but oh the thrill of it! We would talk about where people were going and why they might be going there and places far, far away that you only ever read about in storybooks.  It was heady, magical stuff.  At the risk of being clichĂ©, you could say it was the stuff dreams are made of.

Some parents gave their kids fancy trips to resorts and amusement parks; my dad gave me trips to the whole wide world from right there on the hood of his Dodge parked on a bridge to nowhere in Newark, New Jersey.

And just so so many other places.

If you can manage it, you should go and find a special place all your own.
If you can't find a special place, at least remember to look up and search for planes in the sky or pause when you're a traffic light to wonder about the lives of the people in the cars passing in front of you.  Where they might be going...why they're going there...who's waiting for them to arrive...

You'll be amazed at where your imagination can take you...if you remember to let it.

*other story, other time
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