[I apologize for the overly long post. I was trapped in a truck cab and had time to think. You’ve been warned.]
I’ve been on the road a lot. I’ve tried (and probably failed) to capture the spirit of reality you get from distance. Its a feeling that D.C. and it’s ideas might as well be from Mars. There’s an expanding disconnect between those that make our grain and oil and toilet paper and cement and the people who sit in coffee shops and emote about what it all means. It’s palpable. When unreality infects public discourse it can’t be good.
Doubt me? Take a road trip. Once you get beyond the festering hives of inner city and endure the mindless malls of Generica you’re out there. Out there, geographically, is awash with reality.
America is immense yet most Americans cluster like packed sheep in small portions of it. I’m not here to make analogies about sheep. Sheep make wool and that’s a valuable thing. However, it seems to me that all that clustering… all that shoulder to shoulder sweaty mass of humanity getting’ in each other’s faces… well it makes them go mad.
There’s no other word to say it. Mad. Crazy. Fuckin’ bugnuts whackdoodle!
What they pay attention to is not what matters. What matters is what they ignore. I wouldn’t care except they impose it. That imposition is corrosive to kindness and freedom.
Spend enough time in reality and you’ll reject the imposition.
Consider this; I was driving through the middle of nowhere when the radio landed on the Bruce/Katlin Jenner kerfluffle. They hammered it for hours. That’s about as unreal as it gets. Some voices were delighted, “OMG Bruce Jenner is totally a chick and if you don’t support that with all your heart and soul you’re a knuckle dragging monster.” Others were quite the opposite, “There’s a dude in a dress on Vanity Fair and I’m gonna’ puke, it’s the end times!” I was bored. Men have been wearing dresses since the first man and the first dress. For goodness sakes Bugs Bunny did it in the 1940’s. The Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn’t edgy, it was camp. We’re pretty mellow in America when you get to the heart of things. Why am I to concern myself with the cover of Vanity Fair? I’ve never read it. Who does?
My question, as I rolled past antelope and wheat, was “who is this Jenner fellow that of all the many dress wearers it became an event of import?” Why him and not Bugs Bunny? Eventually I dredged up the reference from my memory. He is (or was) the guy on the Wheaties box from a zillion years ago. I think he threw a javelin or something. He must be super old.
Mmmm… Wheaties. I used to like Wheaties. I’d alternate between Wheaties and Honeycomb. It was a more innocent time. Now my breakfast is coffee and I have less hair.
I checked into a hotel who’s name I’ve forgotten and ate a steak at a restaurant across the street. There were cows in the field behind me and steaks on the plate in front of me. The person in the next booth had cowshit on his boots. I get it. Reality.
The next day, on the road again, the only radio I could get was America’s Pravda. NPR is paid for by the government and its the strongest broadcast net in North America. You can’t avoid it. NPR has wattage like Soviet Russia could only dream of. It’s more predictably left leaning than Trotsky. My tax dollars pay for this. I’m informed that reporting about the genitalia of a former Olympic athlete and cereal spokesman is a pressing national broadcast need. Really? NOAA weather stations are a pressing broadcast need. NPR is not.
I was also informed that Americans were Neanderthals about gender. Really? Which Americans in particular are the Neanderthals? Do they issue a badge when you get to be the “decider” on that? I was told anyone insufficiently elated by Mr/Ms Jenner was hopelessly retrograde. Really? I wasn’t elated. I’d been daydreaming about my bicycle as a kid. Remember those cool license plates that you got in a box of Honeycomb? Weren’t they awesome? I’d forgotten about former men in current dresses and certainly don’t like to be ordered by anyone to be elated about anything. Thus, NPR concludes I’m a jerk. Good to know.
I’m pretty sure Jenner was replaced by Sandy Duncan… a sprite sized female skater that positively radiated chirpy energy. I don’t recall switching cereals. I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t care about Duncan any more or less than Jenner. More proof I’m intolerant?
If Duncan had changed her name from Sandy to Brutus would I be ordered to celebrate that as well? What if Bruce Jenner had changed his name to Mohammed and started spouting Koranic verse? Would that be super duper awesome too? Would I be ordered to celebrate it? If Brutus Duncan and Katlyn Jenner got married would NPR have a massive continent wide journalistic orgasm? God forbid someone report about the deficit.
I surveyed the weather. I noticed a couple people standing in a field looking at the clouds. They were surrounded by miniature factories we call combines. Their wheat field reached the horizon. Would they work or would they go home? This would be determined by rain and nothing else. Combines and the people who drive them are what make our Wheaties. The person on the box cover doesn’t mean shit. This is reality.
The guy on the radio, who sounded like the real world analogue to the set of Seinfeld, continued to talk. It was not enough to tolerate Jenner. We should celebrate Jenner’s courage. Courage? What’s courageous about doing something that gets wall to wall adoration in the media? He implied that while he, the announcer, understood courage he had his doubts about those other idiots. Who those idiots were was left hanging. Perhaps the fellows standing by the combines looking at the storm front? NASCAR fans? Me? I probably won’t wear a dress in the foreseeable future but I thought I understood courage as much as anyone. For that matter I used to be a radio announcer. If the NPR announcer is courageous due his deadly dangerous occupation then I should have the same courage too. Should I send him an old paystub to prove it? Would I get a certificate?
You can’t listen to NPR long without hearing a reference to the amorphous other. It seems important there forever remain a vaguely defined group to whom they feel superior.
I wonder who’s on a Wheaties box now? For all I know it’s a rapper or a porn star.
By now I was rolling down a very steep mountain pass. I smelled something; was my engine too hot? Reality again. While Pravda talker was emoting about “false duality of sexuality” I was testing my brakes. I’m not sure what happens if he gets his theories wrong but if I get mine wrong my I’ll plummet to my death.
Fortunately, it was another truck’s brakes. I could smell them. It’s the smell of fear.
At the bottom of the hill I caught up with a fuel tanker blowing brake smoke rather alarmingly. As we reached the bottom of the pass he let the truck wind out; the better to cool things off. Having a 50 ton flying wedge in front of me, I figured any suicidal antelope would be vaporized long before it hit my grill. Happy with that thought I let gravity take over and drafted.
As the speedometer climbed I pondered the 55 MPH speed limit; one of my earliest brushes with unreality. Surely it made sense to the people who would, decades later, emote about fluid sexuality. But what of ranchers in Wyoming? Nobody in Boston has the same travel concerns as someone two hour’s drive from Cheyenne. Why inflict Boston’s lifestyle on Wyoming ranchers? Should Cheyenne ranchers make Bostonians house a few cows in their condo?
Cars are a big hint. NPR made fun of Mitt Romney for stacking cars on an elevator but not Hillary Clinton who doesn’t drive. Why? I’d love to have so many cars I can stack them. Wouldn’t you?
Furthermore I don’t think of people who can’t drive as adults. (Barring physical limitation.) Lack wheels and you’re a childlike imp, ever dependent on someone else to get anywhere farther than a few miles. Got wheels and you’ve got options. Reality again. Hillary doesn’t drive. Therefore she’s not an adult. Age doesn’t make adulthood but self reliance does.
Maybe Hillary could hire Jay Leno to coach her? Imagine that! Driving is how I found work mowing lawns for pocket money when I was too young to legally buy beer, meanwhile a talk show host could school a presidential contender. How real can that be?
The flying wedge and I zipped past three combines working in tight formation. Amazing machines. Combines make wheat. We can’t all eat kale.
Eventually my flying wedge stopped at a gas station. I stopped too. The driver hopped out and started poking at his brakes.
“Got a braking problem?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m sure you smelled it.” He grimaced. “I’m just hoping to get to the Flying J. Can’t get it fixed here.”
He had another 80 miles to go. We chatted a bit. He wanted to cool his brakes but had only so much time on his drive clock. A regulation set in stone had him weighing equally bad options. Take a long break and run out of time. Take a short break and risk hot brakes. He was worried about impending rain. His brakes were working barely adequately, wet rain wouldn’t help. His tanker was empty, which paradoxically makes it harder to stop.
Intellectuals can make unreal connections between charging an iPad and melting a glacier. They reject reality based connections; regulations, temperatures, rain, and truck service locations.
The trucker rolled out in a hurry. It started to rain. The combines we’d passed had just gone out of work, the trucker was racing for the Flying J, and nobody on NPR has faced these sorts of trade offs.
The next day I dropped off the media radar again. I went fishing, something killed some of my ducks, I mowed the lawn, etc… When I finally had time to pay attention Jenner had been forgotten.