Road Trip Revelries

Approaching our seventh hour of Wyoming driving, the sun melting
the ice in our Taco John’s cups and scorching the dashboard, I
turned to my brother and asked, ‘Do you think there are more
toenails or trees in the world?’

A valid question, but one that seems quite absurd if you don’t
have any heartland road trippin’ under your belt. My brother, ever
the earnest poet, didn’t blink an eye and responded, ‘Trees, I
think trees, but let me think more about this. Wait, what about
cows or toenails?’ I was stumped.

These are the kinds of revelries that fill hours in a real
American road trip. Pondering the un-urgent questions becomes
standard. Wondering about the minutiae of life, dwelling on old
memories you never considered memorable, mining topics until
they’re exhausted — this is the stuff of spending hours and hours
in a car with people you love.

As we make our way around Wyoming, then into South Dakota and
Minnesota, my brother and I have plenty of time to remember our
forgottens. Born and raised in geographically expansive but
politically narrow Colorado Springs, we both rushed to the
metropolis as soon as we could (New York for me, San Francisco for
him), hungry for the city’s claustrophobic terrain and open mind.
But at this moment, amongst the infinite yellow fields of Wyoming
and the occasional Star Wars-esque power plant, we are
remembering what is so good about nowhere.

Nowhere is actually where everything is. Your mind is here.
Unlike a spring break in Barcelona with friends, drinking and
dancing your consciousness away (trust me, I’ve been there), this
is where your perspective dwells. Nowhereness reminds me how
insignificant my life is and how important the questions about
toenails and trees really are in the grand scheme of things. I
think of Brianna in the first grade, how she vomited after
accidentally swallowing her Lee Press-On Nail in gym class and how
I told her not to be embarrassed as I helped her to the office. I’m
really glad I did that. My brother directs the music selection
while he drives, trying to introduce me to his latest favorites, in
the way big brothers do, and I am reminded of being 16 years old
and wishing I could know half as much as he did, be half as
brilliant and unafraid. If only I would smoke pot, I remember
thinking, then he would want to hang out with me more.

I remember my brother once telling me when I was 10 that there
are more planets in the universe than grains of sand on earth. The
enormity of it literally shut down my mind. But as the beautiful
Badlands stretch before us and a hundred mini-vans roll by with
little feet pressed on the windows, I can almost imagine how small
I am, riding in the car, sharing the no less eternal mystery of an
idle highway hour spent beside this man, my brother.

Reprinted from Clamor (Sept.2003), an
activist-oriented magazine with fresh perspectives on politics and
culture. Subscriptions: $20/yr., $25 Canada (6 issues) from Box
20128, Toledo, OH 43610;

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.