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Monday, October 5, 2009

US roadtrip begins

The Virginia Plan proposed delimiting federal executive power by empowering the national legislature. Virginia Plain proposed cool yet retro sophistication among lumpen glam stomp. Out here in Virginia plans are few and the hills definitely outnumber the plains. Yet these hills are the stuff of inspiration not hindrance. Walking trails among the Apalachians (pron. Apa-latch-ee-ans) we found the meaning that we had been searching for on this road movie since arriving in New Jersey over a week ago. NY - our early port of call after a brief tarry in the big apple’s perceptibly rotten neighbour NJ – had been good for drinking with an old English friend and workmate and for an insight into some of the bars and restaurants that make up his life. However the defining of what this trip will be all about would be held in abeyance until we had rented wheels in the outskirts of Trenton NJ - a blue collar rail hub. Abandoning plans to head to the nation’s capital for engagement in matters middle eastern, we headed down to Virginia via Elkton: a brief stopover in Maryland off the interstate 95. A station stop before a planned visit to Fredericksburg VA the next day, Elkton was to us no more than a cheap motel and a KFC. This though was much appreciated after a 2 nights near Time Square NY had provided the most expensive accommodation per square foot I had ever had the misfortune to pay for. The hotel though was conveniently located in walking distance to welcoming bars: one where we met our friend’s workmates, another involved an enjoyable couple of hours in the Blarney Stone or some such, where the music was on random and the punters rarely saw limeys in their drinking establishment
After our night at the Knights Inn in Elkton, the Indian cleaner peered in the window of our clearly lit room, where my wife was reading the Cecil Whig clad only in knickers and a loose top. This apparently short sighted gentleman was seeking to determine whether human life dwelled within and therefore whether he should douse down our bog with bleach or shake our sheets free of detritus. “Don’t understand English – Asian” they later revealed when I asked them not to look in our room when the presence of a car out front and illumination inside suggested we may not need his and his wife’s tender attention. Later that day we arrived in Fredericksburg – famous as the fault line of the American civil war when thousands died fighting in just a few brief days in the battle of unionism versus southern confederacy. Robert E Lee’s southern forces were eventually subdued by the Yankees fighting under the flag of a barely invented American nation, a nation to this day still struggling with the legacy not just of southern slavery but of resistance to big government – whether GOP or Democrat – if headquartered in DC. The public health care option bit the dust the day we arrived here, opposition to Obama’s plans echoing a political tradition rooted in resistance to the power of the center, itself a sound constitutional principle applied in state’s rights and the separation of powers. So today does this strain of liberalism find representation in the GOP or among Dixiecrats both defending a principle and susceptible to private health company money.

Having arrived early in Fredericksburg we checked out the fantastical wares of an antiques market where I bought a Vietnam campaign medal and resisted vinyl temptations. Along the beautiful river that snakes along the east side of town we found relation as we connected once more to the point of our journey – natural beauty taken at our own pace. I had been in this town only 18 months earlier, meeting up with an old friend from Jerusalem whose undergrads I gave a lecture to on the obscurities of Saudi foreign policy. Now I was back with my wife and more relaxed as we were here for purely social purposes and I had not come here hot foot from burying my father in England. My friend’s son is growing fast. The pleasures of fatherhood were though sometimes belied by his wistful remembrance of a former freewheeling existence around the mid east. It was great to see him and his wife again, albeit that tiredness got the better of us all before the beer had the chance of aiding recollection of old acquaintances among the would be power holders and inebriates of Palestine.

We had planned to stop over in Charlottesville the next day, an apparently pleasant student town with an artsy scene – however the arrival of the U2 travelling juggernaut pushed up the hotel rates for largely overbooked rooms. We promptly left town and holed up in nearby Waynesboro where I descended into a deep depression as the focus of the trip became lost on an auspicious anniversary – the birthday of my dead father. Salvation was thankfully found among the warmth of the occupants of the nearby strip mall of which Little Caesar’s (Little Hitlers?) and a flooded laundrette proved particularly appealing.

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