the road west is long, straight and a bit wasted.
the first thing that comes to mind when i think of the road west is abandonment. have you ever been west of the Mississippi? have you ever been through Texas? New Mexico? Arizona? wide open empty spaces liter the landscape. and then, in what seems like a mirage, a building appears in the distance - only this structure is almost camouflaged by the weeds and debris that surround it.
the old west is a cataclysmic terrain of emptiness with pockets of civilization once booming, now looming. and yet so many are drawn to its lure. perhaps its because we all know what lies beyond, just a few more miles down the old road... the pacific. the land of opportunity. the land of celebrity. California. and California, for so many, represents hope.
my views of this road west, is slim. so forgive me for calling it like i have seen it - but driving along the mother road - Interstate 40 and off to the most historic of roads - Route 66 - all that is seen are memories of what once was. it's the past that has yet to catch up with the present, eons away from the future. because many moons ago, Americans were curious, and traveled across the country - living the dream, like Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Route 66 was the road of choice and boom towns sprung up along that sacred path - and they flourished. Then, in the 60's, Eisenhower's interstate system was implemented and old 66 was bypassed for the four lane super highway, connecting the east to the west, north to the south.
depression was left in its wake.
now that i've wasted three or four paragraphs painting my interpretation of history - what is the point? because i have, on a few occasions, traveled that road - both roads. and those experiences are monumental.
on one encounter - with the family, we traveled to Phoenix, to drop my sister off at an Indian Reservation school, where she served as teacher. the memories of that family trip, when i was about 20 - proved to be an experience right out of the script from the movie Vacation. It's as if my dad was Chevy Chase - bound and determined to make the trip exciting and fresh. but alas, everything went wrong, the least of which was the motel room in Tulsa. the Roadside Inn (not a 5 star hotel in the least), had a bed that was slanted (broken box springs) and a sound-scape of gunfire outside our motel door.
on another encounter - i was heading towards hope - and hope was discovered just past painted deserts and canyons so grand; through the intense, dry heat of Vegas followed by 300 miles of nothing... and then, with all its beauty shined the lights of the big city: the hopes and dreams of Los Angeles were right in front of me.
the journey was riddled with mistakes and bad food and the unmistakable stench that was Amarillo, Texas - but the backdrop of sun, rolled-down windows and U2 on repeat was redeeming enough.
there were 5 and dime's along the road - in small towns not fit for a truck stop. in one of these we stopped for a drink. i think they sold the Coke in the old glass pop bottles still. Time moved on, except here. our journey brought us to a stop. one couldn't help but reflect. the radio was stuck in 1958. the grass was faded, burnt by the sun. The pick up trucks were rusted, the old feed mills, closed. even the stop light didn't work. this was a town drunk from nostalgia in a shot glass - and i drank it up, too. i remember its vintage hues, its passing winds. the flat terrain allowed for the eye to gaze upon the Rocky Mountains due west and a bit north. i remember wondering if the inhabitants of such a town knew what was beyond that horizon? did they dream of opportunity like i did? did they long to escape? had they held on to any innocence? had they longed for a return of simple things? like jobs and passer-bys... and hope?
but my stay was not long. after a quick meal at some unknown shack where the hostess was the waitress and the waitress was the cook, we were on our way again. it was getting dark and a storm would soon be upon us. as Kerouac once said: "one fast move or I'm gone." the storm came quickly (as they tend to come out there). i was gone.
hope was ahead of me. despair was in my rear view mirror.
yet i have never forgotten that scene. that place. those places along the road, the road west.
what happened next was an adventure of a lifetime. Los Angeles. Hollywood. 3rd Street Promenade. The Pacific Ocean. Film School.
it was this journey that - in part - shaped who i am today. my values. my vision. my dreams. all fleshed out in the warm California sun. 6 months later i was back home again. i don't remember anything about the journey home. i remember that i made it back (that's about it.)
i returned with few regrets, clinging to hope - a hope that survived the journey west and the desolation of abandoned towns and crappy motels; a hope that survived the tragedies and dramas of life in the hills behind the Hollywood sign. for me, the destination was the journey.