Friday, July 01, 2011

We Are Open

I almost forgot to tell you about walking home that night from Louie’s, crossing Alameda I saw a strange dog in the field or lawn in front of all those federal or state buildings, big ears and no people around at all – the dog was getting ready to cross Sandoval but then it saw me and turned around, when it started to run it bounded away in that up-and-down galloping motion that dogs don’t do, what kind of animal was it? And then I’m on the train, leaving New Mexico, and I see that same motion among all these deer or elk in a field, just a tiny strip of trees next to cattle grazing land and I wonder about those deer or elk, what are they doing so exposed? Is there nowhere left for them to go? And I also wonder about the animal I saw back in Santa Fe, what was it doing all alone in the center of town, probably a baby too -- maybe the rest of it’s relatives got stuck in a fire but the closest fire was 15 miles away, right? Maybe the deer or elk was following the river in search of something green.

As soon as the train starts going I feel really sad – I miss Santa Fe already, don’t really want to be in a city. I feel like I’m fleeing – I mean I am fleeing. Through this desert landscape that I’ve grown to love so much that when I see too much greenery it looks alien, fake, unimpressive.

I wanted to check out Denver and Boulder at some point, right? I didn’t think I would make it, since I’ve been so exhausted and taking a train and a bus just sounded like too much. But now I need to get away from the smoke, that’s what’s propelling me on this journey. Now I’m on the bus – that means the train wasn’t too bad, beautiful, my body doesn’t hurt that much yet. As we leave New Mexico, the land gets flat and tan, still drive the different kind of dry. I watch the cows and how gentle they look, the flow of their whole bodies as they walk or no, not their whole bodies—it’s like a magic trick the way their legs flow while those big wide bodies stay flat.

Probably this area shouldn’t be so dry – too many years of raising cattle – I mean it doesn’t quite look like desert, just like everything is dead, and before cattle and sheep herding on a massive scale Santa Fe wasn’t desert either and what makes the earth red instead of tan, different minerals I’m guessing. Now when I see gray clouds, I study to see if it’s rain or pollution – Justin and I were looking at these big gray clouds the other day and we decided it had to be rain, right? That couldn’t all be smoke, right? On our way out of town there was a big white one stuck in the sky, billowing up from a small point at the bottom to something enormous at the top – it looked ominous and fake, smoke I think too.

But these are rain clouds I think, big blue mountains to the left and I think that’s where we’re going. Then there’s the sun filtering through the clouds in that diagonal spotlight beam softness that you always see in any picture of heaven, golden rays stretching down to the pull you up into eternity I guess or just show you what’s there. But I realize in this case that the beams aren’t gold but white, peach, pearl, rose, blue, gray and I study the shifting colors until the landscape changes and we’re entering a town.

I guess my perspective on small towns has changed, because now Pueblo seems huge or it least it goes on forever – livestock and enormous factories, steel mills, green grass in one little spot on the side of the highway, who waters that? Big old red brick buildings downtown – a Budweiser plant, a big neon sign that advertises LIQUOR, old houses with wide Southern porches, a jail, a children’s museum, the Sangre de Christo Art and Conference Center – are we still near the Sangre de Christo mountains or is this just another reference to the blood of Christ?

Downtown there are the vacant stores that I remember from my last trip through, on the train to Chicago I guess – a computer outlet advertising $99 computers, no longer there, next door and says We Are Open – FREE CLOTHES. And then a hydroponics store, maybe growing marijuana is legal in Colorado? Two sporting goods stores. When I get out of the bus to stretch, it’s so hot outside it’s unbelievable, even though it’s already 7 pm when the wind blows it feels like a dryer – I hope it’s not this hot in Denver.

By the time we get to Colorado Springs, there are mountains and trees everywhere – no longer desert, I guess, and part of me has become attached to that landscape, a lot of people talk about bad end now I know. Somehow Colorado reminds me of Oregon – I guess it’s all the trees, and then this hideous town – wide streets, squat chunky ‘60s office buildings downtown, but then stunning surroundings. There’s the little strip of restaurants and cafés and bookstores that Randy remembers from her escape there to stay with an aunt when he was 17, after he came out, I call him to say guess where I am?

As we get closer to Denver, wait – is that a streetcar in the middle of the highway? Maybe we are in Denver – IKEA, Nordstrom, endless office parks lining the highway – kind of like the suburbs near where I grew up, actually, but what are all these buildings? Village Center – that’s what that one’s called. The center of hell, I guess. Oh, but apparently we’re also in the Denver Technology Center, but then the buildings end and it just seems like trees but I’m sure there are houses hiding in between. Then another series of satellite suburbs, this whole sprawl just seems so large it’s ridiculous and then when we get to what’s probably actually Denver it’s hard for me to imagine why it’s so large. I can’t tell how much of this is just because I’ve been living in a small town, and how much is because Denver actually is large, larger than I expected, and as we drive in the streets are filled with people, what is going on?

The wrong people: white professionals, frat types—oh, a baseball game. When I wake up in the morning, instead of the chirping birds outside I just hear this horrible humming on the balcony of the place where I’m staying, so much humming that it hurts my head. Are cities this loud, or is there some kind of echo in this zone of temporary corporate housing, I mean most of it is probably condos and offices just where I’m staying is temporary – I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a place, but luckily I’m here. Doing my morning practice of scanning the horizon in both directions and all I see are the walls of ugly buildings, trees but I don’t like them, no calm except the mountains in the distance. When I go downstairs I keep looking around for who’s smoking, where is that coming from? Oh, it’s the air. Car exhaust, though, or the accumulation of poison usually found in big cities – not a deadly wildfire stuffed with potential nuclear hazards – so what if I look up to see a building with balconies that looked like they’re stapled to the cement, I’ve escaped to this strange city that seems like it’s booming in ways I didn’t expect, many of the things I hate—real estate speculation, tourism, gentrification and sports bars but of course there’s much more to explore, my head hurts but not like before.

No comments: