Monday, May 18, 2009

The Ride West

Riding west, prairie gradually gives way to desert. Smooth highway rolls out ahead, the smell of wet hay from fresh rain the night before. Huge, cloud laden sky turns to blue as drizzles subside.

Along the way, you see the skeletons of old mom-and-pops, all closed now, replaced by corporate giants of today. Every little town a carbon copy of Loves, Subways and Exxons.

Giant wind turbines speckle the landscape in an irregular grid, visually overwhelming the aging oil derricks. Turning slow and in unison, as if to mark the gradual passage of time. They, along with the privately run detention prisons seem to be the main growth industries out west.

The prison camps, razor-wire eyesores that blight the landscape every couple of hours: Pecos, Sierra Blanca, Fabens. One of them even looks like an old hotel wrapped in metal fencing. Brown people, picked up for having the audacity to cross an imaginary line in the water are disappeared there, well away from the shopping malls in the cities.

Craggy mountain peaks appear, leading edge of the Guadalupe Mountains as I-20 turns west onto I-10. Set in deep shadow, massive and eternal they jut out defiantly from the sand. Rudra, Yahweh, Apu, known by many names, yet always stern, always capricious. Seeing these peaks, you realize why early peoples always had their mountain gods.

Vicious crosswinds pick up now, and a massive dust cloud like so much smog looms to the west. Tumbleweeds gather speed as they roll south, headed back across that imaginary line. And everywhere a vast emptiness here, the kind that's full and waiting.