I woke up this morning and found myself at home.
I woke up on the early side. I rolled over on my right side. I sleep on the right side of the bed, so I rolled right. Before the roll turned to tumble I twisted my legs to meet the floor and, leverage swinging my way, my torso upright. The day began the same as any other day. I addressed the morning chores with a blend of dutiful commitment and joy. I’ve found a routine that, for many years, I never believed I was capable of. In fact I spat fire at the very word and concept as I believed routine was most certainly the end, the rut, the death of spontaneity and creativity.
The drive is part of the routine. I drive farther than I thought I ever would to go to work or any other place requiring my regular attendance. I commute in a real, suburban commuter type of way. I drive 25-40 minutes, without stops, depending on traffic, energy level, and deer, each way, each day. This routine brings me from Old Chatham to Hudson where the routine continues, only complicated by distractions.
Mine is a social business, so talking to others of things other than work is necessary but often perfunctory, less a routine and more a disinterested pushing through it, decorated with laconic verbal pleasantries as I walk the gauntlet of guests between the kitchen and walk-in refrigerator upstairs. I chat with guests while the restaurant is operating, all the while concerned with completing the task at hand and my next move to further my day, so I know I must not be very interesting to talk to at those times.
Work conversations, however, are not indifferent, not diffuse cocktail cricketing, but focused and directed by the constant search for the perfectly edited and always elusive moment: a distinct coming together of flavor, sounds, smells and visual stimulation expressing an otherwise ineffable connection to and understanding of feeling at that time. The quest for a magic moment is like chasing a dragon: impossible, and collectively acknowledged as such, yet we approach it each day with naïve enthusiasm and a code of ethics that has all but disappeared in my business. Peter Barrett—my partner and this Quarterly’s Editor—has described our work as analogous to a band, rehearsed but improvising on stage.
Work is far more interesting than socializing. So forgive me if I get this wrong, or don’t clearly express my thoughts as I take myself outside of my work to observe that which I am quite delighted to be incorporating into my routine, even if the machinations of integration happen unconsciously. I may forget a name or a face, but like you I am working on my work and sometimes what happens beyond is clearly not so clear to me. I do know that Hudson is happening. The simmering they said would only continue to simmer and never boil over. They: the jaded, the once hopeful, the burned out, the gossips, the shit talkers, the resistant, the delusional, the human.
I don’t remember all that was bandied about concerning where this small city on the Hudson River was headed. What I do recall is that those who have old, less malleable routines—the rut I’ve feared—are not overjoyed with what is to me the unarguably wonderful enhancement of a once destitute city. A writer friend once told me of a David Foster Wallace review of Updike’s last novel concerning a bitter old groping, adulterous college professor, unhappy and angry at the world, and at no time in the book does the author or protagonist consider that the reason he is unhappy is because he is an asshole. Wallace was a champion of not suffering fools.
The Hudson swell is vibrantly visible, and I have seen it clearer than ever this summer. The traffic tells me so, the wine tells me so, the lights, the wonderful people—sincerely, yes, the wonderful people—who are excited and in their excitement they give themselves to the town and I am here and I see it and I could say I have seen it for years as they’ll now say and perhaps they want to want it but sometimes it’s hard when what you’ve written off actually arrives but the wanting doesn’t. Sometimes that manifests in ugly ways, and sometimes in retreat and sometimes, some of us, well we’re out in the streets understanding that perfunctory doesn’t have to be the forever or ongoing but can break down into an easy and natural, even welcome shift, a moment of holiday while still deliberately pulling, coaxing, curating, and wrangling the tangible and intangible into place to create another moment.
Now that there are more who share a vision, an energy, I’m opening up to a type of sharing that before was merely vapid, meaningless, waiting-room chatter. Waiting has become conversation. The diminutive city by the river is enchanting me with her new accessories, her sense of style, her voice, enchanting me so much that I excitedly lift my head up from the work and look around and smile. Imagine that. Imagine me becoming us… and for us the show has just begun.
So Peter and I thought, like Marvin Pontiac’s tiny farmers, that there must be a way to know why the stars are shining. So we embarked on a mission. Peter convinced a few friends with brilliant minds and prodigious talents to join our mission and, with their help, we present to you the first result of taking out our small car and now we’re in a car, in a car, in a small car, in a small car, in a car, in a small car, in a small car driving….
Hello Farmer! Hello!
(The legendary Marvin Pontiac recorded "Small Car" from which these words are taken.)
We hope you enjoy it.