Kyle left on his bus in the early morning on July 25th. I had a whole extra day to myself to explore San Francisco. I didn’t. I sat in a bar all day and drank. I took a trolley back to my hotel and slept until 5 a.m. the next morning. I was taking Amtrak back home to Philly. . . but I wasn’t ready to leave. Not yet. Not this way. I know I had to come back. And I did. . . I have.
You can learn a lot about an by reading the graffiti. According to the side of a trashcan, by the wharfs guarding the San Fran bay under the gray Bay Bridge, “Chinese are evil aliens and traitors.” What was that even supposed to mean? And how, in such a progressive city like San Fran, do these people continue to populate and live in this country? It amazes me when I think of all the jackasses who live in the U.S.A. who think they own the fuckin’ place. Most of us are here because our ancestors were greedy, or they were duped into thinking they could do better here than in the nations they came from. Or, because no matter how bad it is for them here, it still isn’t as bad as where they come from.
As John Steinbeck learns in his cross country book, Travels With Charley, America is far too big to understand as a whole. We’re not one nation under a Federal sky raining tax dollars unfairly over each and every one of us. Our states are entities, smaller parts that can make up a whole, when they want to. Like all people around the world we spend our time picking at each other because of our differences, until one day we’re united by one enemy. Our individual systems connect as a kind of American-Man-O-War made up of fertile soils, deserts, open roads, mountains, and corporate farmland.
And this is what happened less than two months after I got home.
Al Quaeda attacked the United States.
America has not been the same since. We have not been united. We have not agreed on anything. We don’t even own our own lives anymore.
This is why I’ve spent the last 14 years on the road sending dispatches back to myself.
I want to know what the hell happened to us.