You look in the barn and realize that the goats will be out of hay in a day or two. You are leaving town in two days for a wedding in Texas (more precisely: two weddings in Texas – one in Austin and the other in Houston – scheduled for the same day, for the nuptials of your childhood friend and your wife’s college buddy, respectively. What are the odds?).
The old proverb says to make hay while the sun shines. Today’s proverb is drop everything and get hay now because really there is no other time. No past, no future, just now.
Directions to the feed store
Drive 14.0 miles, 25 min
- Jump in the old Ford F150 pickup. (25 ft)
- The springy faded fabric bench seat gives off a musty smell of grease, sweat, and dirt, of which the molecules bind to specific sites on your olfactory receptors. These receptors come together at the glomerulus, (a spherical structure of the brain) that transmits signals to the olfactory bulb (located directly above the nasal cavity and below the frontal lobe), which processes the signal and then passes information about the smell to other areas closely connected to it (collectively known as the limbic system) which is often regarded as being the primitive part of the brain since these same structures were present within the brains of the very first mammals. The limbic system comprises a set of structures in the brain that are regarded by scientists as playing a major role in controlling mood, behavior, emotion, and memory.
- As you bounce over a speed hump, memories flash to mind of sitting on your grandfather’s lap in his old Chevy truck with the hay baler attached to the back. His foot is on the pedals as you control the wheel on a washboard dirt road. Grandma is in the passengers seat laughing sweetly the way she did (a soft dshh dshh dshh without opening her teeth). The sun is gleaming through her glasses and almost distracts your attention from the road. You are 9 years old.
- Turn right onto Division St. (0.3 mi)
- Recall the 1967 book Division Street: America, a collection of interviews by Chicagoan Studs Terkel, who said of the book: I guess I was seeking some balance in the wildlife of the city as Rachel Carson sought it in nature. In unbalanced times, balance is as difficult to come by as Parsifal’s Grail. Wonder how many contemporary authors can reference Wagner operas these days, and how many readers would catch it. Make mental note to try getting into opera.
- Turn right onto N Milwaukee Ave (0.4 mi)
- Note the number of Polish churches and restaurants along this historic chain migration route, also known as the “Polish corridor”. Imagine the ancient Indians who previously used it as a trade route, and gave it the original Algonquian word Millioke, meaning “Good”, “Beautiful” and “Pleasant Land”. Wonder if the potholes, trash, and barrage of noisy advertising are still doing that name justice.
- Take the ramp onto I-90 E/I-94 E (2.8 mi)
- As you push the truck to keep up with rushing traffic, notice that the speedometer is not working, and probably hasn’t for years. Also notice that the odometer is stuck at zero. How Zen, this truck, you say to yourself. Traveling fast at no speed, with no past and no future. Only going straight.
- Turn left to merge onto I-55 S (9.0 mi)
- Again your olfactory receptors are engaged as the usual city smells (exhaust mostly, and the occasional waft of spring wildflowers from the side of the highway) are overcome by noxious fumes from a nearby water treatment plants, asphalt plants, and “petcoke” plants. Ponder the relative proximity of such plants to low income neighborhoods as well as the prominence of respiratory diseases in children from those areas.
- Take exit 283 for IL-43/Harlem Ave (0.3 mi)
- Destination will be on the right
- You have arrived! Notice that the parking lot looks suspiciously empty. Get out of truck. Walk to front door to find a paper sign taped to glass reading: The Feed Store will be closed on Tuesday, April 18th in memory of David Bestwina. Services at Foran Funeral Home. Stand at that door and meditate on death and the sweetness of a family-run business. Imagine what the economy would look like if every business was family-run, and could close their doors to mourn. In such an economy, purchasing goods and services would serve as a ritual by which the true currency – compassion – would be exchanged. Make a mental note to visit the feed store in the near future, buy something, and upon completing the transaction look surviving members in the eye and smile kindly, saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, no matter how much cheaper the same purchase would be through Amazon.
- Look at watch and realize you only have an hour to spare and that the goats aren’t going to feed themselves.
Directions to the other feed store
Drive 17.2 miles, 30 min
- Head south on Harlem Ave toward W Douglas Ave (135 ft)
- Breathe deeply in.
- Make a U-turn at W Douglas Ave (0.4 mi)
- Breathe deeply out as you accelerate precariously into oncoming traffic.
- Turn right onto the Interstate 55 N ramp (0.4 mi)
- Breathe deeply in as the gridlock of bumper-to-bumper traffic awaits.
- Breathe deeply out as you relax into the present moment: the absurd theater of life crawling along with brake lights glaring.
- Merge onto I-55 N (7.7 mi)
- Breathe deeply in as a motorcycle weaves through traffic and nearly causes a multi-car pile-up. Acknowledge the mental images of carnage, the mental sounds of metal crushing.
- Breathe deeply out as you label these images “thinking” and let them go.
- Take exit 292A to merge onto I-90 W/I-94 W toward W Ryan Expy/Wisconsin (2.1 mi)
- Breathe deeply in as you reach the worst traffic bottleneck in the city that is always, always backed up no matter how many lanes are added to the expressway. Breathe in the broken, dysfunctional attempt at making things easier, only to create more chaos.
- Breathe deeply out as you let all of that go.
- Keep left to stay on I-90 W/I-94 W (6.3 mi)
- Breathe deeply in as you look around at all the other drivers in their air-conditioned bubbles, sunglasses on and radios masking the unpleasantness of mediocrity, each believing (you can only assume from your own experience) that their mission is necessary and that the very traffic that they comprise is an inconvenience to them and them only, while failing to recognize the interconnectedness of every driver to the other, as though each vehicle acts not unlike blood cells in a vast cardiovascular system coursing lifeblood into the organism that is the city.
- Breathe deeply out as you relax into the miracle of interbeing.
- Take exit 45C for Belmont Avenue toward 3200 N (0.2 mi)
- Breathe deeply in as you glance at the nearly empty gas tank. Marvel at the fact that you are being propelled by the carbon of long-deceased dinosaurs; gigantic prehistoric animals harvested from the womb of the earth to fuel your errand of feeding a couple of goats.
- Breathe deeply out as you remind yourself to accelerate a little less abruptly at the next light.
- Turn right onto W Belmont Ave
- Destination will be on the left.
- You have arrived!
- Celebrate by turning off the engine, sitting quietly for a few seconds, and allow your nervous system to settle into the vibrations of the passing traffic that flows like a mighty river through concrete channels, originating from nowhere and terminating into emptiness.