If you’re reading this blog, odds are that you know how to read. That’s important.
There are a few things a good blinkpacker needs to be able to read. Maps, for example. Or dusty, faded road signs that hang bullet-riddled from their poles at odd angles in some western town that you traveled through the night to find because, right before she passed away, your great aunt told you it had a really charming mini-golf course. And of course, any decent blinkpacker can make sense of a BBQ menu, no matter how grease-stained and wrinkled it may look to an ordinary traveler.
Outside of these few necessities, we think this blog is pretty much all you should be reading. Still, it occurred to us that many of you will read other things. That’s a reality of the world we live in.
Knowing that we can’t stop you from reading other, less-thrilling writing, we decided that we can at least guide you to books, essays, and short stories that will reinforce your longing to cram as much adventure into your busy life as possible, then find a way to squeeze just a little more in there. Hence, “Books for the Road.”
In this thrilling, edge-of-your seat, globetrotting column, we’ll introduce you to books, essays, and short stories that captivate us and encourage us to hit the road, experience new places, and see our world in new ways.
We’d like to begin with an essay by legendary observer and writer Gay Talese. In “New York is a City of things Unnoticed,” Talese roams the well-known and oft-traveled city of, you guessed it, New York, to find telling details that few bother to see. He begins:
New York City is a city of things unnoticed. It is a city with cats sleeping under parked cars, two stone armadillos crawling up St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and thousands of ants creeping on top of the Empire State Building. The ants probably were carried there by winds or birds, but nobody is sure; nobody in New York knows any more about the ants than they do about the panhandler who takes taxis to the Bowery; or the dapper man who picks trash out of Sixth Avenue trash cans; or the medium in the West Seventies who claims, ‘I am clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsensuous.’
The full essay can be found in The Gay Talese Reader, a magnificent collection of reporting that answers questions we never thought to ask about people and places we thought we knew well.
What goes unnoticed in your town or city? As you travel, what questions can you ask and where can you look to find defining details that few see?
Our world is a world of things unnoticed. Let’s get out there and explore it.