A roadtrip to Minnesota,I return to Windom, my place of birth,for a reunion of family.
My girlfriend and I leave Phoenix at midnight,drive through the coyote nightpulled by a sunrise in the Navajo nation,driving through the long monolith shadows of this Monument Valley morning,
this enormous land
we catch the Colorado river at Moab, Utah,follow its muddy flowings into Colorado statewhere freeway and river travel together,and when they part again we choose the river,abandon the interstate for a route that begins as a two-lane paved road,we wind up against gravity’s currentdown to one lane and gravel,and this thiswas the magic of this road trip,forced to 15 mph,forced to see,unlike the interstates, those tv’s of the roads,fast images seen through a glass tube,radio providing soundtrack and commercials,landscape soundbites,billboards of corporations, that part of America I don’t care for,monolithic and centralized,all efficiency and no magic.
When the freeway followed the Coloradowe traveled on high-tech Jetson’s pillars,straight line over the river and through giant blasted tunnels in the mountain,push-button idiot box view with no way to rewind,no way to pause,but now
on this little roadby the big Coloradowe can stop and get out,unwind,wow at the view,snap pictures and throw rocks in the river.
We drive slow with the windows down,hands out feeling the wind,the river talking peace and rage to us,and here on the river the people wave,
the few people we see,kids playing on the road,a man working on his tractor smiles when he waves,something passes between us in our simple nods and smiles,something in his eyes is reflected in his wave.I feel we shared a moment of contentedness, maybe serenity,a shared feeling of the land,of the beauty he knew so well, living out here the tough river-valley life,I recognized him for thatand hecould see it all for the first time through our gawking eyes,
I think he saw us kiss,
me and Leslie standing near a one-lane bridge,
right after we circled to see the view,and if he could’ve shouted and if I could’ve heardhe’d say Grand ain’t it?and he would be talking about it all,not just this river,or the land it conquers and is contained by,but life in all its forms,life in form of river, of rocks and of plants,life in form of freedom and constraint,life in balance,life in the kiss of a woman,
Mother earth,our roads and railroads built stupidly next to your most powerful weapon, water,you must laugh at our self-importance,you must laugh at the fat men in high towersthinking they control the world.How I admire your restraint when you could take’ em down so easily,dominoes on the beach,or are you biding your time,waiting for the right ironic moment to mess up foundations built on sand?
It’s here,on these small roads,I see the nation we are supposed to be.Are we Americans rugged individuals?Or are we small bands working together?I say we are both when we are at our best,in these small communities,we pull in and pay high prices for gas,locals smart-assing each other at the plywood hamburger stand next to the gas station,we are at our best, individuals in small groups,like the guys we saw working on the railroad tracks along the river,a jumble of yellow Cats and white company pickups,hard-hatters and baseball caps eating their lunch,a few gave me a peace sign in response to my wave and long hair,and they meant it!
Ah Colorado,Oh America, thisis the part of the nation I believe in,this is what keeps my respect for the flag,the surprising kindness we finddespite the drive-by shootings in the news.
Is all this fear justified?
I know if we broke down out here in nowhere America someone would spend half a day helping us out,I’ve always been rewarded for my belief in the soul of folk with their help,trust someone and you’ll get it back ten-fold,yet in my travels I’m warned towatch out for the freaks and creeps, watch out for the hucksters andwhy don’t you carry a gun?
This I have learned and this we all know,
that it is the poor,
those who have the least to give who will give the most,
that those who have more than enough are the ones that take,
the bigger the motor home
the less likely you’ll be invited in,
but pull into the camp of two loggers
living out of their tent
and you’ll get all their beer
and the last of their kerosene will be used to ignite a chunk of old-growth redwood they “found” and have been saving just for an all-nighter like this,
is the America I love,these people who talk about the weather, these people I love,they immediately go for what we have in common,and isn’t that what tolerance is all about,isn’t that a democracy, sharing what is common,and respecting differences, in silence if need be,talking about all this damn rain,how two years ago it was drought and they said the lakes would take decades to fill up againbut now, by gum,we’re sandbagging against the flood and it just goes to show ya you can’t believe everythingtheysay.
A gas station somewhere near the Colorado-Nebraska border:out of the blue I’m askedHow do you like your new Geo Prizm?I turn to the old guy now next to me like a found friend,Well, we rented it, but yeah it’s got some spunk when you get it going and the mileage is good but coming through the mountains it was sluggish,and he tells me of how he came this close to buying a Geo Prizm himself if they weren’t so dog-ugly to begin with but now they don’t look too bad and points out the ’86 Skylark he just bought and I hear of every car he’s owned,like I really do remember when they brought out that new line in ’62 before I was born and I forget what a rush I was in to get out of the car and pee,cuz now that we know each other through our cars I explain what this trip is about, seeing my family, and I even admit I’m a poet,and he nods and says hmmm,and I hear a bit about his kids he’s traveling to see and where they moved. and I catch a whiff of a divorce he’s had, a sad scene from the vibes I get, this man is lonely,and I nod and I say hmmm,and when we finally part we can say in all sincerityHave a good trip and hope your car runs well for you.
And we’re really saying
Oh take care, frail fellow human,may life’s engine run smooth and clean,
and know, my new friend,that there are people out there like you,know there are strangers who care about you unconditionally,that when you break down in a land of strangers someone will provide,provide without thinking,for the mere reason that kindness was shown to them at some time,or for the meager reason that
it is right,
which isn’t reason at all, but faith,
a deep,unspoken,illogical and wildfaith.
I say to you old mandriving to your children in Coloradoin your ’86 Skylark with the goofy transmission,I say a way will always be found.