I got lost the other day going to someplace I knew how to get to.
Getting lost is literally my worst nightmare. I have this recurrent dream that I am lost in the city (always the city) and have just trudged dozens of blocks only to realize I am going the wrong way and have to trudge all the way back to where I originally became lost. At this point panic and exhaustion are overwhelming me and I am already looking to the Conscious Observer to blow his whistle and weigh in with his usual ruling: “Enough with the trudging. You are not trudging another block. You are getting up to take a leak.”
I was on my way to drop-off my entry in an art show which was being held at Prallsville Mill in Stockton, NJ, about an hour drive from my house. I have been there on several occasions and passed it on many others.
I decided on a scenic route which would take me through miles of farms and small villages.
As I rolled along in my semi-trusty, twelve year old Volvo station wagon, I felt disoriented by the dramatic change in the landscape created by all the snow that has fallen this winter. Nothing looked the same. I began to feel disoriented and uncomfortable expecting Rod Serling at any moment to advise me I was about to enter the Twilight Zone.
Route 29, on which I was driving, runs right through Stockton, but I was uncertain which side of the town the mill was on. Traveling across the snow covered countryside, I was on autopilot having a lovely little daydream about how I would spend my Nigerian Sweepstakes winnings buying large houses in warm places.
Soon I came to Stockton.
Since Stockton is one of the smallest towns in New Jersey, I was through it in a nonce and out the other side without ever encountering the mill.
Now my disorientation became panic. Perhaps the mill isn’t in Stockton at all. Perhaps, it is some other part of the state altogether. Perhaps it doesn’t exist. Perhaps I dreamed it. Perhaps I’m dreaming now.
Now you may be wondering why someone in such a fragile navigational state would not have a GPS. Well, as I am sure you might guess, I seem to have lost it.
When I am befuddled, I usually compound my predicament by making a foolish decision. Stockton is on the Delaware River. On the other side of a short bridge lies the State of Pennsylvania. The address on the art submission clearly states Prallsville Mill, Stockton, NJ. The building is owned by the Hunterdon County (NJ) Cultural and Heritage Committee.
Inexplicably, I decided to seek it in Pennsylvania.
And so, I sped through the Pennsylvania countryside looking for a New Jersey destination. Just as I was about to yell to the Conscious Observer, “ISN’T IT TIME FOR ME TO TAKE A LEAK, FOR CHRIST SAKE,” I decided to call Kathie.
Here is how the conversation went:
Me: I’m lost.
Kathie: How could you be lost? Where are you?
Me: I am in Pennsylvania.
Kathie: Why are you in Pennsylvania? Prallsville Mill is in New Jersey.
Me: I thought a little bit of the other side of the Delaware may still have some New Jersey on it.
Kathie: It doesn’t.
Me: I thought I heard that some of it wound up there because the Penn family back in the 17th century got into a boundary dispute with the Jersey Proprietors and that’s how they settled it.
Kathie: You’ve GOT to stop drinking while you watch History Channel! I’ll put the address in Map Quest. It’s in Stockton.
Me: No, its not. I went through there.
Kathie: You must have driven right by it. You were probably daydreaming.
Me: Of all the damn nerve, I don’t daydream when I drive!
And so I re-crossed the bridge and went through Stockton again keeping an eagle eye out for the mill and, sure enough, there it was right where it was supposed to be. In my defense, let it be noted that it was very difficult to spot because the building was below road level and curbside snow piles hid it entirely.
I had submitted my work and, because I was so happy to have made it there, I volunteered to gallery sit and bring an appetizer to the artists’ reception.
Soon I was heading happily and confidently toward home and wishing I hadn't volunteered to make an appetizer.