That's What She Said: American optimism in a stark desert
- Dawn Dumont | January 27, 2017
For Christmas vacation this year, my partner and I decided to head south to the States. I was curious to see how the Americans were feeling about their new POTUS elect. Personally I’m still in a state of shock, even worse than the time I plugged in an air compressor while it was in a puddle of water.
We rented an RV just outside of Las Vegas. On the way there, the cab driver talked about the water situation in the area. “Lake Mead is lowest it's ever been,” he said casually. “But nobody seems concerned.” This seemed hard to believe so we asked what the government had been doing. He replied, rather conspiratorially, “Somebody knows something. That’s all I know.” It seemed an odd answer until I heard Rush Limbaugh’s dulcet tones reverberating from the radio.
The RV has a tendency to catch the wind and float across the highway like a sailboat. (It also rattles like a box of tin cans and wine bottles on the way to SARCAN.) We camped at the first RV spot we found in a place called “Dolan Springs.” I suspect it's where trailer homes and human dreams go to die. I apologize if you have any relatives who live in Dolan Springs but you should probably go and get them. Like now.
We went to Walmart to pick up some supplies and a friendly cashier noted that we were tourists. She offered this cautionary note, “Do not ever go to the bathroom alone.” My partner and I glanced at each other: how would we manage that? Would he accompany me to the ladies…or vice versa? Also what was the purpose – so that we could be robbed and murdered as a pair? We thanked her for the caution but chalked it up to the American preoccupation with crime. (Although three murders did occur in the first three days of 2017 in the Vegas area so maybe I’m the naïve one.)
The second day we headed onto the Hualapai Reservation to experience the Skywalk over the Grand Canyon. It’s a cantilevered glass walkway that allows you to look straight down into the canyon. My partner and I hemmed and hawed over this one. My partner said it was a once in a lifetime experience; I argued that the price was high just to pee yourself in public. At the skywalk, we walked to the edge of the mountain – well, my partner did. I cannot look over edges as my head is big for my body and I worry that I’ll fall off due to pure momentum. Not everyone has a problem with heights. There was a Hualapai man standing on a rocky outcrop about two feet wide, only his head and shoulders visible above the cliff. He was smiling and drinking a coke, despite the fact that at any second a heavy wind or a kamikaze eagle could knock him off his perch. “You’re very brave,” I said to him. “Better than the alternative,” he replied.
The second day we made it all the way to Kingsmen and parked in an RV Park, one of the fancy ones with great wireless and laundry. When I went in to buy a corkscrew, the clerk, an older lady, drew me into a discussion about her long lost Canadian relatives. “I regret not connecting with them. Those things matter when you’re older.” I agreed and promised to look up her relatives for her which will be difficult because I’ve already forgotten what their names were.
We parked our RV at a Mohave desert park the next night. We asked the clerk about the green fields we’d seen in the middle of the desert. She told us that it was a farm owned by Saudi Arabians where they grew Alfalfa that they then shipped overseas. Then she fell into a rant about how this crop was draining the water wells in the area. It seemed surreal that someone would grow a common crop and then export it – I may have to look into some other Saudi Arabian exports. Like would they be interested in a few acres of dandelions? I asked what they were planning to do about the water problem and she replied, “we’ll find a way, we always do.”
Despite a changing climate and water shortages looming in the background, the Americans I encountered seemed optimistic. Which is probably due to that American spirit we always hear so much about – that and not having to endure minus thirty temperatures.