Dooby's Road (revised)

Prose, including snippets (mini-memoirs).
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mnaz
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Dooby's Road (revised)

Post by mnaz » April 3rd, 2010, 6:12 pm

Back on the edge of the world. Black Rock country; the radiant, waterless sea. Energized plane. Approaching the gypsum outfit at Empire. Empire! . . . a dust-encrusted mining outpost. Named in perfect sun-demented satire. Midday heat cooks the sullen flank of Selenite Range; ominous, dark tuff, utterly barren and beaten. On the horizon lay the beginning; mouth of radiance. Stop at the store in Empire; stock up . . . ice, booze, cheese, water. More water. Let’s not dig for it out there like a desert rat; not yet anyway. Seven miles to Gerlach, length of half a major city and you won’t see another vehicle. The tiny town appears over the next rise, humble and defiant as ever; a smattering of green under a wall of pale granite. Down a subtle grade to the tracks; radiance grows in the windshield. Across the tracks and veer left. Bruno’s place isn’t far. How is he? You haven’t seen the ornery, congenial frontier baron for two years. When did time vanish? Gerlach is a seven-hundred mile drive. Poor excuse.

Duck out of a dazzling oven into a dark cave with a couple of gambling machines and cold beer. Sweet oasis before send off. They all stop here: ranch hands, railroaders and miners, sun-crazed four-wheelers, exiled poets, absurd pilgrims; even speed demons. A jet car photo hangs beside Bruno’s bar, signed by the driver. In 1997 Andy Green of the U.K. sampled Bruno’s legendary ravioli and set the land speed record on the playa—763 miles per hour in the Thrust SSC (supersonic car). The boom knocked a shot glass off the bar . . . “Thanks for the ravioli. Keep the playa in good shape.” Obsession versus desert. The Black Rock effortlessly devours such folly; all manner of absurdity.

Hundred degrees at noon. Bruno is around, but not in, so back into the blinding heat. Should have re-stocked the jerky cache at Empire. Gerlach has four bars, but no store. . . A few miles north you find a street sign on the left, “Guru Rd,” and a rocky path into the sage and talus slopes. Take the road. Turns out Gerlach was home to a guru, the late Dooby Williams, who had a vision, or several. So he finagled some land from the Bureau of Land Management and scraped out a crude road, whereupon he built his vision. Or several. Guru Road. Must be a guru behind every mountain range in Nevada: poker-faced maven of the perfect bluff.

On Dooby’s Road you grind along hardscrabble terrain and ponder peculiar exhibits built with stacked rock and sticks. The trail is lined with hundreds of engraved and painted flat stones, medium of choice, each inscribed with some sort of tribute, or idiosyncratic bit of wisdom, or Zen goof. No one takes it too seriously, yet you might get stuck somewhere. At high noon the “Sagebrush Net Work” is good for a little shade—an octagonal hovel stood up on weathered, gray poles, overlaid with hog wire and sage thatching and wrapped by an odd sort of stringy net (work). On each side except the door a rectangle is cut in the stringy net and framed by the plastic face of an old TV set—Sylvania, Zenith and such. A TV antenna juts from the roof, one of those 1960s aluminum trees, and a flat rock inside reads: “To change channel, turn head.” Dial the side canyons. Or waterless sea. Poetry on each channel, and a rickety wicker chair in the middle. You savor the rake of raw breeze, see things in the horizon you never saw, exaggerated by old TV frames. You bought some time.

In a shabby hut on the fringe, the intoxication of pure light framed by plastic teevees, you found Walter Cronkite’s face on a rock—picked it up and there he was, reporting. But you get the last word here. And make it heavy; don’t fuck around—some hopeless abstraction. Like religion . . . “Speak your mind, ye faithful! But lose the End of Days. Linear faith runs to nonlinearity; prism and curve of cosmos. No factional debt charged to the collective please” . . . Okay, not bad. Preaching to the saltbush. . .“My friends, religion is beyond church pews; more like compulsion itself. In fact war and poverty are religion. Canonized millennia ago. Sacred to the species." . . . Okay, enough. The guru gets the last word. Plenty more engraved ravings on the trail, but first a little bourbon. Watch the limitless desert beamed through an old Zenith set.

Have a little fun with old teevees framing the Dipper and other celestial sheen at 1 AM, passed out on the wicker chair, adrift in the glow of an all-night Dragnet marathon . . . “Listen and listen good, mister. Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb. . . But I give them direction! . . . Mister you couldn’t give directions to the men’s room.” Narrative glitch. Doubtful if Detective Friday could give rest room directions from a strange cell either, but he had a point. Everything was the domino theory—give an inch; grab a mile. Let ‘em have Vietnam, and you’re slaving in some rice paddy. Let the tokers have a little grass, and soon they’re acid-crazed dogs with murder and rape in their twisted eyes. It got a little nuts, the dominos. And why not? Our own greed/fear matrix pointed back at us, in absurd paranoia. Then again, we have that nasty track record, so yes, lock up the potheads; don’t take any chances with the vicious brutes.

Great. Satiric dissent even in your sleep. In your chair with the TV on, under the ghostly, galactic glow. “But what are you doing about it?”—The Activist demands. Doing? What can mass do about gravity? Or pebbles about a wall? The Activist, with pebbles of mass compunction; rabid badger in a sweater. “You’re part of the problem.” Likely. And Gandhi probably forgot to recycle his garbage. Yes, part of the problem, snoring under the glow; Milky Way’s angelic opalescence, the Dipper, and Cassiopeia’s vainglorious W piercing deep black, the closest stars tactile and bursting, and faint flicker in the margins. Inconceivable depth . . . Lost track of the afternoon somewhere. Brain was strangely busy, and then the bourbon. And Cronkite’s face turned up on some rock. And that’s the way it is. Bonfires in the night sky. Dry ridge and dry mouth. Pace a little too fast.

Not much sleep in a pickup bed; the solar massive comes early. Your mind is haze, placated at last, and the naked ridges and blazing sea dwell in their own clarity, sharper and more silent than ever. Overwhelming peace. Dooby set up a weather station—a rock dangling from a cottonwood limb, propped on a flat stone—“If rock above is moving, wind is blowing. Wet, it’s raining. White, snowing.” No motion of any kind; only your awkward footsteps. More flat stones appear . . . “You are born knowing everything there is to know” . . . “Stomp out greed” . . . and a tipi made of willow branches . . . “Leave your hang-ups here.” You sneak back to town in a haze.

Soft haze . . . Bruno is telling a guy in a Harley shirt about a trail through badlands into the high country and sage perfume. “How long does it take?” “How fast do you drive?” . . . Bruno is far too animated for eight AM in the middle of solemn quiet. The clock hands are too animated. And you’re drifting nearby, plate full of grease and soft haze, highest form of hangover, understated like the beaten hills adrift on the far side of the playa. You’ll spend the day writing sun blast poems to themselves. You could be out there for days with melted ice, feasting and growing exhausted. Not thirsty. You packed about sixty-three gallons of water in the truck—the plastic jugs stick up everywhere. God bless the truck. Did you check the belts and bearings?

Found an old mining offshoot from the playa. Gear down and crawl up a granite spine to a small shelf two hundred feet up, covered by sagebrush. Surprising cover. Nothing else is covered: the starved white flat, and haggard, eroded ribs rising to similar nakedness. Or maybe it’s too far to see. Alone, with vista. Until you hear voices through the truck idle and look around in a panic. You left the radio on and a signal flickered in from nowhere. From Reno? Can’t seem to push off. Hit the off-button; you’re entitled to be alone. The others too. You and the erratic wind. Blasts of warm air run down the mountain, out of nowhere, from dead calm. The truck wobbles and sagebrush sheds it with ease; nothing it hasn’t seen before.
Last edited by mnaz on April 5th, 2010, 1:47 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Dave The Dov
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Post by Dave The Dov » April 4th, 2010, 6:01 pm

It springs to life!!!!

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mnaz
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Joined: August 15th, 2004, 10:02 pm
Location: north of south

Post by mnaz » April 4th, 2010, 7:23 pm

Thanks Dave. This thing has taken me almost three weeks to write. Kept thinking of new stuff, going back making changes. I think it's pretty good now. Pretty much captures the mood of the place and some of the thoughts it inspired to rattle around my head (and mess with the silence).

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