Old man driving, any exit will do

This old guy in a Dodge Charger, being pulled around the Lower Hudson Valley by 300 horses, a man without a compass, a man without a wife, drinking too much, eating too little, up half the night, nothing ain’t right.

Next day back on the road, I guess you could say lost, Bob Dylan whining from the stereo, Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime… How does it feel, to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone…

He’s not re-enacting an old fantasy, this is reality, and he really is lost; although when he thinks about it, lost has been found and now found is lost. Write that down, old man. Instead, that midnight in a gin and tonic, he writes down, A dying man dreams. Some are beautiful. And then they stop.

In the Turnpike Tap Room an even older man inquires, Is one ever too old to be a struggling writer? To which the younger old man replies, Is one ever too old to die? The old drunk is looking for his brain. I’m not sure I understand your meaning. The younger old man can no further elaborate than put flesh on the older old man’s bones.

Excerpted from Notes for ‘A Million Miles Away in Fishkill.’

Back to the front page


39,000 feet

He was lost. He took planes all over America. He became an expert on airports. He invested such large sums in airline travel he figured he must own a piece of the sky, or rather pieces of the sky — thin, high corridors of illusion between real cities; timeless strips of fantasy between pestilence and death. An ethereal investment to be sure; other men had pieces of the rock.

He flew back and forth across America like an insomniac pacing his room. Planes of all sizes and colors transported him north and south and east and west in an odyssey that skirted heaven and hell. He was searching for many things: Success, fame, the perfect woman, a new identity, freedom, independence, truth, cunning, honesty, immortality, a secret Swiss bank account, a cabin in the woods, a house in the desert, a job in a lighthouse, a penthouse in Manhattan, a pad in the Hollywood Hills, unlimited credit, inner piece, a new life, a tolerable death, immortality, and sometimes nothing more than a perfectly clear sky. 

At rare moments of clarity, perhaps at 39,000 feet, he felt he was on the verge of a breakthrough, on the edge of a great discovery about life and himself. Sometimes, he would doze off and suddenly awaken with the startling notion that he had heard the voice of God — not so much a voice as a perception of the idea of God, an ephemeral, wraith-like presence in his mind, a fleeting brush with fate, the briefest touch by destiny, a speck of understanding, a hint of cosmic truth that vanished as fast as it had appeared, but left him with, at that perilous moment of waking, an unmistakable impression of the meaning of life, and specifically, his purpose in that life, agonizingly elusive but sufficiently noticeable to excite him with new motivation and direction.

Desperately he would scribble down his ethereal notes at the very moment they dissolved into nothingness. But when he tried to pursue the clues, to pin them down, to put them together, bits and pieces of his mind flew off in different directions at increasing speeds and higher altitudes, and then he no longer believed he was on the verge of a great breakthrough, but on the edge of insanity. 

At the end of two years his mind was totally fragmented. On a physical level there was more chaos. He was broke, bouncing checks and exploding credit cards. His personal stuff — books, manuscripts, letters, documents, photographs — were crammed into suitcases, briefcases and footlockers in girlfriends’ apartments, and bus and train station lockers in cities and towns across America—

[Manuscript abruptly ends.]

Notes for ‘A Million Miles Away in Fishkill’

Day 97 of Formulating a Plan

A man pushing seventy over a cliff… adrift… Dodge Charger… 300 hp… charging.

Interstate 87… Interstate 84… Route 9… Mid-Hudson Bridge… Route 9W. No fixed address, weekly rate motels, extended stay hotels, $100 a night, $3,000 a month, not that much more than the $2,000 rent plus $600 in utilities he was paying for the apartment in Piermont (don’t do the math).

No utilities now, no lease, the freedom of that; no landline, just a cellphone to take calls from puzzled relatives.

Where the hell are you?

I’ll tell you when I see the next exit sign.

You’re too old for this, dude.

This guy, being pulled around the Hudson Valley by 300 horses, a man without a compass, drinking too much, eating too little, up half the night, nothing ain’t right.

Next day back on the road, you could say lost, Bob Dylan whining from the stereo, Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime… How does it feel, to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone…

He’s not reliving a lost youth, he really is lost; although when he thinks about it, lost has been found and now found is lost. Write that down, old man. Instead, that midnight in a gin and tonic, he writes down: A dying man dreams. Some are beautiful. And then they stop.

In the Turnpike Tap Room an even older man inquires, Is one ever too old to be a struggling writer? To which the younger old man replies, Is one ever too old to die? The old drunk is looking for his brain. I’m not sure I understand your meaning. The younger old man can no further elaborate than put flesh on the older old man’s bones.

New York City is never more than a three-hour drive away but in towns like Colonie and Cohoes and Coxsackie (gotta love the name) it might as well be a million miles… blah blah blah…

He ends up in a village called Fishkill. I’ll go crazy here. What the hell will I do? —This is the guy talking to his Charger. I’m less than two hours from New York City, so how come I feel I’m a million miles away?

First of all, you are crazy—(this is his Charger piping up)—and second of all, you will write.

What will I write?

‘A Million Miles Away in Fishkill,’ dummy.

Blah blah blah…


Back to front page