Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Spacious Skies and Amber Waves of Grain

It is hard to really describe America. Can you encompass it in a phrase? We can pinpoint aspects of eras, fractions of moments, the elements that seemed to be the most glaringly obvious personifications of this country, and yet still with a million of these details we cannot come to see the bigger picture. I think what fascinates me the most about the United States is the quietness of its diversity. The news boils everything up and down, making scenes and taking fragments for the world. But what about the people who are just going about it? Everyone has their larger issues and battles they fight, but somewhere every moment a representative from every group is going to the supermarket or the bathroom or the office. There are certain elements of American daily life that, in some form, become universals--but where does this take us? Back to the very differences that exist quietly, or in some cases loudly, and make this country what it is. And I want to see all of it.

I want to see Montana and Wyoming, where there are stretches of uninhabited land for miles. I want to see Los Angeles and the Anglo-European Sikhs and Chinese immigrants and Indian Americans who live and work and drive their SUVs there. I want to see Texas, all of it, I want to see Houston with its black Evangelists and Austin with its urban Texas mezcla and San Antonio with its Catholics, its Jews, its Texans, for the lack of a better word. I want to see New York for the thousandth time and see something new about it, like I always do, I want to walk down new streets and old streets and changed streets and feel the movement that is too easy to miss and too hard to dismiss. I want to see Attica, Kansas, again, and remember the vastness of this country. I want to see Route 66 and every inch of what's left of it, I want to drive down Santa Monica Boulevard and through the hills of Denver and across the grand state of Missouri and through places I've never been--Kentucky, Idaho, South Dakota, Georgia. I want to drink coffee in Boulder, pray in Chicago, speak Spanish in New Mexico, discover Alberkerkee which I can't even spell, eat cheese or do something even more wonderful in Wisconsin. I want to root for the New England Patriots and boo for the visiting team at a Knicks game and wonder when the Oakland A's will win the series. I want to meet a stranger on a bus in Saint Louis and remember everything but her name, I want to encounter the hundred cultures I see on the Boston T every morning, I want to experience them and their Americanness and their foreignness and their joys, their worries, their realities. I want to see Bombay Dreams and the Producers in the same day, I want to visit Colliers ABR and a construction site in Arizona, I want to speak with them all and hear their stories. I want to compare in an incomparable sort of way. I want to discover without being a tourist, I want to play the role of the outsider and the insider, the visitor and the neighbor, I want to view this from so many angles.

I want to look out the window of my apartment on Morningside Drive and see all of it in the cab crawling through the rain on a gray April night. I want to see it in the eyes of David and Nivan, with whom I end up in the same place after lifetimes of difference. I want to see it in the future of three children playing in a park in a nameless, timeless place, and know that the more things change the more they stay the same, and it is good.