Sunday, May 22, 2022

Signs from the Road: Chapter 3

January 24

Provincetown MA

Janet and I have decided to start our road trip today, a day early, even if all we do is drive thirty minutes to Orleans and head back home! But as of today, our kitchen is closed and we’re acting like we’re on vacation already. So on Day 1: 

We give the car a good cleaning.

We have a burger and carrot-cashew soup at the sweet Sunbird Cafe. 

And we both get pedicures and I get a manicure too.

There is a painted rock was in a corner of the bathroom at lunch. It says, Our days are happier when we give people a piece of our heart instead of a piece of our mind.

I make another split-second decision to follow that advice. 

We live at the very tip of Cape Cod, and it’s a mini-milestone when the next day we cross over the bridge and are officially off the Cape. We're headed to see our family before we head out in earnest.

We live at the very tip of Cape Cod and it's always a big deal when we cross the bridge off Cape. 

Especially now. 

January 25th

Natick MA

We’re giddy on our way to Jess and Mike’s house. We’ve planned a Chinese buffet dinner that includes Mike’s mother Pat and our four great grand kids. We have to soak in an extra dose of each of them, enough to last a couple of months. There is nothing especially special about our visit, but it's significant because this will be the longest time ever I've been away from Jess and the kids. (Fast forward: we send a half dozen or more postcards along the way, which for some reason don't arrive until two months later, when we're back home!)

January 26th

Greenfield MA

Before we lived in Provincetown we lived in Florence, a section of Northampton, in Western Massachusetts. Greenfield is a small city about thirty minutes up Route 91, populated by gardeners and activists, and home to our friends Marsha and Norm. Both are officially retired, although Marsha is an LPN, Chair of the Building Department at her temple, Co-chair of the local Garden Club, member of a local chorus, assistant manager of the Farmer’s Market, and self proclaimed leader of her improvisation group. She can't sit still. Norm is a City Counselor and a board member of the Greenfield Food Co-operative and gardener and extraordinaire bird watcher. He moves and talks a whole lot slower than Marsha, and his day-to-day life is simpler. He's as frugal as Janet and I are impulsive. These two friends are like family: sometimes we snip at one another, usually involving our kitchens and our collective meals together, but mostly we operate like a family. A few times a year, we go to their house and they come to our house.

We have friends to see. We four meet our mutual friends Kevin and Ginger for dinner at Hope & Olives, a local favorite restaurant. Kevin and Ginger are just over the newlywed threshold: it’s not their first rodeo. We find them over the moon excited because they’ll soon be performing a reading ofA.R Guirney’s Love Letters onstage. We won’t be around, but I make a note to remind Marsha to be sure to buy tickets.  As if she needs my advice. 

January 27

Northampton MA

The next morning, Janet and I meet our friend Lori at Jake’s Cafe in the our former very funky, very lesbian college town of Northampton. Janet and Lori worked together for a Disability Management firm until both of them broke off and started their own consulting businesses. Lori’s has grown internationally and we love hearing about her ventures and ideas and successes. She tells us to be sure to visit Cambria when we get to California. “It’s where I’d live if I could live anywhere in the world,” she says. I write this down in my appointment book.

With Mattie and her blue cloud fleece blanket comfortably settled in the back seat of our locked car, we have a wonderful breakfast. Jakes is one of those special breakfast places that local residents keep secret. There are no better giant buttermilk biscuits anywhere on the planet. We order an extra six to take back to Marsha and Norm’s. Then, with Mattie in tow, we roam around Northampton and drive the back roads of route 5-10 for hours, through the farming towns of Hadley and Sunderland and Ashfield, waving at the frozen tobacco and asparagus farms and checking out our old neighborhood, where we lived for twelve years. We leave a note for our former neighbor Lisa, hoping she’s well. At six, we meet our friends Teri and Rose at our mutual favorite Milano’s for dinner. We have met them there dozens of times, always ordering off the $10.95 special menu. Rose gets the Bella Canto pasta about as often as I get the Chicken Marsala. Rose tells us to be sure to visit Apalachicola on the Florida Panhandle. Like Lori, she tells us she could live there. I can’t pronounce Apalachicola, but I write it down in my appointment book.