Blogging from the ninth circle

In case anyone is wondering where the hell I’ve been: my brother and I are stranded in Summersville, WV with a broken-down car. I came down last Saturday for a cousin’s wedding in Beckley and I’ve been here ever since, with no access to the Internet until now, eating junk food and watching many bad movies. Virtually every mechanic in a five-mile radius has examined my brother’s 1990 Olds, replacing a number of parts, but it still won’t run. Short of getting a local Pentecostal preacher to drive the demons out of it, we have explored every option. It looks very much as if we will have to ditch it and rent a car to get us back home (we’re well off the Greyhound route).

Staying on the strip (first at a Super 8, then at a Hampton Inn), I’ve been forced to think about this most ubiquitous of American landscapes…

Strip. Lay down your overburden, bare your black seam of heat where the shovels can reach it. Let rains tease your acids from the rock.

Strip, stripe of concrete between gas stations & inconvenience stores, chain restaurants, big box stores, motels, each marooned on its own island of tarmac. We are all strangers here, even the natives.

Strip: supposedly comic, unmoving pictures starring the same faces, day after day. We grimace at the punchlines: Neighborhood Grill and Bar, says the Applebee’s sign. Oh, do let’s take a stroll ’round the Village Square!

Stripped of wheels, we navigate the strip on foot, automatic jaywalkers. The smell of fryer grease mingles with exhaust. Under one streetlight, we step carefully around the corpses of three starlings. We could be anywhere. This might as well be home.

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