worse than no atlas at all - Saturday November 30 2002

Over a long luncheon of leftovers, we all sat around discussing such things as Jen's father's wholesale distribution business. (He's doing extremely well as a result of the backlogs from the west coast longshoreman strike.) We also got to talking about politics again and I started to wonder if maybe these people's partisanship is just a little too knee-jerk. Mind you, I hate the Republicans and the idiots who vote for them as much as any wild-eyed freshman Marxist wanna-be, but still I see shades of grey in their evil, and I can perceive differences in the fairness with which they are treated by the media. While in agreement that Bush and company have gotten a free ride from the press (which can think of nothing it wants more than a war), I seem to recall his father, Bush Sr., having a much rougher time. But when I brought this up at the table, I could tell immediately by the responses of those gathered that to say that any Republican ever had it worse from the press than Bush Jr. (or Ronald Reagan) is to violate a familial and highly-partisan form of political orthodoxy. I'm just glad it operates in this direction instead of one less compatible with my own views.

Gretchen's Dad went to CompUSA and got a replacement router today and in no time I had the little two-computer network up and running. I also took the opportunity to sell Gretchen's folks on the idea of using Mozilla instead of Internet Explorer. By the way, if you're viewing this page using IE, I just happen to have a powful tool for you and a special excite WinXP patch, and you're my very first player. And don't look now but I've just added a quarter inch to the length of your dingaling.

Before we drove back to New York, Gretchen's dad let us take anything we wanted from the workshop and garage. I took him at his word and grabbed up a bunch of power tools (as opposed to the far less useful "powful tools" I keep getting via email) and all sorts of sundry bits of hardware. Gretchen thought I was being a little too ruthless, but as I saw it we could always just return things later after we finish building our house; as Gretchen's father had pointed out, his house is built but we're still building ours.
The drive back to Hurley was plagued by two instances of geographic ignorance and one segment of New Jersey Turnpike gridlock. We took 295 in Jersey instead of the Turnpike, which was a great idea, since it had very little traffic. But at its end it didn't provide us any notice about the last opportunity to get to the Turnpike. Instead we were suddenly informed that 295 was ending and that we were now on I-95 South, that is, heading back towards Maryland. We solved that problem in the most straightforward way, by making an illegal U-turn in the median green strip, the place where cops sometimes hang out, but then it turned out that we weren't really on I-95 North but instead stuck on some uncertain pre-I-95-North highway, a liminal state that could not be resolved without resorting to I-195. (If you look at the map, you'll see that I-95 has an odd discontinuity NE of Trenton, NJ.) Gretchen and I were so stressed out by these things that we lashed out at each other to an extent that seems ludicrous in retrospect.
The other geographic fuckup occurred just before the George Washington Bridge on I-95 when we were looking for the Palisades Parkway. There was no notice given for the Parkway at all and we were about to enter the bridge itself when Gretchen pulled over to the side and did one of her classic "back up to the exit" moves. We then wandered the geographically incompressible streets of Jersey trying to find the Palisades Parkway, stopping two different places and asking and being terribly confused by another entity that had plenty of signs: the Palisades Park. After a really frightening U-turn across a busy highway, we were back to fighting again, but it all suddenly seemed ridiculous and we quickly made up the moment we found our way to familiar territory.
All of our geographic troubles on this trip can be blamed on our atlas, the Rand McNally "Midsize Deluxe," which was probably worse than no atlas at all. Superficially, you see, it looked like it had good, reasonably-detailed maps. But in actual use, the maps proved almost worthless, since many of the big highways in urban areas were completely unlabeled, and there were no detailed city maps whatsoever.

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