Weekend Update:
Out of a Hat


Wendy Pollak-Reilly

Because it was a lot easier for Ryan’s family to gather a the home of his uncle, just across the Delaware River in Easton, Pennsylvania, Will’s first birthday party was held there, and not in town. The pictures taken by Wendy Pollak-Reilly, from one of which the image above is a crop, make it clear that a good time was had by all. Will climbed the flight of stairs seven or eight times, quite unaided on most ascents.

But enough about him — lest I fall into besotted mode and lose interest in talking about anything else. When Ryan extended the invitation to the party, I asked how we would get there. That sounds confrontational, but I was thinking — panicking — out loud. I knew what the answer was: “by car.” But I don’t drive anymore; with my unmoving spine, I can’t be a safe driver. As for Kathleen — she hasn’t drive a quarter of the trip’s mileage in her entire life. So when Ryan said, “By car,” I asked if Fossil and XIV would be invited. He said that they would be, and that cleared everything up. Fossil loves to drive. As soon as he heard that the future of our long friendship depended upon his giving up an entire Saturday to ferry me and my wife to a non-adjecent state, not to mention renting the car, I knew that he would jump at the chance.

Fossil zipped an email to our host asking for directions — the two men were good buddies, having made back-to-back speeches at Will’s parents’ wedding — and got one of those MapQuest lists of turns that traffic in fractional mileages. Turn left in 0.7 miles, that sort of thing. (There is much to be learned about computer-generated instructions.) I asked Fossil to forward the directions to me, so that I could see where we were going on Google Maps. I decided that there was a better way of getting where we were going — and a good thing, too, because, even though I was mistaken about “better,” one of the crucial MapQuest instructions read “near left” instead of “far right.” We whizzed by the intended exit in a distant lane. This wasn’t your garden-variety Interstate exit. There would be no doubling back from the next exit. We had just crossed the Delaware River and missed the turn into the old part of Easton. We were hurtling along US 22, following the snaking trail of a creek. Happily, I knew where the next exit was and where to go from there. More or less.

I didn’t have my “better” route with me, though. I hadn’t printed a copy of the map, or written down a list of roads. (I had my iPad, but in my experience, Google Maps overwhelms the iPad.) All I had was my recollection of where the house stood in relation to the Easton, the Delaware River, and the next exit. So, we climbed Hackett Avenue, and proceeded on Greenhill and Edgewood. (I had no idea if these streets would get us where we were going, but they seemed to lead in the right direction.) When Edgewood ended in Bushkill Drive, I couldn’t decide which way to take, but I was tickled to discover later that it wouldn’t have mattered. I went for left, then changed my mind. We turned right. We took the next left, at Mitman Road, and climbed another hill. At the corner of Arndt Road, I told  Fossil to take another right. If I’d told him to go straight ahead, we’d have reached our destination a minute or two sooner, but my sense that the house stood to the east of the intersection of Arndt and Mitman was correct — another tickle. At Indian Trail, I thought that we’d gone far enough (correct again), so we turned left onto that, and in two blocks, lo and behold, the very street that I was looking for, Old Mill Road. A couple of turns later, and we were parking.

So instead of boasting about my grandson, I’ve trumpeted my talents as a bushwhacker. I could never have been a cartographer; I gave surveying a try in Boy Scouts and was bored to sobs by it. But I could look at maps all day, and with Google Maps, with its satellite photographs showing actual houses and trees, I get a good sense (as I discovered yesterday) of distances.

I have to say that, by the time we turned into Indian Trail, my hope was sinking fast, and I was preparing myself for a humiliating cell phone call. Kathleen never doubted for a moment that I wouldn’t need to make it. “I’ve been watching you pull these things out of a hat for over thirty years.”

PS: Aside from one guy chopping wood in his driveway — a long way from where we were going, it turned out — there was no one to stop and ask. Driving home, we were able to follow the directions that Fossil had been given — in reverse. We got a nice look at Lafayette College, which Fossil almost attended.