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number 5

Independence Days

by Dan Dunford

On a May day, I am driving down New York State road 9J, which runs along the eastern bank of the Hudson River between the city of Hudson and Rensselaer. Incredible vistas overlook the river to the south of Schodack Landing. Thomas Cole painted it. William Kennedy wrote about it. In my family’s flaking-paint-and-rust minivan, I see it all out of the corner of my eye.

All three of us are shirtless and soaking wet from swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. I grip the steering wheel of the rented sports-utility-whatever nervously. My roommate Jake sits shotgun, and Jimbo sprawls himself across the backseat. It is late March and we are in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Jim has popped open a can of Schaefer Beer. It is time for me to learn how to drive. After all, if not now, then when?

She said, “Sometimes you can just be too much, you know?” I didn’t want to, but I did know. Even the hesitant pause that the comma still represents.

On the fourth of July, 2001, I sat in Battery Park with my friend Jon. We couldn’t get close to the stage, so we listened to a far-away Emmylou Harris from the cool shade of a tree. Later, after traipsing past the World Trade Center to the South Street Seaport where we consumed several pints of Brooklyn Summer Ale and smoked Djarum brand clove cigarettes, we waded our way into Stuyvesant Town. We found a knoll overlooking the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, and watched with half-drunken awe as the fireworks of the Grucci brothers unfolded above us.

I resigned from my job this morning. There is nothing that I would rather be doing, and no other place that I would rather be, than where I am headed. I do not know where that is yet.

On Route 9J again, this time driving up and away, I find myself wondering what would Tom Waits sing about the river here? This may have been the road on which Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle, in the wilder days of his youth, before “Nashville Skyline,” even. These are the waters that lead, somewhere down the road, to Woodstock, and beyond, to the City that Never Sleeps.

And you realize there are many others who travel with you and understand that it can all just be too much, you know? And sometimes that is still not enough.

Dan Dunford is a student and teacher who recently relocated to Albany, New York. A Leo, Dan enjoys candlelit dinners and long, slow walks on the beach.

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