At first I did it because I loved to travel. Why not? Gas was cheap at 39-cents a gallon for hi-test and my champagne ’72 Continental drank deeply. The national speed limit was 85 and some highways in the sticks didn’t have speed limits at all. I rolled it up to at least an even hundred. Minimum. The world was big, even this dumb ol’ country seemed huge. No GPS, just foldy-maps. Or you actually stopped the car and asked someone.
“Where the hell am I?” It was a valid question.
And no cellphones, just landlines. Shit, calling long-distance was still kind of a big deal. There were not identical Wal-Marts and Best-Buys and Starbucks in each and every town, so everything from one road to the next felt new, unspoiled, uncharted and ripe. Better still, all of this meant people were different from town-to-town. Everyone wasn’t repeating the same nationally agreed-upon catchphrase ingrained by the identical cable TV channels and conglomerate-owned newspapers.
God, do I sound nostalgia-drunk? I’m not. I know the world wasn’t perfect and I actually don’t think it’s gotten worse. The ratio of saints-to-asswipes is about the same now as it was then: too many asswipes but still outnumbered by saints or at least the harmless. Ah. But you know what? I do miss that world. But I’m not drunk. I’m hungover. Today, the gleaming, glowing today gave me a hangover. There’s too much stuff. I’m old.
Sales comes easily to me. My words are easy and plentiful. Each phrase a pin stuck into a map and I lead my poor lost customers out of the dark woods of ignorance and irresponsibility along a high road towards satisfaction and security. People want to buy from me and that’s good because I like making people do what I want them to do. I know what they need even if they don’t and I help them see that. When I am done, they are glad there was someone looking out for them even if they were too blind, selfish or foolish to see the shortcomings of their world as clearly as I do. How do I do this?
I love them. Love is the key to everything. So is fear.
There are only two forces in the universe: love and fear. You can fake either one and you can avoid either one but only for a while. Don’t ask me how I know this. Ask yourself how you know this.
Perhaps you think I am being ironic or disingenuous and maybe you imagine I have a shark’s smile. Or perhaps you believe that I’m some burned-out motormouthed Willy Loman, desperately fanning the dead embers of a dream. Again, you’d be way off. I’m rich enough. I’m plenty happy. My wife loves me and I love her. My kids are nothing special – just regular kids – but the sun itself rises and sets on them as far as I’m concerned and it pains me to be out here with the concrete streaming beneath my wheels. It makes me feel cold as a man should when the sun is so distant, like one of the icy planets I’ve seen on the cable science shows.
Still, I stay on the road. I put my hands on the wheel and I look down the highway and I say, “I know this. This is what I do.” Off I go and I make the sale.
My car is a dull, streamlined thing that runs on gasoline and electricity. It’s called some made-up word which I can’t remember right now. It has a little flat TV in the dash that shows where I am on a map. The radio stations don’t fade in and out from state to state – I get the radio uninterrupted from a satellite that orbits the earth. Supposedly it also has fifty-zillion airbags that will all explode at once in the event I get in a wreck and then I’ll be safely cocooned in white pillows, maybe even unaware. Maybe I’ll even go to sleep for a little while.
More and yet more photos from the best curry-scented motel in northern New Mexico, The King’s Rest of Santa Fe.
Text and images © Andrew Auten – All Rights Reserved.