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Highway

I ended my night by spending 20 minutes in a cab. It was three in the morning but the late-night DJ on the Emory University radio station had dropped Donny Hathaway’s brilliant live version of “The Ghetto” and, as our taxi driver agreed, — probably because I was throwing ones at him as if he were a stripper — we had to listen to the end of the jam. From the legendary Clermont lounge to the door of our hotel we sang and clapped and drummed the air, windows, seats and each other, and continued the party through our protracted stay, idling in front of the hotel as the valet eyed us suspiciously. 

“I don’t want you to resent us for holding up your taxi, please, take more money,” I said over the protestations of our middle-aged Indian cabby; he too felt the vibe, hell, he chose the station. This, this was a refreshing break from a pessimistic metaphor that had been dogging me throughout our drive south from New York. A joyous celebration of music and moments. Drunk. In a dilapidated taxi. In Atlanta.

I had almost forgotten my frustrations with how Americans treat the left lane on the highway. And I’m talking about left lane abuses occurring outside of Massachusetts and New Mexico, two states notorious for their terrible drivers — the Mass drivers are aggressive without intuition or any balance of defensiveness and in New Mexico, well, they’re just out to lunch. Drive through Espanola, between Santa Fe and Taos, and you’ll see what I mean. 

The left lane is for passing, always. And using your brights is a method of communication, not an obnoxious, incandescent substitute for yelling.

This is not a new experience: I’m driving 79 miles an hour in a 70 mph zone, I’m in the left lane, passing one or two cars in the right lane. The road is open, only a few cars around, and I drive up behind some dude who is going 60 mph in the left lane. I bright him. Wait. I bright again. Wait. Wait some more while riding up close behind him, articulating my desire to pass. He does not move, forcing me to reroute and pass him on the right. This is not England, this is not how it’s done. When driving on the autobahn or the autostrada you begin brighting slow moving cars ahead of you half a mile away and the drivers respond according, by moving over. The left lane is for passing, always. And using your brights is a method of communication, not an obnoxious, incandescent substitute for yelling.

So what is it? Why do people feel entitled to hog the left lane. Is it because they haven’t learned the etiquette? So, then we have an education issue. Duh. Is it because they’re just not paying attention? Well, we know that may be our biggest issue in this country, that’s how “Dubya” ended up in the White House, twice. And if that wasn’t enough to raise my ire, this is. Not paying attention allows us to continually be sold a horse-cart full of hooey. 

Take our industry, for instance. Tell me your restaurant is farm to table one more time and I’ll tell you I’m opening a gourmet deli. I read well respected food personalities writing about eating pasta tossed with first of the season local fava beans, in early march, in New York. They’re selling it to you to sell magazines. Aspire to live as she lives and she lives as is portrayed in her magazine. To keep on keeping up with a fantasy we all have to pretend together. Hooray. 

Farm to table is not a concept, it’s the default for how food is grown, purchased and prepared. 

I’ve had farm to table concepts explained in such an overwrought manner that a restaurant manager went so far as to inform me that food comes from the farm, goes to the kitchen, in the kitchen it is cooked and it comes directly from the kitchen to my table. Well, hold the phone! The entire complex process of food service has been demystified. Folks, even Sysco gets product from a farm. Farm to table is not a concept, it’s the default for how food is grown, purchased and prepared. 

Perhaps we coast along in the left lane because, goddammit, this is America, where all cars are created equal and my shitty Nova has just as much right to sit in this lane as your brand new twin turbo Porsche despite my cruise control being set and 55. It’s my birthright in this great land where I am just ignorant and obstinate enough to believe holding my rightful place in the left lane earns me my dignity. And socio-economic strata be damned because even though some people say Wal-Mart takes advantage of my friends who work there “part time” I can still live better for less and buy their own branded farm-to-giant-everything-store produce. It’s my pretend world and in it Nicole never leaves and Dick Diver is always in control….


Read the previous installment of Alimentary Canal on Food Republic.