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Gang Aft Agley

So much for the Great Road Journal of 2015. Turns out that a night in Tahoe to collect my thoughts and a Google Maps satellite image of Salt Lake City were all that was necessary to come to my senses. I’ll make the long-haul drive some other time, Jack Kerouac visions not withstanding. For now a few days in the Sierras and Jet Blue ticket to JFK should suffice. Though I was half-tempted, after the last debate, to get a few cases of beer and hire Ted Cruz as my designated Republican driver. “If you want someone to grab a beer with,” Cruz said, “I may not be that guy. But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done.” Nice sentiment, but it leaves me teetering between the thoughts “nice sentiment” and “what an asshole ..”

‘Gang aft agley’ is, of course, from Burns’ “To A Moose” .. my dad’s all-time favorite poem. He likes the final verse best, where the poet apologizes to the mouse for overturning his home, but tells him he’s lucky because “only the present touches thee.” Burns then explains that, unlike the mouse, he looks back with regret and forward with fear. “Oh Christ how I relate to that” was my father’s take. The present is doing its share of hard-hitting with Dad of late, but he should have little regret over where he’s been. “He’s a good man” is an overused phrase in American vernacular, but Burns could have put it no more succinctly in this case. Definitely someone who could make sure you got home OK.

I too have little regret over deciding to forgo (for now) the three-thousand-plus driving miles east. So much is made of the admirable quality of being decisive, but I think this applies equally to changing one’s mind and sticking to it. To very roughly paraphrase my buddy Denis Munro, former Planning Director of Perth, Scotland: “nothing is quite so useless as planning.” The irony is implicit, given his esteemed former title, but who better to know this than the man given the job. It’s a little like having the most competent of surgeons think to himself “what a mess” just after opening you up. At the end of the day he’s still going to give you a better shot than anybody else.

The Royal Garden Inn — this was the two-star Salt Lake City hotel I made a reservation with from Tahoe at about two a.m. on Thursday. Then I figured I’d better get some sleep as I was looking at an eight hour drive in the morning. Two became three, and three four, and by about four-thirty I’d figured “screw it.” It’s amazing what “screw it” can do for your sleep. I tucked it in until about 11:30 then went down to the Old Post Office coffee shop for a late breakfast of waffles with eggs over easy. I’ll see the Royal Garden some other time, or more likely I won’t, but either way it’s the best fifty-six bucks (tax included) that I’ll never have refunded.

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