Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Pilgrimage to Jericho

No, not that Jericho. The one on Long Island. The teenager had a reunion with his friends from his mountain climbing trip and the event took place in Jericho.

I’ve never been to Jericho, in part because of the Long Island Expressway – a highway whose patrons seems to end up in a complete standstill regularly and for no apparent reason. I pride myself on never driving on Long Island and hoped that this event of the teenager’s would not sully my record. Two days before the gathering, I discovered that the Long Island Railroad was not running any service past Jamaica, Queens all weekend long. My only remaining option was to drive him.

My son had a party back here to attend Saturday evening, so instead of spending my entire Saturday in the car, driving him thither and picking him up six hours hence, I decided to just spend the day in Jericho.

I planned to leave our house at 8 AM Saturday morning, but we didn’t get on the road until close to 8:30. This is because, even though I was up at 6:00, I was wholly incapable of organizing myself for the day. I can’t imagine what I expected from Jericho, but I viewed the day as my being banished to some sort of deserted island, that I suffer greatly if I were left idle and without creature comforts. I had work to do, so I put “library” on my itinerary and packed my laptop. But I also decided I would take a walk, so I wore walking gear and brought my iPod. Then I brought a change of clothes, in case I needed to freshen up.

I brought alternate shoes, in case my feet hurt. A book, in case I finished my work. Several pair of socks in varying thicknesses, in case I wanted to shop for boots. Also, all my notebooks that accumulate all over my desk, so I could organize my to-do lists into one neat place. I brought a bottle of water, a Tupperware container of oatmeal and apples (for breakfast), a granola bar (for lunch) and a separate coat and hat in case the one I was wearing was too warm (or not warm enough) for the library.

I threw an asthma inhaler and a handful of Benadryl in my bag in case my son had a bad reaction to the host’s Collie, but I forgot to give him either. I programmed my Aunt’s number into my cell phone so we could perhaps meet for lunch. I brought another notebook full of column ideas and considered bringing my sewing kit and pile of mending, but was too harried at departure time to collect it.

The back seat of my car was piled high with every imaginable project I could think of to stave off boredom, and once I got there I barely touched any of it. I did go to the library and I did get a lot of work done. But I started my day there with a walk, and simply reveled in how rare it is for me to be someplace unfamiliar. My dad always used to tell us: If you want to learn your way around someplace, walk it. And so I did. First making little concentric circles around blocks so I’d be sure not to lose my way, and eventually branching out to other blocks and relying on my terrible sense of direction and the kindness of strangers to guide me back to my starting point.

I noticed that the sidewalks in Jericho are really well maintained. And nearly everyone has a freestanding basketball hoop at the foot of his or her driveway. Some streets have signage, some don’t. There was not one Halloween decoration up, leading me to believe that either they don’t partake, or they have a communal agreement to pull in all their ghosts and witches immediately after the holiday has passed.

None of these were life-altering revelations, but they were just interesting enough for me to realize that I don’t need to worry so much about how to occupy my waiting time. It’s not like I was spending the day in the Emergency Room or at Jury Duty. There was a whole new town here for me to explore and that brought its own unexpected thrill.

I’m not really adventurous about anything – food, clothing, travel – so it doesn’t take much for me to feel like I’ve conquered something big. I figured out how to access the WiFi in the library – and then taught someone else how. I got myself from the library to a deli and back again on foot. I managed to make it home right on schedule armed only with my wits and my hateful GPS system. Maybe that’s just the nature of Jericho – walls tumbling. My little anti-adventure walls: poof, right down.

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