“I love the smell of perfume and Tiger Balm.”
— Mo Sheppo
I’m listening to the Obama inauguration aftermath on NPR. I had stayed home just long enough to hear the speech and watch Jay-Z leave the stands.
If you had told me back in 1974 that James Taylor, star of “Two Lane Blacktop,” would be performing at the second inauguration of a black president who would casually mention the normalcy of gay marriage while promising meaningful immigration reform and ask before an audience of millions, “What in the name of W.C. Handy are John Mayer and Katy Perry up to and why are they at my big gig?”, I would have replied something along the lines of, “Man, that Two Lane Blacktop was SO the opposite of a good movie.” But still.
Obviously, when the Obama movie is made, nobody will believe that an African-American president was sworn in for the second time as president on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Or that Dennis Wilson was a drifter making a living as a drag racer. But there it is.
So after such a historic event, what’s left? I run.
I go to the little park where I tend to hang out these days. Because it’s MLK day and a sort of holiday, the joint is packed. Skateboarders, families, runners, a mariachi band from El Paso that was supposed to be in the inaugural parade but got bad directions from their GPS.
Which makes me nostalgic for the weekend. Brother the elder has always been a Lover of Maps. Smith boys love nothing more than pulling out the state map to look over various routes, studying the little lines weaving and criss-crossing in the same way a vein doctor peruses an elderly woman. I showed him my phone gizmo that plots the route for me. He scoffed and went back to his map, only to discover that the crease had wiped out the road number he needed. Next time I saw him he had swiped a state atlas from Brother the Younger and was back at work. It’s good to know there are still Old Schoolers in the world.
I run on a little dirt path next to the bay next to the Gulf next to the Atlantic Ocean. I listen to the post-game analysis as I go along. Governors, poets, correspondents on flatbed trucks. blah blah fluffy. Tomorrow we go back to gridlock. Today the road is reserved for a parade.
My little inaugural parade includes gulls. A little girl in a frilly dress. An old man and a small dog. Two weary parents and a pack of kids on Red Bull. Their lives go on, oblivious of the hoopla taking place half a country away.
What’s the point? I guess there isn’t any. On a historic day in America, I’m running the same route I always run. People are going on with their lives the same way they always do. Life goes on within you. And without you. ob-la-di.
I get home in time to watch that other parade. James Taylor says of the moment, “It was pretty great” and expresses relief that playing guitar in the cold didn’t result in a train wreck. ABC guys mention that the route is 1.8 miles. I think to myself that out and back would be a pretty great run. Except maybe for the Secret Service guys standing on top of me. Because that’s what runners do.
“Our journey is not complete.” Amen, Mr. President. Amen.
I wonder if “Two Lane Blacktop” is on hulu …