SUNRISE IN NEW MEXICO
I just got back from a trip where I drove roughly 2,200 miles from Beacon, New York to Phoenix, Arizona. My cousin Andrea decided to move from her house in upstate New York to California and it has always been a dream of mine to travel across country so I tagged along. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Here is a list of things I saw among many others in our eight-day journey:
-A guy in full camouflage including face paint check into a Motel 6 with a truck full of crossbows, only to notice seconds later that his seven year old son was in shotgun dressed THE EXACT SAME WAY.
-A restaurant in Phoenix where the entire wall was old cassette tapes.
-A cat with a full set of testicles at a rest stop in Pocohauntas, Illinois
-A 22 year-old cat in a bookstore in Indiana.
-I woke up to a biker reunion in Marshalltown, Pennsylvania at a Days Inn.
-I saw the University of Colorado, University of Indiana, University of Kansas, Washington University and the University of New Mexico
-Tried to fall asleep next to a lone bag pipe player on the Bloomington campus.
-I climbed a mountain in Sante Fe, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, waded in a creek outside of Sedona.
-I had a terrible night sleep in a Motel 6 and the best night sleep in a Holiday Inn Express.
-Drove through a sunrise from Raton, New Mexcio to Santa Fe.
-A sign for “The Second Friendliest Yarn Store in Kansas.”
-The biggest aluminum cross I have ever seen.
-My cousin sunk in the middle of a huge air mattress.
-Switched rooms twice at a Super 8 in Bedford Indiana, the second time was because the sheets were brown.
-A comedy show at Stanford and Sons Comedy Club in Kansas City, where the feature brought an entourage and the host gave away tickets to see Dustin Diamond.
-A completely dinosaur themed restaurant in Kansas City.
-A sign for a Super 7 Motel in Kansas.
-Hundreds of signs professing that Jesus is the only way, sandwiched between signs for fireworks and adult superstores.
-Was one of three people in a Denny’s in Raton, New Mexico, where I wrote the word “Help” on the comments section of a Denny’s menu.
-Ran on a treadmill in the basement of a Holiday Inn Express in Kansas City, Missouri, followed by an impromptu yoga lesson from my very talented cousin/health coach/acupuncturist.
-One of my best friends reunited with his girlfriend making homemade pizzas in their kitchen.
-Ate pancakes out of a machine at the same Holiday Inn Express.
-Had people pay for two dinners for my cousin and I by very kind hearted people.
-An elderly couple playing backgammon on an old fashion board, only to end the game by spraying nasal spray in each others noses.
-Did four of the better comedy shows I have ever done at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana with one of literally the best comedians/people in comedy, Greg Warren.
-I had the worst meal of my life at a Carlos O’Kelly’s in Hays, Kansas, one of the best meals I ever had at a sandwich spot in Boulder, Colorado.
-Had a guy follow us chanting “White Power” for three blocks, only to escape by walking through a Native American pow-wow outside a theater in Albuquerque New Mexico.
-Drove through the backwoods of Indiana, only to get detoured 20 miles past our destination by two road signs.
-Drove through the Rocky Mountains in Denver, and ended at Red Rocks Amphitheatre making fun of people who were making up exercises.
-Drank tea with creamer that shot like dust out of a machine in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
-Heard John Mayer’s, “No Such Thing,” at three different public places.
-Heard the Beatles, “Let it Be,” twice, once in the middle of a discussion about letting go of the past.
-South of Pueblo, Colorado, and in the middle of listening to Joe Pug’s “Hymn #101,”was utterly silenced by a muted auburn tinted sunset set against the faded mirage-like rock formations and bluffs.
-Three different Wal-marts in hopes of seeing Lauren Adams’ Downy commercial.
-An entire street of art galleries in Sante Fe called Canyon Road.
-A beat-poetry open mic in Albuquerque, with some of the better beards I’ve ever seen.
-A guy drinking a beer alone in a hot tub in New Mexico.
-A shockingly nice couple at their Air B and B home in Phoenix telling us the story how their last guest was a female escort who had a psychotic breakdown and had to be taken to the hospital.
-The best drive I have ever been on in my life from Flagstaff to Sedona, Arizona.
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THIS PLACE WE LIVE
My biggest takeaway from this trip is that this country is immaculate. It is so easy for any of us to section ourselves off within our respective geographic bubbles, but when you take America on all at once, the tangible separation lines that we all like to draw whether red states versus blue states, north versus south, and simple state boundaries become completely invisible. The states roll into one another and a lot of times, it took at least two hours driving into a state to realize you were someplace new. That is not to say there were not vast cultural and geographic differences, in fact I think this trip made me realize that there are way more than two Americas, I would say there are at least nine.
Somewhere between the outstretched landscape of Indiana and Missouri, after seeing the same development of Wendy’s, Motel 6, McDonald’s, Subway, and Cracker Barrel for the 57th time, I decided that the reason why rural America, the so-called “The Heartland” remains staunchly conservative is because nothing ever changes. Everything is the same, the traffic lights, the “Jesus Saves” signs even the greenish dirt hues of the fledgling agriculture are the same in Kansas as they are in Indiana. And if your only take on reality is static at every bent, you’re more likely to want things to remain as they are, and the less interested you might be in cultural and economic progression, or working teeth. With that being said, the people in the Midwest were some of the warmest and friendliest on our trip. My cousin and I started cracking up laughing after she told me on her way to the bathroom at a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, four different people said hello to her, a gesture that would seem psychotic in New York or Los Angeles.
The beauty of the Southwest is completely silent but endless, sublet but spectacular, like a painting you could stare at for hours but never quiet feel like you’ve seen all of it. This was evident in the way the Rocky Mountains trail off into the background of a city like Boulder, or interact with you in Colorado Springs, or how the historic Route 66 softly intersects through Flagstaff, Arizona, or how the you cannot even begin to comprehend the vastness of the Grand Canyon until you walk right up to it and stare off into the massive abyss. It’s all there asking, never demanding you to breathe it in, knowing that your lungs will never get too full. And the Native American influence on the region gives it a constant rustic mysticism that catapults you into our flawed past, much in the same way that New England reminds you of the first colonists. The people in the Southwest looked the most reflective of their environment particularly in New Mexico, rugged, a bit weathered and stoic but when pushed, always exuding kindness.
In the beginning stages of fall, before trees become unrecognizable from their spring incarnations, and some 50 days before a major election, we could have not picked a better time to digest this country. While we are taunted night in and night out by the media about our worldly economic and social demise, and by our perceived irreconcilable racial, political, sexual, or religious differences, at every turn of our journey, every mile, every gas station, rest stop, national park, hotel lobby, or backwoods gift shop, we were constantly reminded that this is a country and a world of staggering well-being. The 24-news cycle and popular culture might hammer into us into the belief that the world is a day away from the Apocalypse, but all we ever saw from the windows of our 2011 white Honda Civic was a country and people working together in almost complete synchronicity.
We learned that a farmer in Kansas and two New York City transplants can sit down at the same diner in Sante Fe, New Mexico and expect and receive coffee in one minute, that the toll booth operator in southern Pennsylvania will give you directions, exact change and tell you how many tolls are left in the state without even making eye contact, that the Rocky Mountains of Colorado can provide the surrounding neighborhoods with water, light, cleaner air, recreational activities and peace of mind without asking for anything in return, that complete strangers in Flagstaff, Arizona, Bloomington, Indiana and Kansas City, Missouri will approach you unprovoked to ask you where you were from and give you the best recommendations. America is more than a well-oiled machine, because machinery implies a sense of cruelty. This country like so many others, is a perfectly timed dance with everyone having a place, even the ones who are standing. You step in for as long as you like and leave without anyone noticing, but make no mistake about it, the dance never ends, nor would you want it to. And after starring at the dance for long enough, you start to watch the motion of the movement as much as the people, and the only thing left to do is jump in.
SUNSET IN ARIZONA