East is East 11 May 2009
I left Los Angeles on April 29th to begin my long, meandering, journey towards the Atlantic. Meandering is key here because my planned route involves several deviations from a single-minded east-bound trajectory. Since I’ve long embraced deviance, these excursions didn’t seem like a big deal. What are a few hundred extra miles when the trip is going to clock in at 15,000?
For weeks, my most recent road trip companion had been describing my east bound journey this way: “you’re going backwards.” My backwardness took us to the Canyonlands and the Spiral Jetty so there’s not really much to complain about.
It also took us to what has to be the whitest place on the planet, northern Utah. In Brigham City, we ate what has to be the whitest pie on the planet, banana cream.
This slice was the epitome of pale food: the crust was baked, but not browned in the slightest; the custard lacked a defining color; the slightly unripe banana slices were yellow mainly by contrast; the whipped cream was as white as, well, milk. The pie tasted of comforting blandness, not bad, just a little dull.
I know there are some who will refuse to acknowledge that I am homeward-bound until the Clubman is heading down that metaphorical sunrise highway, and I apologize to all of you for delaying my return to the City. I’ve heard the place isn’t the same without me, but I beg your indulgence for a few more weeks and can assure you that my extra time on the road will produce a series of worthy anecdotes.
Just yesterday, for example, I was eating lunch while sitting in the plaza of the Salt Lake City Library, designed by Moshe Safdie. (I left my camera battery in the hotel; this is a Flickr photo).
It was a pleasant enough spot; the sun was shining and my sandwich and root beer were tasty. For a while there was a homeless guy keeping me company, but otherwise the plaza was empty even though the library was open.
I ate half my sandwich contentedly and then twisted off the cap from my long-necked soda bottle. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a cop appeared. With a blond brush cut, mesh cap, bulging arms, and pimples, he looked like a member of a junior swat team. He walked directly to my table and leaned in to take a close look at my soda, lifting his mirrored sunglasses to read the label. “Root beer, very good,” he stated as he straightened up and briskly walked away.
I looked around the empty plaza and realized how many surveillance cameras there were. Had the cop really been monitoring my activity? Had he been waiting until I opened my bottle in order to catch me flagrantly drinking a carbonated beverage in a public place? Had he seen me jay-walk when I crossed the street to get to the plaza? Was he reading the emails I was sending from my phone? This is why very clean places filled with very white people make me nervous.
For the first time on my road trip I felt homesick for New York.