Picking a good read for a roadtrip is harder than it looks. Do you want a book about the area that you are travelling through? In my case that would be the Northern Cape and there are no must-read books that spring to mind there for me. What about a roadtrip classic such as ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac? Or the literary equivalent of ‘Thelma and Louise’ perhaps, whatever that might be. In the end (and because I was in a hurry) I grabbed Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow.
After a slow start I am now hooked. I hope Grad is enjoying it as much as I am (and I know she also struggled initially, which is why I thought I would give it a try too). How to describe it? Time magazine described it (in 1974) as a ‘dazzling variation on the Gatsby theme of lost innocence … an American fugue, rhythmic, melodic and stately’. I prefer to see it as a fun tapestry of ‘silhouettes and rags’ of early Twentieth Century American history. I’m only on page 59 but already we’ve had Harry Houdini; Freud; the narrator’s ‘Mother’s Younger Brother’ getting involved with an infamous sex symbol; Jewish and Italian immigrants struggling in New York; the rich and the poor; Emma Goldman the anarchist; a buried baby and also Peary’s trip to the Arctic. You might be thinking that this is a little manic perhaps. Strangely enough, that’s not the effect that’s created. What we have is snippets of story, woven together as an American tapestry.
As for my trip to Kathu, it’s a little better than I expected. We’re not staying on the army base but rather in a basic bed-and-breakfast. My single bed is so small that when I rolled over this morning I hit my head on the bedside table. The breakfast was a surprise in that Mienie (the owner) made everyone scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. I forgot that some people actually like slightly greasy meat for breakfast. The best part of the trip? We left on Monday and we’re back on Friday. That means that with any luck I’ll be in Betty’s Bay by the weekend (or at least back at the rugby).
On a sadder note, I’ve been a bit quiet here over the past week because my cousin’s daughter died in a car accident. She was only 25 and it was obviously a huge shock to her family and also to ours. While I was never very close to her, attending her memorial service made me realise how much she touched the lives of those she was close to. She was vibrant with a strong personality and, as cliched as it sounds, she did make the most out of life. It was really moving at the memorial service to see how much she was loved by her mother, her brother, her boyfriend, and her close friends from school. The last time I saw her was several months ago when she and her boyfriend cooked a group of us (including P) a truly delicious dinner which included steak in a mouth-watering sauce.
Over the last week I’ve been reminded how short our lives can be and how we should make the most of them. Next month I turn 40 and it already feels as if at least half my life has gone. Should I be spending less time blogging and more time out there in the real world? I don’t think it’s an ‘either or’ and as one of my patients likes to say, my online friends do add immense value to my life. So I guess this is an indirect way of saying thanks to you, my readers, and may we all remain true to what’s meaningful to us.
Now after that serious note, it’s back to the rag-tag world of Ragtime.