Perhaps I consider the trip home overly long. And in too much depth. After all, I am already anticipating what will happen if the traffic light at the junction of Vicente Street and Portola Avenue forces me to stop on a hill…because there’s always a scary moment when reality sags…and my Dodge Grand Caravan begins an imperceptible slip backwards…after my letting up on the brake pedal and depressing the accelerator.
Very depressing, that feeling of being slightly out of control. Perhaps hitting the car behind. But this doesn’t happen, I am pleased to say, for although the light is changing, my Dodge makes it over the crest and right into the middle of an intersection where…well, there’s the next little problem vis-à-vis acceleration. Thing is, my extensor muscles are so much stronger on my left leg, and the flexors so weak that lightly tapping the accelerator is quite hard to achieve. My natural tendency is to floor it, sending the Dodge into a tire-squealing lurch that is embarrassing. So I seem to err in quite the opposite direction, trying to smooth out the accelerator action…which takes so long that I am lingering in the middle of a busy intersection long after the light has changed.
Which is no problem, after all, because at least I’m not sliding backwards down Vicente Street, am I? No, I am barreling along, relatively speaking, Portola Avenue, even remarking on a San Francisco church that is called Her Church and offers worship of the feminine. My sister Susie tries to get a picture, but too late, for we are now speeding along, and even turning down O’Shaughnessy Boulevard. This is a downright arterial experience, O’Shaughnessy is, sweeping down from Twin Peaks as it does. And depositing the cognoscenti right in the heart of Glen Park, my San Francisco neighborhood. Thing is, I’ve had this feeling all afternoon that my left foot isn’t hitting the accelerator or the brake…particularly the latter…in a reassuringly solid way. The left foot depresses at an angle. And this, once again, depresses me. The feel isn’t solid.
And a solid feel would make me feel so much better, wouldn’t it? After all, look at O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, the way it banks and descends, curving and snaking down a canyon. One slip of the foot…and one could slip right over the side. Or, more likely on the descent, plough into a bank. So what is there to do…but drive like a Little Old Man? I am a little old man, after all, and know how to play this part. Instead of even approximating the posted speed limit of 35 mph, I am managing something like 25. In the heart of a busy city. Soon cars begin honking. Or maybe it’s one car, who knows? A motorist actually passes me on a hazardous curve, driving in the yellow crosshatched no go zone. I try to keep my wits about me, but somehow I only achieve a comfortably slow speed when the road snakes so tightly that 25 mph appears on the signs.
Parking? Well, I’m even nervous about that, right in front of my own driveway. It’s the slipping-backwards-down-the-hill thing…combined with fear of over acceleration. It’s my life. It’s my driving, anyway. And as for downhill and uphill, well, in the biggest scheme of things, my life appears to be heading in both directions. And there seem to be few options but to keep moving.
Besides, one returns from these expeditions with something each time. One day it’s more driving experience. This day it’s that, plus some red-speckled lettuce plants, plus parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…this recalled literally from the Simon and Garfunkel ballad. I was staring at the offerings in the Sloat Garden Center, trying to remember what makes up a herb garden.
It’s great not to be driving for a moment. Or is it? At least on the road, I am confronting the vehicular battleground. My instincts are pacifist, but one must be where the struggle is. Why it’s a struggle, and where all this leads…well, that’s another matter. Meanwhile, when you count the tomatoes currently bursting into botanical life in my greenhouse, the lettuce slated to begin its photosynthetic labors tomorrow…along with the herbs…well, there is much to applaud.