The Long Blue Tail – Lebanon, IL

There is an old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It came to mind the other day when I was listening to a criminology professor talking about how crimes are solved. It is very rare that they happen like on an episode of CSI. Instead, a lot of investigative work is doing the same thing, over and over again, never knowing if this time, you will discover a clue that solves some particularly difficult and notorious crime, or it will be yet another of the mundane endless investigations.

It crossed my mind as I put another load of laundry out to dry and washed another batch of dishes. True, on the immediate level, I wasn’t seeking different results. I was seeking clean clothes and clean dishes. Yet, in the back of my mind was the old story about the Zen monk attaining enlightenment while doing the dishes and the Hasidic Jew having a prayer for brushing his teeth. There is always hope of something special happening during the everyday moments of our lives.

In Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon starts off by driving from Columbia, MO to Lebanon, IL. He was doing something different, he was getting in his van and setting out on a great journey, yet these great journeys start with the first step, and Least Heat-Moon spoke about the miles on Interstate 64. “that cuts across southern Illinois and Indiana without going through a single town.” Driving mile after mile on the interstate seems a bit like doing the same thing over and over again.

He stopped in Lebanon, IL, where he noted Charles Dickens had once spent a night in at the Mermaid Inn. I visited Lebanon, IL via the web, and didn’t find much more than the Mermaid Inn. Yelp pointed me to Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain and Grille, with a review that said, “This place is worth a visit. The atmosphere is pure Mayberry”. I couldn’t find much of anything else interesting seeking around Twitterlocal or other tools.

So, I continued on to Grayville, IL. I didn’t find much interesting there, other than the Wabash River Bluegrass Music Festival and Camp which sounds interesting, but not much was written about it.

My mind wandered to my trip, twenty five years ago, hitch hiking around the country. I remember standing on a ramp of the Interstate in Arkansas one day for something like fourteen hours. Cars would pass by every once and a while. I would stick out my thumb and hope someone would stop and give me a ride. I was doing the same thing, over and over again, and eventually, a ride came along and my journey continued.

So now, I’ll continue on, loosely following Least Heat-Moon’s path, hoping to find some interesting places, people and stories. Hopefully, somehow, along the way, I’ll gain a glimpse of something that will help change me and maybe even a few readers.

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