Friday, December 30, 2011

City of Industrial Arts

After 5 minutes on a local train and 2.5 hours on a fast train I came to this city for the first time.  I knew Nagoya was known for the kind of sheer production that allows Japan to out export former competitors, like the U.S.  I have read that in Japan a company would sooner fire a CEO than ten thousand employees.  Societal profit is considered more important than the profit of an individual.  Imagine that.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haze of Memory

My brain in the midday post lunch haze fills with the mind imagery of two lanes.  I review pictures that have collected from trips of which I have lost count.  Road signs, mountains, desert rocks and pictures of Nebraska attempted while riding.  Somehow those plains didn’t translate in two dimensions the way they spread out in my brain.  
Lately I see that there is a growing body of media about this seemingly new discovery of the American blacktop.  Not the crumbled freeway concrete which is sometimes necessary when you have to put a great deal of miles under you in a short time,  but the American backroad.  The new rider wants to go down the old roads not at all unlike the  young brave wanting to return to the holy grounds of his forefathers.  There is something out there that none of us can give voice too, but we are constantly in search of it.  We are not the first generation to wonder, but each generation sees something different when they go down the same roads .  What did this country road look like in 1985, 1975, 65, 15?  What did this valley look like to Desoto or Butch Cassidy, depending on what side of the country you are on.  What did this cliff face look like before the Utah highway department blew a hole in it so I can ride straight through it with very little altitude or grade change (I wonder what the cliff was before E. Abbey wrote about running bulldozer over it in an attempt to save it from being ripped in half).   My mind has somehow assembled a framework built to hold this imagery in order to help find its place in the vast landscape of the American soul.  My place, like a grain of sand on a dune being blown constantly but aways towards something larger, a formation, a mountain disappearing (hopefully not before me).  Everything dies.  Decomposition is inevitable.
This imagery is disappearing, or at least changing, and I have become surrounded by people who are trying to prevent its disappearance.  Muir and Abbey didn’t want the landscape to disappear.  I don’t want old engines to stop running.  I don’t want old roads to lose their landmarks.  I run frantically out of the America-eating outer atmosphere of the cities.  Two years ago it took thirty minutes.  This year it takes and hour as identical roofs line the highways dispersed with strip malls that play leapfrog as people move outward, leaving their old box frames empty or occupied by thrift stores.  Money buys you escape from the problems of your trash dump city.  They leave another trash dump (the last suburb) for the less privileged to move into and pretend they have reached some level of privilege, using the throw aways of the outward drifting class.  The running rich and the chasing middle class, following them like obedient dogs.  This imagery is tiring.  Boring.  
Eventually you make it out though, and the desert or the forest will be your new temporary home.  The mountain looks down on you and you thank it for making its stand.  You eat eggs and red eye gravy prepared by somebodies grandmother, with love.    You pass onto ever narrowing roads until pavement disappears with the sunlight.  Your machine has carried you to the extended finger, or toe, of the map’s nervous system.  Now only your feet can carry you, and that is exactly where you want to be, at least for the night, at the end of the road.