On The Road, the definitive work that defined the Beatnik generation’s wanderlust and the potential of that generation that just made it through not having to serve in either the W W I I or the Forgotten War that was not really a war but a police action and that had, to this day, yet to officially start or end as a war. The road has changed somewhat from those days, even evolved into a new form that has metastasized over the Corpus Americus so that we build new roads for On The Road next to the old roads used by the older On The Road. We move and pave, but remember, you can find the Real America if you just look hard and it seems, these days, one has to look harder and harder. You have to leave the centers of commerce and seek out the smaller towns, the lesser roads and state county routes in order to escape the unending mass of interchanged, medians, on and off ramps, and the clustering shouting signs for KenTacoHuts, StopNWalKMartNShops, Pawn Shopes, Bail Bondes, car shopes, used auto shopes, and all manner of ancillary support centres that spring up to keep our mobility wagons in prime order for our very costly and inefficient means of transporting our lardy selves about on our appointed tasks and errands.
Speaking of lardtastic, this land I am visiting, we will call it The Third Coast, is plentiful with resplendent cuisine – there is the cuisine of The Panda, The Wall, and The Lucky, that of Chick, Beaver, and Lobster, Houses of Waffles, Houses of Pancakes, Huts of Dawgs, and plenty of Mexican Tropical, Tropica, Tropicana, and El Trope to provide an extra edge of industrial ethnic in the event the American fare of The Sonics, Ronalds, Kings, Wendies, Arbies, fail to fill that void that your government provided Jazzy will one day haul around. Each one of these pavilions sit in their own parking lot, at angles, in front of dead and dying strip malls, and all have Drive Thru’s, and at the hour of my arrival on The Third Coast’s primary city, just ten or fifteen kilometers from the James Polk International Airport all these Thru’s were full, lines out to the curb, such a manner of people in their cars too wan and bulimic to exit their precious pickup truck/SUV for a moment just to calorie up. One of these leviathans did exit the cab of what I assume was their alien life support system, since I will admit the region gets blasted hot for most of the year with extra humidity.
I was shocked to see that this individual was fit. Well proportioned. Somewhat attractive physique. Then I saw another. And another. How is it these people line up to chug the worst food imaginable and yet…. where is my People of Walmart? Where are the fatties in trollies? Huge tones of fun rolling gobs of mother loving tender GMO induced corn injected walking feedlot soybags? It was then I took stock of the many gyms, and that, in spite of the KenTacoHuts lining the road, the road was carved to include entrances to communities with names like The Preserve, The Black Rock, or The Lakes At Brighton Junction. Darting down any one of these side roads into the communities fenced off (or walls) from The Strip I found gentile if somewhat scientifically grown house-pod-thingys each with a lawn that was rolled out in a day, a group of attractive hedges planted en mass at the height you see, and guarded by ADT, Viper, BBG, or another alarm company that you pay a monthly fee on top of installation in order for this private company to then dial the local law enforcement who exist based on the tax base that may or may not exist depending on the deal the developers got when they dug up the preserve, the black rock, or the Brighton Junction and made an exerbia of it.
The place I was at, was what passes for middle class in much of America. Certain I am that would that I want to look, to turn over a few isles in WalKMart or visit the clusters of Poor People wherever they are hatching, I would find those who cannot afford to work off the Honey BBQ Extra Toppings Crispy Buttery Cheese Lovers(tm) Muddy Coco Rich Triple Yum Crunch Grande Cool Hot Spicy Dipping Snackin’ Delight Assorted Novelties Flavor Bites that comes from our own feedlots. And next to these feedlots, the gym. The church next to a strip mall. The churches have light up beer signs, they’re just another commodity here I guess. SERVICE SUNDAY in red marching letters. The same marching letters that on other signs spell out BLACKENED TO YOUR ORDER and LOANS ON ANY ITEM OF VALUE. Abandoned Blockbuster video store next to a gas station next to some kind of car parts place next to a school. Festering shimmering parking lots interrupted by the faux stone wall and faux pond spraying what I assume to be some kind of upwardly thrust water in order to mimic a fountain and tone and fit ladies driving oversized SUVs and well aged gentlemen driving dualies pop in and out, some of them even using their turn indicator as was intended by its inventors.
The Road has grown in size since the original On The Road was written. Many lanes are five or six deep depending if you count the breakdown lanes and central turn lane, or large usually paved median (or whatever you call that unused place between highway A and the opposing direction of highway B, usually a place for coffee cups, bits of plastic bumper [if you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of an entire bumper in this rare habitat], bits of tyre, and whatever Billy tossed out the back window to spite Sissy). The madhouse of this mixture of so many sorts of endeavor was not to stop at the Corporate Limits of the City of K- in the Oblast of M- but I was to see was evenly spread up and down the Third Coast. If we are to escape human activity in order to find our country, are we not doing something wrong? And if one can travel mile after mile, hour after hour before breaking this penumbra of shit, what have we done to what appears to be a majority of our landscape? The blogger drove and drove. Hotels. Motels. Notells. My favie was a huge complex, a former motel, painted green and totally abandoned. The best was the indicator of the vintage of this rotting pile. A huge, gynormous satellite dish now flaccidly pointing down at the ground. I remember as a kid looking through Omni Magazine, a 1970s shagtastic magazine for technophiles of the Betamax age. I remember a series of abandoned futures, these detailed works of art of lost space installations and a future that had itself become broken and no less lost as any ancient Mayan civilization where the primordial jungle came back to reclaim the planet since these were worlds away from ours, and I would study these images and wonder about these lost futures, these space stations now crashed and overgrown and when I saw the pathetic satellite dish in front of the rotting behemoth motel of lime green paint, I could only think of those ruined Catskill Mountain Houses and the images of technology being eaten by the jungle, and I thought…. nah… this just looks like shit. Pure shit, even in ruined state. Nothing will ever be romantic about the American strip mall landscape. It’s all a quick and nasty fuck in a truckstop. And with the right combo of left right left turns, I met the toll road, left the toll road, and pushed outside of the KenTacoHuts, beyond the clusters of developments with pissing waters, beyond the model homes pronouncing LOTS AND PADS HERE IF YOURE AN ASSHOLE YOU COULD BE HOME BY NOW DOUCHEBAG in the same red dancing letters as any church or ice cream stand. I had left behind the world of Man and entered the wilds.
By wilds, I mean fewer developments. The randomizer was still on, and in full tilt. Cows. Refinery. More cows. Plot of old bungalows given over to The Poor and by which they as ants amassed all their possessions about in the yards I can only assume to protect their dilapidated and once charming houses with a wall of broken cars, boats, ATVs, working cars, boats, ATVs, and of course one or two dogs and several signs telling other Poors to get off their lawn. In 800 miles traveled I don’t think I saw one vegetable garden in any of these clusters. Perhaps because the ample deep and rich farms that stretched on to the horizon grew everything they needed… except that one local told me they were mostly soy and corn for the Bio-whatever market. Pawn Shop. Gas station in the middle of nowhere, except it is closed and out of business and about a mile further a few blasted and fucked bungalows with a sign in one yard, a rather big happy one, exclaiming COMING SOON GAS STATION. How it was strange in so many settlements that I would see new construction and abandoned structures within striking distance, that I saw a lot just cleared with a sign calling the coming of some shop or another and then a dead strip mall, with ample space and apparently for lease. Whoever said that private industry was more efficient is a dumbass. A great big dumbasshole with a set of reproductive organs made of whatever comes out of those soft serve machines and who fails to see waste in anything other than government activities. After the second abandoned property, why is the third taking open land and building yet another piece of shit Atta Boy Lemon Aid stand? It seems that rather the whole expertise of Big Government has its own competition from private industry. It is the private firms who really know how to waste and mis-spend a vast network of capital is built, that is depends, on inefficiency, waste, and a lack of proper management in order to build things we don’t need and inspire us to dispose of those things we already have for more things that may or may not work as advertised.
In time, and with some very active driving, the lands did open up and the industrial farms replaced those post-industrial clusters of Haves and Have Crappy Versions Of. The rolling hill or two in an otherwise flat land gave way to an entirely flat land that was punctuated only by reminders that Mr. and Mrs. Watson-Henderson did indeed get enough money to build their dream home right smack in the middle of the land they bought or that if Wilson wants to place pipes in his yard, it’s his land and he can surround his house with whatever he wants. From time to time, rarely, and in the distance a grand ranch of an older sort, two story house and large barns rather than the squat almost Australian homes or random post-modern accented McMansions would be here and there, a remnant of and older landscape, a not simpler time but one where human activity seems to have settled into the landscape rather than pushing the landscape aside in massive undertakings made with a few backhoes. Environmental damage took a great deal of manpower Back In The Day. It happened. Deforestation, erosion, waste and ugly sand pits, but it took boatloads of migrants in what today a few dingdongs can do in a weekend with a few heavy tools obtained at the Rent Me Center down on FM around the 7000s.
I was finally On The Road. Moving to my destination and able to leave the settlements behind me, those repeating patterns of HoJos, McSomething, KenTacoHut, Bank of America and get to that shore where I expected small crab shacks and somewhat quaint quarters. I did manage to find some of that. The eateries were eccentric and run by individuals. The hotel at my destination was nothing more than a series of rooms opening on a parking lot long passed into grass, the small simple room decorated in with an assortment of pirate theme kitsch. Nothing was quite pretty here, but it was not blindly ugly. There was plenty of crappy beach front decorations and signs made to look like sharks or dolphins, but that is to be expected. It seems that there still exist little areas of The Real Country. However, I did overhear that the owner of a few local watering spots and one motel had passed on. And the word was that a developer was moving in to build condos. So, even here, at the end of the road, time is running out on an American that would be recognizable by those Beatniks and one that is worth the both to travel to actually see.