23 February 2016

An American Folktale (Rough Draft)

Originally posted at And What Will Be Left of Them?,  
November 2011, as a teaser/preface to this second part.

Originally he hailed from the "Cradle of Liberty," that echo of the cradle rocked out of, Boston. Historic and colonial, an Atlantic capitol of Old World once-wasness. A lovely "walking city," everyone said.

But a fucking nightmare to drive in.

Home to the reputed Worst Drivers in the Nation. Unsurprising, seeing how successful navigation requires the quickest and most aggressive reflexes -- the sort that never fail to confound and frighten non-natives. It's what's required if you' aim to get anywhere. Of bettering the illogic of the city's narrow streets, those streets that weren't designed with the idea of this sort of traffic in mind, ages removed from any modern idea of enabling vehicular progress.

And you know how progress means a lot of things. For over a century it'd meant heading west, to the land's nether shore. West over terrain once crossed by horse and by wagon, then by telegraph and railway. Much of it, thank god, now much more easily and more often flown over. All part of expansion, of a fated and manifest destiny. So westward he went. To where everything, as they said, was presently at. The whereall to which everything led, the telos of all pioneering and frontiering. To the ascendant domain of the Now, the cultural seat of powers-having-shifted, of late modernity itself. Last stop, final destination. Built for cars, for maximum traffic, to fully accommodate its flow and—the theory had it -- avoid the snarls and tangles and perpetual arterial clusterfuckage. Its skies and sun having waited all those ages to be finally tinged pink by a brume of ozone.

He found plenty of things to do in L.A., though. Like playing in traffic. Lying down on a bustling blacktop amid flares (but only to get arrested once the cops arrived). Or staging lurid roadside distractions for random passersby. Getting shot, or tortured, or dangled from on high. Or having himself nailed to one of the road-clogging four-wheeled beasts, with the beast screaming beneath him as he lay belly up in the morning sun. All of this a means, perhaps, of becoming one with the city, of becoming part of its circulatory system.

And then one night arriving at an elevated and narrow stretch of coastal highway, and there placing a monument. Twin cruxes, soaked in the very stuff that made all these things possible. Planting them in the paths of the road's to and fro. Igniting them and then vacating into the night, leaving behind a pair of blazing glyphs -- flaming totems, emblems for the name and number of the century in which all of this came to be. A pair of sentinels, their limbs splayed to alert, or forewarn, or to deliver some form of reckoning. Left there for the latenight traveler who, finding his route obstructed, could only stand in the torchlit road and wonder what on earth it could possibly mean.

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