Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Six Flags Over Crazy

As I wrote yesterday, I actually enjoy Texas drivers. Texans drive fast, really fast, no matter how many cars are clogging the roads. When you combine dense traffic, breakneck speed and an out-of-towner driving a less-than-nimble minivan, the very last thing I need to deal with is stupid street names. To get to my hotel, I take Six Flags Drive to Road to Six Flags Street. No, wait. Road to Six Flags then Six Flags, right? Maybe. These roads border the Six Flags over Texas park on two sides, but then one shoots off West and one goes South, so you really don't want to get them mixed up. Thankfully, Six Flags itself is a brilliant landmark.

Another orienting landmark is the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame's monumental bowling pin with rotating stripes. If I had not screwed up each and every time I have left the hotel, I would never have known there was such an institution. As luck would have it, I've passed it three times. I confess to feeling a bit like Clark Griswold as I take wrong turn after wrong turn only to be confronted yet again by skyscraping roller coasters. Look kids! Six Flags! International Bowling Museum!

In the same general where-is-the-damn-hotel locale are two enormous stadiums. Perchance there are some important sporting teams in the area? If you are coming in for a game, enjoy guessing whether you want Exit 28B / Ballpark in Arlington or Exit 29 / Ballpark Way. Also, be warned that while Ballpark Way will get you to Rangers Ballpark, Stadium Drive does not actually go to Cowboys Stadium.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I'm sitting in a hotel room in Arlington, Texas, by a window overlooking a closed amusement park. It took six hours to drive here today, and at the last minute, I veered from my directions skirting Dallas and instead drove right through its heart. Dallas is notorious for its heavy, mad traffic and jumbled, confusing exchanges, and I wanted to prove I could still handle it. I never used to blink at racing along in fast traffic on major city roads, and I wanted to feel like the person I was before I got so damn old and responsible and soft. Keeping pace with the high speeds, navigating fearlessly, slipping into the groove of the commuter rush: it was euphoric.

That was my life almost ten years ago, tearing down the highways around the Bay Area, free, bold, answering to no one. The person I was then didn't make meal plans and to-do lists. She had all the time in the world, and her choice of how to spend it.

Just as I was reveling in my invincibility, a song came on the radio that made me miss my boys. It wasn't a sweet, childish song, of course; they have their dad to inform their musical taste. It was Bulletproof by La Roux. Paolo knows every word, knows the song well enough to make up alternate goofy lyrics, and Luca belts out the chorus. Bulletproof, hah! At this point in my life, I couldn't be more vulnerable. I no longer exist in exclusivity; my husband and children are part of me. I am saddled with demands, stretched thin, and chained tight, because I am loved. I do not long for the days when no one waited to hear I had arrived safely.

When I'm away from home, sitting in an empty hotel room, she's so close to me, the person I was. Sometimes I like to check in with her, to step back into the stream of a faster, more reckless life, to feel young and unencumbered, but these are moments of nostalgia, not regret. Living without a net or an anchor is no way to spend your whole life, and I knew that ten years ago with the sunroof open, music screaming, going 80 down the highway.