May 11

You can get Starbuck's coffee on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This may not upset you as much as it does me. But, it's just not right. I know the PA Turnpike, especially the section between New Stanton and Breezewood, as well as any piece of road in the country.

Terry's mom and I drove it the first time in 1969 and it has been a life line between friends and family ever since. At times we were East, and the rest of our world was West. And other times it was reversed. But the PA Turnpike was constant. Sometimes the drive was filled with hope. Like heading East in 1971 to start a new life and a new family. Sometimes the drive was filled with despair. Like heading West in 1979 with my share of what was left of that life and family.

The Pike is paved with bitter irony. We took my then 12 year old nephew on his first trip outside of Chicago. He couldn't believe how many trees there were in Pennsylvania. He was killed by a drunk driver a few years later and that trip was the only time he ever left the state of Illinois. There were trips of absolute folly: towing a 30 year old Hudson with a 20 year old Cadillac. And trips of pure terror: driving from Washington DC to Chicago and back in 22 hours.... pulling a trailer.

But mostly they were trips fueled by love. Through the rain and snow and flat tires and running out of gas, there were always people I loved on the other side. And that's why there shouldn't be Starbuck's on the PA Turnpike. Coffee on the Pike should be drunk from the plastic top of a cheap thermos or sipped from a slit in the top of a styrofoam cup.

It should be balanced precariously on the dashboard between the potato chips and the balogna sandwiches. It should be too hot to drink so that the cookies get stuck in your throat or so cold and bitter that you can barely swallow it. But now there is Starbuck's.

Hardly the metaphor for how much my life has changed that I would have expected.

Stay tuned... John