We find out we live in Anytown, U.S.A. Or at least that was the case this past weekend. When I left my house on Friday evening to go for a run, there were signs posted two blocks up: No Parking 9-12 Saturday. When I went out again on Saturday morning, just after nine, I saw why. Well, initially I didn't. I thought that maybe there was going to be some sort of festival at the Catholic school up the street. They have those, especially around the holidays. They don't always have police cars blocking intersections. They also don't have trucks full of fancy camera equipment, lights and miles of cable.
Just a couple of blocks from my front door, a little more than a hundred yards, there was a film set. I might have been tipped off by the sign in front of the school that now identified it as "Jefferson Academy." When did that happen? This is not the neighborhood I left just a few hours ago. I raced home to get my nascent film student out of bed to show him what he was missing. This time, when we approached, we were waved away by an officer in an unmarked car. But we could see milling throngs up the street, working at something. They were turning our street into "Anywhere U.S.A."
They did this in the service of creating a commercial for Fiat. They were filming the tiniest portion of a car chase just up the block from us. A great big black truck was chasing a little red Fiat around the corner. Over and over. My wife had joined us by now and we watched the mini-spectacle take place. We chatted up the parts of the crew who were willing to take the time to talk with us. The assistant to the assistant director came over and my son was introduced as an aspiring filmmaker. He asked to which colleges my son had applied. My son got a great burst of real life advice straight from the horse's mouth. The assistant to the assistant horse's mouth. A quarter of a mile from where my son had so recently been sleeping, he was standing in what was for him, Nirvana: on location at the filming of a car commercial.
Then I was stuck thinking about all the things I knew about trains. I learned all kinds of things about locomotives and rolling stock because of all the time I spent hanging around with my son and a herd of other glassy-eyed rail freaks. I remembered standing next to the train tracks and watching my son's face light up as the Union Pacific locomotives roared by. I saw that same look as my son watched the lights and cameras being packed away. We could be anywhere. And everywhere. All at once.