Thursday, 6 August 2009

Atmospheric electrical discharge (day thirty seven and thirty eight)

It's all gone a bit Biblical outside. Lightning bolts are smiting down out of the blackgrey clouds, all around east, west, north and south. Water is being cajoled off the window by overworking windscreen wiper blades, as dust is blasted into the side panels of our Hyundai Accent and all the other vehicles headlights up brake lights on in a flurry panic to get to safe ground. To our left it looks like death, like a curtain of muddy obliteration is settling. Brown clouds of dirt whipped up and billowing over the suburban blocks. Another million volts forks down to earth. Daddy, is the world ending? No, son. God's just angry with you for eating three cookies. Never have I seen such awesome scenes. I am not scared. I am not worried. I am impressed and I am excited and I am in awe and I wish it was like this more often, but then I would be less in awe, so I'll just remain in childish wonder with no sense of danger and relish every moment of this drive and wish it would last forever. By jove I've missed the storms, and never have I seen a storm like this.

Soon, Albuquerque is lazing under blue and white sun stricken skies, adobe walls adorned with Aztec chic, angular line patterns in pastel red, turquoise and buff. Bars and emporiums devoted to any possible need line old Route 66, before the cheap motels take over further up the hill, before the university and its thousands of polo shirted and slack students take over further up still, fast food, cheap stores, video stores, book stores servicing their needs. The uni names its nearby streets after the Ivy League- Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Harvard and so on. One must always have aspirations- always- even if these aspirations lead to ridicule at their hopeful naive nature. Vagrants contemplate the hissing trains that creak out east and west, chewing and looking nowhere in particular. There's nothing more to look at.

The mountain settlements are dying. No one lives in this one any more. Rows of rusting pick ups and tumbledown ramshackle shacks, keep out signs boarded over the doors. Pie Town sells pies, out on this high green grass plateau, up in the alpine air. Everybody needs a gimmick.

Some people never left the road. You see them walking, a wooden pole leaning forward, mottled dustblown leather boots worn in then worn in some more. A knapsack carries all they need. Others are stopped at intersections, a cardboard sign with "Arkansas" hopefully scrawled, eyes watching the traffic ignore them. In the passing cars conversations start as to wishes of picking up the hitchers, the tales they could tell, their life stories, the Kerouac dreams that fuel their stuck out thumb. These proclamations have no intent behind them, shallow and faint sketches in sand soon to be tide smothered. They're still out on those grass plains, featureless bar the fences that parcel the endless land into slightly less endless land, and the telegraph wires that map the contours.

Roswell is divided- to celebrate their most famous event, or not. The International UFO Museum and Research Centre says "yes", and so do the extraterrestrial themed shops that huddle round to gather its scraps of tourists as they spill out. The welcome sign for the town says "no", announcing the town as the dairy capital of southwest New Mexico. The museum itself tries to convert the sceptics, boards of affidavits and irrefutable photographic evidence to bludgeon an interpretation into thin skulls. No one will read it all, just the headlines. "The Great Coverup." I remain a sceptic. It was a weather balloon, and a smart bit of journalism, an imagination and a typewriter. A recruitment poster for the New Mexico military academy sits incongruous in a back corner. The cashier welcomes us as earthlings or otherwise. Is that cute? All the whelps gathered round the big attraction are fading, their storefronts shut up with closed signs gathering dust.

The Roswell Museum does not celebrate the aliens. There are no extra terrestrial shaped streetlights here. Modern art mixes with older art and traditional art showcasing that New Mexican feel- a certain desolation emptiness, ruin and desert beauty. The photographs capture the paint peeling abandoned gas stations and ripped open caravans that I can never. My photographs never work this well. I am not an artist. These life sized oils are realistic and sexy and stunning, please can I have one? Children giggle their way around, oblivious like I was when I walked over the sofas in the German art gallery.

Rocket prototypes fill the museum, prototypes and testers. Pioneers of space transport, mixed with the bead work and gun holsters of older battles, boots and farming tools before the land became the dust bowl when the top soil got stripped. The serge of officer's uniforms next to the natural dyed jerkins adorned with feathers. Nature goods and invader goods side by side. The evening sees another thunderstorm- yet more violent. A wall cloud blowing in, a-billowing and gusting fast, dark grey, darkening the day prematurely. Rain is plunging down, covering the road in a 3 inch deep, 3 lane wide, mile long puddle. They can't hear you on the intercom at the Dairy Queen drivethrough any more over the noise of this climate. It's a Hollywood disaster movie, and not a very good one. No one died, just drove a little slower, or cracked jokes in the lobby.

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