Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oregon Trail of Tears

I know I bring up the computer game Oregon Trail more frequently than someone without at 5.5 floppy drive should, but it shaped my entire childhood. I got a little choked up playing the game on the computers at school and passing the gravestones of former third-graders who had long since moved on--corporeally to Crompond Elementary via graduation and electronically to the Great Beyond via cholera.

I learned more than just American history while marching my tiny pixellated family across the country. I learned how to budget my money. I learned how not to shoot more buffalo than I can carry back to my wagon. I learned that caulking the wagon and fording the river is never, ever a good idea. Just pay the six dollars and take the goddamn ferry.

It was the Oregon Trail pioneer spirit that carried me the two miles to the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, the other two miles across the Manhattan Bridge, and the remaining 1.8 miles to work this morning, on foot, in the freezing cold, because the Transit Workers Union is on strike. I threw on my warmest hat (with earflaps and everything) and long johns and Brad and I hoofed it from Sunset Park to Soho in two hours. If this was Oregon Trail, I thought, I would've had to walk this far before breakfast.

And I'm not even on meager rations. I used to make my children walk so much further than that on meager rations.

Halfway across the bridge, though, I remembered the other lesson learned from Oregon Trail. You don't start your goddamn journey in the winter. If you do, your babies die and you have to bury them in makeshift graves by the side of the road.

It is December 21. I should not be walking 5.8 miles in the winter. I should be sitting by the fire in motherfucking Oregon, eating some pie, or salt pork, or whatever it was they ate. My children should be playing keep away with a balloon made from a pig bladder in our expansive front yard--a horrifying Laura Ingalls Wilder scene I can't erase from my memory no matter how hard I try. Someone had to put their mouth on that thing to blow it up. It used to be full of pig urine.

This metaphor has gotten out of hand.

The point is that because of the TWU strike Brad and I had to walk what is usually a 40 minute subway ride. It was very cold. The mayor uses the Brooklyn Bridge for his daily transit strike photo op, so the kids on that over there get a Red Cross station on the Manhattan side distributing hot chocolate and cookies. We suckers taking the Manhattan Bridge get bubkes.

New Yorkers secretly live for shit like this. It gives everyone an excuse to be late, upset, and a victim, and at the same time allows us to yell into news cameras about how resilient we are as a people, cuz eh, ya know, iss da greatest ciddy inna world. The news has been mining bridge foot traffic for the chipperest commuters, and I actually bought the stories of friendships formed while hiking en masse to midtown. In reality, everyone was cold, everyone's noses were running like faucets, and I saw two dead birds.

I may caulk Brad and attempt to ford the river on the way home instead.


Blogger secretsekertary said...

do none of you have bicycles? six miles is nothin on a bike. i'd let you borrow mine, but you know, if i were in NY and there was a transit strike i'd probably use it myself. are there pawn shops in NY? pawn shops here are chock FULL of cheap bicycles.

3:44 PM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Nope, no bike. I think even if I had one I might leave it at home. The people I who passed me on bicycles were going faster, true, but their faces were so cold they were all crying. (Or all of their babies just died of dysentary they got from bad Oregon Trail fruit.)

4:15 PM  
Blogger secretsekertary said...

yeah. i forgot it's about ten degrees minus death in NY. definitely best to caulk brad, then. ford on, sister.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Ok, now I DEFINITELY need to waste the next hour playing Oregon Trail. And I was worried I'd be bored today!

9:39 AM  
Anonymous anonymousmom said...

on the road to rockstar
detour to caulkstar

what next,

well i can't think of anything.

9:59 AM  

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