Saturday, September 09, 2006

had a job once as a bundle-wrapper...i'd unload bundles of newspapers, the Des Moines Register, off of a truck, undo the twine, wrap them in groups of 23, 36, 42, etc., load them into an old suburban, and drop them off on street corners at about 4 in the morning. at the hotels on the coralville strip i'd drop slugs into the machines, pull out yesterday's papers, and put in fresh piles of today's, 10, 15, whatever. yesterday's would go back to the wrapping house to be used for bundle covers. the streets were virtually empty except for a few drunks and an occasional policeman. the guy who showed me the route wouldn't hesitate to drive on sidewalks, drive the wrong way in driveways, etc., since it was 4 am, who cared? at the wrapping house hundreds of newspapers would all fold on a single set of lines from front-page stories...maybe hundreds of "was indicted yesterday" or "throngs of people" which would serve as meditative fodder. hotel desk clerks would all greet me in a glazed stupor of midnight boredom, some of them doing other things besides staring off into space.

but toward the end of the route, i'd get on interstate 80, the main road from san francisco to new york, and at this point i would be connected to the world of cross-country travel, if only for a few minutes. at 4:30 am this was mostly trucks, and they had a bitter chill wind, especially in winter, as they flew by, but an occasional cross-country traveller would happen by too, shooting through iowa without even seeing it, really. from my experience on the east and west coasts i knew that this was the sum total of a good number of people's experience with the state, and that was too bad, as it was hilly, green, quite beautiful all year round, in the daytime. at night it was peaceful. the smell of newsprint, the snow on top of glazed on-ramps in the winter, the shine of the street-lights on everything. i had to be careful, or this is all i would see of iowa also. but i'd already seen quite a bit of it, and it was a good way to smooth over a memory of thousands of on-ramps, midnight silences, immobility. the suburban, with infinite uncounted miles on it, never broke down, not even once. on sundays, the papers would more than quadruple in size- the bundles heavier, the routes bigger, the suburban more than full- but i'd be home sleeping, taking the day off. another luxury to a weary traveler. that, and waking up in the afternoon, to a leisurely breakfast, and a free morning paper to read.

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