Staying Alive And The Final Five

06 12 days of christmas treeLinda Burton posting from Annapolis, Maryland – Psychologically we love countdowns. We count down the twelve days till Christmas. We countdown rocket launches, till we arrive at blastoff, or the mission is scrubbed. We countdown the Final Four in basketball every spring, when the world of college sports reaches fever pitch. I counted down the days in the month before my 16th birthday; I was on pins and needles to get my driver license; something everyone in my little town did back in the 50s when all the cars had fins and all the girls wore bobby socks. The year I went to Antarctica – that was 2005 – I counted off the weeks till my Seattle departure at Pagliacci Pizza. I happened to go for a Friday 06 pizza logonight pizza at the 17-week point and noticed they had 17 pizzas on their menu. “Aha,” I thought, “if I begin with the Original, when I get to the Verde Primo it will be time to fly to South America.” I called for grandson help on big-meat pizza nights; Matthew for Spicy Pepperoni; Andrew for Extra Pepperoni; both of them on Grand Salami Primo night. The AGOG was my favorite – mushrooms, roasted garlic, Kalamata olives, goat cheese, Fontina, Mozzarella and parsley over olive oil; fresh tomato slices added after the bake. The journey through the Pagliacci menu 06 Alex on suitcasewas an experience; I developed new tastes, and learned some things I didn’t know before. I dealt with whatever came next; I adapted as needed. You know where I’m going with that thought. Annapolis finishes the countdown through the Final Five; the Journey Across America is 100% complete. This mission wasn’t scrubbed; we made it all the way (adapting as needed) – the Scion, the cats, and me. We’re travelworn and frazzled, but completely AGOG with success.

06 travolta 2An old disco tune is playing in my head (staying alive); I feel like dancing; maybe it’s reverberations from a few hotels back where they played disco music in the lobby. Except, I do feel like dancing; I can see that Travolta strut; hell yes, we’re staying alive. Even as recently as the 80% mark I wondered if we’d make it to the end. It’s been touch and go with Alex Cat; there was his near-death in Cheyenne last year when he lost a third of his body weight; a persistent drippy nose plagued him throughout this summer. “It’s probably a growth,” one vet concluded when no treatments helped. But that has finally 06 car packedstopped; his breathing is fine. He and Jack are ready to eat every morning at 6 (I can feel their stares in my sleep). Jack has gained weight; the hair on his fat belly is turning from black to gray but his temperament remains love-bug sweet. The Scion delivers every time I have to pull away from an overbearing truck; it’s had all its checkups but is layered with pollution grit and I missed its autumn scrub-down; its innards are covered in cat hair and the cargo 06 hostasarea is scuffed and scraped. “I’ll get you fully detailed when we get to Arkansas,” I promise, every time I unload. “I’ll plant hostas along the fence,” I promise Alex, who used to prowl through our hosta beds like a jungle cat. I promise Jack a goldfish pond, with a little bridge across, and some catmint growing by the edge. I want to replicate our Seattle yard, only bigger. I’ve given up the idea of a DC highrise for a year, instead going straight to small-town living in a place we’ve never lived before. We deserve a little R & R; a quiet place in the country, to ponder and reflect.

06 hersheyAnd to write. For writing is the next phase, writing, and organizing everything I’ve learned, from Austin to Annapolis and all 48 stops between. But today I’m summing up the Final Five; the October pumpkin fields of Halloween in Hartford; the Hershey sweetness around Harrisburg; the Trenton traffic buzz; the peaceful Dover flats; the waters of Chesapeake Bay that define Annapolis. Some awesome contrasts as autumn has progressed, like the changes in the trees. When I arrived in Dover, a showy six-foot orange-red shrub marked my parking spot. Then it stormed; the next 06 little creek delawaretime I went out not a single leaf remained. Mother Nature’s way of protecting trees from winter ice; less weight to break the limbs (staying alive). I’ve endured more blustery days in the Final Five than not, but that’s okay. My red wool scarf is festive; I feel like a party when it’s wrapped around my neck.

This last segment was the shortest one, totaling 1,058 miles (compared to 4,368 in Segment One, when I drove from Austin to Salt Lake City, via Phoenix, Sacramento and Carson City). These last five capital cities were the least populous; 333,657 people compared to 2,967,264 in the 12 rev soldiersfirst five. But my enjoyment of place, and the elements of discovery, remained high. George Washington popped up everywhere; colonial memories are flaunted in the colonial states and why not; there are so many stories to tell. Stories of the early settlement days; of hardships and prosperity; of confusion and dissent; of declarations signed with a flourish and fiery speeches made. The Revolutionary War; the beginnings of a new country; the headaches then (and now) – I want to take each life and each event, and look. That’s how I’ll use the year ahead. Meanwhile, here’s a recap of what I’ve loved about the Final Five.

x 06 Linda Capitol Hartford FHartford (left) – I loved the Mark Twaininess of the city; the fussy Victorian mixed with shiny modern stuff; the wide-open parks and the manicured lawns; the neighborhoods with the New England look (it is New England, after all); the newspaper that goes way, way back; diversity.

x 06 Linda Capitol Harrisburg FHarrisburg (right) – I loved the overrich lushness of the capitol-building art; the big-town small-town feel with farm-surround; the working class; the river and the wooded atmosphere; Mr Hershey’s legacy just down the road, the sweetest person of philanthropy; chocolate and love.

x 06 Linda Capitol Trenton 3Trenton (left) – I loved the birds and the bees, symbols of activity; the involvement of kids, adults, and everyone; the knee-deep history and battlegrounds and houses where things happened we still talk about today; the Princeton vibe, buildings of stone and Einstein’s brain.

x 06 Linda Capitol Dover FDover (right) – I loved the cozy Green that centers in a hometown feel; the spacious flatlands where chickens are raised and tidewater creeks creep in; the reeds and ocean grasses and houses on stilts; Elevation 1 on the GPS in the Safeway parking lot; Dover Air Force Base.

x 06 Linda Capitol Annapolis FAnnapolis (left) – I loved the paint; the authentic colonial blues and reds; the houses, each one spaced against the next; the narrow circling brick-paved streets; the wood-domed capitol (no nails, just pegs); Maryland crab and Old Bay seasoning and Ego Alley in the harbor for showing off your boat; the USNA.

Countdown complete. After a brief stop in Washington, DC and a visit to the National Capitol, you can find the Scion, the cats, and me (staying alive) in Arkansas. I feel like dancing.