I spent a fair amount of time in my childhood searching for the perfect place to build a fort. This was akin to searching for the perfect place to have a picnic. It was on-going, as we rarely found anything that met our standards. I'm not sure what those standards were but we had them. It had to be off the beaten cow path. It had to have soft grass to sit on. Inside a nice bower was good. You would think with eighty acres it would have been easy. You would be wrong. It was a beginning case of the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome. And I don't mean over the septic tank. We did not have one of those.
We would spend the day in the woods with a lunch Mom had packed for us. My sister, Jane, and I, were usually on this adventure together. Our slightly older sister, Christy, stayed behind and carved knives from pieces of wood. We didn't think she was angry and needed to see a shrink. She was just a tomboy. She often gussied up her knives with some woodburning. You know, swastikas, things like that. Not really. Just kidding, Chris. We would check out possibility after possibility for a fort or a picnic. Sometimes we'd sit down on the grass and look up through the trees. We didn't know anything about feng shui. We just knew what felt right. And none of them, hardly ever, felt exactly right. As the morning disappeared and the afternoon waned, we would finally head back home, fortless but happy. Then we'd sit on the step and eat our sandwiches.
Recently, Jane and I were planning to have lunch together. We went to what we thought would be a good place. It was outside, across from a lake, had all the makings of a good picnic spot. Then the bees came around and we decided to try it inside. Inside was a bar. But, it was lunchtime. We found a booth near the window looking out at the lake. Then we realized the menu consisted of everything fried. Natch. It was a bar. We decided it wasn't quite right and told our waitress we were moving on.
Next stop was a Chinese place in a strip mall that reportedly had good food. We read the menu board just outside the door. I don't know about you, but good food, especially good Chinese food, does not consist of chow mien, lo mien, or any derivatives that include the word mien. Jane said, "I think we're still looking for the perfect place to have a picnic." We laughed. And got back in the car.
Next thing you know, we're heading across town to another place we'd heard was pretty good. Word was it had a deck on the lake. Naaaay. We even got temporarily lost trying to find the place and had to stop at a convenience store and ask directions. We kept driving by a house with a cop car in front of it. At least twice we made a u-turn near it. Until we decided it might be better to make the u-turn farther down the street. We had nothing to hide, but, you know, cops.
That reminds me of a story. I used to be more of a night owl and would stay up late to watch Tom Snyder. He was intelligent, funny, and kinda cute. One night he had Alfred Hitchcock on and he asked Hitch what was scary to him, what made him afraid. He replied,"The police." Yeah, I know. He went on to tell Tom that he was afraid he'd get stopped for some small, insignificant traffic violation, one thing would lead to another, things would go terribly wrong and next thing you know he's at the police station getting booked and thrown in the slammer. And that's when things would really start to go haywire.
Anyway, the place didn't have a deck and it was closed.
And the U2 song,"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," was on a loop inside my head.
We drove across town yet again and ended up at yet another strip mall. No, it was a different one. And this one had a great Chinese buffet. It was almost the perfect place to have a picnic. Almost. What can I say. It lacked ... ambience. But, we went inside, picked our seat (yeah, good one, but I'm talking about feng shui here) and chowed down. Not bad. Besides, the alternative was to drive back to Jane's, sit on the step, and eat sandwiches. Which would have been kinda fun, too.
I'm still searching for the perfect place to build a fort. But, that's for another time. Anyway, they say it's not about the destination. It's about the journey. I'm going with that. It sorta offsets that grass-is-always-greener thing.
Painting: Thomas Cole "The Picnic"