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The Poem
By Daniel Hoffman


Arriving at last

It has stumbled across the harsh
Stones, the black marshes.

True to itself, by what craft
And strength it has, it has come
As a sole survivor returns

From the steep pass.
Carved on memory's staff
The legend is nearly decipherable.
It has lived up to its vows

If it endures
The journey through the dark places
To bear witness,
Casting its message
In a sort of singing.

--------

Daniel Hoffman taught poetry at Penn while I was a student there and I took two superb classes from him. This is from Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948-2003.

Sunday was Adam's birthday. We had breakfast with Deborah and had planned to get on the road relatively early, but then we made a fateful discovery: the Museum of Science and Industry had an exhibit on monster trucks. Because it was Adam's birthday, he voted to go see them, so we drove back to Hyde Park once more and went to what was once the art pavilion of the White City -- the only remaining structure from the 1893 World's Fair. The museum has been expanded extensively since we lived in the area, and we saw the giant walk-through heart, a full-size walk-through Boeing 727, an enormous model train exhibit that spans an enormous corridor from a model of Chicago to a model of Seattle with the Rocky Mountains in the middle, and chicks hatching alongside miniature monster trucks.

The big trucks (including Gravedigger, Daniel's longtime favorite from Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness) were in a separate wing in an exhibit that began with a movie on the history of monster truck racing, followed by the dramatic opening of the wall on which the film was projected to reveal an enormous blue monster truck right there. The exhibit offered some science on how turbines work and how new alloys have permitted the building of lighter trucks, but the main points of excitement were virtual monster truck driving, a demonstration of acceleration in a spinning chair, and one of those carnival rides that twist kids backward, forward and upside down though unfortunately Adam wasn't tall enough to ride it, birthday or no.

After lunch in the museum cafeteria, we finally left Chicago, took one more trip down Lake Shore Drive and headed through Indiana to Ohio, finishing 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' aloud on the way. We camped east of Toledo in Perrysburg. Our cabin was nicely surrounded by trees but also by mosquitos; however, given the ominous weather forecast, we were just happy to have relatively clear skies. We took the kids swimming, made s'mores and sang happy birthday to Adam (who had already gotten a Yu-Gi-Oh Game Boy game, and, of course, a model monster truck at the museum).

The clear skies, sadly, did not last through the night. We had pouring rain from about 10 p.m. all through the morning, when we backed the van as close to the cabin as possible so as to load it up with a minimum of soaked belongings. Unable to eat breakfast at the picnic table, we resorted to McDonalds for the first time all trip and drove through Ohio under miserable gray skies and heavy downpours. The spray from the trucks was terrible. This let up at least when we got to Pennsylvania, where we had a relatively pretty trip through the Allegheny Mountains and into Maryland and the Catoctin Range. Having read 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' for the previous several days, we watched 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' as we traveled.

We had saved our longest driving day for last...over 420 miles from Toledo to home. No time to stop for anything other than lunch (Sbarro on the Pennsylvania Turnpike) if we wanted to get home in time to pick up the cats. We got in around 6 p.m., unloaded the van, Paul ran out to get the pets while my mother took the kids swimming and I put in the first of half a dozen laundries. It was close to 90 and horribly humid...a typical Washington in summer welcome home!


Chicks Dig Monster Trucks!

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