I consider myself an optimist, particularly of late. Given the state of the world, I think a healthy dose of optimism is a pre-requisite for a life in diplomacy. That said, I can say objectively that there is a very dark cloud following me. Literally.
The Weather Channel website provides a very useful interstate driving map and it seems all of the harsh weather predicted for I-80 tracks my progress precisely. Today, it was blowing snow and pretty dense fog as I crossed Wyoming. Clearing Cheyenne, the snow gave way to rain which followed my progress across Nebraska to Lincoln where the day ended. Having never been to Nebraska, I was amazed to see mile after mile of wheat. I just figured it’d all be corn given the namesake mascot for the University.
Lest anyone forget, Cornhusker football dominates Nebraskan culture this time of year. I flipped through the local stations on the radio and couldn’t get away from it. AM Radio: Jesus, Jesus, Sports, Oldies, and Jesus. The sports talk initially sounded promising until I realized that it was ignoring major league baseball playoffs, the full slate of NFL football games, hockey, and everything else but Cornhusker football and, specifically, a brewing quarterback controversy. FM Radio: Classical/NPR (from Wyoming), Country, 80s New Wave, Country, Classic Rock, and Country. News breaks talked of weather and the quarterback controversy. This while I’m driving past an exit for the Tom Osborne Expressway named after the infamous Cornhusker head coach.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love sports. When shooting a college game from the sidelines, it is very easy for me to get caught up in the drama and emotion of the moment even if I have no connection to either team. I cried at the end of Rudy. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that I’m driving through an episode of Friday Night Lights.
Radio — at least for music — appears well on its way to obsolescence as a medium. Why listen to commercials interspersed with music you didn’t choose when you can craft your own commercial-free 20-hour playlists? For this sometimes tedious trip, I’ve been switching between various playlists that include a mix of rock/pop, hip hop, and R&B that span stay-awake classics from the Who, Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, and George Thorogood to Black Star, Hieroglpyhics, and Mos Def to Grace Jones, Sly & the Family Stone, and Etta James with lots in between. So far, drowsiness has not been a problem.
I’ve also tried out the concept of audio books. I haven’t had a long commute in over a decade so I’ve never had the need before (other than a road trip to Los Angeles years ago during which we listened to the then-latest Harry Potter book). I went to the library and found two books on CD of interest: T.C. Boyle’s Talk Talk and Roddy Doyle’s Oh, Play That Thing.
I’ll leave the serious literary critiques to my eldest son who knows more about literary theory than I could ever hope to comprehend, but I really enjoyed Talk Talk. I’ve been a fan of T.C. Boyle’s after reading Tortilla Curtain and Budding Prospects. Talk Talk uses the same great ear for dialogue, both internal and external, and follows the events surrounding an identity theft nightmare encountered by a Southern California deaf woman and her boyfriend. Bouncing perspectives between the victims and the thief, Boyle builds a surprising amount of suspense as the protagonists collide at the end of the book. I was also pleasantly surprised to find one part of the book involving a cross-country driving trip that coincidentally followed my precise route. The audio book definitely helped my miles slip by quickly, particularly since Boyle did his own reading, complete with accents for various characters.
M will no doubt take me to task for something I’m missing, but I think Boyle’s downfall is his endings. While I thoroughly enjoyed all three books, I felt a bit disappointed when each of them ended. Not entirely satisfying for me, but not enough of a problem that I’m giving up on him. Tonight I downloaded Boyle’s Drop City from Audible.com to gobble up the last couple of days of driving.