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[personal profile] rwx
I have an inordinate fondness for road trips.
When spring-time flushes the desert grass,
Our kafilas wind through the Khyber Pass.
Lean are the camels but fat the frails,
Light are the purses but heavy the bales,
As the snowbound trade of the North comes down
To the market-square of Peshawur town.

I have in recent years cut the number of miles I've driven every year, but I am inordinately fond of road trips. It is, in some regards, a weakness, but one that fits much better into standard american culture than a lot of the other things I find entertaining. It's weird, seas of grass, seas of water, seas of trees rushing by make an impact on me like little else does. It ties you to a sense of movement like flying doesn't.
You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, Mountain, Central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?
Fight Club

It is all another roadside attraction. A lot of what the traditional meaning of america is is out there on the roadside. Route 66, decaying monsters of hotels with pools bricked over 10 years after the interstate went in. Masonic lodges with secret handjobs. Restaurants and culture, all our regionalisms and cuisines, small moments of humor, dry wit from a new englander, a oregon outbacker, a southerner it all ties together. But the shock of the flight transcends that leading to homogeneity and alienation.
And the camp-fires twinkled by Fort Jumrood;
And there fled on the wings of the gathering dusk
A savour of camels and carpets and musk,
A murmur of voices, a reek of smoke,
To tell us the trade of the Khyber woke.

Traveling the roads give you a different sense of america -- dark empty malls visited by rainlight, parking lots around box stores empty or full. You get culture you see products. Things are slower away from the interstate, but still you see the wallmarts the harsh tyranny of mathematical discipline and commodity fetishism. There are tourist traps and shitty silver jewelry everywhere you go, but you have to decide for yourself what authentic experience means.
We lay on the mats and were filled with peace,
And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south,
With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth.
Four things greater than all things are, --
Women and Horses and Power and War.

It's a fine line these days between fetishizing commodities and commoditizing fetishes. One is sales, the other marketing. It's funny when you try to hook yourself to the wheel of rebirth, but all you get is the wheel of fortune. ROTASATOR. It's a thing, and we all want the culture. This poem for example is strange and loses its original meaning because of the current troubles in afghanistan, but if you read it, you see it's largely the same troubles.
"Friend of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?

But road tripping, travel. It gives things context, it brings out the things that are submerged within the different assumptions we make because things change gradually. Mountains become river valley become plains become mountains become prairie become desert at a slow pace like a lobster getting boiled in a big pot. but suddenly you realize it's hot and the assumptions you make aren't valid, and you have to think about it.

It gives you context, it gives you peace. It gives you a chance to meet the buddha on the road, and there is surely no one more doomed. Jumping from place to place loses you context and culture, or you end up just trying to impose your own signal and culture on everything, ranging from your understanding to the people you meet.

The turning of the wheels gives you time to consider, time to learn, time to wonder. But nothing is free -- drive less the rest of the time, take the bus, the train, walk. There's also more to be gained here where you are.
In a turquoise twilight, crisp and chill,
A kafila camped at the foot of the hill.
Then blue smoke-haze of the cooking rose,
And tent-peg answered to hammer-nose;
And the picketed ponies, shag and wild,
Strained at their ropes as the feed was piled;
And the bubbling camels beside the load
Sprawled for a furlong adown the road;
And the Persian pussy-cats, brought for sale,
Spat at the dogs from the camel-bale;
And the tribesmen bellowed to hasten the food;
And the camp-fires twinkled by Fort Jumrood;
And there fled on the wings of the gathering dusk
A savour of camels and carpets and musk,
A murmur of voices, a reek of smoke,
To tell us the trade of the Khyber woke.

I mentioned the Roman Roads earlier, but the overland Silk Road was perhaps the longest of roads (although shorter in aggregate than the Roman or Chinese road systems.) It's much easier now to travel and communicate, but it's also much easier to travel and not communicate.
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