One of the earliest lessons I learned about writing is there are times when unexpected things happen and writing is put aside for a week or two.
The past couple weeks have been one of those times for me.
My wife and I were in southeast Missouri and southern Illinois, visiting ill relatives — one of those out of the blue/best get up there and visit now kind of things.
I wrote a little bit while on the road, but it was more important to be there for my wife.
So…no Juggling Writer entries. (Sorry ’bout that — I’ll be back to regular entries next week.)
The drive did make me think about a simple writing exercise I used to do: I’d look at a person, place, or thing and think about a description for an article or story.
My impression of Cairo, Illinois:
If Route 51 were a spine, Cairo, Illinois is a diseased vertebrae, deteriorated and at risk of crumbling to nothing. Brick and stone buildings look like they could be toppled by a shove from a fourth grade playground bully. There are enough weeds growing through the pavement on some streets to graze goats. It’s easy to imagine the town was bombed by the Soviets at the beginning of the Cold War and then forgotten.
Cairo, Illinois is one of the saddest places I’ve ever seen. It’s clear there was a time when it had no rival in the area, but today it lingers and suffers.
The two relatives we visited were raised in Cairo. The weight of driving through the town on the way out wasn’t lost on us. My wife said it best when we crossed the Mississippi River on our way home for Texas:
“It seems fitting…”
I knew what she meant.
Just like that town where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet, there’s little left of them these days.
I’m glad we got up for visits, and as sad a town as it is, I’m glad we finally drove through Cairo.
Cynthia Griffith says
Thanks so much for being there for me. It was good to see some family, even if it was a short visit for each one. It was definitely hard to see them that way, but at least I was able to see them again. Definitely a hard trip on us, in many ways.
I’m also glad you got to see Cairo. I saw a few spots where it looked like they were trying to restore and build up again… hopefully they will be successful. It would be a shame if more of those lovely buildings and places were lost.
Very fitting description, Chris — oddly enough I’ve actually been to Cairo, IL twice. My good friend’s family is from there and his grandmother still lives there — Her name’s Jewel Morgan– I’m sure they all know each other.
Christopher Gronlund says
I’m glad we finally drove through.
We’ve been up there, but since we’ve always been a little more north and west, it never made sense to go in the short times we’ve spent up there.
Since we were on 57 and had to go through Cairo, it was nice to stop.
I would have loved seeing the town in its prime.
Christopher Gronlund says
I thought about you driving through town. As you know, it’s like a movie set — Perfect place to shoot a 50s/60s zombie flick!
Any kind of post-apocalyptic thing, really.
I wouldn’t be surprised if your friend’s grandmother knows some of Cynthia’s relatives.
Sounds like a tough situation. I hope everything is going as well as possible!
I’m glad you’ll be “back” soon. I’m sorry for such a dismal trip. I had to be difficult.