Notes from the Road

By April 21st, 2014

Notes from the Road – April, 2014 – Good Friends – Time Is Tight – Simpler Days – Kindness of Strangers – Civic Organizations – Hidden Meaning of “Resume Speed” Signs – Leading by Example Is Not Enough – Missed Chances – Families – Road Signs.

by Mack W. Borgen

Notes from the Road

February – April, 2014 

For personal, business, and book promotion reasons, during the last couple of months I travelled over 4,400 miles by car. I visited many of the Western and Mountain States, and I was reminded (time and time again in the case of central Nevada) that there is nothing like a “Resume Speed” sign” to open up one’s mind; to wander through one’s memories; and to reflect about everything from jackrabbits to urban plight.  

The following thoughts are presented in the frighteningly, rambling manner in which they occurred to me at various Mile Markers along the road. I apologize in advance for the periodic rings and pings of unsolicited philosophy which have crept into my Notes from the Road, but somewhere amidst some small towns in Northern California, I promised to judicially write and report the good, the bad, and the ugly …. Please remember it was a long trip. As will be obvious, there were times when the flat coffee wasn’t enough and the haze of the road took over ….  

 Good Friends. Good friends are sometimes a long ways away, but it is worth the trip to see them. Always.

 Time Is Tight, Things To Do, and Places To Go. Many of my contemporaries know Manhattan, Chicago, and Dallas. They know Aspen and Vail, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley, Stowe and Mont Tremblant. They know the Left Bank of Paris and the golf course at Pebble Beach. However, they haven’t seen America in a long time. Some of them revel in their own busyness and almost embrace the deadlines and pressures of their personal and business lives almost as badges of success, if not courage. They live in a world in which time is (unduly, if not artificially) precious; where there are always things to do, people to see, and places to go. For some, money is no object, and road trips are seen as poor man’s travel — for college kids on Spring break, for long-distance truckers logging miles and paychecks, and for seniors who just seem to have way too much time on their hands.

                   But there is a price to be paid for speedy, city-to-city air travel because America – you know, that huge America located between our big cities – cannot be seen from 35,000 feet. The struggles of the small cities and the full nature of our people cannot be well understood through the looking glass windows of private jets or from the portal screens of the Internet. There are a couple of thousands reasons why it would be both offensive and illegal to mandate a two-week summer road vacation for all families, but America must be seen more often and more clearly — and there’s only one sure way — the road – one diner, one town, one county, one state, one mountain range, one winding road at a time. It’ll take some time — but our country is worth it.

 Simpler Days. Occasionally I miss the simpler days. Now we have Macklemore and Pit Bull. We have Daft Punk, Miley, Katy, the omnipresent Taylor Swift, and the omninoxious Justin Bieber. And while I am not anxious to date myself any more than I am already betrayed by the graying of my hair and the wrinkling around my eyes, it is fun to remember the simpler days. There was even a time when  … 

I thought that pretty much everything you needed to know was laid out in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — “I can’t help you Sundance;” “Use enough dynamite there, Butch;” “Hell, the fall’s going to kill ‘ya;” and on and on …… ;

I thought that Rod Stewart’s Maggie May and Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown could get me through any down-day funk and any bout of sadness;

When I thought that the poetry and raw wisdom of Leonard Cohen could inspire me to do anything — or as he would say, to draw that card “so high and wild, I’d never have to draw another;”

When I thought that if you played Born in the U.S.A. loud enough, you were pretty much invincible in that New Jersey awesome, ’80’s Springsteen kind of way; and

When I thought that thanks to the convenient theories laid out in Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics, one of the seminal books of our generation, you could rationalize any action and re-negotiate the boundaries of morality.  

Kindness of Strangers. The kindness of strangers still exists in American, and the concept of Paying It Forward has caught hold. I met some of them, and I here – far too inadequately  — thank them.

Civic Organizations. Civic organizations seem to many people (and, until recently and with embarassment, to this author as well) to belong almost to another generation; to be almost from another time. To a certain extent, possibly they are. However, it has been my honor to speak to some of them over the course of the last year, and they are wonderful. They are useful. They are constructive. They are quietly inspiring both in their actions and in their core charters and statements of purpose – like Kiwanis’ charge to its members to practice “aggressive citizenship” or Lions Club’s simple motto “We Serve.” When did we get so bi-coastally effete, so highly advanced and cool, and so busy and self-absorbed that we no longer had the time or inclination to join?

Hidden Meaning of Resume Speed. When it is late at night and when one is exhausted and road-weary, the “Resume Speed” signs posted on the edge of each town can take on a whole new meaning. They seem to contain a cleverly hidden drug connation as in “Resume Speed.” Be assured that shortly after this crossed my mind, I dutifully pulled over, got a room, and called it a night. 

Leading By Example Is Not Enough. Our parents taught us to lead by example, and although I sometimes fail, I still try to honor that teaching. However, I fear that in Current America this is no longer enough. In the sloppy parlance of road talk, our country has gone too far. We need to be more, and we need to do more. There are times when we must individually speak out – with clarity and firmness. We need to discard some of our political correctness. Sometimes we even need to abandon that disdain for judgmentalism which has been so deeply ingrained into our social DNA. While great caution is required, sometimes judgmentalism is not only acceptable; it is called for. Some things are bad. Some actions are wrong. Some statements are indecent. When we see or hear these things, actions, or statements – we must act.

Missed Chances. I, possibly like you, have missed some chances in my life. I don’t want to do so again.

There was a man who lived down the road from me in Montana. He was highly educated and had a Ph.D in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley. Nevertheless, for some reason he withdrew to a small house in the middle of the woods. He was friendly and engaging when we saw each other on the road. I know that he lived down my road for many years with his wife, his books, and his dog. He loved all three — but rarely in that order. I always wondered why he had (so) withdrawn, but I never asked him. And now he is dead. 

I had a friend die of cancer several years ago. We didn’t see each other or even talk very often. We lived in different cities. But he was my friend, and I thought of him fondly. I have no reason to think that he did not die with dignity, but he died without me – to my great embarrassment and regret not even knowing of his illness. Always assuming that there would be a tomorrow, I never took the opportunity to thank him for being my friend. Maybe we all need to stay in better touch with one another.

 Families. Families are a strong admixture of love and caring; of fun and teasing; of confusion and sometimes concern. I guess they are oftentimes just like us: complicated.

 Road Signs. There are a lot road signs. Many of them are numbers (“Highway 80” and “Speed Limit 65”), but few of them offer up any encouragement. I lost precise count somewhere south of Salt Lake City, but there are a lot more “Yield,”Caution,”Stop,” and “Do Not Enter” signs than there are “Speed Up,” “Go Forward,” “No Big Deal,” or “Burst Forth” signs. If the road is going to be boring (as opposed to just “long and winding”), then maybe at least the signage should be more interesting. Just a thought.

 

                                    Notes From The Road, February – April, 2014.

Please get copies of my books from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, SummerlandPublishing.com, or ask for them at your favorite bookstore.

The Relevance of Reason – Business and Politics (July, 2013) (408 pp) (First Runner Up – Best Business Book of the Year – 2014 Los Angeles Book Festival); Finalist – Political Science Category – ForeWord Review’s 2014 National Book Contest (Winner to be announced June 27, 2014 at American Library Association Convention at Las Vegas, Nevada)

The Relevance of Reason –  Society and Culture (October, 2013) (438 pp) – Finalist – Popular Culture Category – ForeWord Review’s 2014 National Book Contest (Winner to be announced June 27, 2014 at American Library Association Convention at Las Vegas, Nevada). 

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