Odyssey 2006 Day 7

September 10th, 2006

Rural, Missouri:  Okay, that’s not really the name of a town but I wanted to write about an experience rather than a destination.  We had our first sustained sunshine in weeks – maybe months – today as we drove across Illinois and Missouri.  Rural Missouri is incredibly beautiful; thickly forested, layers of green on green, rolling hills.  We played techno ambient music and I engaged in a little imaginative exercise – since we’re currently homeless and carrying everything we own, turtle-like, in our car, could we pull over here and set up housekeeping in the wilderness?  With melodic bass gently vibrating the car, I imagined hours spent working as artists and writers, Wi-Fi on the porch and NetFlix in the mailbox, long hikes in the woods, the changing seasons, crisp white snow that stays white for months instead of hours, wood smoke…  Then we turned off the MP3 player and listened to all of the local radio stations.  Country music celebrating the war.  Static.  Country music about hardship and sacrifice.  Static.  It didn’t take long for me to fail my imaginative exercise, but I was stunned by what a difference the musical back drop made to my level of enthusiasm for an imaginary project. 

There’s an experience Sam and I refer to as the “Grunge Elvis Phenomenon:”  the last time we were in Las Vegas we walked up and down the strip visiting all of the different casinos.  Outside of the Flamingo there was a middle-aged Elvis singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to a small crowd of avid listeners.  We thought, “oh look, Elvis sings Nirvana” and continued on our way, never even thinking to take a photo.  Of course once we left Vegas and started thinking about it, we really wished we had taken a photo.  After all, anywhere other than the ‘Strip, our grunge Elvis would have been anything but blasé.  We had a brush with the Grunge Elvis Phenomenon in Rural, Missouri too.  We took a little winding road between interstates and went past some truly remarkable architecture:  an old three-story farm house with a sign in the front yard advertising “Deli Sandwiches and Fresh Bait,” a completely burned out trailer leaning 45 degrees to the right, but with pristine white curtains swaying in the empty windows, and surrounded by jewel-bright greenery.  Later there was a strange mobile home graveyard, with at least fifteen discarded trailers lined up next to each other, only kept upright by the support of other mobile homes packed tight on either side.  It all seemed unremarkable at the time, but later I wondered how my imagination had normalized images I’d never seen before.

Driving past Columbia Sam and I both gave the imaginative exercise of living somewhere other than California a second try.  There was a gorgeous, ripe, full moon shining into the car and flooding the woods with pale light.  The exercise worked… until we crested a hill and I saw a bank of clouds spread out below us and thought, for a split second, that it looked like the Pacific.  Then my stomach clenched and I felt such a sense of excitement and relief…  I think it’s gotta be California, at least for now.

Entry Filed under: Odyssey

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