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Come along for the ride 3 min read

Come along for the ride

There's nothing more American than a road trip. Maybe that's part of the problem.

By Cary Littlejohn
Come along for the ride Post image

Hello all. As you can probably figure out from my lack of posting, I’ve yet to figure out how to balance the writing I’m supposed to be doing with the writing I was doing (i.e., this newsletter). I’m working on it though; trust me, I’m looking forward to getting back into your inboxes with some regularity to suggest something worthy of your time and attention.

So I thought I would start with this one. It’s 8:30 p.m. local time, and I’m at my dining room table trying to figure out what to write for a story that will run this weekend. It’s the ugly part of the writing process, complete with lots of hands running through hair and loud sighs of frustration and a general wondering why anyone would ever choose a career in which they have to string together words in coherent sentences. But I’m taking a break from writing for work because I have a suggestion that simply can’t wait.

My mentor, my idol, my (it hits me every time I get to say this) friend, Ron Stodghill, is, as of this writing, “The Great Read” on the New York Times website. They know how to brand things at the Times, and boy, did they get this one right.

A personal tale, an essay of superlative form and depth and tone, a lyrical meditation…I could go on and on (and on) about Ron’s writing, but there’s really nothing I can say that will do it justice. You simply have to read it. It’s your good fortune, Times subscribers; just a click away. For those of you that don’t subscribe, I implore you to make this one of your [daily, weekly, monthly] allotment of free articles; it’s just that good.

The thing I love about this story is the simplicity of its conceit; the top-line narrative arc is simply Ron making a drive from Missouri to Michigan. But what he’s able to evoke from memories, from history, from our current moment of unrest…well, quite simply, it’s why essays are one of my favorite forms of writing ever.

Here’s a sampling from the beginning of the piece:

Driving across Woodward Avenue in Detroit a few weeks ago amid a spirited George Floyd demonstration — this one a 30-mile motorcade into the suburbs, billed as the “I Have a Dream Protest Cruise” — my mind drifted strangely to an empty two-lane highway in Arkansas near the Texas border. The memory was jarring, sweeping me away from this raucous caravan — honking horns, Black-power fists thrust from car windows, the whir of sirens — back to my youth in the spring of 1986.

Twenty-two years old, fresh out of college and cruising into one of the prettiest sunsets I’d ever seen, I was nearing the end of my 1,200-mile journey from Detroit to a summer reporting gig in Dallas. Somewhere outside Texarkana, Ark., the sun perched on the nose of my Honda Accord and guided me for miles like some mystical hood ornament. The moment was exhilarating. Enveloped in the dusky light, the narrow highway rushing toward me, Stevie Wonder’s “Hotter Than July” cranked high, I felt a new kind of freedom, the sort I’d only witnessed in those white boy coming-of-age films like “The Graduate.”

That is, until I heard the shrill siren of a patrol car, and saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

Narratively, I’m hooked. Not just because I know this man and shared meals with him and played golf with him; no, because it’s a brilliantly crafted opening to an essay.

The writing only gets better from there. Trust me.

Read it here:

Black Behind the Wheel | The New York Times

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