"These smoke levels are getting dangerous. Visibility is down, and people are walking round with handkerchiefs over their mouths, coughing. I think we're going to have to close the road."
"Roger that, I'll send some rangers out to clear the car park and close the road off."
Bryce Canyon viewpoint goes on for miles. The hoodoos smoothing down to striped sandstone then forests then plains, grassy swaying cow sprinkled plains that fill the land to the next mountains, endless green plains that go on and on, roads swivelling through ranch and farmstead, plains forever and infinite. It is one of the most spectacular rock formations ever. And rock formations is way too technical and prosaic a term. Someone else can write the poetry, my words don't work round here.
They'll have to anyway, we never made it there. An elusive spot smoke wreathed and distant. Lightning strike sparks deadwood starts fire. Smokey the Bear declares how "extreme" the situation is from his roadside stands. Sunrise and Sunset point will suffice for now. Stellars jays preen, flock round my muffin crumbs, hop and screech. Spires and turrets of rock jut above the rims and abuts of the amphitheatre. It looks like a Disney version of the Wild West, exaggerated and polystyrene, plasticine. Only in dreams, do these things exist.
In America everywhere has to be famous for something. Cedar City decides to celebrate the best of elsewhere, with endless festivals, always looking outwards. Is this charity, or theft? The campus theatre looks like a lazy version of the Globe. They fully embrace their Stratford roots here. (What Stratford roots? None...) This guy in the pub told me that Romeo and Juliet was going to be based in Utah, until Verona's tourist board paid Shakespeare a hefty bribe. The amateur thesp is stabbing a sonnet to death with a plastic disposable knife. These Irish dances were old Will's favourites. He loved the sound of the bodhrán, and a bit of high kicking tap dancing. Everything may go perfectly with the performance, but a malaise falls all around. All the steps are on beat, the violin wheeling away, skirts spinning and so on and so on. But it feels fake. A copy of something authentic. America leans on its Irish heritage like a drunk trying to stay upright, hollering gibberish at the passers by, because it has so little of its own that it didn't try to schmoosh. Walk on.
These woods are eerie. Hollywood taught us this. We soaked up the message. The forest is dangerous, best stay at home kids. Watch a video, yeah? The monsters can't get you through the screen. What's that? That. THAT. That crash through the trees. Over there. See the branches still moving? That's not the wind. I saw a flash of brown hide. Hairy. I sense fangs and claws. What's that, you can see antlers? Just a deer. A deer. That's all. They can gore you though, can't they? Fierce beasties. Have you seen Bambi? Why do you think we hunt the bastards?
Brushing through the swish of grass stems that thrust through the tar black sharprock piles, we hear snakes, or crickets. Some hidden insect. Check for ticks, they burrow quick. The river runs dark, crisp, and cold. Gold miners paned the waters here, but now their shacks lie in piled up planks, the stove in pieces, rusted curled pieces, seal still emblazoned after nights of rain and snow. Saplings grow through the floor now. No one sleeps here but mice.
Antlered heads adorn the walls of Subway. My preference is for taxidermy to accompany my sandwich. It really brings the room together. The patrons should be adorned with tattooed tears. It helps make you feel safe. Salt Lake City is still by midnight. A few cars wheel down the streets, but the only street adornment is occasional homeless beards staring out, far away and out. The screen shows views of the Thames, Londontown. Homesick. The smoke stole my heart this past year, it makes me want to walk drizzle pavements, with the smell of kebabs a miasma, crowding the perfume of passing strangers in designer finery. Pearly queens and jellied eels. Distance turns your rose tinted nostalgia into stereotypes.
Harry Potter is much improved with an audience of Mormons wearing cloaks and cheering the opening credits. Such unbridled enthusiasm makes me nauseous to my putrid Kentish heart. It can't take it. Cough, cough, splutter. The ventricles don't even want to contract anymore, the aorta tries to choke off its supply in sympathy. Wheezing on the sticky popcorn scattered carpet, I breathe my last rasping breath.