| 05 September, 2018 14:59
There is a small stretch of the once mighty Lincoln Highway that I drive each day; usually very early – before working people's alarms have rung, or their children have risen to dress for school. When the only souls about appear suddenly illuminated in headlights - monochromic, menacing jaywalkers aimlessly stepping off curbs and zig-zagging across the lanes - their apparent death wishes are well-known to those of us who tend to their emergencies in the hospital up the road.
After my workday the community congregates outside the Liquor-Groceries – the only retail establishments that remain on this span of Route 30. In the parking lots a bustling trade of loosie cigarettes and the initially friendly consumption of paper-wrapped beverages begins. Any more inviting taverns have long since been bricked up. After a time, some exit the Highway for its residential side streets with small white plastic shopping bags in tote. Cheetos, Porkrinds, Beef Jerky – the “Grocery” portion of their transactions.
For several years I’ve sped by looking through my window with a truck driver’s eye – for a safe filling station, a diner for breakfast and friendly cup of coffee, or a tavern with an open door and a jukebox inviting me in for a little cheer. Indeed there are remnants of such places – now enigmatic signs advertising “Package Goods and Mixed Drinks,” and the names of failed restaurants and businesses crumbling like ancient frescoes. Even a strange and lovely municipal mural – today as inexplicable as a prehistoric cave dweller painting. Some industry stubbornly survives in varying stages of operation – wares not readily apparent to passers-bye. The street’s dominant Ford Motor Stamp Plant offers the obvious metaphor - its water tower displays the once illustrious Ford logo barely discernible for rust.
But occasionally my routine is altered, and I find myself driving the Lincoln Highway when sun streams uninterrupted through bulldozed blight to cast long shadows and transform drab painted bricks to vibrant patina. Like Sunday mornings, when half a dozen storefront churches are filled with worshipers in their Sunday best, and long, brilliantly waxed Cadillacs are parked conveniently in the vacant lots that occupy almost every corner. Or once on a weekday afternoon when a school bus pauses traffic in both directions twenty cars deep. Those who can see it wait patiently while a man - a father - lifts from the bus a small child with mangled legs and carries him tenderly up on his shoulders and then in his arms, eventually exiting the Lincoln Highway for a street lined with gray row houses. A white plastic shopping bag dangles from his wrist.