I’ve been living on the road, but I’m not feeling free and clean.

One of the better perks of my job is seeing what was once pen and paper become something visual, hopefully entertaining and occasionally pretty damn good. It’s a process that brings me in touch with some very talented and interesting people. It’s also a process that takes time. And that time happens away from home.  As much as I may believe Austin, Texas is the center of the universe, for some things it simply isn’t.

I’ve never felt the troubadour’s call to the road. The lonesome whistle blows past my window several times a night with nary a tug. Rather for me, travel is a fact of life. A fact of my career and the way I provide for my family. And lately, it’s been a very, very real fact.

Traveling at length for the first time since my daughter was born has been an all to clarifying study in the realities of understanding parental responsibility. I’ve always missed my wife from the road but in a more conversational, “won’t it be great to be home…” sort of way. Missing the two of them, I’ve learned, has a nearly unparalleled ability to turn me into a crabby bastard.

It’s not just the being there that I miss but the tangible aspects of providing. Namely making dinner for the people I care about. Yes there are stresses to work. And yes there are stresses associated with shifting between hotel room, workspace and barroom shaped cells. But what compounds long trips is that the activity that relieves my stress is the one that has become wholly unattainable. I can’t cook, and for that I am sad.

I’m in Seattle. Tonight, dinner is at a friend’s house: clams from the market, spaghetti from the Italian mercantile where my grandfather shopped and pancetta from a neighborhood place. A friend of mine who is a local photographer here was nice enough to open up his home and his kitchen for me to have a little cook-therapy. It’s not the most lavish meal, but it’s the best one I’ve tasted in awhile. It’s a good night and one that will nourish me in more ways than one.

Tonight, the friends are good. The food is mine. And there is the communal sense of family that comes with sharing a meal. We’re drinking Olympia and Rainier tall cans as well as some really nice Vino Nobile. I sautéed up some early season morels that I found at the market as well as my comfort of comfort foods: rapini with chilis and garlic. People are eating, talking and slurping spaghetti. It’s an eclectic crowd of writer types, bar tenders, waiters, graphic designers, film editors and photographers. But we speak the same language and I’m hit more than once by how nice it feels to just be in someone’s living room having a normal and engaging conversation.

It’s not home. But tonight it’s a damn good replacement.

*My friend Kyle Johnson invited me into his home and took the photos, you can probably tell because they’re immensely better than mine. Thanks Kyle. Check out his work at kjphotos.com

Spaghetti with Clams

This is a recipe that I loosely adapted from a passage in Bill Buford’s book Heat.

2 ½ lbs clams
2 lbs pasta
½ lb pancetta
Chopped garlic
White Wind
Red chili
Salt and Pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano

Boil your pasta water. Sautee up your pancetta and garlic with some red chili. Drop your pasta. Add butter and wine to the pancetta pan. Bring it to a boil and throw in your clams. Cover the pot for about 1-2 minutes till the clams open up. Add your cooked pasta and adjust with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add a small amount of parmigiano cheese. Think of home.

2 responses to “LEFTY’S BLUES”

  1. Joe says:

    While away from home for an extended period, I inevtiably begin to desire the ability to cook my own meals. Glad you had someone who loaned you a kitchen.

    • Jake says:

      Me too. As much as I enjoy restaurants and exploring new places, at about day 7 I start to feel kind of repulsive. Thanks for reading.