Notes from My Journal: the Chicago-Indianapolis Book Tour (Part 1: A Quixotic Adventure)

Passionate Nomads“According to The Oxford English Dictionary, quicksotic sentiments: “If … our Quixotics seem foolish or extravagant.” Our foolish extravagances, then, our quixotics, or quixotries, or quixotisms, are simply quixotical. By extravagantly emulating the grand Quicksote himself, the don Quicksote of Cervantes’s novel that we may or may not have read, we become our own Quicksotes, sinking into the quicksand of our lofty, unrealizable idealisms: “Thus the Quixots of this Age fight with the Windmills of their own heads.” But to our mind quixotics is more than foolishness to be forgotten; it is a different way of knowing things, of perceiving the deeper realities that are hidden by their plain surfaces. We declare this definition boldly, without apology to this world’s wise or to the editors of dictionaries, who looking at us askance, smiling out of the sides of their mouths, are wondering if at last we would just stop quicksotizing, or quicksoting, and accept the realisms they proffer.”

– BAS, “Quicksotics,” from the chapbook Quixotics

Thursday, November 17

 The drive up to Chicago today was smooth, sunny skies all the way, brisk cold air. We drove up in a 2012 Chevy Sedan 200 XL, a rental from Enterprise in Jasper, so we were comfortably warm except for the moments standing in the brisk wind pumping petrol gas, as the Brits would say. (I’m channeling Cat Stevens, his song “Where Do the Children Play?”) Anyway, the ride was good until we hit the toll road toward Chicago and I missed a quick turn and ended up going east and then south again for a good twenty minutes or more before I could even find a way out of that mess to turn around. Studied the directions and took it more slowly the second time, and made it into Chicago well enough, but the ride was rather harrowing and we were both a little shaken by it. Now tomorrow to find our way out.

Indiana Windmills

A modern La Mancha in northwestern Indiana?

Before we hit the concrete jungle, anyway, in the northern Indiana that is mainly corn fields and open spaces, I had a rather Quixotic experience, almost as if I were in a new, more modernized La Mancha, driving toward a bunch of tall, sleek windmills. “Anita! Look! Giants!” I shouted. “I have to attack them.” She replied that I should just knock myself out then, but first park and put her in a safe place. Oh, Sancha (yes, I called her Sancha, not Anita), I should have reproved you for your lack of faith and valor, but not being knighted herself I would let her watch and learn. As we drove further into this vast wind farm, planted here and there in impressive symmetrical rows, and still the windmills as far as I could discern in front and to either side, I just felt a kind of awe, a quixotic rapture, as it were. This, if our governments have the wisdom and foresight to prioritize such projects over bombs and military adventures, here is what our future ought to look like, sleek, modern, high-tech windmills dotting the country from shore to shining shore. It occurred to me too, though, that Don Quixote, were he somehow re-vitalized (like Mansilla in María Rosa’s brilliant novel), he would be totally bewildered by the spectacle, the remarkable stretch of giant after giant after giant, an army so vast that, well, where could he start? The new age therefore must require a new Quixote borne from this Midwestern stretch of North American flatlands and prairie, someone riding – driving – an old nag of a car, perhaps climbing head and torso out the window and shooting them up, sitting in the open window while his Sancho or Sancha reaches over from the passenger’s seat and tries to steer well enough to keep from crashing itno those big metal trunks. Would the bullets do any harm to these modern behemoths? Would the ricocheting projectiles just turn back on knight and metal steed? Perhaps putting out a window or taking off an ear or striking the good don’s shoulder, knocking him out of the car and flat on his middle-aged back? Oh, the possibilities!

Anita, Maria Rosa, and Brett in Indianapolis

Anita, Maria Rosa, and Brett in Indianapolis

I will save more detail of the book event itself for another writing, but suffice it to say that it went rather well, though the turn-out was not huge. Those who were there, perhaps a dozen or so beyond hosts and participants, were a rapt audience. Afterwards there were empanadas and alfajores, and publisher-editor Jay Miskowiec and his adult son, a grad student in Chicago, helped me haul a couple boxes of books to the trunk of our sleek and relatively gas-efficient car before rushing back to the Instituto Cervantes and off to the Weber Café, just around the corner from the Institute and at a couple blocks from our hotel, with María Rosa, Jay, and his son – Professor Rosa Tezanos-Pinto, who introduced María Rosa and me to our audience, had to hurry away for her bus back to Indianapolis, where Anita and I and María Rosa will see and probably dine with her tomorrow.

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