Top | Sift

The treadmill

(article, Caroline Cummins)

A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published one of those quirky explorations the magazine has practically patented. "There And Back Again" does not, as you might think, involve hobbits; rather, it is a looping look at commuting in modern America, and what that means not just for urban design and air pollution but our physical and psychological well-being.

"Commuting is like sex or sleep," writes the author, Nick Paumgarten. "Everyone lies. It is said that doctors, when they ask you how much you drink, will take the answer and double it. When a commuter says, 'It’s an hour, door-to-door,' tack on twenty minutes." American commuters are alternately proud of what they endure daily and disgusted with the back pain, fast food, and wasted time that come with the territory.

The lawyer, blogger, and now memoirist Cameron Stracher has written an entire book on the subject of our love-hate relationship with commuting. Titled [%bookLink code=1400065372 "Dinner with Dad"], the book has the same name as Stracher's blog, and documents Stracher's decision to commute less and cook more. Dinner. For his family. Shocking, no?

"With a fifty-five mile commute, getting home in time to cook, let alone eat, was a practical impossibility," Stracher writes. "I rarely returned before eight or nine o'clock at night, which was simply too late for our children. Sometimes my wife waited for me; more often, I picked up something at Grand Central and ate on the train: pizza from Two Boots, samosas from Café Spice, a turkey sandwich from Junior's. . . . I never imagined that I would become the father who left for work in the morning before the sun rose and returned after his children were asleep. . . . Yet here I was, trudging to the train station to catch the 6:01, the newspaper clutched in one hand, a half-eaten bagel in the other. One day I stopped cooking dinner, and the next day I woke up in a gray flannel straitjacket. What was a father to do?"

The subtitle of Dinner With Dad is "How I Braved Traffic, Rolled Burritos, Battled Picky Eaters, And Found My Way Back to the Family Table." Isn't that what we're all trying to do? 

Stracher's book is due out May 22.