Friday, April 02, 2004

MARCH 24, 2004

On my way home from Alexandria, I pulled off for something to eat at a truck-stop in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. I had taken a place at the counter; a couple truckers sat off to my right around a bend, seated so I could see them. When I returned to my place with a plate of food from the buffet, a waitress who had been talking to one of those truckers turned and looked at me. I looked back at her with a question mark. She said, "I'm sorry, I just don't want to have sex with you." She sounded genuinely sorry.

"I suppose not," I said. The trucker she'd been talking to pointed vaguely at me and then at the trucker to his right and kinda shrugged his shoulders; it looked as if he'd been trying to set her up with one or the other of us. The waitress would have none of it, she just wanted "to be friends."

The trucker trying to direct that waitress's sex life was also trying to figure out how he was going to get past the weigh station on I-90 at Eau Claire. He knew he was about 4000 pounds overweight. Sometimes you can get away with being a thousand or fifteen hundred pounds over the limit, but they won't overlook that you're 4000 pounds over. When it was obvious that the other trucker, the waitress, and I were not going to solve his dilemma, he said "Well, fine, it's my dispatcher's problem" and he dialed his cell phone.

I paid my tab and went on down the road towards home.



A man reaches the age where his astonishment trumps his certainty. Old men spend a lot of time sitting on benches and thinking. I was more than fifty years old before I started to understand why. There's a lot for old men to think about. The more you think about it, the more astonished you become: how does a fellow get to where a fellow is?

The middle west was the bottom of an ocean, wasn't it? It is a great, flat accumulation. It is home for me, because I need trees and a great humming greenness, I need the turn of seasons, I need the ice. I was born here in the middle of it, in Iowa, in our only truly middle western state.

Ohio is too much Pennsylvania and West Virginia to be middle western. Indiana is too southern. Michigan has too much water. Wisconsin and Minnesota have too many lakes, too much forest, and these states might be partly Canadian, ey? Kansas and Nebraska, South Dakota and North - half of each of these is western. Missouri is too much like Arkansas.

That leaves Illinois and Iowa, doesn't it, yet Illinois has Chicago at one end and Cairo at the other, so what remains as the only true middle western state is Iowa. Of course it has taken more than fifty years for me to appreciate this. All our lives we want to run from that which we should be embracing....


APRIL 2, 1998

The drive from my house to Five Corners is about five miles; from Five Corners to the printing plant where I work is another five miles, nearly. I have worked there for almost twenty years; I have made the drive five days a week, fifty weeks a year: 20 x 50 x 5 x 20 = approaching 120,000 miles spent driving to and from work these past twenty years. It takes me about fifteen minutes each way: 20 x 50 x 5 x 15 = 75,000 minutes div. by 60 = 1250 hours div. by an 8-hour day = more than 156 8-hour days spent driving to and from work. 156 days is more than 22 weeks. What do I have to show for that time?

Another front came through yesterday, bringing more rain. The sky is grey this morning but the streets are dry. Leaf buds are swollen. The daffodils next to our garage will want to bloom soon if it warms up. Yet it is a cool wind still that ripples the surface of the pond down the hill.

Wild geese sit in pooled water in a farmyard just north of town. What have they to fear? What have I to fear?

At the edge of Ripon a crow eats at a deer long dead in the ditch. It flaps its wings with satisfaction. Unless we are making something new, we too are feeding on carrion.

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