Unquote” Michael Perry

From Population: 485 :

“I’m happy here, but my gravitation to place has always been balanced by my need to move. I crave a contrapuntal mix of shiftlessness and stability. In bed at night, I can hear the trucks out on the highway. Sometimes a driver drifts across the white line, and when the tires hit the rumble strip, the rubbery howl makes me want to drive away in the night, fills me with the urge to go west, makes me think the finest sort of freedom is found at sunrise in a South Dakota rest stop. Contentment, it turns out, can be a matter of global positioning.

My grandpa died in the farm yard he was raised in, but during the interceding eight decades he left tracks in every quarter of the globe. ‘All you need is an apple and a newspaper to sleep under,’ he’d say, harking back to the days when he saved hotel money by bunking on park benches in Washington, D.C. When I was still a smooth-raced kid, he picked me up at the farm and took me to the city to catch my first Greyhound. When that big bus heaved out of the lot and rolled out of town it seemed I was playing hooky from everthing. I talked to a cowboy-booted wino in the backseat and his gentle lies about a fresh start planted a wandering seed in my head. The window glass was cool on my cheek, and Wisconsin slipped away in swipes of white and brown. Motion wed itself to freedom, and from that day forward, I incubated a stray-dog jones for the road. It is a quasi-spiritual thing, in which the pilgrimage is the religion, and movement is the purest form of worship. The altars are harbored in truck stops and train stations, the sacraments are served in foam cups, and heaven glows on the horizon. You will desire hymns performed by the prophets Waylon Jennings, Junior Brown and Steve Earle.

Grandpa got me started, and to this day my two favorite things in the world are solitude and motion. I’ve found them in the next county, in a semi crossing the Nevada state line, on a Hungarian train, on a bus approaching the Guatemalan border. In times of trouble, motion is my morphine. But as much as I love to run, I love even more to come home. At every latitide, my compass swivels to point back here, to little old New Auburn (Wis.). This place is my true north. A stray dog running, as it turns out, is just circling the rug.”

For me, this passage resonated deeply. Perry’s words are my thoughts — only more eloquently portrayed. I love to travel. My eternal personal memories include a train ride through the Italian Alps; dancing on Bourbon Street; sleeping on the grass of a Berlin park; staring up to the Twin Towers a month before they collapsed; and sitting in Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The experiences go deep into my body to a new, previously unknown crevice to thrive. The experience stirs the coals of my soul. I’ve called traveling an addiction. This summer, I need my fix. I’m thinking San Francisco, with a scenic detour to Oregon. Hmmmm.

When Perry brought it back to his hometown of New Auburn, I thought of my hometown of Duluth. I’ve lived here seven years, and this fair city resonates more than Maple Grove, where I spent nine years of my childhood.

Seeing Duluth and Lake Superior while cresting Thompson Hill on northbound Interstate 35 provides me balance.



One response to “Unquote” Michael Perry

  1. Read this book a couple of years ago. Great excerpt. Going to have to dig it out and read it again now! Must be a blood thing. I have three European trips planned in the next 3 years! 2 for free!

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