I’ll be driving around for a while. I don’t know where to or for how long. I’m more likely going to go to places out of the way, places no one visits, because maybe there’s something interesting there. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child because I’m fascinated by the open road, the open landscape, and small towns. The idea is to encounter unknown places, to see sights that few people have seen or would want to see, to find beauty in a small human settlement or a vast plain of emptiness or even a sprawling, blighted metropolis. I come from a sprawling metropolis myself and, though I try to see the beauty in everything, there is a certain monotony in seeing and doing the same things every day. This is something near a pervasive and existential boredom, although I wouldn’t put it exactly on that scale. I like San Jose well enough and, in fact, there are aspects of it that I love, but I’m moved by this desire to see strange sights, unfamiliar sights, things I can’t just overlook. I want to see the world with fascination, the way a child sees it—glowing, deep, hazy, nostalgic. I want, perhaps, to be less cynical.
There is little aim here, in terms of direction. I don’t know what I’m going to see or which way I’m going to go. It’s all up in the air. I’m not even sure if I’ll like it or be repulsed by it…if the life of the vagabond is too far out of my comfort zone. In any event, I’m leaving today at some point.
I do this with the the understanding that there’s very little mystique left in America—that the concept of wandering across the country is more appealing to retired RV-ers who generally have specific tourist hot-spots in mind. But some of America’s lore was built on travel, on discovery, on a certain mystery in the Wild, Wild West. Some of Horace Greeley’s musings on Manifest Destiny can be paraphrased simply with “Go West, Young Man.” And there is a certain flourishing ambiguity in that sentiment—a sort of glowing optimism about an unsettled land. I myself am a product of either Manifest Destiny or the Dust Bowl—of a great urge to venture out to an unknown and prosperous West. But the reason I say there’s no mystique left, is because Western Civilization (and, really, native civilization before that) has ventured as far West as humanly possible. There’s nothing left to be settled, no unseen valleys or mountains, no inherent danger. We are content to codify our lives in the context of cities—of where we live, where we work, where we have fun—and there is no functional mystery there.
And, so, I’m going back East because I can go no farther to the West. In a manner of speaking, I’m going to rediscover, to see things and to see them differently, to experience things with clarity, with a focus on the unfamiliar. Because, although most of America shares much of the same culture, there are no two places alike, no two exact modes of existence. And I’d like to document that. I’d like to see it first hand.