stuck in the middle with you

by grantwoods

To understand skiing, ski a blue square (intermediate), then try a black diamond (hard) and a green circle (easy). The blue square will give you the best idea. Truth lies somewhere in the middle, and also on one side, and sometimes the other. The extremes are more intriguing: on a road where the sheep and the tall grass are (the most intriguing of all things). The middle is just a white, or yellow dotted, or solid, line. Harvest, said Neil Young, put him in the middle of the road, so he headed for the ditch, which is on either side of the road. If you spend too much time in the ditch, though, you might need a tow truck. But nobody wants to be James Taylor, either, purely in the middle of the road. James Taylor sucks.

Is it possible, then, to have a leg on either side of the road, widely straddling it like a gymnast, with groin, heart and brain firmly hovered over the line? A good place to start is coffee or beer. Coffee spans the entirety of the road. I have spent seven dollars on a coffee with notes of papaya and marijuana. But I’m also an Irving coffee rewards program member. People make fun of hipsters for sipping coffee through twirly straw mustaches and sucking each other’s metaphorical cocks, but fuck whoever doesn’t realize it’s fun to act a part of that world. In high school, at Circle K, I had twenty four ounces of coffee-tasting gasoline and then, after second period, my pee would smell so strongly of coffee I would swear I was actually just pouring it again. Ditto beer. I love a heady brew that’s thirteen dollars and tastes like a meal, but fuck anyone who doesn’t dig Rolling Rock, too. 

I recently drove from Vermont to Colorado, alone. A trip composed of American in-betweens. In Kansas, I saw an actual tumbleweed. In Missouri, I saw a road-side adult entertainment club that was dilapidated, crumbling and somehow, still open. (A hand job is a hand job). I saw a white wooden cross by the side of the road, someone I never knew. It made every driver mourn just the same. Impermanent. 

I saw the birthplace of Dwight Eisenhower and wondered how a boy from the middle of nowhere could ever dream of being president. In gas stations, some didn’t wear masks, on bumper stickers, people proclaimed hateful things in the name of Republicanism and, more often, Donald Trump. “I love all humans, even unborn ones.” Really? I bet I can name entire factions of adult humans you don’t love, F-150. Even if those beliefs, to us, can seem misguided, even hateful at times, consider why. As has been said, we do not blame a tree for bending to find the light. Those to whom evil is done do evil in return, says W.H. Auden. 

We have that glorious privilege as university students: the perspective and ability to straddle the road. The maskless man: oh, you’re on a quest to feel secure about your masculinity. You hate because you’ve learned to hate. Now it’s what you know. You are afraid. 

What does it mean to love something? I love coffee. I love beer. I love my mother. I love America, maybe. I want to love America. Today, as David Brooks pondered in his New York Times column this month, the right’s patriotism is actually ugly nationalism. Parts of the left believe any calls for unity are entirely hopeless. But, at one point, we were all taught this dreamy vision of what America could be at its best. And we loved that idea, even if it seemed entirely farcical. America is, and has been, broken, needing help, needing love. We all must straddle and open our hearts (maybe groins, too). If we can all straddle wide enough, across all of our roads, seeing the way they overlap each other, running about, creating a vast interconnected labyrinth, maybe, just maybe, we can all see and love each other. 

Categories: grant woods, march 23 2021, review

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