ON THE ROAD IN NEVADA AND UTAH – In the search for the (remixed, imploded?) American dream the road goes on forever. I left San Francisco in an Otis Redding’s Pain in my Heart mood – past the playground of Silicon Valley Google/Facebook whiz kids, lanky blondes talking into their McBook Pros on the sidewalk, desperate flotsam and jetsam of the 47% defying the shadows in downtown at night, Italy alive at Coppola’s Caf้ Zoetrope, the resurgence of Occupy Oakland, the Hudson 49 that crisscrossed the West in Walter Salles’ ode to Kerouac’s On the Road now parked at the Beat Museum – and I went east, past an already snow-stormed Sierra Nevada and an eerily quiet Lake Tahoe that seemed to have emerged from a noir opus like Out of the Past, the ghost of Robert Mitchum included.
Reno spelt Murder – like in a masked weirdo straight out of Seven Psychopaths (where Christopher Walken, once again, rules) surging out of nowhere to raise hell in a ghost town. The Eldorado early in the morning was virtually empty, save for the odd bag lady working the slots. Talk about Dylan’s Desolation Row.
And talk about Nevada depression – one of the states that most suffered the effects of the mortgage crisis. As for the “recovery”, it is so bad that many believe sales of the iPhone 5 – which is essentially a glorified camera loaded with apps – might spur a leap-from-behind for the American GDP.
There was hardly any visible evidence of an “increase in consumer spending” in Reno except at Beto’s, where local cool kids enjoy the best shrimp taco in the West. Yet it’s still swinging Obama, now trending up again towards an 80% chance of winning Nevada, compared to 73,6% for winning nationally, according to Nate Silver’s projections.
Then it was “the loneliest road in America”, whose major tourist attraction are assorted “correctional centers” with their inseparable sign Prison Area: Hitchiking Prohibited (unless you’re a psychopath in a killer-on-the-road flick, of course). I arrived in Salt Lake City – where 47% Mitt staged his oh so successful Olympics, that business enterprise that the Brits would never have been able to pull off, as he said in London – and was greeted by a, what else, snowstorm, Utah’s counterpart to the East Coast’s epic freak storm Sandy. The Roving Eye mobile performed more spinning in the freeways around town than the whole Romney campaign.
Mitt’s Mormon paradise, seen through the crisp night air after a storm, also seemed immersed in a Nevada-esque pall of gloom – even though most locals seemed to be happy that the snow season will start soon; tourism beckons.
But then there’s that other storm approaching – the fiscal cliffhanger – when the Bush-era tax cuts will be gone by January 1, with the predictable follow-up of more Washington gridlock, another downgrade of US debt, panic on global stock markets, etc. Apart from the imminent arrival of those ski tourists, there were hardly any signs of a “recovery” in Salt Lake, even with house prices now (relatively) stable and a few added jobs every month.
Paraphrasing The Animals, I had to get out of this place. I did – at 5am, way down south, towards a natural amphitheater that started 200 million years ago, when the earth’s crust was crinkling throughout Nevada; then, 50 million years ago, sediment eroded from mountains in northwestern Utah was deposited in a lake, lithified and later uplifted to be re-eroded into hoodoos. Welcome to Bryce Canyon, which – technically – is not a canyon, because canyons are carved by flowing water whereas Bryce was sculpted essentially by the freezing and thawing of water.
And then, inexorably, I saw it: the Chinese, not the American dream, meticulously scrutinizing the hoodoos at the Claron Formation. I couldn’t help noticing that distinct Cantonese accent. The dialogue was inevitable. “Guangzhou?” Answer: “Guangzhou. And you?” Answer: Hong Kong. We are neighbors.
Thus I learned from the Lady of Canton this was a full expedition, local government sanctioned, packed with a few notables and loaded with the best photo equipment available anywhere, including a fabulous made-in-Shanghai Shen Hao HZX-45 II A plate camera – a photographic chamber that impresses negatives on a glass plate. They had been camping there since 5:30 am waiting for the sunrise.
So here was a graphic answer to Mitt’s proposed trade/currency war against China starting on day one of his possible presidency. The Chinese are cheating. They are going to take over Bryce Canyon, then Utah, then the rest, and we have to fight them. Of course what they’re doing is completely different. While the West is fixated on anything vintage – at least those relatively few Westerners who can afford it – China is recuperating Western manufacturing excellence to eventually sell it back to the West.
Mormon settlers arrived in this region in the 1870s. In the Book of Mormon, published in 1830, God – which may, or may not, have started the creation of Bryce Canyon 200 million years ago – reveals to Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion, that American Indians were the lost tribe of Israel. They had traveled from Palestine only 600 years before Smith’s revelation. But they had neglected true religion. So Smith believed that American Indians – whom he called Lamanites – were cursed with dark skin. If they could hear the word of God, convert and become Mormons, their white skin would become “white and delightsome”. And all their previous sins would be forgiven.
After hiking the Navajo loop I left Bryce on the way to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and – what else – a spectacular sunset. I was eager to find a Navajo or a Hopi to test Smith’s proposition and to pose them the ultimate question; how do you evaluate the consequences of Mitt the Mormon possibly becoming the next President of the United States (POTUS)? As for our friends from Guangzhou, no need to ask questions; they are going to take over everything anyway.