August 7, 2007

In this day and age you have to get off the main roads.

If you want to see history, if you want to see small-town west Texas and central Texas for what it is. If you want to see small-town America and its good-hearted people struggling to survive in an era of soulless, profit-driven restaurant and retail chains, of WalMarts and Lowes and Applebees, of an America that has lost its soul in its reckless pursuit of the Almighty Dollar and narcissism and gluttony run amok, you have to WANT to get off where the roadmaps tell you to go. You have to WANT to get off not just the interstates, but even the secondary state roads that meander through towns with names like Christoval, El Dorado, Roosevelt, and Eden.

Here’s the honest-to-God’s-truth: if you safely follow the mapped-out routes like a careful and cautious good dooby would, you’ll NEVER see anything worth seeing; you have to get off the main roads, look for historical districts and/or side roads obscurred by the wreckage of lost dreams and days gone by, of hopes dashed and hopes dusted, for it is only there where you’ll find the American Dream in all its faded glory – for better or for worse. And what will you see? Small towns left for dead by the shifting sands of history. Past glories worn-out and faded by misguided or miscast dreams remembered by main streets lined with false-fronted storefronts and raised sidewalks, and city halls and courthouses fronted by markers identifying families long-departed but responsible for guiding the towns through their Guilded Age and achieving their former greatnesss on the backs of oil fields now abandoned and marked by sagebrush, and the cattle whose prior domains are marked by rusted wrought-iron arches with anonymous identifiers like “Triple W Ranch” and “H.W. Layton”, names surely known locally, but only for the parcel of land and stock they have worked hard and long to claim for themselves.

This is a place I have unexpectedly found myself at home with. Life here is simple: the sky is violent in the spring, hot in the summer, cold in the winter. Throughout the seasons, the only common denominator experienced by all is the wind that blows constantly, whistling through the ages and the trees and the fields, clattering and banging any kind of metal not securely fastened. No expectations, no promises, just day-to-day living. This, pure and simple, is the sound of freedom, of a humility and dependency on the land and those whom you share the same piece of land with, something that is increasingly unheard of and disdained in this coarse, individualistic, narcissistic, and corrupt culture we know as 21st century America.

I fear that as a country we have lost our soul. We have traded our God and our humility as individuals part of a greater whole and goodness for a fruitless pursuit of bigger cars, bigger homes, and a wealth of high-tech toys, and for what – greater self-satisfaction and the feeling of accomplishment? Surely God cannot be pleased with this route we have taken. Should we not be called back to the land, and a much-needed humility that results from the awareness of all we’ve been given and a reliance on family, friends, and tradition? After all, is that not what we are all made of and came from? These are big questions – questions, I’m afraid, this country has no more time for – after all, we’re too busy taking our kids to Disney World, or following the stock market, or planning our retirements and purchasing our second, third, and fourth homes. Is this what God had planned for us when this country was founded by His Providence? I think not.

I traveled southeast from San Angelo under a hot blue sky and said farewell to a country I had never experienced before, yet felt my soul entwined with forever. At Sonora, I hit the interstate and made a bee-line towards San Antonio. Fifty miles from my destination, I enountered all the trapping of our corrupt modern American culture – malls, new development, aggressive traffic, and advertisements for everything from erectile dysfunction to over-sized play areas for our spoiled children. It made me sad and longing for the places I had left behind just two hours before.

San Antonio itself was a bear of twisted traffic patterns that weaved their ways through all kinds of under-construction routes. The Riverwalk was quite nice – a meandering system of footbridges and well-crafted walkways along the river; a few Lone Stars and some excellent Mexican food helped quiet the emptiness and disconnection I felt in my soul. While it all made me feel better, it didn’t make me feel any more alive. I think I know how the Desert Fathers must have felt…

Tomorrow its a drive to Corpus Christi and then up to Austin for some beers, BBQ, and blues music. How my soul will handle it remains to be seen.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
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