Monday, October 2, 2023

The Road Probably Never Taken

Sunday rain, all day and constant.  It fed my gloom, I guess, but maybe something more is wrong with me.  I did have a duty to perform, though.  I made the pot of seafood stew for dinner with my mother.  Let me tell you, folks, it is a fairly easy meal to make.  I'll tell you what I did.  Skip ahead if you don't care, though.  I completely understand.  

First I chopped carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions.  I heated olive oil in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven and dropped them in, added salt and pepper and stirred them until the onions began to soften.  I then added one 8 ounce bottle of clam juice and let it come up to a boil for one minute.  Next, I added chicken stock and let it begin to bubble for "a bit."  Then 3/4 bottle of white wine and 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes.  Once it came back to a boil, I remembered to add the oregano.  I turned the heat to low and let it cook for half an hour while I drank the rest of the wine.  I cut a pound and a half of cod into bite sized pieces and seasoned them with Old Bay Seasoning, brought the liquid up to a boil, and added the cod.  Three minutes later I added half a pound of small Chilean scallops and half a pound of peeled shrimp.  Topped with chopped parsley.  I put the top on the Dutch oven and cut the heat.  

Served with crusty bread.  Pure healthy goodness. Greatness.  

Follow that with pistachio gelato.  It is the best.  

Travis has me reading Larry McMurtry's "Road," a book-long essay of his travel across the great highways of the country.  He says I should follow the book's journey and make photographs.  "Of women?" I joked.  Most of what McMurtry's journey is across plains, prairies, and wastelands, at least as far as I have read.  I'd be photographing Indian casinos and Quick Stops all along the way.  Maybe not.  I shouldn't judge without seeing it.  But what you realize while reading, at least I did, is that writing is magic.  It can make anything interesting.  McMurtry's gaze, for instance, is both outward and inward.  A hundred miles of prairie will have him thinking about his childhood or have him reciting a hundred years of history of the changing land.  It is not the road that is interesting, of course, but what one thinks about while on it.  I read to learn how to write now, lessons probably sought far too late in life, but I was moved by McMurtry to try a little experiment.  The Google makes things easier.  I thought about roads and asked," What are highways made of?"  Simple, right?  The results were fairly fascinating.  

Interstate highways were originally built with concrete, and still today, most of them are.  Yet only 2% of roads in this country are.  Most are made of asphalt, a mixture of concrete and sand and rock.  Concrete, you see, is harder and smoother and will bear more weight without cracking.  Asphalt, because of its texture, is more susceptible to changes in temperature and is more likely to rupture and crumble.  Concrete roads last nearly twice as long as asphalt and require much less maintenance, but asphalt roads are cheaper to build.  They are also bumpier.  

I next Googled "Who produces most concrete."  I came up with ten companies in the U.S., but they import most of the cement used in making it from China, then Canada.  I got all this in a few seconds.  I didn't bother going down the China/cement rabbit hole, but you see how easy it is to wonder and have your questions answered now.  In the past, it would have needed an afternoon in the library which was not time wasted and was usually very satisfying, but that really wasn't my point.  I just wanted to emulate the way McMurtry would narrate a road trip in his writer's head.  And, of course, it comes from the old writing trick of gazing into the world, seeing something particular, describing it, then opining on the universality of the thing before drawing the reader's attention back to the thing itself.  

If you are unfamiliar, I would whole-heartedly recommend you read Virginia Woolf's "The Death of the Moth" (link).   It is an enduring classic of its sort.  If you want more of this kind of writing, look to Annie Dillard.  Her writing seems to me to have been birthed by Woolf's essay.  I met Dillard once at a writing conference, and like her male counterparts, she gave me the high hat.  I've never figured out what it is that I do to raise their enmity.  I've only really ever been complimentary.  Q saw the very thing itself when we met James Salter.  Ask him.  There was an immediate and perhaps visceral reaction.  It makes me sad, really.  I wanted to be their friend.  

Selavy.  I wander.  

I must get out of the house today.  I must try to rejoin the living.  Maybe I had a bug.  If so, I suffered from something unnamable.  That is the spookiest disease from which to suffer.  It didn't help much that I made Bloody Mary's again on Sunday.  They seemed healthy, though, all those vegetables and spices.  But today must be a day of hydration and happiness.  The weather will be sunnier and not so very hot.  I'll get back to a semi-active life.  

There is so much to do and so very little time in which to do it.  


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