Across Five States: Into Pennsylvania

A new morning dawned, bright and crisp – though the only reason it was crisp was the air conditioning which we’d left on all night. The moment we left the Day’s Inn, however, we realized just what kind of weather we’d stumbled into. It was hot, unbearable so, and humid to boot – and this at only seven in the morning! We loaded our essentials back into the U-Haul, blasted the air conditioning once more, and were on our way.

We were looking for a decent place to have breakfast, but we didn’t find any place that wasn’t fast food until after we’d entered Pennsylvania. When we crossed the state border, though, our hunger took a backseat in our minds as we gazed in wonder at the vistas around us. Almost immediately after crossing the border from Ohio, the mundane and endless flat-lands disappeared, giving way to rolling green hills. It was countryside at its most beautiful, alternating between vast expanses of grassy knolls and forests, dark and dense.

It was stunning, to say the least. There was so much wild vegetation that many of the trees were being choked by ivy climbing their very trunks, beautiful but deadly to the trees themselves. Here and there we could spot gorgeous houses perched between trees or amongst the hills, old-fashioned and grand. In the valleys between the hills we saw some large farms as well, which resulted in our delighted cries of “Sheep! Horses! Look, brown cows! More horses!” We were like children, seeing this foreign life that we’d all read about in picture books more often than seeing it around us.

We began musing about how someone would come to live here, and whether or not we would ever want to live in such an isolated place. We all agreed that we would love to live in a secluded and cozy house and write there for a season. I imagined what the winters would be like in such a place – wind and rain whipping the trees mercilessly, snow piling up and muffling the sounds of animals and the rustle of leaves. It would be like living in a fairy-tale, and yet, characters in fairy-tales always seem so lonely in the end.

We continued onwards, trying to solve crossword puzzles and keep out of the way of large trucks, and eventually we gave into our hunger and drove off the highway and entered a town. The name of the town eludes me, but we found a Denny’s there. I’d never been in one of those either, and it was another experience of discovering America. Our waitress was a darling, grey haired, plump and gruffly kind. She brought us all steaming mugs of coffee, which we were all desperate for. We ate a pleasant meal, finishing it off with a delicious Hershey’s chocolate cake, and made our way back to our seats in the truck that was already so familiar to us.

An Introduction to King Gregory

A man was walking through a field. It was sunset, and the tall weeds were waving in the breeze, except where the man had trampled them. He was rather squat, and was making a lot of wheezy noises as he walked, his big rucksack weighing heavily on his back and sweat dripping into his eyes.

The field seemed to whisper around him as he walked, and his movements became increasingly twitchy as the darkness increased. He jumped at small sounds that ended up being crows landing in the field, and he gave an audible gasp when a fox ran past him.

When night had truly fallen, he still had another couple miles of field yet to cross. He seemed, however, to decide against walking in the dark, and settled, with much grunting and swearing, in a space that had been cleared by previous campers in the field.

Another hour later, and the man had succeeded, if rather pitifully, in preparing some form of edible dinner. He sat by the small fire he had managed to coax into being and ate the heated broth he had made with some old bread. He looked deeply unsatisfied and disgruntled, as if not quite used to living like this.

He was, in fact, very used to living this way, as he had been on the run for over two cycles of the moon. The only real reason he was so displeased on this night of all nights was because he had gotten some news, a few hours before entering the field. He had passed a small village, one of those places where everyone was related and Auntie Shay was somehow everyone’s aunt, and while purchasing some well needed supplies at their tiny inn, he had learned that a rider had come four days previously to the town to announce that a new king had risen: King Gregory was killed and his brother, Malcolm, had sorrowfully needed to assume the throne.

Gregory, sitting in a field with some moldy bread and lukewarm broth, was still seething at this unjustified and most disgusting lie.

20 Hours In America

To anyone who hasn’t seen this episode of The West Wing – you must. It is incredible. I shall now explain my claim in detail. Consider this practice for writing a review. Sort of.

First of all, any episode of any TV show that starts with repeatedly saying the words “soy bean fields” simply because they’re funny is a good episode. Second, any episode of any TV show featuring a song by Tori Amos also has to be pretty damn swell. Thirdly, a couple of quite attractive men being smart on screen about real issues has to be a plus.

But apart from those O-so-obvious reasons, this episode deals with issues that are still relevant today. The stupidity of certain political candidates, the fall of the dollar and the things that a stock market collapse brings about, human nature at its pettiest and at its kindest.

Although this episode is filled with hilarious quotes and language games – something The West Wing is always full of, due to its incredible writers – this is still my favorite quote, just because it’s so true and so relevant:

It should be hard. I like that it's
hard. Putting your daughter
through college, that's-that's a man's job. A man's accomplishment. But it
should be a little easier.
Just a little easier. 'Cause in that difference is... everything.