this is part of rae's journal - she rites as we drive!!!
Saturday, September 25, 2004
37 days until the election! We rise at 5 a.m. and get on the road. I finish reading Revelations, which we began reading because we figured that since several Christians we have spoken with have talked about Armageddon, we may as well go directly to the source to learn about it. After reading it, we’re still confused- we haven’t seen any Satanic dragons, angels trumpeting doom, and our disaster preparedness skills have definitely improved over the last 2000 years! It was also interesting to read about how no one seemed to be totally innocent of the Lord’s wrath, and even after the plagues and killing, only those who were pure and good were allowed into the glistening divine city of Jerusalem, stating that "sinners" still abounded! We put the New Testament aside and read poems written by women writing about women’s absence from the cannon instead. A welcome change.
Our first stop is at the Red Lion Casino where there is a Starbucks and free fast internet where I get stats on Iraq and the US. We talk with a Democratic Michiganite Kerry-doubter in the parking lot. We cross the Nevada-Utah border at midday (accounting for the hour we move forward), and stop to crunch around the salty ground. We meet a woman moving to Colorado and she gives us a $20 donation in exchange for some bumper stickers for her and her mom. Sam also met a woman from Australia who votes in Arizona and some other eccentric folks who were supportive of the truck.
We drove into Salt Lake City and stopped at a gas station and then at the Firestone repair shop to see about getting the cigarette lighter fixed. We met a woman who was excited about our "Pink Slip Bush" tank tops and despised the Bush regime. She talked about Cheney and Halliburton and all the lies that Bush has been telling us. We spoke with a young guy about the electrical problem and he tipped us off to checking to see if the stereo was working- that would indicate a blown fuse. An interesting moment was when his co-worker came over and said that Firestone doesn’t work on electrical for box trucks- he obviously knew what vehicle we were driving. We went back out to the parking lot and met two young ladies who took photos of Sam and I flashing peace signs by the pink side of the truck. We replaced the fuse and were on our way- with recharging capabilities oncemore! (and oh goddess do we need electrical outlets because we have EIGHT machines that require energy!).
We drove around the corner to the large mall and parked in front of the mall entrance to repaint the Iraq death total. We spoke with two young women- one 20 and one 18- neither of which were going to be voting in the upcoming election. She was going to an eight month program to be a nurse’s assistant and it seemed like nothing mattered to her at all. And yet she did stand and talk with us. One woman was formerly Mormon and very obese. When we asked her about what was important in her life, whether we should go to war, how she would feel if she was drafted, etc., she replied indiscriminately, "I don’t care." It was the kind of numb "whatever" that comes from someone who is dulled by oversatiation- like she had eaten so much popcorn culture and saturated fat lies that she was a round onion of apathy. I imagined how it would be to peel off the layers, and what it would take to see all the love and light inside of her jump out. The other woman was more interested and wanted to know about Codepink- she had that opening in her- we could see it in her eyes.
Sam painted the new death toll onto the truck: 1043. Then a woman in a car came up and told us we had to leave because we were harassing people in the parking lot, and we weren’t allowed to be parked there. She initially stated that she was with Security, and later that she was going to get security. She said to Sam, "What am I supposed to tell my children when they see this truck?" Sam replied that she would be happy to talk with her children. The woman obnoxiously declined the offer and stated that she was going to get security because we weren’t allowed to be there. Sam asked if this was public property rhetorically and pointed out the First Amendment rights. "Looks like you’re the one who is harassing me!" Sam exclaimed, and told her to go get security and find out what the rules really were. The woman ushered her husband to go and they left.
Once back on East I-80, we drove to Wyoming, where we stopped for gas in Rock Springs and at a rest stop with a beautiful trail to an onlook. At the rest stop we spoke with an Asian-Canadian truck driver who was very pro-peace. We slept at the Dogwood Rest Stop where it was very cold and the stars were pecked out of the still night sky by crows. We slept under this punctured atmospheric tent, curled in sleeping bags until the sun was long out in the sky.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
We drove into Laramie, Wyoming in the morning, and found the town to be quiet. We went to two independent coffee shops and met with much truck support, but didn’t have any notable conversations. What was notable was Sam’s foamed orange juice and my soapy muffin. And the coffee shop was playing Manu Chao’s "Mentiras" which talks about the lies of the American government and how we didn’t follow through with Kyoto; it also featured a community flyers board with lots of interesting events, including a film festival of truth about bush and war movies.
We drove onward and stopped at the rest area in Cheyenne where a man gave us the finger and then went wacko with hand gestures in his red pick up truck. Sam dropped me off at the Sierra Trading Post, where I spoke with several young women about the importance of voting. I talked about how women had died for us to have the right to vote, and a woman at the cash register said that many people have died so that we can vote. In the parking lot of the antique mall, Sam met a retired Coast Guard gentleman who had seen Sam in her truck in Wisconsin on her way to the RNC. He said that he passed her on the road and honked. He was glad to see her there in his home state of Wyoming. While Sam was talking to him, a middle aged white woman screamed, "What about the twin towers?!" Sam tried to encourage her to stop and talk, but she continued to scream as she walked away, saying that Sam was not an America, should not be in America, and is a disgrace for forgetting about the twin towers. The old man said that she wasn’t going to talk, that people like her just want to yell. When Sam returned to the Sierra Trading Post, she met with a young couple from Boulder, Colorado, who talked about how scared they were about the upcoming election. They stated that last month 15,000 new voters were registered in Boulder, which has a population of around 100,000, composed of a lot of college kids. They said that four-five times as many people were registered to vote in Colorado for this election.
We stopped next at the information center rest stop in the panhandle portion of western Nebraska. There, we spoke with Carolyn, who runs the information kiosk. She asked Sam where we were going and Sam said that we were going to Ohio to register voters. She thought that was great, and then said that she thought that Bush was awful, but that she hated Kerry because his wife was a foreigner. Sam was shocked. Carolyn said that Teresa Heinz-Kerry spoke English with an accent and that she hated foreigners and doesn’t think that they should be in this country. Sam pointed out that her belief is prejudice, which Carolyn agreed to, and that we are all foreigners unless we are Native Americans. Sam said that maybe Carolyn doesn’t like Teresa because she is a strong, outspoken woman and doesn’t let men tell her what to do. Carolyn replied that Teresa was quoted on the TV news as saying, in response to a group organizing donations of clothes to send in Florida, that those people could "just go naked." I pointed out that the media is often biased towards Bush and gives Bush (and the RNC) far more coverage and air time than Kerry (and the DNC). Carolyn agreed. She then said, though, that this country is not ready for a strong woman behind the president in the White House. Sam pointed out along the way that Laura Bush must be a strong first lady to be married to a former cocaine addict and alcoholic, but that Laura’s behavior was offensive when she didn’t allow the Poet Lauriate, who had written a poem about peace/ anti-war, to speak. Sam continued to talk about Kerry’s strong points- purple hearts, health care, jobs, etc.- and Teresa’s history and accomplishments, although we forgot to mention Teresa’s linguistic mastery. Carolyn still had trouble with the idea that Teresa was a foreigner, and said that it was Bush’s fault that so many foreigners were here, while she also admitted that her great grandmother had been a foreigner. Ultimately, Carolyn agreed to a lot of what was said, and ended up apologizing for speaking out so harshly at first.
In the interim, another female traveler, Brenda, who was passing through the aisles of brochures, chimed in that we need strong women in the white house. I went outside, grabbed the video camera out of the truck, and filmed Brenda. Brenda is from east Iowa, originally from Tennessee, and said that she could not stand what Carolyn was saying about foreigners and accents. In her opinion, no one doesn’t have an accent- It’s all relative. She said that strong women need to be in politics, that she’s not afraid to see a strong woman in the White house, but she thinks that women can be their own best enemies by fearing strong women. She said she raised her daughters to be strong and independent and that the best way to empower young women to feel politically capable is through building their self-confidence. After I filmed her, the old stodgy white male janitor came over and told me I had to put away the camcorder because it wasn’t legal to film there. Sam interjected that wasn’t this public propery? and where did it say that we couldn’t film? He threatened to call the cops and walked away. Brenda was equally as horrified by his ignorant audacity as we were, and called after him, saying that this is how Americans start talking to each other, and that conversations lead to peace. Sam and I pursued the janitor into the rest area and asked him why it was that he thought we couldn’t have a camcorder there, pointing out that it wasn’t posted, but it was posted that dogs must be on a leash at all times, and we saw two dogs freely romping around on the grass. He said it was against the rules and threatened again, three times, to call the state troopers. It was one of those "So call them." (Sam) "I will." (Janitor). "So call them." (Sam) "I will." (Janitor). "So call them." (Sam) "I will." (Janitor). Clearly, the janitor was not going to call the cops, and he put his hand in my face, gesturing at the camera, and Sam said he could not touch us, and he stormed off into the men’s bathroom, saying "You better do as you’re told.": a pathetic retreat. We were almost ready to follow him in, a la Michael Moore style. We turned to Carolyn and asked if he spoke to her that way, to which she affirmed his awful behavior and said she was friends with his wife, not him. Poor wife, I thought. Carolyn apologized again for her words earlier. And we were off, waving goodbye.
Once back on the road, we saw how the landscape dramatically shifted: Wyoming’s red rocks and scrub brush, dotted with forests and set against tall, austere snow capped mountains in the distance, and purple skies, all this was no more. What sprawled out before us now was a flat grasslands occasionally giving way to small creamy rock formations. The dramatic overtones of tall, looming red clay cliffs and magnificent yellow flowers, the neon intensity of sunburned mornings and wind engraved skies, all this fell into the pale green and canary watercolor of Nebraska. Yesterday we soared through the wild crisp lands that held the terrible joys, the painful wonders, the tremendous sorrows of Yom Kippur. We fasted and I watered the grassy soil with my salty grief across from the cliff’s edge, and confided the story of the desert.
Now, calm, book on tape, and a surge of energy, as is natural after coming through a storm, or a great wind, or after closing the Book, as it is written, and sealed. Nebraska feels like a Monday, the beginning of the ordinary, the settling into the middle, the caress of filial love. Is this what they mean by heartland? Not the impassioned high rockies or the powerful seas, and not the Southern pines or the Texan bigness, and not the southwest desert with its wild cliffs and sharp, pointed forgiveness. No, the heartland is this flat place of prairie grasses, this soft womb of cotton clouds and spongy earth; kelp-like strips of vegetables and cornflower blue sea skies.
Later, at a gas station while pouring hot water, I meet an Iowan man who tells me that out beyond the strips of grassland that line Eisenhower’s interstate there are canyons. Flatlands can be deceptive, even if these alleged canyons are not so big in the grand scheme of the landscape. At the same gas state, we encounter Brenda again- what are the chances of that? She heads off to a motel, and we get back on the road, but not before talking with Jim, a young guy with a felony on his record who is upset that he can’t vote and has serpent spirits inside him.
We drive and listen to The Red Tent and I knit and we stop at a rest stop to sleep. It is grassy and cool.
Monday, September 27, 2004
We arise at 7 a.m. and get on the road bound for Omaha. In Omaha we go to Wild Oats, which proves to be an eventful grocery and "pink slip bush" expedition. The Wild Oats employees are as succulently poignant as their lengthy smoothie list: I talk with a female employee in the medicine and cosmetics section who helps me buy ear candles and tells me about how eager she is to get bush out of office. She says that she is happy to meet me because I remind her that she needs to register to vote soon, since she recently moved to Nebraska. On the next aisle, I meet Tree: a woman whose face is brimming over with laughter in the form of her curvaceous wrinkles which spiral out into thick dreadlocks that drape over fine boned shoulders. She is originally from Asheland, Oregon, comes from a Jewish background, and works at a well-known vegetarian restaurant in Omaha. She and I start talking about the upcoming election and initially she tells me that she’s going to vote for Nader, who she voted for in the last election. She tells me about a book she read called The Franklin (?) Case which is about how the Bushs were involved in satanic activities and childhood kidnappings that took place in Iowa and Washington, D.C. She tells me that sometimes she just wants to leave the country, because it is going in the wrong direction; she thinks of going to New Zealand or Canada, or packing up her four kids and driving to Mexico in her home-altered school bus. I reveal that I too want to go to New Zealand, but I also start talking about how I don’t think that all hope is lost and that I have a great deal of respect for Kerry, and I list many of the reasons why he appeals to me, including his valor in speaking out against Vietnam after coming home with three purple hearts, his views on education and healthcare, and his promise for raising minimum wages and addressing the economic issues this country is facing. I talk about Teresa’s strength and my desire to see a strong First Lady in the White House, and I use Sam’s line about how I guess Laura Bush must be strong to endure being the wife of a former cocaine addict and alcoholic. I talk about the 22 million women who didn’t vote in the last election and how crucial it is that we vote this time. She says oh and that she’ll look into it further, and we exchange information, stories, and dreams, and I find out that she’s parked next to the truck so we walk out together to get codepink gear. In the grocery line, we have a conversation with the clerk, who tells us about