“All come to look for America… All come to look for America.”
This is what the song says, at least. Travelers come looking for America… observing the journey’s strange little incidental details like the man in the gaberdine suit with a bow tie… counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike… I resonate with the song’s melody and the message, even though my 2010 Honda Odyssey is a far cry from Paul Simon’s Greyhound out of Pittsburgh.
I fear that my family, however, falls more in the camp of the song’s Cathy. They’re all reading books or magazines, napping, and/or munching on snacks. Totally oblivious to the America rolling by right outside their windows. I catch myself remarking, to no one in particular, about the ways that the clouds cling to the mountains. Two-thousand miles of highway allow a lot of time to think about the last year that our family has spent learning and adjusting to our supposedly “native” culture — at least for me, they do — but I feel that the most meaningful conversation on these travel days comes when we’re trying to decide whether we should eat at the Wendy’s or the McDonald’s for our dinner this evening.
<< SIGH >>
I become frustrated and judgmental in these moments. If I pause and widen my perspective, however, I notice how stereotypical and absurd these cycles and situations actually are. I am Paul Simon on his quest to find America. I am Clark Griswold driving the family station wagon along the highway while simultaneously driving the wife and kids crazy with his antics. I am Bill Bryson pulling into the most obscure wayside diners, shops, and motels. For whatever reason, this seems to be a common experience for middle-aged men like me — and I’m just playing the part that’s been specifically scripted for me many years ago.
So be it. The road beckons, and I’ve come to look for America.