Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.

PHB

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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at www.peterbehrens.org I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Maine Road to Montreal


From southern Maine to Montreal, up Route 26 to Bethel ME, staying on ME 26 & NH 26 to Colebrook NH, then up to the border on US 3, across a small corner of Vermont on 114; then over the border at Hereford QC and from there to Coaticook, to Ayers Cliff, to the Eastern Townships Autoroute at Magog and into Montreal. I left Lower Flying Point in Freeport ME at 530AM and was walking the streets of Westmount (Montreal) at noon. It's one of the most interesting road trips in North America, if you ask me...

The only dreary stretch is ME26 from the Maine Turnpike almost up to Bethel, ME: there's a lot of anywheresville sprawl along that stretch of road, at least as far as Norway ME, but then it begins to clear out, and the Oxford Hills, which are Maine's foothills to the White Mountains, take charge of the landscape. And going across NH this time of year the road curls through the White Mountains...
Northern New England: powerful terrain, very weak economy. Sad towns and social dislocation. The area has been leaching money and jobs--mostly connected to logging and pulp&paper--for a couple of generations.All along the US/Canada border region, from Washington State/BC to New Brunswick/ Washington County ME, the American northern tier is backwoods, a hinterland: dying towns, defunct paper mills, wilderness, a sense of remoteness, alienation, and fierce Tea Party support. These are the beautiful fringes, or maybe the Marches, of the American Empire...


Coos County, New Hampshire feels impossibly remote from the America of Silicon Valley, Portlandia, or Park Slope. Then across the border into southern Canada, which is often agricultural...
and feels settled and civilized, even urbane. Funny how ideas of 'northern' and 'southern' play out in a culture. It always seems so unlikely that  a couple of hours north of, say, Colebrook NH, a "remote" town on the American mental map, there is a city like Montreal.
I like the way the country opens up after the border. The Eastern Townships of Quebec are still big dairying country. The little towns--Coaticook, Hatley, Ayers Cliff, Sutton--seem impossibly neat after the bleak hamlets of northern New England...



Then from Magog to Montreal, the Eastern Townships Autoroute zooms flat-out along the fertile valley of the St Lawrence, which has been the best farm country in Quebec for a few hundred years: level as a flood plain, much flatter than anywhere I've been on, say, the Western prairies...
Western flatland often has a roll to it but, in the St Lawrence low country approaching Montreal, no such thing...
Flatness and intense farming and powerful whiffs of manure (no doubt less organic fertilizers too) even getting very close to the city...
...which rises up up all of a sudden, across the Champlain Bridge, on its island in the middle of the St Lawrence...
And then I find a parking spot in the buzz of lower Westmount, and find lunch (Brasserie Central)...
and walk around the old 'hood, taking pictures of streets & buildings that seemed so ordinary...




 ...when I was growing up, and now seem anything but.


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