The Experimental Memoir Day 13

Friday was Veterans’ Day. Kim and Fiona both had the day off, but I had to work. It wasn’t a day off for Wesley, who came upstairs at 5:30 in the morning seeking attention. I took him outside, and then sat down to my morning ritual a little bit earlier than normally. It was all the more tiring because I had been up late the night before for a conference I was speaking at in Hartford.

Although Fiona had the day off, she also ended up getting up earlier than usual. She fed Wesley, but then asked me to take him for a walk as I was trying to get out the door. In the end, she came outside with him as I tried to get on the road for work.

Since Kim had the day off, I was going to drive the grey Prius. It gets better mileage and had more gas in the tank. I had to move my parking sticker from the black car to the grey car. My hands were full and it was frustrating. When I finally got going, I realized I had left my travelling mug full of coffee on the kitchen counter.

Like most mornings, I head out the gravel section of our driveway to the blacktopped section that is a shared driveway for several houses. I head down the little hill, and take a left onto the state highway. There is often a lot of traffic on the street as I head off to work, and I have to wait for a break in the traffic.

Friday morning, the traffic was a little lighter. I continue down the hill and drive under the old parkway bridge. Construction on the parkway started in the 1930s, and it is a grand old road. The underpass is a beautiful stone arch that probably is too often overlooked by people driving in or out of New Haven.

After passing under the parkway, I take a left onto a side street in New Haven. I would guess that many of the houses I pass on these side streets were probably built in boom after World War II. However, there are a few houses that appear older scatter amongst these houses. With the housing crisis of the past few years, there have been sporadic signs announcing bankruptcy auctions.

I pass a small Orthodox Church, and enter a business section of New Haven. There is a gauntlet of intersections I need to negotiate to get onto the Parkway just before the Heroes Tunnel passing through West Rock.

Once I emerge from the tunnel, I set the cruise control on in the car at a comfortable 60 miles per hour. That is five miles above the speed limit, slower than must traffic, but not slow enough to be a hazard. I settle in for the ride. Typically, I start drinking my coffee once I leave the tunnel, and I listen to some morning news. At times, my mind wanders as I think about the day ahead or of various things I need to get written.

On Friday, I didn’t have my coffee, but I listened to the radio, the endless patter of news. Much of the news blends together; the debt crisis in Greece and the debt crisis in Italy, the latest political debates, and random other bits of information.

When I was in college, I took an aesthetics course. I remember the professor talking about people who run through museums. They glance at one famous painting after another, checking them off on some bucket list, but never really taking the time to engage with the painting. I remember how he some about how people often go through life this way, that perhaps we are all museum runners. In a different course, something about religious experiences, he spoke about how many people rotely say The Lord’s Prayer, and various other religious texts, and about meeting a mystic who focused on each word, trying to be fully aware of it.

The parkway, even though it is one of the nicer highways around, is one that slips by too quickly and too easily. There is a section where a greenway walking path is being developed. Another area has an old dilapidated barn standing next to a field looking as if it should be in Vermont, and not in Connecticut. Beyond that, it is an uninspiring drive.

In Meriden, the parkway intersects with a couple Interstates. I could take a turn on to a town street and head a little more directly to work. However, that is normally a bit slower. If I see a traffic jam ahead as I leave the parkway, I head over these town streets. Otherwise, I take the slightly more convoluted but more reliable highways.

Soon, I start hitting sections of road that are a little more picturesque. On my left, I pass a reservoir. It is surrounded by woods. There have been mornings that I’ve seen various forms of wildlife swimming in the reservoir. Often water foul, but various mammals as well.

At times, the water is perfectly still, forming a natural mirror, reflecting the trees around it. Other times, the breezes make little ripples changing the reflection to an impressionist painting. Sometimes there is a mist rising from the water.

I try to make a conscious effort to draw in the beauty of the moment as I drive to work. It makes me think of driving up Route 6 at the tip of Cape Cod on the way from the campground up to the Race Point beach where we spend many summer hours.

There are other moments along the road, as I notice the different plants. Now that it is November, most of the plants have withered and turned brown, but at other times of the year, there are dandelion in profusions of yellow, blue chicory, white and purple clover and various colors of vetch. Later in the year, the sumac berries start to turn red against its green foliage background.

I grew up in a family that foraged wild food, and I think of chicory coffee, sucking the sweet nectar from the ends of the clover flowers, eating dandelion greens, which always seemed a bit bitter, or having lemonade seasoned with sumac berries.

I still drive the road too much like a museum runner, and don’t take enough time to soak in all that the road has to offer. After all, it is part of the daily commute. After the brief bucolic interlude, the road comes down into the outskirts of Middletown, an area dominated by strip malls. It is in this area, where I stop and get gas when I need it.

Then, on into the middle of Middletown. I pass the Wesleyan campus. I grew up in a college town and loved it. There were so many great activities to participate in. I go to a few things at Wesleyan from time to time, but not enough. The same applies to Yale which is close to where I live.

Then, I drove down Washington Street and turn onto Main Street and I am almost at work.

Besides not fully experiencing my commute each day, there are times that I just simply forget what I saw. As I work on writing this, my tendency to forget things like this comes to mind. What did I have for dinner on Thursday evening? Actually, this week’s meals have been fairly easy to remember.

Friday night, I was exhausted after my long week. Kim made sandwiches of Italian Sausage, peppers, and cheese. Fiona ate at our neighbor’s house. Growing up, sandwiches were normally simple things. A slice of bologna on some bread with a little mustard spread on it, or maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kim grew up I in a family where sandwich making was an art form, with a collection of different meats, cheeses, and condiments.

Thursday night was the conference I spoke at. I had heavy hors d’oeuvres. Mostly it was Chinese dumplings, some chicken, some pork, as well as some stuffed bread. I had a beer with these hors d’oeuvres as I chatted with fellow panelists and attendees of the conference.

Wednesday night was just Fiona and I. Kim had an evening meeting so I ordered some pizza. We got two small pizzas, one plain cheese and the other with sausage. Tuesday night was another non-standard night. Wesley had been injured and there wasn’t really any focus on dinner. In the end, we had some fried ravioli and some kielbasa as we sat in the living room and tended to Wesley.

It is an interesting exercise to see what you can remember from the previous week’s dinners. The other thing that stands out is that from Tuesday through Friday, we did not sit together as a family at the dinner table. Saturday, Kim’s cousin was house sitting for her parents and Kim’s brother came down to visit and we all sat down together as an extended family for a wonderful dinner of leg of lamb and potatoes.

This extended family dinner had the trappings of so many extended family dinners. The adults sat at the dining room table and the kids sat at the kids table in the kitchen. The discussions were lively and everyone seemed to have a great time.

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