My Nod to the Essential

Looking back at I Must Be Off! over the years, I see that I haven't written about my travels as much lately as I did, say, three years ago. I've been traveling, just not writing about it. It may have started with my being attacked in Nice, or it may just be the gravity of things going on in the world. It's hard to be light and humorous with atrocities going on all around. I feel as if I should be writing more serious posts about serious issues. The world is getting heavier and heavier. The political circus in the US is so depressing. We should be occupied with saving our country from right-wing, gun-toting racists. The world is so angry, and moderate Muslims could be doing just a bit more to stem this anger--but then we should all be doing more. Our problems are not simple. Erdogan and the Kurds; Israel and Palestine; The International Community and the Syrians: come on. I'm heartbroken about this. But I'm also looking forward to the next season of Germany's Next Top Model.

What is it about the superficial that so attracts me? I'm not so much interested in the superficial as I am in the intersection between the superficial and the essential. A superficial upbeat song can sing poetry to something inside you. It makes something in you move. Your soul? Dare I say that something as superficial as a pop song could affect something as essential as your soul? There's something about the deep structure of the beat that doesn't need to be said to have its effect. That's why I measure time in pop songs here at I Must Be Off! A town is six pop songs away; a gas station is just two. Like that. We should always measure time in pop songs.

But food is the best metaphor for the intersection between superficial and essential. During a wine-tasting 25 years ago, I told someone "You know, I get all this about peach and vanilla notes, about sulfur and wood, but we really shouldn't be snobbish about something that's going to be piss in less than an hour." I've been to hundreds of wine-tastings in lots of countries over the years, but I still appreciate a good three-dollar bottle of wine, and I'm not above opening a can of peas for dinner.

I adore food. I know quite a bit about food. I'm a foodie. I'd love to eat in all the 3-star Michelin restaurants on this planet, but I know that would be financially irresponsible. But wait. If food is art, why not support it? Food is the most essential thing on earth, after water and air. How can it be superficial? Do you remember what you ate for lunch six days ago? Has a chef ever won a Nobel prize? Maybe one should.

All this to say, I have been doing a lot of soul searching, asking myself some questions about how I see the world; I just haven't been writing about it. 

In 2016 I'm going to be exploring the essential in myself. Travel is essential because I need to understand the world and its people. I've already planned a dozen trips, and I'm going to write about these trips. In 2015 I went places I never told you about. I'm sorry for this. I was tired of talking; maybe I was just tired. This year I want to talk to people around the world who want to see a better world. I want to talk to people who appreciate the essentials.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.


  1. So true, Chris. I have made all sorts of resolutions for the new year. Some serious, some less so, but all contributing to feeling better about myself and more able to deal with the Big Issues.

    1. Sounds good, Paola! Can't wait to hear about your year.

  2. Looking forward to your travel pieces, Chris. Always good to have a new perspective on a place.

  3. I'm sure I've sat on that bench, Chris, or one very like it. Ireland? In any case, several pop songs away! The sort of place for contemplation and inventing stories.

    1. Yes, Jill! It's Ireland. South of the cliffs of Moher. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Interesting post, Chris. It's uncanny how close this chimes with my latest post on my blog which is about a story I wrote after being humbled by a bookseller in Cambodia. I think it's important to write about the things that impact on us on our travels - good and bad!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. I'll have to check your post out.

  6. Yeah, sometimes we do feel that we need to stop for a moment and think where we are going and what we are doing here. Great reading as usually!


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