Dé Céadaoin, Márta 28, 2007

Whiteclay part 13

A place just outside of town offered Buffalo feeds for five dollars. I've seen buffalo before,I waited twenty minutes for a herd of them to cross U.S. 385 near Hot Springs when I was a teenager. There's more buffalo out there than you think, (The American bison, the American Indian, and Mark Twain all have something in common) and they're really not that impressive, to tell the truth. Domestic cattle fill the same biological niche today, and they're every bit as mystical. And don't you feel just a little bit dirty, guy whoever runs the place, catering to what the Wasicus expect?

This is also the home of what are clearly the cheapest political campaigns in the Western world. Splintered wood on the side of the road with slogans like "Tom Conroy, law and order" or "Vote Brenda District 7" If you spend more than a hundred dollars trying to get on the tribal council, you're a filthy plutocrat.

Halfway between Pine Ridge and Oglala sits Red Cloud Indian school, a Catholic academy.If you know anything about the history of Christian acadamies offering their services to Native children, this might make you a bit uneasy. Rest assured though that Red Cloud is a throughly modern school that respects Lakota tradition. (The place is certainly in much better condition than any of the public schools on the rez.) The experience of going there is no different from what any Catholic school kid has to go through, which should be more than enough to make you uneasy; poor bastards. The man who runs the place, until just recently at any rate, is one Fr. Klink. Any kid who breaks the rules at Red Cloud has this face to deal with.

Imagine if you will this Pennywise the clown face glaring at you in anger. I find it hard to believe that having your native tongue beaten out of you could be any worse.

It is also around here, just off U.S. 18, where the shootout at Jumping Bull ranch occurred. FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Color met their deaths here in 1975. One Leonard Peltier sits in prison for their murders today. His guilt is disputed. The incident happened at a time when the reservation was in a state of general havoc and I'm sure you've heard a thing or two about it. I may or may not give my own thoughts on the matter in the future. A neutral source of information on the matter would be appreciated though I know it's also damned unlikely. As for now our journey drags.

The village of Oglala is home to a few more than 1200 people, or so the Census Bureau tells me, I have my doubts. The place is even more ragged and disorganized than the Ridge. Even the smallest Midwestern villages create the feeling of being enclosed on their central blocks. Oglala is shacks and trailers flung out in every direction on the prairie and one never really feels like being inside anything at all.

The post office here is nice, at least from the outside, at least compared to the private homes. A man slept on the front step. When we drove back through the other way he was sleeping on the back step.

"Women are Sacred" said the signs, as indeed they are in Lakota tradition. Of course, the purpose of the signs is to discourage wife-beating, as embarrassing in their way as the "Never Ever Shake a Baby" signs that our own Health and Human Services department puts out.

"Why Die?" say the signs where somebody did, sometimes next to the more traditional white cross and teddy bear. How many of these wreck victims were drunk? Certainly not all of them; law of averages you know.

Speaking of gambler's fallacies, we had some trouble finding the casino. We're from the city you know. Patience is for the serfs. After driving west from Oglala for about five minutes we got bored with the tan and determined that there couldn't possibly be anything out here. So we turned back and drove all the way to Pine Ridge.

We decided to ask for directions at Big Bat's before giving up completely. The existence of the casino was nothing but a rumor to the townies. This didn't look good. Finally one of the clerks said to just keep driving past Oglala until we reached it. "Are we just stupid" Dan asked? "That may well be." I said.

Prairie Wind Casino sits on the opposite end of the reservation from town, some thirty miles. We had driven for forty minutes longer than necessary, biblical punishment for our lack of faith. Its location is meant to catch traffic bound for the Black Hills and Rapid City. So here it sits twelve miles from the nearest settlement, it's parking lot covered in a fine layer of eroding sandhill.

I had been to casinos before, and found them all to be hilariously stupid. I never had been to a reservegas though, and had no idea what to expect.

Outside the wind was nearly deafening, and we could barely here Tupaq's
"Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." from the car stereo twenty feet away.

Dé Máirt, Márta 27, 2007

Part 12 (Warren)

I've been through Pine Ridge before this, a quick roll-through on Ne87/SD407, but I hadn't been off the highways before. A friend from Chadron took me through here on a side trip to Rushmore, but he refused to stop.

The side streets are dirt tracks, no signs, no names. The ditches are filled with beer cans, cheap cans of food, diapers, broken glass. The houses with boarded windows, broken-down cars, some blackened by kerosine fires. (Most homes don't have central heating. It's very common for one to get burned out by an indoor campfire.) Roofs caving in, doors flown off. Still there were children playing in front of these places. People lived here. Broken down cars. Churches with bars on the windows, needles in their yards. The grafitti, the rusted septic tanks, the dust. The lung-chewing dust of urban decay. Dogs that should have died months ago from whatever was turning their coats into mats of blood and pus.

Trash filling the yards, the ditches, the same deritus of living hand-to mouth that one finds in any Nebraska trailer park, but at every single house in this town.

We walked into one of the burnouts and filmed it. It was to badly damaged for anyone to live here (as far as we know) but was still used at a party pad. Probably by thirteen year-old kids who worried about getting caught by their thirty year-old parents out doing the same thing. A heap of broken drywall and Hurricane cans. Some more graffiti on one of the remains of a wall. Back outside, people with fifty year old faces on twenty five year-old bodies tottering into one of the shacks.

I kept my sunglasses on, tried to keep my face neutral, more out of respect to the people we were gawking at than any sense of personal dignity. Don't hide your face in your hands, keep breathing. Look straight ahead, this is what you came here for. Keep walking.

A man walked out of one of the burnouts and asked us what we were doing. (We're gawking at how poor you are) (We're treating your town like a haunted house) (We're taking pictures of your neighborhood without anyone's permission to impress our middle-class friends and we would appreciate it if you stopped trying to accost us you filthy street urchin.)

"We're seeking truth" I said.

"Ha, ha, that's good." "Lot's of truth on the Rez."

"Is there a hotel here?"

"Ha, ha, no! Try the casino."

We walked up to the a church, filmed the barred and boarded-up windows, and decided to make our way back to the car. We could have crossed the highway and gotten more of the same. We all knew we were tresspassing, no need for anyone to step away from their curtains and tell us so. We were leaving now.

The man came back out holding a can of Natural Ice. "I got your truth right here" he said. We gave him a noncommital dude-laugh and a nod and kept walking. After a few steps I turned back and asked him what his name was. It was either shame or curiosity that made me do it. I was a coward back in Whiteclay, simple as that. Now had we come here to learn something about the people or keep treating them like goblins for three days?

His name was Warren, and the burnout was one of his crash pads, him and his buddies Spanky and Derrick. Spanky's face was scarred from some sort of burn injury. Huffing accident? The kerosine fire? Acid attack? He didn't talk about it, I didn't ask him. He knew I was looking at it and was curious. I knew that he didn't want to talk about it.

Dan has documented this incident as his cliff-notes version account of the whole trip on his blog, complete with modern visual technology. I prattle on and on about it because, I don't know. The story of this place needs to be told from street level, without angles, without powersuit reporters asking the people how miserable they are from a personal canyon away. Or maybe I just like writing about myself so God-damned much. http://www.whyareyoukillingme.blogspot.com/

So, yes. No heat, no electricity, no plumbing, perfectly normal. Spanky said they had promised to bring electricity to the place some months before. Who they were, I don't know. A case of Hurricane sitting in the corner. "Yeah, no jobs, no opportunities, so we just drink."

They asked us who we were and what we were doing. We were all students, all cornhuskers we said. "Guerilla journalism" I said. I've always been good at thinking up clever sounding bullshit on the spot. Warren said that he liked the Cornhuskers. Spanky likes the twin cities pro teams. I said that I liked the Dodgers in baseball. Clever bullshit on the spot.

They invited us into their drinking circle. that's how they do their drinking here. One can at a time, shared amongst all. It's a deeply moving bonding experience until the money starts to run out, then drunks will be drunks. Me and Paul partook. We wern't tresspassers anymore. At any rate I had been sucked in by the nihilism of the place, felt the same need to feel something that Warren and the gang did. (Even those who hadn't fallen to drinking at noon on Tuesday just sat on their porches or walked nowhere. Pine Ridge has as much economic activity as a village one tenth it's size.)

Warren is twenty-eight. He was a fugitive protected now from South Dakota justice by Lakota sovereignty laws. He had been caught delivering three pounds of weed to Rapid City in a friend's or a friend of a friend's car. Sentenced to five years in prison. His mother died about six months ago, he was given furlough from the prison in Yankton to attend the funeral. Now here he is. He has a son by a nominal girlfriend that is not quite a year old. The boy lives with his great-grandmother. Warren is allowed to see him if he hasn't been drinking.

All three of these men claimed that they had a chance to "make it". Get off the rez and live a nice middle class-life somewhere, through sports. Warren played basketball, Spanky ran track. They spoke in hushed tones of the fourteen year-old boy who had won the state championship in 100 meters. Than he was shot by someone and died.
The dropout rate is sky-high here, and it's easy to see why. All the men in this group were high-school graduates. It gains them nothing. The junior college here, same thing. A degree doesn't change the fact that there are maybe two hundred jobs here for three thousand people. Warren is hoping he can get a job at Pizza Hut. He'll huff gasoline sometimes. I don't know why one would buy a lawnmower here even if one did have enough money for it.

That's his story. What else is there to say? Would Warren be better off in prison than his home? Would his son be better off with his father as a rumor instead of the wreck that he can see for himself? Three meals a day, running water. The risk and bother of making a batch of payo would ensure that he drank less. Or would he simply lose the last of his humanity? Come back indifferent to his son and grandmother? Help contribute to a culture of surrender? "This is how we live"

"No jobs, so we drink, so you know, fuck it. Fuck everything"

That's his story.

We took some pictures and eventually left. We went to Taco John's for lunch.

Paul was inside ordering the food when one of the rez dogs showed up. (Her name was Sheila) She knew it was the humans lunch hour. Some people, the ones with freshly painted trailors and cars from the late nineties, have personal dogs of their own. Mostly it's the rez dogs. They are everybody's and nobody's. They are filthy, skinny, ridden with sores and parasites. But they have names. call them by their names and they'll tolerate your presense. Give them food and they'll wag their talis and maybe hold their tongues out.

Dan decided to give her the rest of the Matza bread. So we dug it out of the pile of travel deritus and handed it to him. He gave Sheila a piece and she inhaled it. Some more dogs, four or five, emerging from around the alley in full submissive begging poses. Dan divided the bread as best he could and gave it to them

He cut quite the saintly figure. He looks older than he is, with his shaved head and hermit-like attire. So here was this middle-aged Teutonic monk bringing succor to the beasts. It lightened the load on all of our hearts, I think, took us out of the funeral home and back to the vacation.

We decided to try to find this casino. We'd rather sleep here than in Gordon or Rushville. Warren told us it was past Ogala. Those should be directions enough. Why should we start planning in any meaningful way now?

Dé Luain, Márta 26, 2007

Whiteclay part 10 A ( Going fractured narrative on your ass)

"Ok ok ok. So Mark. Mark was a rotund man, no cowboy really. Just somewhere verging on a "good ol' boy" but not very mentally collected. At least not very sharp. Just slow and jowling. The quote for the baby thing came after he was talking about his 1yrold niece, and he asked me if I had kids, of which I said I'd none, and he said, oh, well, it can happen at any time, if the Lord wills it. So apparently I would be doing no willing. But I told him I willed it not, I hoped it not. He told me he wished I'd come back around and he would show me around sometime, if ever I'm around to let him know. Et cetera. Then he was dismayed at my confession that we were headed to White Clay, and the rest you know. But, he was a simple, large man who assumed I had a husband and children and was a little taken aback when I said I was so young as to still be in college. The end."

R. Ankenbrand

At about the same time, I was getting my own taste of local culture at the c-store down the street from the hotel. Some of the jowling good ol boys' were sitting at a table with the town cop (I think he really is 'the' town cop, and he gets paid to drink coffee at the Pump n Pantry and maybe arrest a Native for tresspassing every now and then. ) and having an animated discussion about guns. Not the politics of guns mind you, but disccusing their own guns as if they were their children. The cop had an SKS. It has a hell of a kick. Now, I have nothing against guns (Though I keep a chainsaw for self-defense myself) but this sort of country-guy talk has always mystified me. Why it is that guns and cars are more fascinating than clocks or refrigerators is something that Western Nebraska boys like me are just supposed to understand. ("I went to Catholic School for twelve years." "Why arn't you more religious?.....)

It's true that we males can never have enough surrogate phalli, but have some fucking taste about it. I smoke cigarettes. I read really big books. I drink expensive microbrew. I grow my hair long and feel a bit queezy when a portly middle-aged woman trims it with her long, savage, barren antiseptic shears. In short, I satisfy my fixation with more class than you do. So I don't suffer from the steaming fantasy, I mean worst nightmare, of having to pump my lead into some dark intruder who penetrates my door.

So, there's Gordon for you. Women who are unmarried and childless at nineteen are things to be pitied. A conveinence store serves as the town square. The constable is a de-facto welfare hound who speaks openly about his guns with other men. People don't even try to hide their contempt for the Lakota (That was the 'rest' of Becky's conversation with Mark. They make more money than you or me.)

I find Becky's account to be a bit dissapointing. It has none of the arrogance or contempt that makes for great comedy. I took a polite overheard conversation between upstanding members of society and made them out to be jackasses. That takes some talent, if I do say so myself. But Becky, It's as if she actually pities the riff-raff. If only she had lived in outstate Nebraska, then she would see these people for what they are, big fat sacks of nothing; vacant assholes who necrophilize
tradition so they don't have to go through the trouble of forming their own personalities. These people deserve neither pity not courtesy.

So I'd like to take the liberty of reworking her statement into something a bit more truthful.

"Mark nearly ground me under his wheels as he swerved to a stop in his corroded 1981 Ford F150. The smell of Coors Light and gravy oozing out of his pores was overwhelming, even with the stench of the three rotting puppies in the back that he had beaten to death the week before to punish his daughters for backtalk. Mark weighed over 700 pounds and his clothes became covered in fat beer-sweat over the next five minutes as he worked up the energy to talk. He finally asked me why I was walking alone and unveiled like a common harlot, ' Is you trying to emberress your husband?' he asked. When I told him that I didn't have a husband he soiled himself in rage and stopped breathing for a full five minutes. Than he asked me why my father hadn't arranged to have me married to my cousin, as this was the custom in emergencies. When I told him that I was still in college his face froze in shock. He refused to believe that there were places in the world where women are allowed to read. So I spent a good fifteen minutes reading off street signs to prove that this was the case. Mark put his hand on his chins and thought deeply, the smell of his rust-colored persperation was worse than ever. Finally he looked at me and said 'Well, yer gittin up there in years girl. So you musta had at list eighternine kids by now even if you ain't gotta husband. Add that to yer (pants uncontrollably) fancy book lernin and red-devil lovin ways and ( Face takes on color of a plum) holy shit! Yous a witch ain't ya? You headin up to Pine Ridge to drop devil spawn sos the savages can eat em ain't ya?' He than reached his arm out to try to strangle me but it got stuck in the window. As I walked away I could hear Mark weeping while he moaned for Jesus to smite me with a cloud of fire. The end"

Back at the hotel we managed to rouse Dan and Paul out of bed a half-hour before checkout time. We quickly loaded our stuff and also took the Gideon's bible, a local phone book, and of course the bath towels. These were "towels of the oppresors" I reasoned, and redistributing them to the Natives would be a noble act of peaceful Trotskyite rebellion.

Dan parked around the corned to hide, himself, as I walked up to the office and handed the room key to the manager. He had the emotionless accent that one finds in the most isolated parts of the Great Plains and looked at me with obvious contempt as I handed him the key and told him to have a good day. I walked back around to the car and suggested to Dan that we should get out of this town very quickly and that he should wait until Rushville before he got his breakfast.

Off into the wall of tan. Clinton, Rushville, right turn on Nebraska 87.

Dé Sathairn, Márta 24, 2007

Whiteclay part 11

The Happytown sign was a decrepit old billboard sitting along the east end of town along Highway 18. Some long ago patchouli shop set up by white college kids who came here to score peyote and get in touch with their inner Earth Goddess. I believe we failed to get any video of the sign, and that would be criminal if we did, because it's just to fucking perfect.

I had thought that the current coffee shop there, "Higher Ground" was run by similar types, but a quick web search revealed that it's actually owned by some middle aged-white women out to spread the love of Jesus.

The Natives, you should know, hate white do-gooders, especially the tie-dye wearing liberal-until-graduation set, and especially the bible thumpers, nearly as much as they hate the government. As well they should. This was not a problem for us. We had not come here to dance with the buffalo or wrestle with our spirit warriors in the sweat lodge. Our party is free of delusion to the point of being dysfunctional. Especially Dan, who has no soul and only makes a fool of himself when he pretends to have one in that flat cracker monotone of his.

So no, we had not come as messiahs to free the cute little race of natural born hippies from the system. We had come merely to observe, to mingle, to drink the local poison with the locals, and so we would.

We drove up and down both of Pine Ridge's paved roads for a few minutes, seeing what there was to see, downtown (which we've discussed) Big Bat's, the school (a light skinned child was being bullied by some of the redder children. Far be it for me to guess why.) The hospital, which is quite nice, the homes peeled paint, broken windows, outhouses, marks from kerosene fires. Some of the worst had laundry on the line or some other obvious sign that people lived there. This is just what we saw from the car.

We determined that we should get out of the car and walk through one of the neighborhoods to get a better feel for the place. So we pulled onto one of the dirt paths in the south part of town, parked where we found some space, got out, locked the door.

Whiteclay part 10 B.

The hills were beautiful. A slow-motion sea. Dried grass stalks, still dormant from the winter, took on the same color as the sun. The rare tree, also still dormant, empty, most of them looked old, sick and maybe dead, look noble and serene in this environment. Short bluffs and cliffs that wouldn't be noticed in Colorado or Arizona stick out like a frathouse heterosexual out here. The sky seems to take on the same look as the sun and the grass, dirty white, with traces of true yellow.

Everything made by humans here is fucking hideous. Cattle yards; mud, shit, puddles of water being churned into post-facto diarrhea and splattering onto the bored animals. There's a couple dozen abandoned houses out here. Some long ago tribe of brain donors, probably Kincaiders, tried to farm the sand out here. Their legacy is a scattered group of decaying heaps corrupting the perfect wall of tan. Sinking roofs, collapsing floors, windows that have been broken since before my mother was born. The abandoned shacks continue right up into Whiteclay, where many have been reclaimed by the Natives, sleeping off their hangovers and groaning their lives away
on moldering mattress-springs. The average family home in Pine Ridge, government funded, about one-third the age of the abandoned homesteads, looks almost the same.

The contrast between the natural perfection and man-made filth is cliche, but undeniable. The Buffalo Commons point of view looks very reasonable to one driving up Nebraska 87. At any rate, Manifest Destiny, the dogma that every patch of North America must be occupied or at least owned by whites, is exposed for the absolute lunacy it is. This is why the Lakota were conqured. This is why their culture was destroyed, their population decimated, the survivors broken and humiliated as a matter of policy. So that white Christians could exercise their God-given duty to bring proper American industry here and fail miserably.

The construction work was in full swing on the approach to Whiteclay. A teenage girl was directing traffic. She could have been fourteen or sixteen or maybe even eighteen. The cowgirls out here have the same look throughout their sexually active years. A little mascara, copious blush, blue jeans, pony tail. It's hard to tell the difference between a sixteen and a thirty-six year old, particularly since they're expected to act the same too.

Becky needed to pee, so we pulled up to Whiteclay grocery. A man at the door asked us where we were from. "Lincoln" we said.
"What are you doing here."
"Just seeing how it is"
"Heh heh, wrong place, keep on going."

Whiteclay grocery did not have a public bathroom, none of the liquor stores in Whiteclay do. If any place did, it would be Studio 54 on a Friday night. Becky walked out of the grocery and coolly trotted up the street. A man walked out of the bushes behind the grocery and motioned for us to come see him. That night, we would soak up the local culture and find that this was perfectly normal. As of now, the sight of a man emerging from the brush, spectre-like, and telling us to come to him really didn't rub us the right way. So we thought it best to ignore the man, pick up Becky, and find a restroom in town.

Becky was amused at our concern. She's amused by a lot of things. I'd like to know where she went to prison to be so cool on the streets of America's infected colon. But she was collected and we made our way across the border, marked by a sign reminding the driver that it was a dry reservation and nothing else.

The reservation landfill is as close to Nebraska as possible, as is the jail. The two miles of country road from the border into town is wide and well-lit. There are still somewhere around three hundred fatalities on it every year.

It's hard to say exactly where the town of Pine Ridge begins and ends. Neighborhoods peel off from the highways haphazardly for about two miles in every direction from "downtown" which consists of the grade school, a coffee shop, a Taco John's, a Pizza Hut, a grocery store, one or two thrift stores that may or may not have been open, one or two churches that may or may not have been open, a police station, which as far as we could tell consisted of a single SUV on the sidewalk, and Big Bat's gas station, right at the corner of highways 407 and 18 and clearly the anchor of the town.

We slowed down as we entered the town center from the south, passed the school, and, after some classic tourist driving maneuvers, pulled into Big Bat's.


Dé hAoine, Márta 23, 2007

Whiteclay part 9

"Does size matter?"
"Oh definitely."

I slept on the floor. The next two nights I would end up with the bed somehow and it was hardly any better. I squirmed for five or six hours and than I got up. The Slurricane is more insidious than anything I've drank before. Nightmares, delusions. I can easily understand Robert and his ghosts. He's spent his entire life, waking and half-sleeping, under the influence of this shit. Whether drunk or hungover on Hurricane, the effect is much the same. A humid washcloth for a brain, no real difference between being asleep and being awake, a constant, unresting consciousness that starts to tear very quickly. I was shattered after three days, left to flail and grasp on blind impulse for another three days after that. The people who live the Whiteclay life, the ones who sleep in rotting houses and sleep on disgusting "beds", I have no idea how they keep their shells walking.

I'm not going to say that they're dead inside. That's not only a cliche, it's a no true Scotsman fallacy. Nowhere is it written that real life can't be grinding, humiliating, filth-ridden suicide. Millions have lived and died this way, drunks, soldiers, the average citizen of Malawi, of Pine Ridge, the average citizen of the world.

No, these people are alive like you and me, but they are shells. We in the white middle class, we in the first world, have been taught that we are, if not important, at least important enough to impact our social environments; our towns, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our circles of friends. We have influence over people and we can and should seek influence over more people.

The shells, those ninety percent of the human race, don't have that. They have surrendered to whatever environment they're in, become it. Never quite surrendering but becoming surrender. But of course they still live. They feel as much humiliation over wearing the same clothes for three months or getting sick from rat shit as us spoiled rich folk would. They simply don't think they can do anything about it, and nothing in their lives has given them any reason to think they should.

Oh but it's all their fault, you know. the world is magically, automatically just. Those Indians, they make more money than you or me you know. It's a welfare ploy. Every man the master of his fate, straight line and a goal. Stay in Gordon Becky. Marry that Christian cowboy and will yourself a baby. Don't waste your pity on what is meant.

She was accosted by said cowboy, somewhere out in the town, when I gave up trying to reach R.E.M and stood up. It was about 8. I needed coffee and the dry absurdest humor of Nebraska news before I could face the day. It would be a very long one.

Dé Céadaoin, Márta 21, 2007

Whiteclay Part 8

There are places in this world where hotels close. I'll say it again. there are places in this world where hotels, businesses that exist to provide outsiders with a place to spend the night, close, for the night. Not in Rawanda, not in some socialist nightmare, but right here, in the supposed heart of civilization, the cradle of decency.

In Rushville, the Nebraskaland Inn (we would be avenged) , closed at 10 PM. My grandparents go to bed at 10:30, nothing at the Antlers either. they watch the news first. They have lived their entire lives post-Edison and they are not Neanderthals beholden to the sun to tell them when to go to bed. I realize that the joints in Rushville and Gordon or more like "dives" than proper motels, filled with natives who made it off the Rez, but not really, single mothers banished from polite society, methamphetamine enthusiasts, living there semi-permanently. But still, they had "Inn" and "Motel" on the sign, and were still theoretically there to provide travelers with a bed for the night. surely they can hire one of the tweakers to watch TV and leave the door open at night; and handle money and confirm identity's and rob them blind.

We drove on to Gordon, it was much the same, nothing at the Western Sands, (shouldn't that be Eastern Sands?) or the Jefco. I believe it was the Hacienda where someone finally answered the lobby door.

An older man, not really old, but toward the end of middle age, came to the door in his boxer shorts, let us in, and walked behind the desk. I apologized for waking him up. He said it was nothing, that he had just gone to bed and hadn't really fallen asleep yet.
"We're from the city," I said "We're not really used to this whole hotel closing business"
"Heh, heh, yeah, there isn't much out here"
"Heh, heh"

I spoke to him in a humorous tone of voice. He had waken up for us, and I didn't want to offend him. But I wasn't joking. We weren't used to hotels closing, had never heard of such a thing, and there is absolutely no fucking reason why we should have. This town was on a federal highway. Drive east out of Gordon and you'll be in downtown Chicago in eighteen hours. We were within minutes of trying to sleep in the clown car. It burns me. These people have electricity, they have plumbing. I'm sure there's at least three or four of them who know how to read. There is absolutely no fucking excuse for this. It burns me, is all

Paul had come in with me. I told the guy that it was a room for two. He gave no sign of distress. I'm sure he's had this sort of situation before. He knew to keep his mouth shut. Just pay your bill and I won't ask any questions cowboy.

The room was a shitty old-style tourist cabin. It was hidden around the corner from the lobby, which made it easy for our human contraband to get in. It had a single bed by the door, the TV strategically arranged so that you could almost see it in every corner of the room. The heat/AC was in the bathroom, which is ridiculously inefficient, really just asinine, but anyway.

Me, Paul, and Dan started drinking our Hurricanes. Becky said she would drink hers in the morning. Not quite, but she would drink more than we did the next night. Outstanding.

The flat acidity was obvious even after the first relatively cold sip. The taste of surrender,hopelessness, going away to prison party, I like to have a drink on my Burger King lunchbreak. It's inconceivable how anyone can drink these things regularly and not give themselves a perforated ulcer after three months.

I drank mine quickly. It had been a long day, and I lack discipline on these matters. A straight line and a goal. The effects came on even more quickly than they usually do when one garden-hoses malt liquor. I began to feel, rather light, and, open to suggestion.

Dan was unable to tolerate his. This would change, by and by, but right now he just couldn't hack it. So I asked if I could finish his. He snarked at the sight of me. I don't see why, I would be perfectly fine with two. Clear-eyed, reasonable, focused.

Minor hot flashes; swooping, jagged dart thoughts. Who wants to dance? Who wants to scratch Dadaist nonsense poetry out of the wallpaper with a knife? I grabbed the video-camera and danced with it. I saw myself in the mirror. I was gorgeous. I pointed the camera at myself and held it. Everyone thought that this was hilarious beyond words. I was the only one who was truly drunk, but, yeah. My eye looking into the eye filming the eye leading back to my eye. It's high school drama club funny. There's less sophisticated forms of humor out there.

Becky grabbed her camera and filmed me filming myself. Dan grabbed his and filmed Becky filming..... I turned around and we were all filming each other. It was cyborg porn, Orwell meets Nifty.org.

Things wound down from there, a time of ciggerette smoking and unspoken regret. Our focus turned toward the TV. I don't believe any one of us has cable. We can't morally afford it. We're smarter than you. It's how we butter our bread.

But we were on vacation. So we watched TV.

You might have heard of Peter Poppov. He's the televangelist with the miracle water that you can buy in a transparent mustard paket for twenty dollars. It's touched by Jesus himself after some haggling with Poppov. It cures the cancer of crying African girl's mothers. It will make your son-in-law stop doing coke. It has it's own choir and it's own ministry. Yet somehow, something about all this strikes me as funny. I know I'm supposed to believe anything I hear from someone who loves Jesus. But Popov is a blatantly Soviet name, and his accent sounds like an anagram of various socialist tongues. A little Romanian, a little Argentinian, a little French. I just can't bring myself to trust someone of unknown swarthy extraction.

I'd like to talk to you about that certain part of the male anatomy.

Whiteclay part 7

Lewis, I think deserves better treatment than just being a convenient end point, so a few more lines about him.

He asked us where we would be staying, and we said the hotel. "The one right over there" he asked. "Yeah, we said." "Oh yeah, that's a good place, you can sing and dance and they won't bother ya." We may never know what he meant by right over there. Was he talking about the casino with the unfinished hotel that was 30 miles away? Was he talking about Rushville? There was a bit of singing here, a modicum of dancing, some minor fraud, and various acts of lame passive-aggressive vandalism, so that seems the most likely explanation. A place to sing and dance just doesn't quite fit the description of the place though. On my next trip there, and I am going back, I'll make it a point to track down Lewis's ghost motel.

Me and Dan walked into straight line and a goal liquor and ordered four 24's of Hurricane Malt Liquor. The place had the look of a bait-shop or a small town jail. White walls, white paint thats old but not really crumbling, two strong lamps spreading lights unevenly. The clerk was a younger cat. I interviewed him the next night and found out he lives in Chadron and attends Chadron State. That was the extent of the interview.

A word on the Slurricane; it's one of many regional "economy" malt liquors. Like many low-quality liquors, it is "brewed" and bottled discreetly by a major company, Anheiser-Busch in this case. (I'd have ten of them before I drank a single Bud Light) The Slurricane reigns mostly in the northwestern part of the United States and the Pine Ridge/Rushville/Gordon area seems to be the southeastern limit of it's range.

The Hurricane is what we had come for. We had come to mingle with the natives and hear their stories, sure. But what we, I should say I, had come for was to walk straight into Whiteclay, straight into Straightline Liquor, straight into the physical heart of rural American nihilism and evil. Right into the tangible result of the arrogance and self-worship that lies just barely beneath the surface (and hidden less and less these days) of the white Midwestern simpleman.

The Whiteclay shops sell Hurricane chiefly in 24 ounce cans. Why they don't sell it in the more collectible 40 oz. bottle I don't know. (Too many broken glass incidents?) The alcohol content is not printed on the can, which I believe is illegal. Though it should be said that the Hurricane 'High Gravity' can proudly displays it's 8.1 % alcohol content. The taste is like chasing battery acid with cyanide. The effect, dear lord, of drinking a hurricane or two or three is a chapter unto itself.

Let's just say that old men know it's coming when they feel a chill in their bones.

Let's just say that just when you think it's over, you ain't even halfway there yet.

Let's just say that anything that isn't nailed down is getting smashed the fuck up.

Let's just say that you better lock the kids in the basement, cause the Sluricane's coming bitch.

I'll stop, moving along than.

Whiteclay part 6

The rest of the drive was eternal. There was the Osborne Expressway through the west end of Grand Island, with its strip malls and box stores, painted to look like they were in Arizona for some reason. The "mall" in North Platte has the same bullshit adobe look, must be some sort of marketing dogma.

The turn onto Highway 2, which covers the majority of the distance from Lincoln to the ridge. Cairo, the town of Egyptian street-names thought up by someone who clearly didn't know much about Egypt. The main intersection is Highway 2 and "Thebe" street.

You might have heard about the friendliness of rural Nebraskans. This, is a God-damned lie. You might have heard of the "two-fingered wave." It's an old anecdote of travelogue writers and hack on-the road reporters . It works like this; while driving past someone going the other way on a country road, you raise the middle and index fingers of your left hand (Be sure to keep them together or else you'll accidentally give the peace sign, and make sure not to give the "New York wave" LOL) about ninety degrees counter-clockwise towards the driver passing by in the other lane, up and down, real quick. Add casual nod or faint grin as desired. That's the country wave. You can look up a diagram yourself if you feel the need to.

You might have heard that country people are so gosh-darn friendly that you have to be prepared to constantly flick your left middle and index fingers in response to their greetings. This is a black falsehood. Dan and Paul gave the two-finger to almost everyone we drove passed between Grand Island and Broken Bow. Barely a third waved back. The truckers would uniformly blow their horns at our request but this was hardly compensation. No, what we encountered in the Nebraska wilderness was not promiscuous friendliness but rather thinly veiled contempt and cold courtesy. The distant icy stares of the Rushvillians, the curt businesslike manner of the gas station clerks at Bow, Thedford, Hyannis. These people clearly didn't want us to be there. Just because we openly mocked their intellectual inferiority, they treated us like dirt.

Farmland gave way to hills, towns grew further and further apart from each other, it got dark, and we still had a long ways to go.

The magazine rack at a big green C-station in Thedford had twelve different mags dedicated to hunting and none to news.

We drove, I was at the wheel, consciously darting my eyes about to keep from slipping into the oblivion of the highway. Why was I out so late last night? The sour-bloodedness of hangover was gone but I was still lethargic. And it was up to me to drive another a hundred and fifty miles with nothing but three small villages to break the monotony. The Sandhills are beautiful during the day. At night they are the most anti-human excuse for a landscape one could possibly imagine.

"There is only the highway, and that's all there's ever going to be. You people have been dead for quite some time I'm afraid. You had better get used to each other's company."

What do the nights here do to the people? The ones who live in the villages, or on the ranches, surrounded by black. The winter nights, the blizzards, stuck for days with only your immediate family for company. (Oh fuck no) Just you and the same handful of people you'll see every day while you live and die here, surrounded by the nihilism blanket of night.

Nihilism,nihilism,nihilMcNihlynihilism. It's only going to keep coming up. Get used to it.

At Hyannis I bought some manner of liquid stimulant that I had never seen or heard of before. It was in a pill-style bottle, and I thought that's exactly what it was. But what it was was about two ounces of some Red Bull like-substance. The town had a motel/bar (A saloon!) that was closed at nine P.M. Surely this was an aberration. Surely there was no other place in the continental U.S. that was so out of time.

The formula worked. I was wide awake now and able to drive the final hundred miles. The trees and shadows shimmied a bit like they will when one is artificially stimulated, not nearly as much as when one is on coke, but the effect was there.

In Gordon we ate shrink-wrapped sandwiches and it was a fucking revelation. If you, dear reader, are ever reduced to getting your meals from a gas station (and don't assume you won't be) don't be shy about hording the condiments. Mustard, mayonnaise, salsa. all plastic wrapped in air-tight packages, safer than your own refrigerator. Gas station condiments are free for a reason, you know. They're the difference between a welfare meal and a real meal. Feel free to slip yourself a few mustard sacks even if you're not buying any food. I won't tell if you won't. Long live the revolution.

After that it was back out into the night ant towards our actual destination. Rushville, the right turn at the edge of Rushville pointing towards Pine Ridge S.D., Nebraska 87, the most dangerous road in America. the odd church in the middle of the blanket, the construction zone left abandoned for the night, and we were there.

From five miles away, Whiteclay looks like a single fluorescent light beneath the scattered yellow ones of Pine Ridge. At the south end of the hamlet stands a Lakota-themed Christian mission. There were no services going on that day or the next day or the day after that. On this first trip we saw two glum, dead silent gentlemen drinking Hurricane on the porch, same thing we saw there the next day and the day after that.

Whiteclay grocery, which to their credit really is a grocery store. They sell more liquor than food of course, but so does Russ's Market in Lincoln. Arrowhead Inn, which, much to my personal chagrin is not an inn but just another dram shop. I have no idea why they call themselves an inn. People know how the money is made in Whiteclay. Nobody's going to think any more of you if you call your cirrhosis factory an inn.

Still, the name fooled Travelocity, which told me that the place was a hotel, so I was fooled too. I had told my companions that we would be spending the night here. We all had sweet visions of what kind of place this was, the screams in the night, the fifty year-old hookers walking on one broken leg. It was humiliating, letting the homies down like that.

State-Line liquor. Pure, honest, a straight line and a goal. This is where we would go, this is where we would interact with the,... residents. Here is where we would purchase, the Hurricane.

In the gravel parking lot, we were accosted by a Native (our first interaction with a Lakota, and also our lamest one.) who called himself Lewis. He asked us what we doing here, getting beer we said. Where were we from? Lincoln. Did we want any weed? No, not right now, balling on a budget you know.

He didn't seem to believe us. He said he would be glad to get us some skunk if we just got in his car with him. (Don't be racist/don't be stupid) Two or three times he repeated his offer, and who could blame him?

Why the fuck else would we be there?

Dé Máirt, Márta 20, 2007

Whiteclay part 5 (York)

We made our way to the York Wal-Mart to get a real tire change. I believe that it was Paul and Becky who tried to bring their cameras inside for sight-seeing because, hey, fucking Wal-Mart. But cameras wern't allowed inside. It violated company policy.

There is nothing inside this Wal-Mart or any other Wal-Mart that would shock you. All Wal-Marts are desinged the same, you know. Groceries on the north end, pet food at the front-south, sporting and auto goods at the south rear, etc. Everyone has been inside a Wal-Mart, everyone has been inside every Wal-Mart. This particular Wal-Mart was slightly deficiant. The lights wern't as bright, and the floors didn't shine. But there was no shocking capitalist dystopia inside, no unspeakable truth that the cameras would have revealed. So they probably have benign reasons for the no-cameras policy. Fear that they would be confused with stolen merchandise, or something.

So no evil Wal-Mart stories for you people, sorry. That wasn't the point of the trip, and it isn't the point of this series. We went beyond the interstate strip, far beyond what passes for sterility,banality, poverty, physical, cultural emptiness, drudgery, nihilism, surrender, to most people. Never mind Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is just a symptom; a major complication, to be sure, but not the disease. Never mind Wal-Mart.

Except there was this field, between Wal-Mart and the interstate, filled with trash; maybe a thousand plastic Wal-Mart sacks, maybe more, processed food wrappers, a crushed and emptied six-pack here and there. Moldering porn? Condems? Needles? probably, if we had taken the time to look. It was just that kind of a field. A field for fourteen year-olds to explore each other, sixteen year olds to drink and fight, a field for vagrants of all ages to do all of the above. It's been said that the most crime-addled spots in America are the parking lots and environs of Wal-Marts. A field for everything that doesn't happen in small towns; savage beatings, the occasional murder, teenagers making love. A doomed and blessed field, a field on the short-list for euthanization, soon to be replaced by a Lowe's or a Menards or another gas station/Burger King. A field to be paved over while there are still some vestigial corn-stalks and people left to see them and remember what their grandparents dreamed about, instead of being left to wilt into dust as the Nebraska summers start to elbow each other and the breadbasket refuses to give anymore, and the unsullied virtue of the Heartland is nothing but fertilized dust and decaying Wal-Mart Supercenters and no one will remember the tax breaks, the groundbreaking with the mayor in his hardhat and the high school band playing Hail Varsity and the kids drinking miracle potions to pass the piss-tests and secure their futures in the tire and auto department and the silly malcontents complaining about things like culture and fair wages and dignity.

We ate lunch at Runza and my hangover was more or less cured. Perhaps I was a bit over-analytical in that field.

Dé Sathairn, Márta 17, 2007

Whiteclay Part 4

The tire exploded about a mile west of Gohener. I didn't realize this right away, I was reading the paper. I only knew that we were somewhere west of Seward. I noticed that the clown car started shaking more than usual, I looked to the driver's side and saw nothing but smoke. If I remember right, I asked Dan if there was a problem. He said something along the lines of yes. He pulled the car into the median and killed the engine.

The tire looked like it had just starred in the Zubruder film. At least a dozen seperate ragged threads still connected to the wheel and forming a vaguely wheelesque shape. It continued to smoke for a good half hour. We got it on tape, it's amazing. Dan said that we had come too far to give up. This went without saying. It wasn't a question of whether to keep going or give up. It was a question of whether or not we had any choices to speak of. The trunk carried the standard equipment, a doughnut and a shitty jack. We get the joke now Detroit (you too, Tokyo), you can bring back the real tire change kits.

So my fear was that we didn't have the option of going either east or west but rather that we would be stuck forever in the no-mans land between the roadways. This was our first purgatory. We would be forced to eat roadkill, suck stagnant water out of the grass, relieve ourselves in front of hundreds of passing eyes. It could be days before a state patrolman pulled into the median for the sake of tracking down a speeder/drug runner/terrorist and maybe deign take the time to arrest us for vagrancy and deliver us back to civilization.

Me and Dan set about trying to get the old tire off and put the psuedo-spare on. Cars in the inside lane passed inches in front of us with total indifference. they had their skiing, and their Cabela's, and their seminars to go to, you see, and it was our own fault for being in their way. A straight line and a goal. Press your foot down on the gas and keep it there through all hazards. The new masculinity, it leaves something lacking. I shouted my belief that all you motherfuckers can fuck yourselves. There, that's better.

They were important people on their way to do important things, that's what they told themselves. But they wern't really the ones choosing to come within three inches of turning us into stew. They were controlled by the road. The same road that tells you to risk soiling yourself rather than make an unplanned stop, because you don't want to lose five minutes on a 36-hour trip. The same road that tells you to get gas at the first place off the interstate even though you know it's the most expensive place in whatever town you're in. the same road that tells you to keep driving, keep driving, as your eyes sink lower and lower at three in the morning, but you simply must make it to a town big enough for a Denny's. We are all controlled by the road when we are travelling, it can't be helped. Some of us manage to regain some control of ourselves when we are back in our own hometowns. Others let the road control them for their entire waking lives. The worst of us like it. They are important people on their way to do important things.

The attempt to change the tire failed. the ground was soft from snowmelt, and the jack simply sank into it every time I cranked it. I got some minor scratches on my knuckles, I bleed for you Whiteclay. I decided to call AAA. I wasn't entirely sure if they would service a car that wasn't mine, but it was the only possible way we could get out of purgatory and continue worshipping the highway.

Paul went off in search of a mile marker so that I could give our location to the operator. As of now I could only tell her that we were somewhere between Seward and York. The Nebraska department of roads claims that it has a mile marker for every mile of every state maintained highway. this is a lie. Paul walked for at least a mile in every direction and found nothing. The operator was from... somewhere. India, Malaysia. She mispronounced Seward, than she asked me if we were still in Lincoln, than she put me on hold for about ten minutes. It went on like this for some time. Our fellow travellers coontinued to whiz in front of our faces without getting into the other lane.

eventually, I recognized the white church standing next to the bridge to the east and realized that we were about a mile west of Gohener. I recognize Gohener from my frequent trips between Lincoln and my family in North Platte. It's the only village in Nebraska that's right there along the interstate. You can see the whole place from the road. Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself in a predicament similar to ours.

I relayed the information to the operator, and after some more holding and new-age muzak, she told me that a tow truck would come and change our tire for us within the next ten-fourty five minutes. I've had car trouble before, and normally this means two hours. But the tow truck driver was at the sight within half-an hour. Midwest Towing, Seward Nebraska, repay the favor the showed to Mr. Heartland and call them up if you're ever in the area and need a tow.

The sky, which had been cloudy, turned sunny while we waited. we signalled for semis to honk at us and they obliged. a man in a red truck took our hand signals as a call for help. With great skill and at great risk to himself, he negotiated his way from the right lane accross the carriageway and into the median to meet us. For reasons that arn't entirely clear, me, Dan, and Paul all walked up to meet him toghether.

He looked the O.G. Harley-davidson type. White hair and beard arranged in that lion-mane style, tattos, etc. He had clearly been partying the night before, or perhaps that morning. The smell of old liquor leeking through his pores was obvious.
He asked us if we needed any help. I spoke for the group, I took that initiative. I told him thanks but no; I had called AAA and the tow-truck was en-route. He said alright, and reentered the road with as much skill as he had left it. That was it. This was easily the nicest rural white man we would encounter on the trip. He had wasted his time for us, how sweet.

The tow-truck came, with a Seward County deputy escorting him. The cop was nice, the nicest I met and easily the nicest we would meet on the trip. He tried to gesture traffic out of the passing lane. They ignored him as if he was just another bum like us. A straight line and a goal. He cursed them with far less skill than I had. The tow-truck driver had a pnaumatic jack and changed our tire for us in about three seconds. He did not, alas, have a real tire for sale. We would have to go to York, the nearest proper town, for that.

I asked the Deputy if it would be better to take U.S. 34, which paralles the interstate some five miles to the north. I knew the answer was yes. The doughnut is not designed for high-speed travel, any idiot knows that. But I wanted to make a show of respect towards authority. He had taken the time to help us, and I have latant small-town tendencies.

The deputy said that it wuld be a good idea and suggested that we take the Beaver Crossing road to the two-lane. It was then that I realized that this man was a fucking idiot. I pride myself on my knowledge in certain nerdy subjects, and obscure Nebraska roads is one of these. I knew that the Beaver crossin road was gravel between the interstate and the two-lane, and was likely to grind the doughnut to pieces. So I told Dan to drive in the slow lane to the second exit, which was the Utica road, and take the blacktop north from there until we hit 34.

Sitting in the median purgatory, contemplating pissing in front of hundreds of strangers, this was the highlight of the trip. It would descend from amusing anecdote to utter nihilism. Lunch and repairs in York.

Whiteclay Part 3.

I knew that Saturday night was the night of the time change, but I made no adjustments for it. Call it my protest. It's fucking absurd that we should switch to Daylight Savings while it's still solar winter. There's been days that were near freezing with the sun still out at 7 P.M. It's unseemly. I pride myself on being tempered by Nebraska winters. I know better than to celebrate spring prematurely. there will be another snow yet, or at least one more cold snap. Yet the late sun gives me the urge to listen to Sublime and drink Corona. Nonsense, it's still heavy metal and Newcastle season. So I showed up at Dan's apartment an hour late to prove that society's artificial clock has no power over me. I showed up at the real 11 A.M.

Becky had brought Matzza bread. It's quite good and if you have't tried it yet you really should. Yet it didn't seem right somehow. For one thing, I was hungover, and would have rather had meat and grease. (No, the Mc'Donalds wasn't enough. It's never enough. I demand more fatty food to increase the liver damage and make me look hideous by the time I'm thirty.) For another thing, all of us except our infidel cameraman were raised Catholic.

And I for one would like to see the old Catholic/Jew rivalry come back. It's like the Nu/Ou football rivalry. It has drama, portent, romance, even a little grudging respect. The current Jew/Muslim rivalry is, by contrast, more like Nu/Cu in football. It's classless, mean-spirited, a lame echo. Watch Passion of the Christ and the room practically fills with the smell of insense and burning flesh on the stake. People don't hate like that anymore. Nowadays they drop the theatre and go straight to the naked domination. I blame America. We're so philistine with our bigotry. We don't put any flair to it at all, and we set a bad example for the rest of the world.

Oh yes, the crew consisted of myself, Dan Feuerbach, Rebecca Ankenbrand, and the infidel Paul Clark. It would have been better to bring a fellow Catholic who would pay for cigarettes without smoking them. But we needed someone who could rent a university camera, and I dropped out of J-school.

We took Dan's clown car. He says it's a 92 Corrola, but I thought that they stopped making manual transmissions in 1958. At any rate, the only people who knew how to drive a stick were Dan and myself, which is to say that I drove a stick once or twice seven or eight years ago. Some people say that it's just like riding a bike. Some people drink Bud Light. Some people cry at Extreme Home Makeover.

So I had some relearning to do as we headed south to retrieve my own car at 14th and Old Cheney. I killed the engine six times in the first six blocks, held up traffic a couple times, held up okay on south thirteenth. Nearly drove into Highway two traffic when I had to "stop" the car with this stone-age technollogy, nearly rolled backwards into an SUV at 14th and Old Cheney, and for good measure, killed the car again in the parking lot where my car sat. It was decided that I would handle the driving in the west, where things like "stopping" and "slowing down" wouldn't be as much of a problem. My stick skills would improve over the course of the trip, there is nothing I can't do after all. I would eventually be able to shift up and down without makng the car sound like a dying panther. And eventually I could drive out of parking lots after only two or three tries. But enough about my weaknesses, let's talk about society's.

I gathered my car, led the Corolla back to my apartment in T-Town, loaded my stuff, and we were off. Interstate 80 to Grand Island, Highway 2 to Ellsworth, 27 to gordon, U.S. 20 to 87, 87 to happytown.

But first, the tire went flat.

Déardaoin, Márta 15, 2007

Whiteclay Part 2

The story of the Whiteclay trip really begins for me on the night before, just as it really ends for me on the day after. I was spending a normal Saturday night out carousing and ended up at my friend's Myles's house.

Ths is important for several reasons. For one, we were playing poker while watching poker on TV. This would foreshadow a general theme of the trip, it was something that pseudo-intellectual freshmen and those of us who will always be psuedo-intellectual freshmen find hillariously absurd. Far more important were Beverly Hills Ninja, Mc'Donalds, and the alcohol.

"Beverly Hills Ninja" is one of Chris Farley's last movies and is, of course, absolutely fucking dreadful. We watched it for irony's sake. (Certainly not because we were a pack of drunks looking for an excuse to stay awake and keep drinking.) The entire crew consisted of professional sarcastics who live for opportunities to flog movies like "Beverly Hills Ninja" like it was Jim Cervezial. This is what we do, in lieu of having girlfriends and lives. (I should probably speak for myself on this.)

Yet something interesting happened. There were long streches of Beverly Hills Ninja that were so terrible, scenes that were not just unfunny, but threatened to destroy the very idea of comedy, that all of our razor tongues were left speechless. The cleverest thing anyone had to say about it was not a quip but a question. One Brandon Turner wondered aloud why Chris Farley was a ninja, and no one knew. There was no answer. The question was asked and then it hung in the air, like an unsolicited murder confession.

As intended, the movie gave us the opportunity to get very drunk and stupid, and we began to get hungry. I half-heartedly suggested De'Leon's. (The best resturant in Lincoln, if you are ever a visitor here, eat nothing else, period.) This idea quickly became a mission in search of food. But the De'Leon's in south Lincoln closes at night, which is proof that anything south of Highway 2 isn't part of the real Lincoln if nothing else is. The neighborhood Village Inn was also closed, which left...Mc'Donalds.

If it were up to me, I would have preffered to just go home and eat a box of Hamburger Helper, because I dislike Mc'Donalds. I am not a vegetarian, and have no political qualms against fast-food resturants persay, but I think that Morgan Spurlok and all the other evil veggie-socialists have given me some sort of psycho-somatic reaction to Mc'Donalds because Mc'Donalds simply tastes foul to me. I can taste the shoddiness and the bacteria and the granulated remnents of a thousand cows in each burger in a way I never noticed as a child. I really would have preffered to just eat my own food, but I went through the drive-thru with everyone else, and it's awkward to be the guy who isn't eating in a group drunk-fest, so I got the Big Mac meal.

We ate in the parking lot of Myles's apartment, without ketchup or salt, throwing our wrappers onto the ground and letting them blow away to desecrate whatever piece of nature they chose to. We were beasts, eating food not fit for beasts. It was the beginning of several days of drinking too much, eating badly, offending God and nature,and seeking visceral experience with no intention of contributing to society. (Rogues, ruffians, and rascallions.)

I was too drunk to drive, so I left my car parked in the distant wastelands of 14th and Old Cheney and let my travelmate Dan drive me home. He claimed to be good to drive, and so he was. Was he technically legal to drive? Never mind.

The night before set the table for Whiteclay in several ways. It complicated our departure for one. This was the night of the time change, so me and Dan woke up an hour later than we had planned to. Things were furthur complicated by the fact that I had to walk to his apartment on the other side of downtown and than get a ride to fourteenth and Cheney and then back too my apartment to load my stuff into his car. Because of this and the great median adventure which I will discuss tomorrow, we ended up rolling into the Gordon/Rushville/Pine Ridge area at least three hours later than we were planning too. Last but not least, Dan and I, the only two drivers on the trip, spent the entire day hungover and sleep-deprived. This was how I would experience every conscious moment of the trip.

Expect no mercy if your car breaks down on the interstate, and never drink Hurricane Malt Liquor if you're the kind who likes to keep your emotions to yourself. Enough for now.

Whiteclay, Part 1.

I'll start with the end, maybe that can give me some grand theme or overiding idea to work with.

The real end of Whiteclay came when I woke up at 1 P.M. today. I had slept for fifteen hours. It wasn't until than that I realized just how draining the trip had been. The driving, the drinking, the irregular meals, the sudden waves of disgust, pity, rage. We came home last night around seven. I knew I was tired, but I still thought that I could accomplish something before I rested. Start writing my account, do some homework, pick up some groceries, maybe even go to some gathering... again.

This was absurd. I browsed the internet for a couple of hours, mostly glaring at the screen. Then I had some Hamburger Helper for dinner. I ate the entire box. A couple of nights ago, I had ramen and a bannana for supper, and a hurricane had swept the nutriants from my body. Than I fell asleep at 10:30. I collapsed, with all of my clothes on, just like the night before. Sleeping on a private bed in total silence for the first time in five days. I spent at least two hours today lingering in bed, enjoying the the beauty of the silence, the clenliness of a real shower.

But why have I spent the last two paragraphs talking about myself? "This is how we live" You got your degrees and philosophies? Yes, I had running water, clean blankets, and some means to feed myself for the entire time. No internet, country people who didn't find you clever, oh how draining, oh how you suffer, you had better indulge yourself, stay in bed past noon.

Well, what else am I supposed to do? I'm the one writing this. Sorry Warren, sorry Robert, I can't really write about you, that's a skill lost to my generation. No, I'm afraid you can only be examples, kinds, types, symbols. You don't sleep in burned out shacks with no plumbing or electricity, you only represent it. we have our degrees and philosophies, but we don't live the life.

But that's what life is now Robert, not the degrees if you can get them, but certainly the philosophies. Be clever, charming, quick-witted. We have discarded your superstitions, not because wer's more rational than our ancestors, but because modern life is already intangible enough. You have sat in Whiteclay for years, waiting for your turn to die in the dirt from undiagnosed cirrohsis or diabetes, wrestling with your nightmares. (I know how Hurricane blows those in) You know that the modern world ignores you and passes you by. But you have no idea how much, none at all.

Dé hAoine, Márta 09, 2007

Whiteclay preview.

We're going to Whiteclay, Nebraska for Spring Break. Me and three other people, each with our own purposes. None of us have a noble or moral reason. There are no shocking facts to expose that haven't already been exposed. You know about Whiteclay sure you do. Right accross the South dakota line from the Pine Ridge reservation, four liquor stores and a pawn shop. Capricious pawn shop owners who know their Adam Smith and don't feel the least bit of shame, thank you very much. Natives who are being actively ignored by the society that conqured them and have chosen surrender over charging the windmills of studied cultural indifference. Local police who look the other way so long as the natives don't show their faces in Gordon or Rushville.

Yes, you know all about Whiteclay. There have been several journalistic expose's. All of them have revealed that, guess what, the place is a shithole. As for me, I do not seek to expose anything or shame anybody. I seek not to construct pity-party personal profiles or give tribal leaders and local whites another sounding board to scream at each other. Me and my comrades are going to crawl right into the gutter with the people. We will drink Hurricane and Thunderbird and dance in the noonday sun and listen to out-of-date rap music right along with them. You may find this distasteful, very well, just what are you going to South Padre for than?

As for me, I seek to discover some deep,semi- hidden truth about the rural plains. I aim to reveal the nihilism behind all the God, country, and football nonsense. Not just in Whiteclay, not just in the western wasteland, but throughout the entire Midwest. Obsession with loyalty and tradition is based on fatalism and psychosexual submission. At the heart of America lies nothing at all, only a desire to deny one's own personality and acheive immortality by crawling into a black-and-white photograph and holding still. So I guess I do have something to expose, just more pretentious than what everyone else tries to expose.

Coming with me will be Mr. Paul Clark and his exceptional video skills, I'm sure we can produce something that can entertain the public. Ms. Rebecca Ankenbrand will be coming to give us all a reason to maintain our sanity in public. Mr. Dan Feuerbach is the amoral bastard who came up with this idea. He will surely get us all killed with his lack of respect for the downtrodden, but friends are friends you know.

I plan on keeping a journal of my thoughts, feelings, and observations. I hope to put these feelings toghether into a coherent narrative when I return. It will surely be groundbreaking. It'll make your akward teenage children want to be me.

We leave on Sunday, and I'm afraid that this is the last you'll hear from me before than. If you didn't already know that Whiteclay has no internet access, you are profoundly stupid. I'll be keeping my journal in shorthand, and if I should "disappear", anyone in the area should keep an eye out for a yellow legal pad covered in chicken scratches.

Yippee-Ki-Ye motherfuckers.