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Would You Go To Utah With Me?
“And it’s a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace
And a wound that will never heal
No prima donna, the perfume is on
An old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers
The night watchman flame keepers and goodnight, Mathilda too”
—Tom Traubert’s Blues, Tom Waits
Would you go to Utah with me? I’m unsure where or when the seed was planted. Could it have been on that family trip to California many years ago where we had a layover in Utah? We were in that airport for six hours. You can’t see shit from the airport but wandering around the place there were murals after murals of landscape. Dry and desolate. Strange rock formations.
That layover was excessive. Even though I was grateful for the trip, I remember being annoyed at my Dad for not springing for direct flights. Money was always tight but this didn’t seem worth the saved dollar. Later in my life, especially when I was touring as a comic a lot, I always opted for the direct flight even if it costs an extra $50 and ate into my profit. As my buddy Jimmy put it, “if you have a layover, what are the odds you’re not going to get a sandwich and a bloody mary and that will essentially cost you $50?”
Alas, then I wanted nothing more than to get OUT of Utah. A mere stepping stone to getting back home.
The Grand Canyon has been the US holy grail of visits for me, an itch that needs scratching. A couple years ago when I was between jobs, I made a route to drive there and had plans on going without telling anyone because I knew they’d be like “why the fuck are you driving to the Grand Canyon by yourself, psycho.” Ultimately, I landed a new job that kept me from my trip there.
COVID disrupted a great number of things, so a canceled trip across the world is the least of my problems at the moment, but being grounded makes all the trips I’ve ever taken in my life more special. The ability to keep my home is threatened by lack of income, which is an anxiety that heavily outweighs the desire to explore. Opportunity often rears it’s head in chaos so I’m ever vigilant. If a door opens to a future I’m certain I won’t hate, I’ll enter without safety gear of any sort. This world does not fit me, I’m afraid.
So this idea of hiking through Utah keeps hitting me. It’s a welcomed fantasy. God, anything is a welcomed fantasy over general anxiety, the hate spewed on social media, the ideation of false self, allegiances to corruption. It’s perhaps a Dr. Manhattan urge to find peace. Mars. Why is this isolation driving me away from people?
Do we drive? Or fly? Do we plan stops along the way? I’ll make copies of trails. We can pack our shittiest clothes and throw them out along the way as they are dirtied. We can live off of protein bars, dried fruit and peanut butter (I do anyway). We can leave this world behind, temporarily, can’t we? Won’t it still be it’s shitty self when we return? What would we be missing? Compared to what we would be gaining?
Maybe we can go to Utah. And see the milky way, proper. In the dark, dark dark. We can look up at the starlight that’s always there, whether or not we see it.