In the time-honored 'merican tradition of packing up your covered wagon and heading out West -- in our case, farther out West -- my wife and I decided to spend our vacation this year crammed in our late '80s model Honda Civic, driving from city to city through deserts and mountain ranges while our 2-year-old son pelted us in the back of our heads with his ba-ba.
I don't recommend it.
Nevertheless, here are a few things I learned along the way:
1. Though we're last in the arts, Coloradans have an inexplicable talent for tailgating.
Not long after crossing the border into New Mexico on the first leg of our journey, I noticed the unthinkable: No one was trying to drive over our car! I chalked it up to the sparsely populated region between Trinidad and New Mexico, but lo! From Santa Fe to Tucson, Tucson to L.A., L.A. to San Francisco, and San Francisco to Laramie, we didn't once have a menacing, low-gas-mileage American vehicle trying to leave bumper marks on our back windshield! Not even in L.A.! (Well, OK, we got tailgated in L.A., but we were only going 5 miles per hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic). Then, just as soon as we crossed back into Colorado, lo! -- a recent model Chevy Astroturf driven by a rather spry-looking centenarian with a lead foot got close enough for a mating ritual.
Maybe it's that overall feeling of arts inadequacy caused by being last in state funding for the arts. Or maybe it's something in the Coors.
2. A vast Phil Collins conspiracy
I first noticed it in a diner just south of Albuquerque near the hotel where we spent our first night: Phil Collins' "Another Day In Paradise" being piped in over the Muzak distribution device. "Why, I haven't heard this song since the last time I went to the grocery store," I thought to myself as the waves of nostalgia washed over me. By the time our trip was done, I had heard this song no less than 17 times! Truck stops, grocery stores, doughnut shops and Turkish bathhouses alike. Nowhere was I immune from the saccharine sounds of Phil Collins' sentimental musical plea. Don't get me wrong, it's a good message (you know, help the homeless) -- one that George W. Bush would do well to heed as he cuts back benefits for veterans and offers megalotax breaks to the ultra rich (i.e., people like Phil Collins). Another day in paradise? I don't know about you Phil, but I can't even afford health insurance, and here I am listening to your tired song next to the beef jerky at Loaf N' Jug. Think twice indeed.
3. Kinko's in Tucson and San Francisco are still open 24/7
Ahh, the toxic smell of toner at 2 a.m. Vampires making subversive pamphlets to be read by seven people. Disgruntled employees ready to cut you fabulous deals on your printing costs just for staving the dawn along with them. Sure, it may be bad for business, but 'zine culture thrives under such inhuman working conditions. Throw open your doors to the undead, Kinko's of Colorado Springs.
4. Beyond the tchotchke economy.
While in Tucson, we took a little side trip down to Bisbee, Ariz. It's an old mining town in a canyon that has lots of old hippie artists and a kind of Wild West European flavor. Just like Manitou! The primary difference is that they had the four essential retail services required of any self-respecting town: a book and music store, thrift stores, a video/DVD store and a movie theater. How a town as culturally rich as Manitou could possibly be lacking these basic services is beyond me. Can I get a business?!
5. Self-absorbed people with no morals are awesome!
I love L.A. I love it! Now those people know how to drive.
6. San Francisco is NOT Colorado Springs.
Sure, both towns are the products of gold rush/tech rush economies that have never been able to break the boom-and-bust cycle, but beyond that, wow! Hardly an American flag to be seen, people who actually oppose the war, homosexual men holding hands in public while enjoying their city-funded domestic partner benefits. And more museums, galleries and artists than you could take down with one stick of dynamite. For a city with an official population of only 300,000 more than ours, I was shocked. Yes, shocked.