You read almost any bit of travel writing, it’s shop, eat, drink, shop, eat, drink, shop, eat, drink. It’s an orgy of consumption. Spending money is what we do for fun. Shop eat drink pretty much sums up most of this blog.
And that’s OK. For the most part.
But sometimes, when I’m at a bar, I get this weird feeling. Logos glow on the wall, stare back at me from tap handles and empty glasses, and are emblazoned on the shirts of the employees. 5 different commercials play on the flat screen TVs at the same time, and I wonder, where the fuck am I? I want to run out of the bar screaming. Everything and everyone is branded.
When did all this happen? Have we become too commercialized? Have we lost sight of what’s really important?
With each generation, the sophistication of our capitalist society – the artistry of it, even – has increased at an exponential rate. I’ll watch commercials that possess the same depth as a well-written theater. Companies tug at our heart strings to get us to buy cars or TV dinners. It’s a giant maze that gets bigger and more confusing every year. The transparent days of celebrities blatantly selling us Lucky Strike cigarettes are long, long gone.
Exit 1A is a document of my search for the authentic, to find those bits of real American culture that’ve escaped the onslaught of corporate chains and mass homogenization. Or so I say. Could I really be tilting at windmills? I’ve go to all these dusty old towns looking for some kind of truth in the past, but maybe all I’ve really been doing is chronicling the beginning of the end, so to speak. That the relentless drive for efficiency the led to the formation of our country’s great cities and streets is what ultimately doomed our mom & pop shops and quaint little diners, killed our downtowns and closed our factories.
Efficiency is what made this huge mess of things we call urban sprawl. To use another clichéd phrase, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Shit. I don’t know. Maybe Colorado has changed me for the worse. I’ve been positively enchanted by the unconquerable power of the Rockies. Yes, I’m that guy. Just seeing a 14er – that’s what they call a mountain over 14,000 feet – rising majestically over the foothills fills me with hope.
You won’t see a subdivision on top of Pikes Peak, thank God, and I appreciate that. We may win battles with the mountains, but we’d never win a war. Freak thunderstorms and blizzards. Low oxygen. Sociopathic bears. Flying grasshoppers. You can ascend these mountains, but you can’t own ’em.
You want authentic, well, the Rockies are it. Essentially, you get the same view the Native Americans and Spanish conquistadors had. It’s awe-inspiring. As you climb up, an all-encompassing scent of pine fills your nostrils. Streams wind through boulders as lizards dart under rocks, and hawks and ravens soar over the valleys.
You might see a rattlesnake, or a mountain lion. Maybe even the remains of an old mining camp. It’s magical.
If you’re in the mountains at night, you’ll see the sky light up with innumerable stars. The Milky Way is actually milky. The limbs and various appendages robbed from the mythological beings our ancestors saw are returned intact.
After that, those neon Coors signs just don’t carry the same allure.
I’m sorry I’m going all hippie and flower child on you. It’s not like there wasn’t enough nature in Michigan to corrupt me. But there’s something about the grandeur and proximity of the Rockies, at least where I live, that has me comparing and contrasting nature and the city more. And I’m getting a little less patient with the bullshit.
Or is this simply one of those painful side effects of getting old?
Someone pass me the Bengay. I need a shot.