The cure for nostalgia is to read history, and the cure for holiday sentimentality is to listen for twenty-five minutes to an old friend telling you in a deep mournful voice how desolate his life feels to him right now with the air full of sugar and spice and musical bonhomie and him stranded on an iceberg, feeling unloved, wanting to run away and start over somewhere else, and what did I think he should do?
I listened and tried to say validating things, but guys don't sit and brush each other's hair and talk about life late into the night as girls do; our hair is too short. And my friend is 54, which is an awkward age. And I guess I believe in small answers to these large questions. What should you do with your life? Uh, go to a movie. Get out of the house. Wear black underwear. Get offline. Get more exercise. Cut down on coffee. Get rid of the whimsical T-shirts. Grow a moustache. Get in your car and take a trip for no good reason and without permission. Just tell them you're going and go. It's cheaper than divorce.
The thought of getting in a car and driving west has saved me from many a despairing phone call. West from Minneapolis, you have your choice of Highway 7 through Clara City and Montevideo toward South Dakota, or Highway 212 through Olivia and Granite Falls, or Highway 12 through Litchfield and Willmar and Benson and Ortonville and across South Dakota through Mobridge and all the way to Miles City, Montana. Our family drove that way every summer back in the Fifties, before the interstates, on ribbons of asphalt lifting and falling gently over the plains toward our relatives in Idaho and Spokane.
My dad loved getting behind the wheel and hitting the road, and I loved to stand right behind him in those pre-seatbelt days and look at the road over his shoulder and imagine myself driving. Alone. Window rolled down. Radio playing. The whole deal.