Monday, October 18, 2010

The Foliage Tour - Part 1

We headed for an even more northeastern part of the Northeast with half a thankful of regular unleaded and a lot of crazy dreams, passing Trader Joe’s as we sped east through Danbury, Connecticut. We had Crystal Geyser to sip, and bananas with which to maintain our blood sugar and potassium levels. Because it has become our tradition to listen to read-aloud versions of Barbara Ehrenreich books during our little excursions, we had her provocative, illuminating, typically disheartening Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America on CD. though I’d already read it at the gym.

Once we’d inserted a disk into the player, we were able to put the case out of sight, whereas when I was reading the actual book while on the stationery bike, I knew at all times that the cover was just on the other side of the book I held in my hands. Such a relief! I have long believed that aside from TV graphics, the worst commercial design you’ll see anywhere is on book covers. I wouldn’t have put the cover that Omnibus Press put on my novel Waiting for Kate Bush on the wall of a men’s room in a Honduran leper colony, or in Karl Rove’s study. I pleaded with Omnibus not to do it. I said I’d show their cover and my proposed cover to 50 passers-by in Oxford Street in London, and that if fewer than 80 percent expressed a strong preference for mine, I would give back half my advance, but they wouldn’t hear of it.

The cover of Bright-Sided makes that of Waiting for Kate Bush look in comparison like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

But there. I’ve gone into one of my blood-pressure-raising harangues, and I mustn’t.
I will tell you that Ehrenreich’s long chapter on how American women diagnosed with breast cancer aren’t allowed to be angry about it because anger doesn’t go well with the infantilizing pink that has come somehow to represent the disease (the NFL continues, as I write this, to wear pink chinstraps and other accessories!) made me proud that I am commonly denounced as cynical. The chapter about how relentless good vibe-mongering might be seen as a centuries-in-the-making response to the harsh Calvinism that was so popular through the first century and a half of American history also fascinated me.

Be that as it may, we made it well into Massachusetts before having to, uh, refuel because the Forester enjoys being driven for long distances on interstate highways as much as it seems to detest being driven to the gym, in Newburgh, parked, and then driven home to its garage in Beacon six times a week. Claire craved a Subway sandwich, but wouldn’t you know that there was none in sight as her craving grew ever more implacable? We got off the highway again in Littleton, Massachusetts, and at Dunkin’ Donuts bought a couple of flatbread sandwiches that contained enough melted cheese to clog the arteries of all 33 rescued Chilean miners and their famllies, but I gobbled mine without complaint because I still remember quite clearly how much I wanted to strangle Nancy when we would go to restaurants in the 90s and she would express her disapproval of what I was eating.

The GPS, which had done an unprecedentedly good job of adhering to the inside of the windshield, wanted us to take what seemed quite a circuitous route back to the interstate, but all that was forgotten when we went by a old train depot that had been turned into a repository for a lot of ancient appliances and picturesque junk that called out to be photographed.

By and by, we arrived at the Holiday Inn in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, just in time to hear that there were flood warnings in effect for the region. We realized widespread flooding might significantly impede our foliage-admiring, but consoled ourselves with a visit to the nearby liquor store, where very cheap vodka of the sort I prefer, or at least don’t mind, was on sale for a lot less than in New York.

What’s the point, I’ve always wondered, of paying for a posh Scandinavian or Russian vodka distilled from potatoes when the cheap, plastic-bottle, distilled-from-asphalt kind you can get for a fraction of the price will get you just as hammered?

I can be such a lowbrow.

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