Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I-84 between Lubbock and Post
Was it a betrayal to forget the girl with the magical shoes and the old photographer--to diverge for so long from the path of their unfolding, tentative connection toward the dark path of the dead? When I returned from my grandfather’s hometown, still populated by the living who had somehow drifted far from my imagination, I was faced with the unassailable fact that the living are not as we imagine them--and the dead are far from caring how they are imagined. Driving back along the long road lined with sage and wide fields of cotton and corn, only the sky continued to maintain the vast scope of the extent of my romanticizing, but it was equally ominous and beautiful, like the road on which we traveled, unending, but also fraught with countless perils and disappointments.

Which is to say that only the girl with the magical shoes held any hope. She had a future. She was still holding the world together in a fragile web of apprehension (and I know I have used that over and over again, but find no other way to describe that act of apprehending--to catch, to reach, to hold, to arrive, to understand--as way of being, if only for a moment, but moment after moment, until the world comes together in an almost seamless act of being held).

Years ago I sold everything I owned, and many of these things I had gathered from my grandfather’s cellar after he died. Among those things was a book that had figured profoundly into my young imagination, a 1950 copy of Time-Life’s The Universe. One thing that worked its way into my consciousness was an artist’s depiction of Saturn as seen from one if its moons. In my young, preliterate mind, that landscape was somewhere on this planet, California, as a matter of fact, where one could see Saturn setting, an immense ripe fruit on the horizon. Many years after this purge, I found a copy of the same book in a used book store. I opened it and it released the sweet aroma of tobacco that had infused everything in my grandfather’s room. I picked it up the other day, and started, for the first time, to read it. There was a photo of Albert Einstein, and one of his office the day he died. The only title that one can make out on his desk is “Philosophy.” But reading again through the description of the theory of relativity, I suddenly understood that one can only really “see” the world by holding still. It can’t be seen through memory, or fear, or hope, or desire, or frustration. One cannot speed through it on an expressway or an airplane without missing the most essential details. This was always the girl’s gift. She longed for nothing, she raged against nothing, she simply stepped off the G-Train and looked around her, and the world, which never failed to perform its balletic miracle for anyone still enough, goal-less enough, to perceive it. And that is where she met Sudek--in that space of apprehension, on the point of the needle. And that is precisely why I lost them both for so long.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

the mother road

This book is dedicated to historic Route 66, the Mother Road. One day it will be gone. Pieces of it disappear as I write this line. And when it dies, among its remains will be many tales and memories of the way it never was, and that’s all right; for the road is mythic, and myths tend to swell with each telling. From now on, let every tall story begin: Once upon a time there was a great highway…

And that part is true…

--Carol O'Connell

Maybe there is no longer a need to exhume the ghosts of the past. The dust is so thick, and memory solidifies into untrustworthy forms. You might realize, rifling through a stack of parched papers, insistently engraved in your grandfather's hand, that there are many stories, but not enough love to sustain them. What use is it to dredge up what is lost, what was lost long before the breath moved out beyond the atmosphere. You might say that these stories, were, after all, always your own, your desperate attempt at redeeming what can never be redeemed. Then so be it. Let the dust settle as it was meant to do, to cover by patient accretion the no-longer-living.

There was a road that once was vital and well-travelled, and music and dancing and camping flitted along its expanse beneath the neon lights from Chicago to L.A. The road is gone, and though you might keep driving, you will never reach the destination.