God Help Us
Three thousand miles on the road through the American Southwest and I’m still at a loss for how I would even begin to describe the effect it had on me. I feel dirty, in love and embarrassed all in one big nasty ball. I guess I’ll start by saying that I love our country. I have a very hard time believing that I could be as smart-assed, arrogant and opinionated as I am and still have the same feelings of belonging and relative success elsewhere. But there is one thing that I noticed more than anything else on this long, hot, frustrating and beautiful adventure; we are an unhealthy, lazy, willfully ignorant society. We’re in trouble. There’s no denying it.
From Spokane, through Idaho, Montana, Utah and into Vegas it all feels the same once you’re on the road. Big Rigs filled with livestock spray liquid shit through traffic every 50 miles. Big Gulps against massive meaty faces and hands fill the windows of passing cars. There’s trash. Everywhere. No matter where you go, there’s trash.
There are exceptions, though. Beautiful small towns with more train tracks than roads dot the mountains and seemingly uninhabited plains through the Southwest. Their populations are often made up of the few locals pouring drinks or slapping together burgers at the only diner slash bar in town. Any other souls you might see seem to be doing the same thing you are, drifting through. These are the special places. Where you get to see the real face of America. The locals are weary, but friendly. Dogs run free. The buildings are old, many of them boarded up. Kids on dirt bikes and quads, lips dripping with chew spit, laughing their asses off seem to materialize without warning before disappearing into the woods or into a hay field. These are the places that reminded me of home.
And then there’s Utah. Oh, Utah. I’ve avoided you my entire life. And it’s safe to say that I will more than likely never be back. Sure, you’re beautiful. But oh no, never again. In two days I drove from your very top, to your very bottom. I even hung around for a little bit to take it all in once I got down south. Your National Parks, although attracting an impressive multi-national crowd, are maddening. Disney style tour buses shuttle the masses from one viewpoint to the next. Comforting those who fear the heat and that the act of movement might be too much for their soft, doughy bodies. I imagined the infirm or those that were unable to physically move themselves sitting in those seats. Enjoying the ride and feeling grateful to see such majesty they might not have experienced in any other way. I wanted to believe that. But what I saw instead were the loud and the lazy. Bean bags draped with massive matching tie dyed shirts. Huge asses consuming retired parachutes re-purposed as pants in a desperate attempt to keep up with the copious amounts of “beef” and Corn Syrup Slushy being thrown into the gaping maw perched on top of what used to be a neck. I noticed as I hiked further from the buses and the crowds that the voices around me were changing. They were quieter. And few of them were speaking English. I noticed something else as well, the bodies were smaller, leaner, and moving at a much quicker pace. Scrambling over rocks and through switchbacks with relative ease. The contrast was disappointing and inspiring. I’m glad I saw you, Utah. I really am. The impression you made on me will be a lasting one. And I want to thank you for confronting me and reminding me that it’s okay if I never come back. We can be just fine without each other.
I don’t have much to say about Vegas other than I’ve been there many times before and I always leave sad and a little confused. I did overhear this, though, and I guess it pretty much sums it up for me. “Las Vegas is for the delusional and those that want to die. And if they don’t want to die, they’re there to screw over those that do.” But oddly, if you’ve never been, I really think you should go. Get good and shit-faced. Throw a bunch of money into the toilet. Eat deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos until you throw up. Then go to a buffet and do it again. Go to a titty bar and make eye contact with every vacuous pair of eyes you can while getting dry humped by UNLV’s latest success story. Steal a Rascal and crash it into an unsuspecting crowd. That’s how you do Vegas.
There was a lot more on this summer’s desert tour but nothing really compared to the stretch between Northern Idaho and Las Vegas. The whiteness was blinding. The LDS was frightening. The National Parks were ridiculous. But looking back on it I have to say that I’m still proud to call America my home. Its beauty from one coast to the other is both breathtaking and brutal, sometimes all at once. Our people are stubborn and often asshole-y but sprinkled here and there I get a feeling of true belonging. But I don’t think I’ll be going back to Utah.