Thursday, 23 July 2009

Signage (day twenty nine and thirty)

The waitress will be right with me. Eventually cinnamon rolls will be polystyrened and ready. Just wait. Patience. Arms folded fingers drumming foot tapping is not patient. The grey haired gang at the table are talking power boats and man things. "You know, there's lakes in South Carolina that are so big they don't even have speed limits." There's something in that. The old guy in the shop is full of charm, asking me where I'm from, keen to close the sale. My itinerary is too detailed for him. Just give me the $20.60 please. "I really like that one."

Grand Teton feels like the background to a film I never saw. A jagged mountain range snow topped in July, then a lake, forested with firs, then a huge meadowplain with headdown elk grazing. Classical. Moose and bear live here, but it's only what you'd expect. Wyoming is endless, to a point. Rockies are there, touching the sky, just there. It's a hundred miles away where the roads don't go. Here gray green grass stretches over the lollop of hills that runs to the horizon in most directions, a grey wedge of road spooling over the top.

The only alterations are where ranch entrances, 3 beams with skulls or wagon wheels or some memento, token or whatnot attached to the top corners appear, or the odd small settlement, so optimistically titled "- City", more caravans than houses. The clouds are drifting down, falling away, diminuendo. A few spots of rain mix with the brown dust of the windscreen and rearrange the abstract smears. It never rains properly here. It drizzles for 45 seconds and gives up. Dies before it reaches the ground. Some things just aren't meant to be completed.

This is dinosaur country. "Dinosaurs once roamed here" the signs proclaim. "Coal was formed here." "Phosphate was mined here." One feels these signs are grasping for a purpose, like a handsy drunk chasing his latest loneliness solution. Better off recycled into soft drink cans or aeroplane wings. This gorge is flaming, fiery red sandstone wall, a barricade to the north to halt migrations, mantle and plates forcing the lake bed up.

Two hundred bikers growl past, testosterone implants fuelled by gasoline and leather. Headscarves are helmet substitutes. They offer as much protection when you faceplant the tarmac, so I hear. The grasslands turn into canyons and rugged rock headlands turn into forests turn into deserts. The road is make believe.

The woman across is telling her kids about a shooting that happened in a bus stop the night before, or outside a coffee shop. Somewhere far enough from home for it not to matter too much. The children want the facts. Mother tries to quiet them. Best not to worry the other frequenters of the establishment.

Desert is besieging Green River's Super 8 motel. Sand grains and scrub grass clumps marshall forces waiting to cover the tarmac and concrete car parks. The gas station forecourt holds firm for now. Billboards round the edge of town have given up. Call this number and advertise here. The pasted paper motel/golf course/restaurant/museum advert unglued itself years ago. Now the phone number is sandblasting into nothing. Sundown over these jagged cliffs , rainshadow high. Blends from blueinkblack to rich orange, gunmetalgrey clouds bulbous and billowing like voluminous ballgowns spun on a wooden sprung dancefloor. Scrappy town, this one. Mobile homes no longer mobile, planted roots in the ochre sand, tangled cables and pipes tying down, tethering. Couldn't move, even if they wanted to. Stuck here, strung out along a highway going somewhere else, away.

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