All I wanted was a bathroom, just something with a shower and a toilet and a sink downstairs in our split level home, and somehow I ended up in Manhattan. Even for me, an expert at getting lost, that’s an impressive detour, but truthfully it didn’t take much for the idea to wend its way through the twists and turns of what passes for thought processes in my weird little brain. Here’s what happened: The guy building the bathroom had too much pride to build something basic; our finished bathroom was beautiful and sleek and urban, just as I’d imagined one in a Manhattan loft would be; and my husband suggested we frame New York pictures for the walls. We had none. Let’s go, I said.
Only I am anything but an impetuous type. I can’t even spell the word and had to use spellcheck to type it just now. I make Excel spreadsheets before visiting someplace I’ve been half a dozen times. I’ve lived on one or the other of the same two contiguous lots for all but a decade of my life, mainly because it’s too much effort to move and inertia keeps me cemented in place. So nobody believed me when I suggested we might throw a bag in the car and start driving, least of all myself, and if we hadn’t had a visit planned with the kids then Manhattan would have remained a pleasant dream. But we’re in the southwest corner of Missouri and my daughter and her family live in St Louis, only a fifteen hour drive from The Big Apple. Three hours closer. All we had with us for the visit with the kids was a few changes of clothes and our dinky little camera, not the honking big expensive one, so it was crazy to go. And we left their home at 9:17 pm, not exactly the early departure I might have planned for nearly a full day’s drive. But we had a choice to make when we got to I-44: west for home or east for adventure. You already know which way we went.
This blog was born on that drive, during the hours spent eyeball to pavement. If I had to pick the exact moment the idea crystallized, it would be when we were somewhere in Indiana and we needed gas. You know those highway signs they space out before useful exits, the ones that list all the hotels and gas stations and restaurants within easy reach of the exit? This sign listed only one station but off the highway I headed, only to find myself driving down a long stretch of rolling nothingness. Where are we going, my husband asked. No idea, I said. Here’s where we ended up:
Did I mention which southwest Missouri town we live in? No? It’s true that officially there are 38 cities, towns or townships named Springfield in these United States (I Googled it), so the odds are excellent you’ll stumble on one eventually, but it’s a kiss of kismet doing it on our grand adventure, as if God was laughing at us for choosing not to go home. Or smiling at us. You see, I believe Zen is just another word for peace and God is big on peace. Huge! It’s one of the many things I love about God.
Manhattan was more impressive than Springfield, Indiana. Steam came out of the sidewalk grate next to Trump Towers, tying soaring steel to the sewers below. A salad and wine for me, plus a steak and potato for my husband, moved more than one hundred dollars from our IRA to Wolfgang Puck’s pocket change. The comics at Caroline’s told their stories, offering their psyches up to us like street vendors, a heartbreaking childhood for a two drink minimum and a devastating break-up for a full-bellied laugh. We walked for hours through Central Park, feeling as sophisticated as George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn, our own Breakfast At Tiffany’s, only with ball caps shading our eyes instead of fedoras and floppy brims. And we bought a print, one matted photo from a booth on the tree-lined promenade. In it, the snow is falling. We’ve always wanted to experience winter in New York.
I found Zen in Manhattan that sunny afternoon. That’s what I hope to make this blog about: the moments that aren’t part of your life’s plan, that just happen, and the bone-quieting peace you find in those perfect pockets of time. This was detour #1. We still have 1,999 to go.