Desert

noun \ˈde-zərt\ a barren area of land with little precipitation, hostile living conditions and lots of casinos.

Desert #1

Desert #1

This was the second year in the row we spent one month in the US. Last year was sort of a trial run. We did the East coast. And the Midwest. The South. And, yes, a bit of Canada. One lesson learned: driving 5,000 miles on the Interstates in a big SUV is boring. Also: plans are bad. I started this piece of writing while we were waiting for our laundry in a laundromat in Fort Bragg, North California. Where we were going that evening, we didn’t know, except that we should probably end up somewhere in the Bay area. That was our modus operandi for over four weeks. We arrived in LA knowing we would pick up a rental car for a month, that we should avoid the Interstates at all cost and – that’s basically it. Chance, coincidences, would bring us on from that. And having spent no time in LA at all, we went straight for the desert.

Desert #2. Mexican restaurant, Twentynine Palms

Desert #2. Mexican restaurant, Twentynine Palms

Desert #3. Freight train

Desert #3. Freight train

Desert #4. Restroom Stallion, Amboy

Desert #4. Restroom Stallion, Amboy

“I can’t for the life of me understand what appeal the desert holds with you guys,” said a casino employee in Nevada. I don’t know exactly what group of people he was referring to with “you guys,” except that I somehow belonged to it. Then again, I can’t for the life of me understand what appeal a casino holds with anyone either, so I guess we were on much the same level in our not understanding each other. Well, each to his own. Some prefer
air-conditioned slot machines. I prefer a lonely heatstroke.* A breakfast cook in California thought she had an explanation for this: “It’s the topography,” she said. Whether she meant the actual topography of the desert, or the mental topography of the Nordic traveller, I am not entirely sure, but I suspect it was a bit of both. She was the sort of breakfast cook that had a special understanding of those things.

Desert #5

Desert #5

Desert #6. Et cetera

Desert #6. Et cetera

Desert #7. Scrap yard guards

Desert #7. Scrap yard guards

Desert #8

Desert #8

Desert #9, #10

Desert #9, #10

Desert #11

Desert #11

Desert #12

Desert #12

Desert #13. Return on $20

Desert #13. Return on $20

Desert #14

Desert #14

Desert #15. Travel office

Desert #15. Travel office

Desert #16. Food! Quoth the raven

Desert #16. Food! Quoth the raven

Desert #17

Desert #17

Desert #18. Devil's Golf Course / End of the road

Desert #18. Devil’s Golf Course / End of the road

* Not really.

The Place Where They Cried*

Cherokee, NC: damn sad.

Cherokee #1

Cherokee #1

The town of Cherokee and the areas of Western North Carolina has been part of the homelands of the Cherokee people for centuries upon centuries. And yes – you still see clear signs of Indian presence in the town, even though most of the Cherokees in the 1830s were gathered, dispossessed and made to walk six months, 1,200 miles west, killing roughly one in four.

Cherokee #2

Cherokee #2

Depending on from which road you enter downtown Cherokee, the first thing you see is either a small stage with a scruffy looking bison and a sign promising Live Indian Shows, a 20 foot Cherokee statue advertising Indian Tattoos – or the Indian casino.

Cherokee #3

Cherokee #3

Despite my anti-gambling sensibilities, I suspect the casino might be one of the better thing to have happened to this town, in that tribal gambling at least generates a stream of revenue for tribe members. As of 2005, each member of the 13,000+ strong tribe received $8,000 from casino profits. Compared to the times before the casino opened in 1995, when most tribe members were poor, almost totally dependent on the federal government for subsistence,” the opening of the casino meant dramatic improvements in everything from jobs to education to health care for the tribe, according to then chief Joyce Dugan.

Cherokee #4

Cherokee #4

But for the rest of the town… Its current motto is “Trails of Legends and Adventures” – how about changing that to “Cringeworthy?”

Well, at least judging by its main street.

Cherokee #5

Cherokee #5

There is a museum, as well as a reconstructed Indian village, that might very well be decent and respectful attractions, but they weren’t open when I passed through town so I wouldn’t know. There is also a historic play on the story of the Cherokee Indians that’s been running daily for over 60 years, so obviously that’s got something going for itself.

Cherokee #6

Cherokee #6

But ah, yes, the main street. Here, tribal pride is a commodity, a photo-op, a souvenir – all in the most tasteless of manners. A sign saying “Dance show by a full blooded?” That is so very, very wrong. No disrespect to the tribal members who for whatever reason feel compelled to partake in this, but this has to make more people than me feel uncomfortable.

There are also the bear pens.

Cherokee #7

Cherokee #7

* The Place Where They Cried – Nu na da ul tsun yi – is the Cherokee expression for the events in 1838 in which they were forcibly removed from their lands in the Southeastern United States, resulting in the deaths of approximately 4,000 Cherokees. Today’s Eastern Band members are direct descendents of those who avoided the forced removal.

Cherokee #8

Cherokee #8

This is America part six. Read part five here, part four here, part three here, part two here, part one here.