For the Global Thinker

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Great American Road Trip

Excerpt from Paul Theroux's article..."the Great American Road Trip."

"What made Barstow's billboards a peculiar blight was the contrast with everything that lay around them—the landscape that was so stark and dramatic as a brooding expanse of withered shrubs and fat cactuses, the stony roads that seemed to lead nowhere, the bleak and beautiful backdrop that seemed as though no one had laid a hand on it, with lively colorations at a distance and up close so dry, like a valley of bones looking as though they could not support life. I had seen deserts in Patagonia and Turkmenistan, northern Kenya and Xinjiang in western China; but I had never seen anything like this. The revelation of the Mojave Desert was (peering past the billboards) not just its illusion of emptiness but its assertive power of exclusion, the low bald hills and far-off mountains looking toasted and forbidding under the darkening sky.

That sky slipped lower, scattered rain that quickly evaporated on the road, and then gouts of marble-size hailstones swept over the road ahead, like a plague of mothballs. And in that whitening deluge I could make out the Ten Commandments, set out by the roadside in the manner of Burma-Shave signs, You Shall Not Murder... You Shall Not Commit Adultery, like a word to the wise, until the state line into Nevada, and just beyond, the little town of Primm, overshadowed by its big bulking casinos."


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