1. Archive

These directions take you nowhere

For substantial portions of my childhood I lived at 1641 NW 36th Ave. in Miami and for another substantial period I lived at 9775 SW 53rd St.

That made finding those places easy. You went to the northwest or southwest portion of the city, went to the appropriate street or avenue and then went to the intersecting street or avenue represented by the first two numbers of the house number.

Yeah, somebody would throw in a Lane or a Court or Road or a Way every once in a while, and the suburban community of Coral Gables was an intertwining network of sinuous streets with names pronounceable only by those well-based in Castilian Spanish. But overall it was safe to assume that if you had somebody's address you could figure out where they lived.

Members of my family, for some reason, prefer to live in places a little harder to find. In fact, I'm one of the few members of the family that doesn't have the word "rural" in my address and who can tell you how to find my house without using the words "paved," "fence," or phrases like "the third brick church . . . no, not the third church, because there's two wooden ones in between."

It's understandable with my father, because he is a horse trainer and tends to live near his charges, and neither he nor they are often welcome or comfortable in condos or subdivisions.

And it's understandable with my brother-in-law, because he has a tendency to do unspeakable things with cars and trucks and there's nothing like a big greasy eight-cylinder engine hanging on a tripod chain hoist in the front yard to get the neighborhood improvement association reaching hard for the smelling salts.

But because of a family emergency it is necessary for us, this week, to find my brother-in-law's house in rural North Carolina and so I fortified myself and called my sister-in-law for directions.

She said something very like this:

"Take the interstate to down by the motel you stayed in last year and you'll come to a fork where you can either go right or left. Go straight (?) and then get on new 64 (I didn't have the heart to ask where old 64 went.) After you go across the bridge you will come to an old closed barbecue stand. Take the road on the left until you pass the volunteer fire station. After you pass the fire station, it will be the second paved road on the left before you cross the new (?) bridge. Then it will be the fourth trailer (they haven't started calling them manufactured homes up there yet) on the right with the big Dodge truck in the front."

I'm not putting down my sister-in-law. She is an intelligent and knowledgeable woman, and there simply isn't any other way to describe how to find her home.

When Wife went up there last year she just gave up and met her relatives in town.

When I arrived a few days later, I had a better idea, a trick I use whenever I am in cities or countries where I know I am going to have trouble finding my way around.

"If I get into a cab and want to go to your house," I asked slyly, "what do I say to the cab driver?"

"Tell him," she said then, "to take the interstate to down by the motel you're staying in and you'll come to a fork in the road where you can either go . . ."

I got the idea.

You would think that the years I spent in New Bern, N.C., where I was once actually told to take a left turn "where the RC sign used to be," would have prepared me, but there is a very good chance I will be lost as you read this.

I'm due back in town tonight.

If I don't make it, please send someone to Lexington, N.C., and tell them to take the interstate to near the Triad motel where the road forks and you can go either right or left. Go straight . . .