The Bucket List
There's much that can be said about last week, but little that will make any sense. Between the Boston Marathon bombings, the subsequent manhunt that sounded like a plot for the next Denzel Washington thriller and the deadly explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the Mississippi Elvis impersonator who sent letters poisoned with ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials hardly warranted coverage in last week's maelstrom of bizarre violence. The end of the week felt near apocalyptic, especially in the sudden burst of heat, wind and ominously still-gray skies. We might be taking notes in class, preparing for the arrival of prospective students, running on the cracked country roads of Norwich or lying on the Green under the first rays of sunshine, only to have our lives jarringly juxtaposed with news of the bombing, missing suspects and the complete shutdown of a seemingly invincible city.
I found some comfort in a Friday evening drive up I-89, past the tinted windows of state troopers waiting off the curb, perhaps for speeders or fugitive suspects, to an old railroad freight house across the train tracks from the center of South Royalton. Within this little red shack are some of the purest, most succulent hamburgers one could ever enjoy. This carnivorous pleasure-town goes by the name of Worthy Burger. It's one of those cash-only joints, with the menu on a chalkboard at the counter. The menu offerings clung tightly to the classic ground beef patty and fried potato strips, although there were lamb and veggie burger options and special truffle and Parmesan fries. Like the meat, the beer and cider selection was local.
I ordered a classic Worthy Burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions and explored the original condiment selection, which included spicy ketchup and spicy and pesto mayonaise. The burger, served medium rare in a wax papered basket, and a Vermonth-brewed Allagash White in a scotch glass labeled "Worthy Glass," made it seem, for an hour or so, that things were going to be okay. Sitting on a patio with some of my roommates in that late spring light, as Vermont Law and Geisel medical students wearing party hats celebrated a birthday and started their weekends around us, the world spun on, and we laughed.
I'm not saying that in the middle of a devastating national tragedy, the most productive and helpful thing to do is eat a hamburger. I'm not trying to make a post-9/11 President George Bush "Go out and shop" point. What I am saying is that in the midst of a manhunt or worries about the safety of friends and family, or perhaps in the swirl of hateful remarks made under the guise of anonymity that accompany any campus controversy, it is worthwhile to get away from Hanover and enjoy a meal with people you love.
As someone whose love for red meat nears that of Ron Swanson's, the Parks and Recreation character who once said, "Fish meat is practically a vegetable," Worthy Burger had been on my bucket list ever since a friend gushed about her trip last term. The rustic, dive bar experience and the fact that we had driven almost 25 miles for the burgers made them taste even better.
Content after our greasy meal, we crossed the train tracks back to the car as dusk deepened around us. Back on the highway, we were happy and sang along to Beyonc. Then a friend got a text that the remaining Boston bombings suspect had been located, but not yet captured. The static of AM news radio filled the car and we went silent, listening to the reporters' distant voices on the way home. They had heard explosions; the suspect was hiding in a boat in some Watertown backyard, and he was not coming out. They would wait. Full yet alert, I was glad to be here, in this car with these friends, moving through the darkness toward Hanover.