Archives for the month of: February, 2010

My arms ache from not turning. My body is immobile at 87 miles per hour, frozen into position by an undeviating I-10. When the road DOES decide to turn, it’s with long, brittle curves, stiffly acknowledging that an occasional change of direction is needed in our otherwise straight shot from Point A to Point B.

My mind, though, is running as fast as the car. I feel a sad urgency to get away from home, desperate to be somewhere other than where I pay rent. I feel guilty about this. Home is a great place! I love Home and all it contains.

Supergrass sings from tinny car speakers:

Moving keep on moving, where I feel I’m home again. And when it’s over I’ll see you again. Got a low low feeling around me and a stone cold feeling inside. I just can’t stop messing my mind up or wasting my time… Got to find somebody to help me, I’ll keep you in mind.

The 496-mile day shows scrubland pocked with gas stations and trailer parks. Litter. Dust. Trucks. Dead coyotes, broken bodies knocked to the median. Somewhere along the way, the land turns from dusty white to a deep red. Ocotillo is replaced by saguaro, pointing green fingers at a vibrant sky: have you seen THIS? Flipping a spiky bird at that ridiculous hue. Fuck you, sky! The contrast between the blood-red dirt, the green cacti, and the cloudless blue is dazzling. I grin at the unfamiliar scenery.

Somewhere along the way, it had become different. Somewhere along the way, it had changed from Home to Not Home. I was Away. I felt better.

Saturday night in Tucson.
Hotel Congress will deliver all the indie you’ll ever need. The lobby/bar/hangout zone is crowded with vintage outfits and ironic facial hair. Behind the check-in desk, Cute Tall Indie Boy With Glasses gives us the skinny on the best local restaurants and bars: right here in the Hotel. Really? We wanted to wander after all those car-bound miles, so head out anyway.

A few blocks of Congress Street proves Cute Tall Indie Boy right: a grubby mixture of odd, empty or dying stores, loud bars screeching their musical genre: Rock. Metal. Alternative. House. Country. Clustered around the sticky entrance to each bar were youngsters dressed in the appropriate uniforms of their chosen caste. We dodge the saggy jeans and wallet chains, we give a what’s up to the pegged pants and Connies, we skip the cowboy hats, we marvel at the girls dressed like sluts, flabby asses hanging out from under micro-skirts, stocky bare legs tottering on 4-inch heels.

We take pictures of Musicland’s window displays, loving the thought process and justification behind the idea of a guitar or piano toilet seat. We lose our shit at Wig-O-Rama, dusty mannequins from another era crowned with really. REALLY. Bad wigs. The straight-up weirdness of a wig store, the very idea of it and consequent awful promotion, complete with a cracked-then-taped window blocking it’s own sign, sends us giggling back to Hotel Congress. Our hipster haven gets us pretty damn drunk by 2 a.m., staggering up the wide stairs to our room, sloshing our wine. My final moments of that long day are hard to recall, but I’m sure we were too noisy for our Hotel neighbors. Sorry about that. It was funny, okay?

Photos by Rochelle Celeste

I know about power lines. Every 330 feet. It helps define the 5-acre parcels, 330 by 660 feet. The government gave away these tracts of land to anyone who would brave a house out here. And so: 12- by 12- foot cabins, the minimum square footage to qualify as habitable space, with structural personalities as varied as the laymen who built them. Abandoned now, with blank-eye-windows and gape-mouth-doors, shot to shit by lazy rifle. These shacks are sprinkled evenly across the desert with the creosote bush, competing with its neighbor for space and moisture. Cabins, creosote and desert dandelions. And power lines, making patterns in my view.

Nowhere else do surroundings more determine your immediate comfort. Sunlight is brassy, wind severe. Sand will forever take back the roads. By turns heat and raw cold will ravage everything man-made and nature-born: buildings, books, leaves, bones, fingernails, faces. And yet! Silence now holds the valley. Hummingbirds dart from thorny branch to feeder, chirruping approval. Coyotes trot their paths. Tortoises slowly eat the dandelions as they bloom. There is beauty in the details. I begin to draw again, and relax, and wonder – how many times will I have to re-teach myself to draw?

Wind. High clouds are coming in from the west. I prefer the quiet, muted mood that the wind will take away. Stillness here is a necessary pause – for the land, the animals, for me. A gap that gives us all a chance to catch up and carry on. A calm that allows other notions to surface. It gives rise to both my imagination and my fears, which I sometimes embrace, more often bellow and shake futile fist at. Which will hold, before the wind makes me run again for cover? It’s a daily battle, out there and in my head.

I can take what the Mojave gives. I like being here, trying to make peace with such a coarse environment. Even so – perhaps it’s arrogant to think I can take an active part in this. That I can lay claim to the sand and scrub as my own. Maybe I need to let-the-eff-GO. Maybe it’s best that I remain a visitor, an untroubled guest both here and in my mind, content to watch and look and live in this rough place as it stands — rather than being intent to improve something, to prove anything, to make my mark, to change it. A good lesson, that. I always want to goddamn change things.

I might need a sedative.

Clouds shove further across the valley. The ground sends up waves of grit in front of the wind. I’m being peppered by the desert – it’s cooking up some weather. Here the patterns continue across the land, along the power lines, in me, and I wait for the next pause.