Rendered Fat Content


Albert-Charles Lebourg: A Miller's Carriage (c. 1895)

The horse-drawn carriage parked at the curb beside the ice cream parlor where families sat at outside tables and watched while other families boarded and unboarded the carriage. The carriage with its driver and passengers would leave, horse walking, before making a left turn a block down the street then continuing on its excursion. A few minutes later would find that same horse and carriage moving regally up the next street over, passengers watching unremarkable storefronts pass before them. People love to take rides. That carriage would take its passengers on a short journey to nowhere, past places they could more conveniently view while walking. What compelled their adventures to no place? What drove their excursions?

The horse threw a shoe as it began a later trip.
The driver stopped to crawl under the carriage to fetch it before continuing, the horse started making a hollow sound with its right back hoof instead of the bright ring a horseshoe brings. The procession limped away, later returning, horse gamely, lamely leading. Nothing slows the dedicated wanderer. I find myself Wandering, too, often quite uncertain about precisely where I'm going, just "needing" to get away. That's how we say it. We claim to need something we probably just want, elevating desire into an imperative. We expend probably at least a quarter of our energy resources in just this way, going on unnecessary errands to nowhere, Wandering. We could most likely reverse global warming if we could somehow convince ourselves that we'd be just fine if we chose not to go anywhere, to just stay home and find our jollies for a change by simply not Wandering.

In this culture we worship the untethered, those living on the road, those not exactly homeless, but away from home at the moment. We worship the holy road trip and our sacred mid-century moderne motels. We seek road food, not precisely sustenance but more like deliverance. It makes us famous when we eat at a place once featured on the Road Food Podcast or on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Forgetabout the fact that their fame stabbed most of them in their back. Popularity robbed them of their ambiance. Tourists stole their local character. They came to value consistency over their native brilliance, Wandering away from their originating purpose. They became a destination imbedded within a Wandering culture. They lost their local following before they lost their soul.

I cannot successfully argue against the refreshment a little Wandering provides. It's the universal palate cleanser when bored and the reliable reassurer when overwhelmed. Let's Get Away From It All serves as the universal prescription for whatever ails anyone. It's not avoidance if you're moving forward. It's not really a dance if nobody knows the moves beforehand. It might qualify as a trance, a necessity by convention, an innate imperative. I see a horse and carriage and I imagine myself seated like a goddamned king in the back of the thing, regally reviewing the anonymous storefronts before me, heading back to precisely where I started, and departing refreshed and strangely reassured that at least something's right with this world. I'll very likely insist that the experience was well worth the expense. For a moment I was lost someplace else instead of just feeling lost at home. I was headed somewhere in somewhat sumptuous fashion. I was briefly a somebody heading nowhere instead of a nobody headed there. Man, but we sure do love to take ourselves on rides!

(Author's note: The above was a deliberate side trip on the road to performing my SetList, an utterly deliberate irrelevance within the SetTheory stories, a Wandering.)

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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