Wondrous Nature

June 9, 2020

The most amazing thing I’ve seen is a celestial thing, the Northern Lights. A friend of mine has a summer home right north of Michigan, Sioux Ste Marie, Michigan, in Canada. In the 80s and I guess early 90s, he would bring a group of us up there with him every year, usually about 10 people. The main thing we would do is cook together, you know, eat these nice meals together. The house was on the North Channel, which is, I forget which of the two great lakes it’s the connection between. So it’s a lake with mild waves. When we go up in July and August, it was generally warm enough for swimming and even though I’m not normally a late night person, early on when I was there, I realized that usually after 11pm or midnight is when you would see the Northern Lights and I would just lie out on, basically the lawn in front of the house that went right down to the lake, and I would lie out there for hours. And the first couple of times I would run into the house yelling at everybody, “Come out, you have to see this! You have to see it!” I was shocked that it was not something that most people really cared about. I mean, how could you not get amazed by these purple and green and pink and whatever curtains just covering the sky.

I actually have reconnected with that friend recently, we lost touch when he moved out of New York. So I’m hoping I’ll get another invitation to go out there. I was trying to convince him not to cancel his plans to go out there this summer, given you know that basically one can easily practice social distancing. And there is nothing to do in town, so it’s not like we did anything in town, we were just there, just lying there watching the Northern Lights. This sky phenomenon. You can sit there, I could sit there for hours. I’ve never seen it since then. I’m not sure if I ever saw the Milky Way. I mean, I’ve seen, large expanses of sky with lots of stars, but I don’t know when it becomes enough to qualify. Certainly, I’ve needed to be outside of New York. I used to do a lot of camping and even being two or three hours outside of New York, you do see a sky that you don’t see in New York City.

In my 20s I accidentally hitchhiked cross the country. It wasn’t the plan. I went to visit this friend, the same friend’s mother in Chicago and was planning on taking a bus from there to get out west. This is long before the internet, so there was a physical ride board in her local community and she found me a ride going to Salt Lake City, I don’t know, somewhere about 1000, 1500 miles west. So I was like, “Okay.” I took a ride with this man. I am Jewish, and there was something, I don’t recall what, but very heated going on in the Israel-Palestinian area, and quickly we discovered that I was Jewish and he was Palestinian. I think we just each on our own decided not to discuss it while we were strangers driving this car together.

Anyway, when he left me off, I was still a couple of hundred miles from where I needed to go, or wanted to go first. So I said, let me try hitching, and I ended up hitching all the way from outside of Denver, right, up into Canada and back and around, and I had nothing but wonderful rides…until I hit the LA area. And when I had my third ride, maybe not consecutive, but third ride in a couple of days where the drivers were making me uncomfortable. I just said, okay, you know, it’s fine to do it out there, but for whatever reason it’s not here, so I stopped to hitchhiking for that part, but It was a wonderful vacation.

You know, I said, I’m a New Yorker. I mean, I grew up in New York, I was raised in Washington Heights. I mean, obviously, I realize that someone could overpower me, but I also felt I had a good sense of people and I think in all that time, I turned down two rides. I just did the standard, “Oh, you’re going to San Francisco? I’m going to New York. Oh, I’m in the wrong direction. Okay, sorry!” You know, and just didn’t get in the car. This was In the 1980s, but you know, I don’t know if it’s totally different now, I doubt it. Maybe in the past few years things have become very different. I don’t know. Well, I haven’t really hitch hiked since then. I think a lot of people are very naive. And I think I don’t want to get into, you know, blame the rape victim scenarios, but I think it’s really not a very wise thing for a woman to be hitchhiking in short shorts and really skimpy top. I mean, if you’re dressed really provocatively, it might give the wrong message to a total stranger. You know, I did hitchhike when I was a teenager going to summer camp but I was careful, I thought not to mislead people, you know, with my dress. Also, I think if people are even wondering, I think, I don’t know, I guess like convey my New York Street tough. There was one ride where I got out of the car at a gas station and just didn’t go back in, but that was mainly because the driver, who was a apparently recovering alcoholic, had stopped recovery while we were in the car! He just kept stopping and getting alcohol and drinking it. And I just said, you know, “Thanks, I’m going to get out here.”

I spent the night in jail. This was in Utah, it was maybe 10 or 11 o’clock at night and at the gas station, I don’t remember whether I asked a cop or someone directed me, but I said, “Is there somewhere, I have my tent and sleeping bag with me, I just need a place where I can set them up and sleep, you know, and get on the road in the morning.”

And they said, “Well go over to the county building and they’ll give you a sleeper.” Which was basically check yourself into jail overnight. They took my belt. They took everything I had. And then they forgot about me in the morning and I had to like pound on the doors, or somebody hadn’t told a person that they had brought somebody in overnight. So I probably have a person record in Utah. I’m not sure!