We got up this morning after spending a very comfortable night at a Super 8 Motel and started to get ready: Pack up the back of the car with clothing and non-essentials (they go in next to the giant red duffel of camping gear); put the cooler (after filling 4 ziplocs with fresh ice to surround our lunch), the bag with all the electronics and the Trader Joe’s bag with non-perishable foods into the back seat. The iPad, phones, iPods and wallet goes in the front with the passenger. Bikes go on the hatch, and we’re off.
So as we were bustling around we both noticed a strong odor similar to a campfire. The manager strolled by and I asked her about it. She said it was from the wildfires not too far from here. I realized then that the misty morning wasn’t misty, but smoke hung in the air to the southwest. So I thought I might write about global warming today. I hadn’t seen anything yet.
We rolled out around 9:30, heading for Jamestown Avenue, where I lived the year my father was in Viet Nam. We had been living on post, but when Dad was deployed we had to move out of Army quarters and into a subsidized rental a few miles away. Another new school.
Anyway, we found the neighborhood easily enough but as we turned toward my street I recognized the former 7-11 where I would walk after school to buy some Mary Janes and wax lips. It was boarded up. I started to notice that many of the buildings surrounding us were in poor repair. It didn’t seem unusual that the passage of almost 50 years would change a neighborhood, but, then, like a punch to the stomach I realized that I was looking at recent tornado damage. As we turned onto Jamestown Avenue it became apparent that the entire housing development had been devastated by a large tornado. We saw houses without roofs, partial walls, a driveway leading to a chimney. We saw empty lots with mailboxes standing guard, and hundreds of splintered trees – trunks 2 feet in diameter broken off – newly razed logs stacked neatly nearby. Construction workers everywhere, a car, its hatch open to reveal piles of clothing, the owners moving around their lawn picking up scraps.
Our house – # 420 – looked intact from the street. The lawn was overgrown, though, and there was a large pile of debris piled to the left side. A sign on the door said, “Please do not ask about scrap metal, remodeling, or clean-up”. I had identified the house on line by the stand of pines behind it. That was gone – two trees remained.
What does this have to do with global warming? Years ago North Carolina was not part of Tornado Alley. Wildfires did not erupt in the eastern part of the state – which now resembles a young desert. Now tornadoes are as common in this part of the country as in the Midwest.
After Jamestown Avenue, we went to Fort Bragg. The guard who searched our car was very friendly. I found the house right away, and it looked the same. So did the swing set across the street where I spent all of my afternoons. I noticed the steep bank behind the house and remembered abruptly that my best friend Cheryl Smith had lived at the top of that hill. Memories of our time together that year and a half – when we were 8-9 years old flooded back. I also realized that a hilltop that appears frequently in my dreams is that place. In the dream I’m climbing up the hill and
looking through the brush for a lost friend. Just now looking at the carport of the Jamestown house I realize I’ve dreamed about that, too. In this dream I am looking for something in the basement, which is an unending labyrinth of rooms filled with appliances, tables and chairs, sofas, lamps. I wander through this maze looking at everything, discovering hidden rooms and closets opening into loft-sized rooms. I open a door and emerge onto a carport – that carport, there – in the photograph.