Wednesday, May 9, 2012

West of Center

First sight of the day: this giant Indian at the Cherokee Trading Post

I feel too tired to write. Today was another long haul. This country is all edges of noise with vast desolate patches making up its insides. This trip is just the right length to be impossible. We have spent whole days in the Jeep getting from one place to another, and then we’re in a place only long enough to catch glimpses.

What are Americans like today? It’s the question I started with. So far, I think Americans are exactly what they think they are. At base, Americans are a good, kind, thoughtful, strange and beautiful bunch of people. I believe this from the top of my head down to the tippy tips of my toes. But, I’m a positivist. My edges are all cynicism, but my insides are all hope.

This trip began with that exchange between those teen girls comparing their Southern identity to others. They agreed other cultures were great, but their shared culture was the best.  When you get two people together from the same region of the country, it’s old home week between strangers if only for an instant. By the end of the flight, it was clear, those girls were going to be BFFs forever and ever. I wonder if they would have even looked at one another if they had first met in Biloxi.

I think Americans are all more alike than we want to believe, like how some rap songs and country songs are basically about the same things: imbibing substances, braggadocio, and getting laid. The artifacts are different, but the outcome is the same. A forty of malt liquor = a Dixie cup of cheap whiskey = a glass of fine wine. People are the same wherever you go, except they’re different.

I don't even know where we are. I just liked this mug.

Last night, we slept in Oklahoma. In the morning we ate a diner next to the hotel. The waitress could have fallen out of a novel about a big hearted woman in a small town in Oklahoma. She cracked jokes with us like we were any of the regulars who came in every day. And most of the people in the diner did. I felt at home in the way a Midwesterner feels at home in the Midwest.  I wonder, is Oklahoma the West or the Midwest?

Checking out, I chatted up the desk clerk. I told her I thought Oklahoma was beautiful. She said when she came to live there from Texas, she thought it was a swamp with all its humidity. Humidity, now that is something people can connect over. I told her about summers in MI. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. True ‘nuff.

Oklahoma: I think it must be the Midwest.

After that we got on the interstate. We were on our way to Albuquerque to visit with our amazing friend and fellow writer Anna Redsand. We’re on the road, but she’s standing still, staying in one place for one year and learning it, possibly getting to like it, too.

Me, Anna and M

Anna and M and I went down to the old part of Albuquerque, where we grabbed a bite and a beer. I ate too much and whined about it, so we walked it off by visiting a tiny shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine, it turns out, was damaged by fire, so it was closed, but the contractor working there let us in so we could look.

After our short visit, we headed down I-25 on our way to Truth or Consequences. Do you know what’s dark? Rural New Mexico at night. Do you know what’s tough? A truck stop in rural New Mexico at night. Do you know what’s pretty? Opening the moon roof and staring at real stars while you haul ass down the road.

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