Amarillo, Texas

I didn’t take any pictures on the road today. I think I’ve already covered “vast, flat expanse” elsewhere. So here are some pictures of my cats, taken by Tammie Smalls, who is looking after them in my absence. After the pictures, I’ll talk about my conversations with old Native American women today (not native the way I’m a native American. The other kind. Capital “N” Native American.)

Lisa thinks

Maggie contemplates

This morning, when I checked out, I remembered to ask the older Native American woman behind the counter what happened to the Days Inn across the street.

“Oh, hey, so what happened to that Days Inn across the street?”

“There was a fire.”

(beat)

(stare)

(beat)

“You’re ready to go.”

“Thank you.”

So that solves that mystery. And also it doesn’t.

Later in the day, somewhere near mile 200 of absolutely fucking nothing, I stopped at a tiny gas station and conversed with another local crone.

“This isn’t decaf, right?”

“Oh, no.”

“Do you have any creamer?”

“We have those packets.”

“Okay. So what do you think? Is it going to rain?”

“This storm will bring more wind than rain. That will be $1.27. Thank you.”

And you know what? She was right. It was super-windy the whole way here, but not a drop of rain.

So there you have it. Today’s Native American wisdom: “There was a fire” and “This storm will bring more wind than rain.”

I made it to Amarillo, where there’s still a steady 30 mph wind outside. I seriously abused coffee today, partly due to lack of sleep and partly due to lack of landscape. I’ll try to catch up tonight.

Driving across New Mexico – which has some very beautiful nothingness, by the way – I was struck at how deserted it was. I mean, one drives up the 5 from LA and it’s flat and boring, but there are farms on either side of the road and no more than 20 miles go by between gas stations/fast food stops. In New Mexico, there were vast stretches of raw scrub. No farms, no roads, no offramps… nobody lives out there. It is truly uninhabited, except for those of us who cross it in cars (and trucks. Mostly trucks.) I wonder… were there more people living in that desert before Columbus than are there now? Of course, the land isn’t empty. One can tell by all of the hawks and crows riding the wind, searching the scrub for a meal.

Also, as I crossed this hostile (pretty much, to Humans) landscape, I thought about how I was zooming from the Pacific Ocean to the center of the continent in just three days. But I have roads. And a car that can chug along at 90 mph for hours at a time. 150 years ago, they had horses, oxen, and covered wagons. Many times over the past three days, I’ve come up over a rise in the desert, only to find more desert out in front of me. And sometimes I got a glimmer of the sheer frustration the settlers must have felt. I take a small hill in under a minute and find more nothing ahead of me. They take a day to get the wagons up that same hill and find that, no, there is still no water in evidence, and very little for the animals to eat. And the horizon stretches out before them, and they have trouble thinking of a time when they weren’t inching along this damn trail, thirsty, hungry, tired…

I’m feeling pretty lucky here in 2010.

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