outwait outrun outwit


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Although a child of the suburb and a veteran city dweller, I encounter my shadow-self in that peripheral California of diners and truck stops, mesquite and cacti, the desolate and the ramshackle. Here the coyote howl is the desert’s ballad and the towns are dusty hallucinations, tumbledown heaps of shacks and trailers pocking the side of the road. Biblical commandments materialise on signposts, one by one, in white capital letters on a stark black background. There is no will for embellishment; it appears ludicrous in that flat, brittle place. When the sun sinks out of sight, night pours over the bones of this desert. Once, car lights strobe down the highway's spine, then flash out of sight; we are alone again.

Describing the same journey, Christopher Isherwood wrote, “For this is the real nature of California and the secret of its fascination; this untamed, undomesticated, aloof prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth.” The optimistic language of the cities escapes me, in the encounter with that ancient voice of salt, earth, and wind.


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