I personally reject the eastern part of Colorado that looks like Kansas. Colorado is required to fit into the Rocky Mountain archetype. So I have removed the first two hours of the drive from my mind. I will say that it is baffling to me that the city of Denver could be a mile high, because the drive doesn’t feel or look like a climb at all. It must be the longest steadiest climb in the U.S. We were late for a date with Vanessa’s sister Lauryl, so we didn’t get to see much, save for a small town that advertised itself as “friendly and full of family values.” We had a few hours to kill before Lauryl got home, so we followed our usual method of finding interesting parts of cities—ask around about what part is ‘dangerous’ and go there. I forget the name of the neighborhood, but the houses were tiny and quirky and the people eccentric and pleasantly unpredictable. It was then time for Captain America: The First Avenger with Lauryl and Sam. A brief digression on the film:
For all the red-white-and-blue advertising, I was pleasantly surprised to find the film not jingoistic at all. On the contrary, the enemies are fascists, and at the end we fast forward to present day, where the U.S. military now seems quite fascist itself in its tactics of paternalistic secrecy and violence-for-the-sake-of-security. The message seems to be that WWII was the last time there could really be a captain ‘America’ we could root for. I also like the more Nietzschean than Christian ethical sensibility in which good and bad are of the same ilk (both the Red Skull and Captain America took the same super serum, which amplifies both good and bad). It was brilliant to have Captain America’s career begin as nothing but propaganda for the government. During that phase, he wears a cheesy costume identical to that in the original comic books (later when it’s time to be a true warrior he adopts the modernized one on the movie poster). The message seems to be that the original take on Captain America was also ideological propaganda. Nice move. The film does well to stay conscious of the more disturbing elements in this character's geist and zeitgeist. On the other hand, as with most films, the villain’s motives for world domination and the psychology of his followers are disturbingly simplistic and barely registerhouldn’t someone who yearns for a human being beyond what we are today—an ubermensch—already love human beings? This is a standard Christian misreading of Nietzsche, in which it is assumed anyone who wants a superhuman must not like humans. It’s the opposite—they love humans so much they want to see them outdo themselves. LINK TO NIETZSCHE? It’s idiotic the way they create villains who are so faithless and cruel to their followers—you don’t win so many followers without being appealing to them. Tim Burton’s version of The Penguin serves as a good counterexample—his army of ‘bad’ guys is convincing because they are all freaks like their leader who weren’t accepted by Gotham’s good citizens.
Anyway, Brie and Lucas cooked us dinner and breakfast, we blew their minds in return for the meals, and we all watched Disney’s “Aladdin”, which contains the barely disguised sex scene “Whole New World.” The cabin seemed stuck in the eighties—it came equipped with VCR’s for every TV and an original Nintendo gaming system with all the games my brother and I fought over as children, until my Mom got sick of our addiction and stomped on the machine (bravo Mamma! You saved us from a form of addiction more ruthless than nicotine). There were also large books on how to ski better written in the sixties and seventies. One talked about a ‘revolutionary’ new French method. As an admirer for real French revolutionaries of the sixties, I am always annoyed when advertisers use the word ‘revolutionary’ for a bourgeois leisure activity. A recommendation: do drive the Rockies. Don’t take the interstate they tell you to take through Salt Lake City or below them down through Vegas (unless your car is old and overheats easily).
Onward through more vast space, empty of construction. Like Arizona, Utah and Nevada are states where you tend to keep your drugs in your lap so you can stuff them into a crevice on your body if you get pulled over. Many voting citizens are much more concerned about marijuana usage and gay marriage than they are about poverty and homelessness. We went to Arches National Park and continued our arch-themed trip (see last post on St. Louis). After an hour there with all the cocks and cunts nature has to offer, we took off down the “loneliest road in America”, Highway 50. Of course, since Nevada seized on that moniker in its advertising, it has become quite un-lonely, but it’s still an amazing stretch of mountains and valleys broken up by only three small towns, running halfway through Utah and all the way through Nevada.
Many of the towns in this area were former mining towns, which means that today they’re barely functioning. We spent the night in WHAT, Utah, in a room with 8 beds, designed to accommodate travelling groups of laborers. The ‘café’ part of the motel and café’ was inexpensive and featured tableside meant-to-be-funny books by a local writer, with platitudes and stereotypes about women, marriage, etc. Our waitress was so surprisingly cute Vanessa couldn’t believe she’d never stripped. She had, however, been trained in nursing and given it up because waitressing paid more than nursing. (Wow.) The town was mostly Mormon, and the bars were still called ‘social clubs’, despite Utah’s recently changing their laws to allow for actual bars.
We really wanted to stop in a polygamous town but unfortunately they were too far off the road. We settled for the town museum in Eureka, NV, with its printing presses, schoolroom, and other artifacts from the late 19th century. I was most interested in a collection of newspapers from 1934, and read stories about the exciting new WPA and Tennessee Valley projects and the big corporations that sternly warned of the likelihood that they would lead Americans towards unionization and communism.
We went to a small Shoshone American Indian reservation by Ely, NV. I didn’t expect to be anything less than depressed in a reservation, but I wasn’t prepared to see three or four houses with American flags waving from the porches. That’s like a rape victim cheering her rapist on at a high school football game. Yuck. Part of the problem is that the military seized on the proud warrior traditions in these cultures and put forth an "American soldier" to fill the gap left by the more noble battles of the past, including the AIM movement.
Like a lot of the USA, the towns were sad and the space inbetween more gratifying. At least the long stretches of rocky canyons and red rocks can admit of no classism, except I guess for the fact that the working class can scarcely afford the gas it costs to cross this area! In desolate parts of the country like central Nevada, you can find state and national parks with no one in them—it’s just you, the ghostly whistling wind, and the thousands of years old petroglyphs that predate even the American Indians as we know them. One set of petroglyphs was in such an unlikely place, in a fiercely hot ravine accessible only by very bumpy dirt road, with only one sign and a couple of picnic tables, that it altered the definition of ‘tourist spot’ for me. Only the hardiest tourists would camp here (for free). We saw no one. The petroglyphs were oddly avant-garde, with humanoid shapes boasting strange and indecipherable geometric additions. These were drawn a few thousand years before Homer dreamt up the Odyssey. We’re not so young a land, after all.