Kansas City, the color of barbecue sauce, as the red lights of the tall buildings indicate at 7:30 a.m. as I step off the train after more than 24 hours after Flagstaff, Arizona, on the Southwest Chief. Why write this? All of the keeping track. Over the years the notebooks have piled up. All of it rarely rendered into anything anybody can read.
But here I am, and the performance is on again, as I re-acquaint myself with the hand-spacing of the keyboard, very light to my touch, which must be more fragile than even I am willing to admit. But hey, I'm the connoisseur of chaos, and this doesn't feel like disaster to me. This feels like a re-awakening. Got just enough caffeine and nicotine in the pre-dawn light on the Kansas City train to this point to get me to firing up the old computer and getting me back to the words, the words, the words ... I have a sense that stream of consciousness isn't in style anymore. Political hacks keep it simple for the masses. I am no man for the masses ... crossing the Mississippi now,
I am a solitary figure. Things I say to strangers must seem odd to them, since I can't get much of a response. Like when I got off the train in the early morning light and I said, with a bearded Mennonite man in front of me, facing his back, "Hmmm, Kansas City, must be,since everything looks like barbecue sauce." He didn't laugh. Maybe he got scared of hearing something so odd so early in his day. Definitely not my target market, Mennonites. But he's my people, my ancestors, who worshiped lightning or some shit in colonial Pennsylvania. Someone not of this world, separate. But I feel fully in this world, and the light of rebirth is no trick. Just can't be overwhelmed by it, the rush.
The first half of the trip has been a visitation of ghosts. Triggers I did not expect. In New Mexico, as the train moved slowly through the mountains between Albuquerque and Las Vegas, New Mexico, and then northward to Raton Pass, into Colorado to Trinidad, all of the memories of the last time I had covered that ground sent me into moodiness, despair, sadness. Not sure how to explain it. Six years before the recession had just begun and we were flying across the arid lands of creosotes and buttes and hobbled sorta adobe homesteads, in both directions over the course of what might have been more than a year, optimistic one way and desperate going back, finally breaking down in Las Vegas, what seemed like a quiet little hippie-fied ranching town, as J. decided she needed to be institutionalized. I remember her slumped in the seat of the moving van. We, enlisted in the U-haul Army criss-crossing America in those days of desolation and economic depression, came to a sad halt on the rolling brown plains of northwestern New Mexico, on the flatland side of the nation.
She slumped in her seat. Shapely but shaken. Almost unable to speak anymore, she muttered that she needed to go in for an immediate psych evaluation. So we pulled into Las Vegas, like it might be our final destination, and had her in the state mental institution there by late afternoon and I stayed in a motel, trying to keep the expenses in check as the meter ran by the day for the van, for what nest egg we had left from her mother's inheritance after she had committed suicide earlier that year, as the winds blew hard and once a sign blew off the motel signage up front and I ducked before it took my head off. Trying negotiate an escape for J., who decided she didn't like being institutionalized, while at the same time going around Las Vegas, which was in itself in the midst of a re-birth or a decline in uneven distributions, going buy on granola and sell on beef, I suppose, and me going around collecting business cards and meeting with a local radical, Lee Einer, who gave me an earful about the social and political battles going on there.
The liberal insurgency in the age of Obama and me going around the world, wondering where everybody went, as if my industry, journalism, had been hit by a neutron bomb, with the buildings all still there but the people vaporized.