Breaking Away

Who can really say what the future brings, but after frequenting the middle of America pretty steadily for the last five years, I think I took one of my last trips to the midwest a few weeks ago. This trip was a bit more involved than others as I had two talks to give: one in St. Louis and another in Indianapolis. In order to get between said talks, a five hour road trip lay in wait. While I hope it’s obvious by now that I love New York and can’t imagine living anywhere else, sometimes you need a little time and space to think without 8.4 Million people on top of you so I was looking forward to the “windshield time”, as they say.

And time and space to think I received. I can’t tell you how bucolic hills, charming irrigation systems, and perfectly plump white clouds dotting the sky for what looks like forever can fill you with an enormous sense well being. For the first time in awhile, I felt like I had infinite space above me and that a whole lot was possible. I don’t drive anything but rentals and as a somewhat unseasoned driver on a long trip, your mind begins to go interesting places and you start to be able to recognize the whimsical line quality in certain roadwork crew’s tar patches and enjoy intermittent competition with traveling salesmen who hang their suit coats on the hangers that flank the rear passenger window as you watch them yell into the consoles of their cars. There are farm stands with corn and melon and cops who stop said salesmen when their tempers get the best of their self control on the gas pedals.

Almost at Indianapolis, I decided to stop in Bloomington to try and find a quarry I’ve loved since the first time I watched Breaking Away as a kid. The quarry is called the Empire Quarry and it’s so empire quarrylarge you could almost imagine the Empire State Building laying on its side in there, and I guess that makes sense because the all of the stone for that building came from this particular quarry. It is a favorite swimming hole for college students and townies that they may or may not still call Cutters. The quarry was abandoned long ago and the way to get into seeing it is passed by word of mouth and is not exactly straightforward. So thanks to some teens on Instagram and an affable libertarian man on his riding mower, I parked in the right spot, hopped the fence past a cemetery, and rustled through the trees til I got to a limestone ledge that overlooked the water-filled hole. In the process I interrupted some kissing teens who were surprised but amused by the enthusiastic New Yorker in statement sunglasses and a Link Wray tee shirt. I got there at golden hour and thought about the triumph of architecture that came from stone in Indiana and how the workers in the quarry would likely be amused by all the “content creation” and “circling back” and “feet on the street” that reverberates between those pieces of rock every week day.

I thought about the times when I was the underdog and the times when I wasn’t. I wondered if everyone roots for the underdog or whether it’s just the people who have been underdogs themselves. I thought about the people that took chances on me when I really had no applicable skills and probably came off a lot like the overly enthusiastic kid who stars in Breaking Away and felt so very grateful to all of them. I’ll always be a Cutter. I always want to appreciate it all….sk


P.S. It totally holds up. Cried like a baby when they the little guy joins the race.

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