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Monday, August 8, 2011



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.

After a ridiculously hearty meal at The Breakfast Palace (which beat out Breakfast Queen in our crazed breakfast search that morning), we took off into the Rockies. Two hours driving into a sunset stretched out over the Rockies, punctured by the absurd quanity of peaks. We were on a roll, ready to make it all the way across in one evening when Vanessa reached for her backpack and found nothing. We had left it in Denver. Back to Denver. Poor little Toyota Yaris (named “Aayla Secura”). Luckily for us, Brie and Lucas saved the day. They were a couple drinking a coffee in Frisco, CO, and they invited us to stay in the cabin that they from a friend. I admired their willingness to trust complete strangers, especially given that the cabin wasn’t even theirs. Nothing warms my heart like United Statesians who aren’t afraid of strangers, even when they’re ex-cons and sex workers. A far cry from the nurse taking my blood, who told her co-worker "I used to have to take blood from the prisoners. I would shake so much they'd have to give me ____ every time." I asked the nurse if she was afraid of inmates. She looked blankly at me like it was obvious, then bristled: "Well, it's just a very intense situation." The implication that prisoners are a threat to anyone and everyone, including a nurse there to help him, is vile to me.

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.


After two days of unfathomably unfamiliar territory we pulled into Reno, our yearly launch point on the way to Burning Man. From there on out we were in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas, which for us by now means either excitement about the Burn to come or excited processing of the Burn that just happened. It was a good lesson in keeping our senses and critical skills attuned and working together, now that we were in familiar territory. And that is how we ended Hell of Road Trip pt. V, at my parents’ house in Los Gatos, CA, after picking up Lindsey in Berkeley: determined to continue to act, even at home, like we were on the road, talking with ‘locals’about their labor and leisure practices, noting the city planning or lack thereof, finding the quirky spots, and overall training our senses for the most important truth: there is nothing you've already seen. Nothing repeats. All is new every time, every glance, every moment. After all, we are in route, always changing, always moving, and doing it best when the destination is not held dogmatically in the mind like a guard rail. Here’s to the perpetual road trip, at home and abroad.


The day after we returned, my wife and I flew to Birmingham for a family reunion of the Israel clan. Plenty of interesting people there but I think if I heard one more person insinuate how bad unions are for America I would have blown up. Lindsey winning a freestyle MC battle at a downtown bar was a highlight, as was the Birmingham history center, and the Civil Rights Institute (which was mysteriously missing communism and Black Panthers), but I think the top moment was when the whole clan was performing a string of karaoke numbers, mostly country with a little Vanilla Ice and Bon Jovi thrown in. We were all white and the servers were all Black. I went up to one of them and said: “I would pay a large sum of money if would put Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” on this Karaoke list so I could perform it tonight.” We both laughed hard and long. Let’s end on that note: Ice T.


MAX! said...

Shine my brother! You come on this land, so desperate that it overflows you beneath your feet.

JanTed said...

The Road Trip never ends!!! It continues everyday and we learn and explore and continue to discover, through honesty, truth and beauty!!!!

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