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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Story

I wanted to share an experience I had last night from the place I stayed, Mountain Home, Idaho. It is, through-and-through, an American town. A couple grocery stores, a high school, a bunch of gas stations, some RV parks (NOT a disparaging reference), and a handful 'necessity stores'- bridal, auto, insurance, bar, etc. Mostly along the main strip of road running through town. Just off of it are the typical suburban houses, and the further out you get, the land opens up exponentially.

As the sun started to set, I took a 4-5 mile ride in flip-flops and mesh shorts out of town. Nowhere in particular. The air was really still, dense clouds lit up like fluffy white orbs from the low-lying sun, the sky was deep blue, the air was dry and smelled like the mountains, everything was golden.

I rode past the bridal store as it closed, and next to it a group of drifting, bored high school girls flatly shouted "I like your bike!" with hoping to illicit some sort of response from me. I went over the railroad tracks, away from downtown, onto the immediate suburbs of Mountain Home. In this place, the homes were built in different shapes from different time periods and are painted in different colors. A little brother and sister ran in giddy circles around a whirring sprinkler; their mom, who wore a pink t-shirt with a beaded decoration on the front, her brown hair put into a hasty ponytail, sat watching on the front steps. She looked both content and weary. I rode by, wondering how much houses were worth around here.

The road grew narrower as I rode further from town, my bike lane/shoulder disappeared, and the asphalt got rough. I was now past the original neighborhoods that were built 50, 60 years ago, and had hit the newer subdivisions to accommodate Mountain Home's more recent inhabitants. I passed street after street of ubiquitous grey houses, and decide to loop into one. In the driveways, a beat up Chevy Nova here, a Corvette there. A 30-something woman walked her pitbull-like dog, smoking a cigarette. On the front lawn of another grey home, a latino family hurriedly loaded up their Chrysler minivan for what looks like soccer practice. Even though the homes look ubiquitous, the people who live in this neighborhood are real, different, of all walks of life.

Finally, I ride even further out of town and the yellow line disappears. Aside from a seemingly abandoned housing division that might have gone broke (strewn pieces of lumber lay around half-framed houses), homes along the road become irregular blips in a sea of dry yellow grass. Occasionally, there is a small ranch, or a weathered, trailer-like home. Through the windows, I can see old lamps, stuffed animals, a grandmother. Next to these properties, infinite lengths of chicken wire fence hold spotted cows or goats, as they roam expansive and muddy lots of land. It's all beautiful.

I ride back, past the housing development that ran out of money, past the subdivision, past the older homes, past all these people that live in this town. My life is drastically different from many of these people, but I still feel an intense kinship with all of them. We all live in the same land. We all have heartbeats, needs, feelings, beliefs. We all should be able to carry a conversation with one another, regardless of where we come from, and have a semblance of some respect for how we differ and how we are alike. When George W. Bush addresses "my fellow Americans", he means all of us: far leaning liberals in cosmopolitan cities like myself as well as those living out on the fringe of Mountain Home, Idaho.

In all of your decisions and thoughts, political and otherwise, think of yourself and those thousands of miles from you. Understand the whole American picture, the spectrum of how we differ and why. Disrespect and obliteration of what we fear seem to be our country's new currency, and if it continues, we'll all go down. To step away from this mindset will make our country more rational, more efficient, more unified.

Don't change your beliefs. Simply look outside yourself and understand we're all in this together. That's truly democratic.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Jake... I really love your writing and your photos. You've sent me on a bike and build "trip." I've been following our route via googlemap and remember every twist and turn in the road. I'm hoping to do something like it again... I'm thinking it might be fun to do cross-country by small airplane. I'm working on getting my license. I hope the rest of your trip is spectacular, i know it will be

all my best

mike desmarais