An excerpt from my newest book coming out soon
Stream of Consciousness: A Tail of Male Infertility, Medicine, Life, & The New York Thruway (A Real Cock & Ball Story)
I decided to drive. I like a good road trip but what began with the excitement of a road adventure and good audio book soon gave way to increasing stress and tension with each passing mile. The first 3 hours was pleasant enough but as I turned onto I-90 heading west from Albany, melancholy overcame my cheery disposition. Interstate 90, which is known as the New York Thruway, traverses the state and passes some of the most important yet forgotten historic locations of our nation. This is the region of the eastern edge of the Erie Canal, built in the early 19th century by Irish immigrants, at a tremendous cost in both dollars and lives. The Erie Canal may well be one of the greatest construction achievements in US history and even world history, on par with the Panama Canal and maybe even the Pyramids at Giza yet as I was driving along the highway all I could see was economic despair. I turned off the audio book, unable to concentrate. The river was pretty but the towns along its banks looked destitute, slum-like. I had to look up on the map to learn the name of the waterway; the Mohawk. Old bridges and locks; a canal system. I had to ask myself, “What is this canal?” I don’t recall ever learning about it in school. How is that possible? I made a mental note to learn about the Erie Canal during any downtime I might have this upcoming weekend of locum tenens urology call, the mere thought of which making my throat dry.
The Erie Canal was built to connect the food production facilities of the Midwest via Chicago with New York City and then the world. The Canal is what made New York City a world capital and had a great deal to do with our nation’s prosperity. The canal’s slow death began with completion of the St Lawrence Seaway to the north with the final death blow occurring with completion of the Thruway in the 1970s. The canal did make many of the cities along its path rich. Towns like Amsterdam; Herkimer; Utica; Rome: these were once thriving industrial and manufacturing towns that to me, as I drove passed them, were in decay. The recession of the early 1970s worsened things and the towns along this once prosperous corridor have withered on the vine. Poverty in this region of NY is rampant with rates exceeding 30% in some cities.
My mood worsened and dread crept into my head. I no longer wanted to be here, on this depressing road, and when I got to Utica, a city with close to half its population living in or around poverty, I decided to get off the Thruway and take a local, rural highway, in search of some charm; some history. I hopped onto NY12, a 220-or-so-mile rural highway that starts near Binghamton and ends along the St Lawrence River, skimming the western edge of Adirondack Park. NY 12 skirts Adirondack Park but is not part of the preserve, with its pristine lakes, dense forests, remote wilderness and high peaks. The Adirondack Mountains are old mountains, much older than the Appalachian Range or any other range for that matter, by 2 billion years or so. In fact, the Adirondack Range is the oldest range in the world and was formed prior even to the period of Gondwana, the giant multi-continent land mass that preceded Pangea by more than a billion years. Theodore Roosevelt successfully fought to preserve the Adirondacks from development, starting the conservation movement. Adirondack Park is magnificent. But NY 12 remains outside the park, a world away from magnificent, as it winds its way along the Black River passing town after town filled with decay, dilapidation, & despondency.
I was going upriver into the heart of darkness.