Friday, August 24, 2012

Hope And Horror In The Desert

Happiness is driving through northern Nevada, where the landscape offers a range of colors from urine yellow to fecal brown, and the radio is full of Rush Limbaugh and country western music, take your pick (I only get AM in my car). You can usually find some classic rock station that’s been playing the same twenty-five songs over and over since 1980 as well, so if you’re in the mood to hear Sweet Home Alabama at the top of the hour, every hour, world without end, have at it my friends. Weaker spirits might be tempted to swerve into the other lane at the approach of a semi and end it all right then and there; those with a humanitarian bent can just wander off in the desert to become food for vultures, coyotes and vinagaroons. I do neither. I think about naked women instead. Choose life!

Well, what would you think about?

Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. The desert grows on you after a while, and Nevada actually has a pretty interesting history. There’s a lot more out there than initially meets the eye. Still, having the ability to blank out unpleasant stimuli is a definite plus, indeed, an evolutionary requirement, when traveling through what is, even to the most die hard desert rat, a hostile environment.

To wit: Here are the kinds of bumper stickers you see in the hinterlands of the Silver State: “Work Harder: Millions on Welfare Depend on You” and “I’ll Keep My Guns, Money and Freedom. You Keep the Change.” You also see liberal hunting permits and divers NRA related propaganda. It blends in quite naturally with the overall deadness of the landscape.

These are the kinds of people — excuse me, folks — who make up the rank and file of the Tea Party movement; the brave soldiers in that noble crusade to make Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan pay lower taxes at everyone else’s expense. Here are some more atmospherics: Back in the depths of the Bush-Cheney dark ages I was passed on that very same highway by a jeep with a sticker that said “Off-Roaders for Bush.” Talk about being in heaven. Everything implied in that sticker is the opposite of me, the antipode of all that I value and adore: Off-Roaders for Bush.

On the upside, the state has a rapidly growing Latino population, and a steady influx of Californians have been trickling in from over the Sierra Nevadas, so the politics of the state are inexorably turning blue. Obama won it in 2008 and he’ll probably win it again. He’s been there a couple of times in recent months, including once just last week. Here, as elsewhere, the gun-toting white reactionary is fighting a rearguard action. His world is becoming a smaller place.

Even the best fantasies get old pretty quick these days, and soon I was forced to seek out more exogenous distractions, which meant Rush Limbaugh or country western music. Which would you choose? Rush is Rush, enough said, and apart from a few performers country western music is an ungodly horror. Frankly I’d rather hear cats fuck. I just don’t want to listen some manicured poseur cowboy rhapsodizing about his Chevy hardtop and the good ole US of A, or threatening to put his boot up someone’s ass.

But I wasn’t in the mood for politics, so I decided to give the country music option a try. Maybe it was an opportunity to grow. I turned on the radio and this is what was on:

Where I come from it’s cornbread and chicken
Where I come from a lotta front porch pickin’
Where I come from tryin’ to make a livin’
and workin’ hard to get to heaven
Where I come from

That song is entitled, logically enough, Where I Come From, and it’s a lighthearted Okie romp through the fleshpots of blue state America. It’s told from the vantage point of a good ole boy who experiences a series of amusing contretemps at the hands of big city folks, but he remains true to his colors and always waves the hick flag high. At one point in the song, our countrified narrator encounters a transvestite in Ventura who invites him to dinner, but, as you might imagine, where he comes from the fellas don’t go for that. They prefer “the girls that sing soprano.” [Sez you, I thought]. South of “Detroit City” he’s fed substandard barbecue. When the waitress asks him how he liked the biscuit, he must reply, in truth, that it “ain’t like Mama fixed it.” You get the drift. You can read the lyrics here.

Enough of that. Off to Limbaughland and high blood pressure.

Luckily, I caught El Rushbo on a day when he was having a creative epiphany. He wanted to have a “war on women night” at the Republican convention, which would consist of trotting out Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Juanita Brodderick and Kathleen Willey. Yes, you read that correctly. Here we are in 2012, and the godfather of the Republican party can’t think of anything more original than dredging up old Clinton scandals that have no relevance to anything in this election. This was offered as some kind of witty, unanswerable rejoinder to the Democratic notion that Republicans are waging a war on women. It was pathetic, a fading old comedian clinging to a routine that made him famous twenty years ago but just flat out wasn’t funny anymore (if it ever was in the first place.) It landed with a dense thud, like a bowling ball being dropped in wet cement. If this keeps up he’s finished. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon and forever after. He’s running on fumes.

And that was my day in the desert, which concluded with a spiritually fulfilling visit to … Reno.

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