I spend a lot of time in my car. Every day, I drive many miles, alone. Some people might find this to be tedious; perhaps they hate spending time trapped in their car. They see traffic as something through which they must suffer. Me, though, I love to drive. The time I have in my car is a gift. Bring on the 195 car freight train -- I'm happy to wait. Two lanes merging into one? Go right ahead, please, I'm waving you in! I see my car as an extension of who I am and one of the most powerful catalysts that furthers my thoughts. I understand the freedom of possibility that a long stretch of road offers, the I.could.go.anywhereness. of it. I have found nothing else in life that promises such delight and so consistently delivers.
I believe that we are all connected by roads, no matter how geography may appear to separate us. You, in Chicago, you aren't that far from here. I've driven that way; it's right around the corner. You, in Vancouver, you're as close as the on-ramp at Cortaro and I-10. It might be a few days before we see each other, but I'm almost there. Even you, in Shanghai. There may be a big puddle between us, but between here and the airport is a road that keeps us feeling close.
I fall in love in my car. With music, with the future of me, with the landscape, with the stories that I hear on NPR, with a particular thought that starts to loop around my mind as I drive. The time that I spend, hand on the wheel, or just as often, knee, looks like this album cover. Released just last week, Calexico has made a soundtrack for driving in Tucson. I am that girl on the cover, driving ever forward, down the road. Just look:
In discussing this new album, Joey Burns talked about the loneliness that pervades Downtown Tucson and his desire to capture that in these songs. It isn't just there, where loneliness lives. It stems from the way that the bleached sky of this town makes me feel alone. Or the way that those mannequin heads sit in the Wig-O-Rama storefront window, their hair so precisely arranged in alien colors. Or in the passenger seats of the cars driven by those individual people, slowly cruising down Congress on their way to some other place. Malaise is always portrayed by gray cloudy mornings, wet and cold, the shell of a person in their raincoat, head tucked away from the rain, clomping forward. That is not loneliness or solitude. Not really. Loneliness, as desert rats know, lives under the unrelenting heat of the sun. It is the light that cracks the dirt and fades this world to shades of au. Mauve. Taupe.
There is more to it, though. Consider the sunset:
It has a profound distance to it. The sky feels very far away from my feet in the wash, which, in turn makes me feel like the very small speck that I am. It is in trying to understand this vastness that I love long roads, time alone, melting adobe buildings, punishing sun and geographical distance. This is what it means to drive in my car.
Edwidge Danticat Reads “Sunrise, Sunset”
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