I am off to find My America. Not My as in Mine, but My as in Ours. From Bangor to Barstow, this is all our inheritance, bequeathed to us by those that helped make it and make us: I will keep the cigarettes in my bag, but won’t pack any Mrs. Wagner’s Pies because Mrs. Wagner went out of business long before I was born, one more name on a never ending list of mom and pop shops who have gone to meet their maker. When I was a teenager I looked to writers like Kerouac and Kesey make sense of this irascible and ingenious nation, but they’re America is not mine. What they described is now a relic of historical import, but little practicality. The cars they drove are in the scrap heap and the plants in which they were made have set about the business becoming earth again. No, in the smithy of my soul I must forge the disassembled spirit of my generation. I will fail, but I will revel in my failures—one more American purposefully flying too close to the sun in order to feel the thrill of that moment before the wax drips off and he begins to fall.
Beginning on the 1st of July and continuing until God knows when, I will be heeding Horace Greely’s words and heading West—as I am still a young man—but then spinning around and heading back East, rolling along on both sides of the Mason-Dixon, looking for Whitman’s vaingloriously grand, sane, towering Mother America without expectation of finding her. No, I imagine that instead of the last best hope for earth his Captain promised him, I will find men and women echoing Langston Hughes’ plea to Let America Be America Again, even though it never has been yet. Even as the farmer is devoured by agribusiness and globalization, the people still retain that yeoman’s strength. Whether it’s in the fetid corridors of Cabrini-Green or the stagnant, soot-filled air of Appalachian coal country, the American people find ways to reach down deep for that last little bit of water left in the well.
The book I write will be about these people and the world that gives no quarter in their struggles. From the very beginning, I have a few ground rules: there is to be no Red America nor Blue America. I am very firm in my belief that both of our nation’s major parties are taking us to the same place. It’s just that one wants to get us there faster than the other. I have had enough of politicians and promises and partisanship. I want to talk about people. I want to tell their stories.
This project does mean that Virally Suppressed will be put on hiatus for a spell, at least as it is in its current format. There will be occasional updates from the road replete with picture postcards and the like, but I will not be writing any more articles for some time, barring of course any major news event that might take place while I’m traveling. I hope that you will continue to check in on the website and welcome any and all suggestions as to places to go and people to see. If you have a story that want to be told and you’re not too far off the beaten path, I will try to stop make a detour and listen to you tell it. Thank you all for your support and I’ll keep you posted starting in July.
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