Arizona and Albuquerque: names on marble, names in stone
There are long stretches of flat nothing in eastern California and western Arizona where the speed limit is 65 or 70 mph but everyone goes 80 to 90 mph, or faster if they can. It’s more dangerous to go the speed limit and jam everything up than break the law, which says something about the law, and more about people.
——Driving at night on the interstate, it’s like nothing at all exists in all the world but you and your car — these are one, the other cars you pass by, and the lines and signs that temporarily shine and disappear suddenly.
——My windshield is dirty somehow, streaky even on the inside. But for how it displays the lights to my eyes, I’ll forgive it anything.
We mustnt lick or sip or lap up the road, but gulp it, miles in each swallow!
ARIZONA The Indians around the Grand Canyon have made a cottage industry out of white guilt. Because there’s no other industry to be had on the land they have left.
“All of this is yours. No, no, don’t thank us. You’ve earned it.”
——We pulled into Seligman, Ariz., having to take a roundabout way in. The Roadkill Cafe said it was open, but when we went in the waitress said the restaurant was closed; only the bar was open. It was about 9:45 p.m.
——So we left, driving by the “historic area” of Seligman toward a gas station. When we were within about 50 yards, the lights turned off, so we swung back toward I-40. A sign said the next town was Ash Fork.
——”That sounds like a bustling metropolis,” Will said. “I’m sure we’ll find a cafe open there.”
One of the clerks at the motel was a very pale man, balding with a footlong beard and mustache. He had blue eyes and fingernails that were overlong, and I hated him intensely.
——On the way to the south rim of the canyon, a travel trailer held up a line of cars on a curvy, two-lane road. It went up the hill at 35 mph, on a 65 mph road. Maybe it had, steep as the road was, but the rest of us didn’t. There were places for it to pull off, but it didn’t.
——What made it worse was directly behind the travel trailer there was an RV, so to pass you had to be able to see far enough to pass both, which was rare thanks to the curves and down and ups.
——I was the first vehicle behind the RV, and drifting into the oncoming lane to peak, finally saw a place straight enough with the cars far enough in the distance to think I could pass, after one went by. I drifted back full into my lane, let one oncoming go past, then went back into the opposite lane.
——The cars ahead were really motorcycles, smaller than I had expected so much closer, too. Will saw this and pointed it out calmly.
——”I know it,” I said, like I was Charlie Chaplin. I was only going about 95, but my car was shaking. I got in front of the travel trailer with about a second to spare. It didn’t pull toward the shoulder then either.
——So I nearly killed several people, but actually saved myself about 10 minutes on the trip.
Long, straight stretches of road beg the accelerator to try kiss it.
——Probably the only thing I am actually adventurous at is “exploring.” Climbing up and down and striving to attain the view from the next hill or cliff or whatever my eye spied from somewhere else. And because I don’t know what I’m doing, this is actually dangerous.
——I did it at the Grand Canyon, and Will indulged me, but I’d have gone farther if he hadn’t been my common sense (though he did it all barefoot).
The meteor crater is very large and impressive, but the museum is pure capitalism. Falling apart, too. There’s an overbig gift shop and a Subway, but the monument to American astronauts was just names printed on paper made to look like marble with inscriptions.
ALBUQUERQUE The Petroglyphs are another argument for the case that the only difference between national monuments and graffiti is time. What figures the Indians living there and what names & crosses Spaniards passing by scratched & scribbled on the rocks is culturally important. But so will be the rocks the teenagers scratched & scribbled & shot at, in 500 or 1000 years.
And the name of some worthless fellow on a drunken night in 2009 will outlast the astronauts.
“I want to carve something,” I said. “Not like my initials, but my name.”
“To sign your work,” Will said. “To sign the best fucking petroglyph ever.”
“I’d need a few days then. I’d have to take one home with me because I think they’d notice otherwise.”
“You should just make one of those styrofoam ones like they do for the movies. Draw a penis.”
“Or two people have sex,” I said. “Anal sex.”
“Or a man fucking a buffalo. Blow people’s minds about Indians.”
” ‘My people revered the buffalo and considered it a sacred animal. We used every part of the buffalo. Every part.’ ”
Will said, “Maybe the Rocks Crawled Down,” and it sounded like prophecy.
——Up the tramway up to Sandia peak. We walked down the trail along the edge of the mountain then found some place in the sun to lie down overlooking the valley. Trey wanted to nap; I said I was going to contemplate eternity.
——It was nice, after so much hurry. Serene and warm and all happy. The stillness and quiet of nature undisturbed.
——When I got up, I saw a used tampon had been lying next to my head.
The hotel we were staying at in Albuquerque was very much a dive, smelled of weed, and had a leather strap instead of a door lock. The picture in the bathroom was screwed into the wall through the glass cover and painting, not the frame.
But in addition to the typical KJV Bible, it also had a book called “The Teachings of the Buddha,” which we took in order to learn how to overcome our desire to steal it.
I enjoyed reading it, especially the parables, but if the path to the cessation of suffering is to transcend desire, I frown on this. And lying in the sun, dozing on the mountain, I had thought of this. I don’t want to be a masochist, but I don’t desire to be without desire. I desire the enjoyment of desire, even unsatisfied desire. When I’m hungry, my stomach groans and turns in on itself crying, ‘Eat! Eat!’ And I savor the cry itself. “I am alive,” it says underbreath. “I’m human and want. Yes, yes, crave.”
Once I felt guilty, but I gave up on guilty. Now I want only to want and enjoy it.
——On the road to the Grand Canyon a man reclined on the ground between the shoulder and fence. He was wearing a red shirt and had a beard. He looked white but with the leathery brownness of being under the sun regularly. He had a pack and a bedroll. He was miles and miles into the Navajo Reservation.
——He was a hitchhiker, but when we passed by he seemed content right where he was.
——I had leaned in to Will and said, “That man is legit.”