I78

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I hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. Here, on the top ridge, we hear the rumble of thunder. Or, the rumble of a pickup truck on its way somewhere. Sometimes, ATVs or a chainsaw, or a tractor, or a horse trailer pulled by another pick up truck, maybe a dualie. Sometimes, cyclists. They talk loudly over the whirl of their wheels, chains, and gears.

On our ridge road to nowhere, the local driving school brings their students. The same driving school I went to. There's a comfort in going away, and then coming back and settling.

On clear nights, we can hear the road noise of Interstate 78. 78's gotten busier and busier over the years.

It was the road that took me to New York City, to ABC No Rio, to excitement and something different than this pair of quiet New Jersey Highlands ridges. To Little India for lunch or Burritoville, or Dojo for a cheap hijiki tofu burger.

I had no idea that I lived in the Highlands when I was younger. It's important to me now. These political designations mean something.

Back then, I didn't know, didn't care, just wanted to descend from these ridges, scream across the Piedmont (not that I knew it was the Piedmont) on I-78 at 55 miles per hour, because back then that's what the speed limit was. In summer, I'd stuck, alone in traffic in the Holland Tunnel after paying my $4 or $6 because that's what the toll was.

I'd get stuck with my air-condition-less Ford Escort overheating - the only option to drive the overheating car temp down was to turn on the heat and get the fans circulating. Summer in the Holland Tunnel with an overheating car. My precious escape from the Highlands that I so love dearly now.

Emerging from the Holland Tunnel, I'd follow the signs and get on Canal Street. "Turn at the first f/ck shop," were the directions to ABC. Head down into the Lower East Side and park. The f/ck shop was an adult store. No doubt it is gone, just like the most of the bodegas and tiny tiendas full of lacy white Communion dresses and huge white wicker chairs for a sweet 16 party.

There's a particular feeling I get when I think about those days. When I look at a particular set of earrings I wore back then. There's a comfort in going away, and then coming back and settling. There's an unsettling feeling about going back.

Another rumble of thunder brings a breeze to the ridge.