First thing tomorrow morning I head out on US Route 83 travelling by car with my uncle for an extended road trip. 83, known to some as the road to nowhere, started out as a north-south route used by cattlemen to drive their stock and follow the pastures as the seasons changed. Where the route intersected with east-west railroads they would load fattened stock onto trains to be shipped to the cities for slaughter. Today the route has declined and is just a mere backwater when compared to other north-south arteries such as I35 or I25 so it suits the purposes of this trip.
This journey will be more a labour of love than anything else. A seeking of out (perhaps) an America that I dreamt of in childhood; the prairie, the wide open spaces, cowboys, Indians, horses. Pictures built upon with my love of cinema and a wish to make one last journey with the uncle who would drift in and out of my life during my youth as he passed through the family home in between his aviation work in the USA.
Recently he’s been diagnosed with cancer, three different types, and has elected to not take any treatment. I’d been considering making a road trip like this for over three years, ever since hearing a BBC radio documentary about 83. My uncle’s diagnosis seemed like the opportunity for the two of us to combine a journey together before he becomes too ill, to spend time together reminiscing as well as discussing the future, to shoot the breeze, drink some beers and just have an adventure. This won’t necessarily be easy for either of us as we both tend to be loners however these sort of things happen rarely in life, our time here is finite and this feels to me as if it’s one of those chances that mustn’t be missed.
My intention: to document this as both an inner and outer journey. I want to experience the landscape, to meet locals along the road and see what stories they may share, to shoot portraits, video, audio and write. Beyond that I can’t say, I’ll trust whatever comes forward and try to work with it. In all I’ll have about 10 days – so not a great deal of time. For many reasons this isn’t going to be easy.
I’ve spent many months with the intention to kick start my mojo, something that I’ve not been finding very easy. My professional life has changed since I moved into the world of teaching full time in academia. I have the good intention to shoot but struggle to find time. I doubt my own professional value because I feel I no longer shoot enough or with my former determination. I lack the confidence to shoot as I once did purely because I don’t do it. So it all runs around in circles – my that’s far better than it being linear in direction.
So fate has brought me to a new juncture. I’m sitting in the business lounge of United Airlines in Heathrow Terminal 2 awaiting my flight to Houston then an internal up to San Antoni. I’ve eaten breakfast, drunk coffee and am contemplating a vodka martini. My uncle and I have chosen to may a 3 week road trip from Texas towards North Dakota following US Route 83 that follows the old drovers route established by cattle ranchers as they moved stock from north to south seasonally following the pastures. This may be called a road to nowhere but I’m hoping to be led somewhere. Let’s see where it leads and what I can manage to generate on the way.
Assorted medications in a paper bag, each in a different package emblazoned with a unique design. Instruction leaflets warn of contra-indications, whether or not to use during pregnancy, time of day to take, if on an empty stomach or not. Treatment of differing pain is key and the key unlocks the door of perception. Losers beware, this is not a place for the feint of heart.
Overnight the wind moved. Now it became ‘cierzo’ and that heralds change.
All day I watched the thunderheads build and their associated storms blotted out patches of hinterland, at times stealing the vistas of the distant high sierras.
Then in early evening the light changed causing a steely grey darkness to descend. The temperature plummeted whilst the oppressive air dissipated. Dark cloud rolled up the valley and it brought the scent of rain flooding into my nostrils.
With the deep, rolling thunder the house trembles. Within a moment everything is rivulets of rain water and the chill air makes me shiver.
It comes in, slowly at first, but it moves in waves and it’s impossible to resist. Just like the ocean’s movement it draws you inwards and then further away. It feels as though it’s playing with you as a cat does with the prey it’s caught but not yet decided to kill.
In then out with a pause in between. It’s akin to an organism breathing however the fear level rises with each fresh cycle.
A tender allegory about impossible love, madness and solitude.
There always has to be a starting place for ideas that may grow into projects and these words seem to be just that this time around.
The Revista Ojos Rojos blog led me to this article about the publication of Wim Wender’s book Written in the West, Revisited that will be available from July 2015. This has led me to contemplating the impact that the visuals from films such as Paris, Texas (Wenders), Lost Highway (Lynch), The Last Wave (Weir), Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
Although bleak these places hold a compelling attraction for me. They always have done. There seems to be nothing whilst at the same time something. A vast emptiness devoid of people but dotted with evidence of human habitation in the form of buildings, signs, roads, vehicles.
A sense that things rarely happen. That I can get lost. Be unknown. Have no past and no future just be present.