Roadside America

There are times when a somewhat innocuous newspaper mention knocks the breath out of me. So it was when I read in passing that Olivia Goldsmith, author of many best selling novels including The First Wives Club, had died while undergoing cosmetic surgery. I was on the bus at the time, and there was no one to remark to.

So it was with this paragraph which spends a little more time on the subject of Roadside America’s closing then the passing mention of Goldsmith’s death did. It still caused that catch in my breathing.

When I moved from Somerville to Portland in 2001, my friend flew out to make the trip with me. I had purchased a guidebook called Roadside America, which directed us to the quirky things along the way. Of the sites we saw, the one that surprised me the most was the Roadside America attraction the author mentions.

In my memory, it was a sprawling setup. Miniatures of America that stretched through several stitched together buildings. It was, essentially, a huge model railroad, but when you neared the end of the winding path, the lights dimmed as if the sun had set over the landscape, an American flag was projected, and “America the Beautiful” played. I found myself surprised at the tears that sprung from my eyes.

There were a lot of things that could have fed into that feeling. It wasn’t yet two months after 9/11; I was making a huge move to a place I’d visited regularly, but never lived; my time in Massachusetts hadn’t been the greatest. But somehow that simple (and also complex, what with the lights and the projected flag and the music) picture of the sun going down over a miniature American landscape stirred up a lot inside me.

My visit to Roadside America was probably going to be my only visit. I don’t see myself making my way back to Pennsylvania in this lifetime. But it was a perfect visit.

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