July 15, 2010

On the Road: Utah

The gas stations on I-70 get more magnificent the further you get from civilization. Far from Colorado’s ski condos, these barren flats slipped between the big ranges are trucker territory. I stop for gas.

I spend so much time on the road abroad that America still feels fresh. It's easy to get taken with strangeness and specificity of her subcultures. Here there's more than candy, maps and sodas (the road is for sugar highs and getting lost). There's both chip dip and lip dip—chewing tobacco. But also thirty kinds of jerky and new short-sleeve white collar shirts, the kind that one can embroider Ray across the breast pocket. Even more than the salted, processed meat, these shirts inspire a kind of sadness in me. Ray can’t go home to get a clean shirt.

He’s bound to the highway, not the back roads, on the run or making time coast to coast. He’s just spilled an 18-ounce coffee all over his lapel, or urged by optimism, buys fresh togs for the promise of a shower or female company. Like me, he’s passing through. In three minutes he’s gone. Ten minutes later I’ll pass him, oblivious to the fresh shirt.

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