Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Road, Slow

Last June, PBS’s program, Antiques Roadshow, visited Raleigh, North Carolina. Last Thursday night, UNC-TV provided a preview of the program that will air on PBS and UNC-TV in January, 2010. My family felt the confetti of excitement, because my spouse and I had been volunteers during the June taping in downtown Raleigh. We invited two guests. Four of us journeyed the slow savoring way, down Hillsborough Street, to downtown Raleigh. We drove down the nighttime version of Hillsborough Street, through the North Carolina State campus. The street was lined with various neon lights, globe lights, twinkle lights, and assorted business fronts, dark and beckoning.

“That’s Katmandu, a tattoo parlor.”
“No, Katmandu is a bar. I’ve been there.”
“There’s a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream at both ends of Hillsborough Street, appropriate for a college campus.”
“That’s where we play bridge.”
“At Ben and Jerry’s?”
“No, the building beside it.”
“There’s the bookstore.”
“There’s the bagel place.”
“Look at all the street construction around it.”
“Yeah, they really have torn this road up.”

Inside the car we were four disparate confetti flakes. Tim, our chain smoking neighbor, cigarettes at the ready, bundled up in layers of clothes, gray up to his chin and a navy peacoat folded over one arm. Pearl, who loves Antiques Roadshow. Tomorrow she would see a doctor to schedule surgery for her severe hearing loss. Seldom does Pearl hear accurately, which makes her conversation gambits flurries of neon-lighted interruptions, stark non-sequitors to what the three of us are talking about. We pressed on. Stephen as usual was reliving his delight in his volunteer status at Antiques Roadshow in June in Raleigh. He wore his Antiques Roadshow shirt and wondered out loud if he was in any of the segments. I wore chinos, a green sweater, and a gold fall leaf pendant. I noted in wonder the mild 60 degree weather, and my fascination with the slow scenery rolling past our car windows. We ignored Tim’s questions about taking I-40 to downtown Raleigh.

Tim punched in the directions to the GPS in his cell phone. I had printed a Google map. We found the location. I parked in a mostly deserted but faintly lit parking lot. The four of us noted singles and couples heading in the same direction, so we followed them. At the crosswalk on one side street, we’ll call it Breezy Street, Pearl heard well enough to pick up the audible chirping of traffic light signals installed for visually impaired pedestrians. Evidently Pearl had never before heard traffic lights with audio signals. She laughed uproariously at what she heard: “cuckoo, cuckoo, would drive you crazy if you had to listen to it all day.” We nodded. Bless Pearl, she could hear the audio traffic signals, however, she heard only about 10 percent of the conversation in the car, but she is on the way to improved hearing next week after her scheduled surgery. We kept an eye on her as we crossed the street against the traffic.

We approached the mall and the broad front steps of the Museum of Natural Sciences. Inside the glass front doors, I could see the museum foyer, the information desk, the executive producer our local channel. We walked in through the foyers and greeted the executive producer and the event organizer. I found our four nametags. Earlier in the week, I had forgotten Tim’s last name, so I had made up a last name for him, and informed the event organizer. I quickly handed him his nametag for the evening.

We were steered toward light refreshments: water with fresh fruit added for mild flavor and dry and spicy snack mix, a glistening mixture. Pearl and I made the rounds through the restroom. We rejoined the growing crowd. Tim decided to take one last smoke out side, so Pearl and I decided to claim our seats in the auditorium and save two for Tim and Stephen. The general manager approached the microphone and made a brief announcement. Because of an eight-car collision on the interstate, traffic was backed up. The staff decided to delay the start to allow latecomers a chance to park and enter the building. Pearl and I decided we were wise to avoid the interstate. We congratulated ourselves. I would tell any NASCAR teenager or former military warrior, when your destination is an Antiques Roadshow preview, slowing down to enjoy the ride is a wise approach.

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