|these, according to my research, are objects known as trees|
the weird skinny little lines above have been identified by cultural anthropologists as "telephone wires"
Of course paradise means different things to different people. Coming back to L.A. from New Mexico just a few weeks ago, I wheeled into a Motel 6 in Flagstaff, took off for a walk, passed a long strip of other chain hotels, gas stations, cloverleafs, underpasses, exit and on ramps, and a half-mile on, happened upon a dirt forest road, completely deserted, where I picked a bunch of wildflowers, communed with several trees and watched the sunset before tramping back--enjoying the underpasses, cloverleafs, and gas stations as well--to my humble room.
I like walking in the desert, along the seashore, through the hills of Appalachia, but I also like back alleys, warehouse districts, railroad tracks, soulless commercial strips, rickety bridges, access roads, and general rural and urban blight. The edges are always where things get interesting, where you have space to dream, where people will say hi. Or not. Sometimes "the edge" means walking early in the morning or one of my favorite times, around dusk when most people are driving home from work or eating dinner.
|this is called a post office, or to certain snappy types, a "PO."|
astute observers have spotted such buildings in many metropolitan
and even rural areas
Anyway, Stilgoe is absolutely on to something. Here's how his book (which came out in 1998) begins:
Get out now. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people at the end of our century. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run...
Abandon, even momentarily, the sleek modern technology that consumes so much time and money now, and seek out the resting place of a technology almost forgotten. Go outside and walk a bit, long enough to forget programming, long enough to take in and record new surroundings.
Flex the mind a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around--the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic.
The whole concatenation of wild and artificial things, the natural ecosystem as modified by people over the centuries, the built environment layered over layers, the eerie mix of sounds and smells and glimpses neither natural nor crafted--all of it is free for the taking, for the taking in. Take it, take it in, take in more every weekend, every day, and quickly it becomes the theater that intrigues, relaxes, fascinates, seduces and above all expands any mind focused on it. Outside lies utterly ordinary space open to any casual explorer willing to find the extraordinary. Outside lies programmed awareness that at times becomes directed serendipity. Outside lies magic.
Stilgoe notices the "secret corridor that snakes behind the backs of the commercial buildings." He observes, "So the exploring walker or bicyclist understands the relationship of hills and muscles, and knows that even now businesses cluster at the base or top of hills, rarely midway along the grades." We learn that "Everywhere in the [interstate freeway business] cluster [of chain motels, fast-food restaurants, parking lots etc.], designers create open views, long vistas that not only encourage motorists to look ahead, but provide no places where a moving automobile might be shielded by plants from an oncoming motorist. But far more important is the determined effort to remove--or, to speak more accurately, to never plant--any vegetation that will screen a criminal."
His other books include Lifeboat: A History of Courage, Cravenness, and Survival at Sea; Landscape and Images; and Train Time: Railroads and Imminent Landscape Change.
Me, I'm thinking of calling my next project Sitting on the Threadbare Green Velvet Chair and Eating Tortilla Chips. Cause sometimes it's nice to stay indoors, too. I'll bet folks would line up to take a class on that!
|rare photo of a "gas station"|
things called "cars" often acquire fuel here