The River

Friday, December 02, 2005

Letters at 3AM

The million mile commute

BY Michael Ventura, The Austin Chronicle

Smoking a cigarette in the parking lot of a Super 8 motel somewhere in the West. Across the street, Ronna's Video for Adults – Private Video Booths – Open 24 Hours. It's about noon, a chilly day. An old car and then a new car pull up at Ronna's. Out of each, an average-looking guy gets out and walks quickly into the joint. Private Video Booths. What loneliness. Jerking off to porn in a closetlike space on your lunch hour, then going back to work. Or maybe you told the wife you were going to the store (one of the guys was older, probably retired). And who wants to imagine how those booths smell?

Beside Ronna's, an old motel has been converted into cheap apartments. You know they're cheap because the cars outside are little tin-can putters – just enough of an automobile to get you to and from work, where you make just enough or just less-than-enough to keep the car running and live in the cheap apartment, with its minimal construction, thin walls, and scant insulation. A phone, a bed, a little table, a TV, probably a microwave and a waist-high fridge. Car-engines revving at Ronna's next door 24 hours a day. And the constant sound of the highway, tire-rasp on the pavement, trucks rattling the windows, motors, motors, motors.

(it's good and you know you want to keep reading, so go

Thanks to American Samizdat for this discovery. A list of Michael Ventura's columns here.

UPDATE: Ventura is a powerful, aware, down-to-earth writer. I particularly liked the conclusion of his four-part series Things to Come:

Look ... I'd like my cozy, convenient writer's life to continue as uncharacteristically tranquil as it's been lately, writing my novels and poems and columns, downsizing as gracefully as I'm able, living with a truly delectable slowness, testifying to the truth of Caroline Casey's sentence "Beauty is abundantly available to the unhurried mind." But I look at the facts as I understand them and can come to no conclusion but that these too-convenient days are numbered, and I'd best enjoy the present, behave alertly, and be ready for a storm, always remembering the three qualities that Henry James noted were most important in a human being: "Kindness, kindness, and kindness."

Life is about to become both slower (with more opportunities for beauty) and more urgent, governed by necessity rather than desire. The unexpected will happen – in the context of "tough history." We will be called upon to do more, and be more, than we thought ourselves capable of. So ... OK, Universe, call on me to be more and do more than I thought myself capable of!

Once upon a time, wasn't that all I asked of life?

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