Tuesday, June 24, 2008

our descent into hell

to see photos of our time in salt lake city, and our drive to las vegas, click here.

click here for more photos of las vegas

june 24, salt lake city utah

it's not starting out to be the best day ever --- i've got a sore throat and stuffy running nose, i'm bleeding like a stuck pig, i awoke from night sweats, and didn't sleep much anyways worrying about my one year old $700 progressive lens glasses that got stepped on last night. luckily i'm not rendered blind, i was able to bend them back into some semblance of shape, but i think it'll be a good idea to stop at an optician's shop somewhere along the way before the headaches set in. progressive lenses can be very particular.

as i write this it's 6:15, we've been up since 5:30 am, and we're waiting on the bus to arrive from halfway across the universe known as salt lake city. less people live in slc than live in greater vancouver, but it's spread through a massive valley. we left five of our caravanistas near the event venue, and were driven by an iraq & afghanistan war veteran / brown beret (interesting combination) to another home with max busily writing down and then scratching out directions as we got increasingly lost - it's max's job to guide the bus here this morning. we have a long day of driving ahead and the plan is to get on the road early.

now we're somewhere between salt lake city and las vegas nevada. (i keep getting mixed up between las vegas nevada and las vegas new mexico - the former being, apparently, very much different from the former)

i had a little sleep in the back of the bus, on the mattress, went into the gas station to fill my travel thermos with hot water for tea, and proceeded to scald my arm with some of it as i climbed back aboard the bus. i guess it's just one of those days.

maybe jim will write something about the event last night ....

Jim here. We had a great event last night at a wonderful location - Mestizo Coffeehouse. It's a combination coffee shop, art gallery, & space for latino events. The Brown Berets sponsored our visit & there were about 15 latino youth in attendance. Two films were shown, The Little Yellow Schoolbus & Mission Againnst Terror. Nita spoke about Pastors for Peace & our journey, & there was a lively question & answer time. A couple of the Brown Berets, Chris & Dave, informed us about the Brown Berets & social action in Salt Lake City. We really appreciated the energy & the hospitality of the Brown Berets - they put us up for the night & even packed sandwiches for the road. Thanks guys!!!!!!

and now it's my turn again ...

jim and i ventured onto the public transporation system in salt lake city yesterday, we had a couple of hours between the time we arrived and when the event started. we found the library - a big glass structure that looks a lot like vancouver's library, a statue of a generic native man and a plaque about the sculptor. (margaret has just pointed out, over my shoulder that, as we pass through the desert, i see joshua trees and sagebrush out the window, there are massive big houses bult on the hills. we're coasting into a city, an entire city build into the desert. i guess i shouldn't be surprised, there are lots of these. it seems absurd, greedy, to want to divert precious water resources to big onster homes in such an environment). anyways, back in salt lake city, we learned that the fremonts are the earliest known native bunch, dating back to the 1300s, and their central site was on the land where the great salt lake city mormon temple now stands. you can find the temple by going to the corner where north temple st, south temple st, east temple st, and main st converge. the salt lake, our friends told us, is what's leftover from the days when the entire region was covered with sea. it's being mined at a fast pace, and is receding.

from mesquite, nevada

the fellow outside the 'rebel' gas store says he can't ride his mountain bike on the trails anymore - the authorities won't allow it. i told him they're doing that in canada too, complaining that people shouldn't be riding on the trails then cutting down the forests for profit. he said something about recycling and replanting forests, i told him we can destroy and recycle the entire planet, but unless people purchase those recycled products what's the good. and i told him about the replanted 'forests' we saw in oregon, symmetrically constructed monocultures, trees all the same size in a checkerboard of columns and rows. a forest, i said, is messy - there are ferns and lichens and fallen trees everywhere. you can build a tree plantation, but you can't build a forest. he seemed to understand that. i asked him where the water supply is from, he said there's a lake nearby and also containers filled with water from acquifers for backup. he said there's some negotiation to start piping water from other states as the lake is receding. i asked him about the things that look like mansions on the hill, he said they're actually condominiums and the monster housing contruction is all but ended except for one guy who's still building 6000 units nearby. the guy (dale allen, i think he said, or allan dale?) is from las vegas, and we talked about where the trees might be from for those, and gambling, and how impossible it is to win because they're not designed for that. they're all computerized, he said, a true gambler know how long to play at one, whereas the less informed will be drawn in by the infrequently planned wins that keep them there.

at laurie's house, in a gated community in northern lost wages

i'm having a difficult time finding anything nice to say about las vegas (with the exception of the kind people who are hosting our goods for cuba friendshipment.) perhaps it's because i'm feeling crappy, still with a sore throat and leaky nose, and more recently a set of chills that comes and goes. more likely it's because i've been an environmentalist for 20+ years, working to conserve and protect precious resources, making personal sacrifices like selling my car in preference for a bike, refusing to fly (unless absolutely necessary, like to cuba), sharing a small two bedroom apartment, living in poverty and refusing to buy corporate products and play the display your wealth game. this city is foundationally the epitome of everything i believe in. as one of the caravanista's said on the journey into town, it's what cuba would look like if not for the revolution.

laurie, our host, says that most of the unplanned and expansive growth of this hell on earth has happened in the last 7 years. i asked why people are moving here, and she said 'because they're stupid.' i would have to guess one would need a certain amount of that particular quality to make the decision to actually live here, especially with all the knowledge about global warming etc. i can't even imagine why anyone would want to visit, to be honest.

that las vegas is still standing, unscated, provides further evidence that the devastating attack on new york was an inside job. if i were from another culture, angry at the greed and waste predominant in western culture, frustrated that my brothers and sisters are enslaved to make consumer products for your consumption, new york city would not be the first city on my hit list.

i don't have a hit list. i do have anger, and even rage, because, for your lifestyle to continue, my homeland, the forests and rivers that i love, will be cut and dammed and their water diverted, as the gods of nafta so declared, so that you can selfishly use more than their share, without a second thought, as if you're entitled, without questioning who suffers because of their choice to build monster air conditioned houses with air conditioned cars and swimming pools and water theme parks in the desert. where are your wind turbines, your solar panels? there are hardly any solar panels, for heaven's sake, in this desert land?!! how will you eat, when the trucks carrying your food from far far away no longer run because you, and people like you, have used up all the oil to the last drop? you may starve, but we, in canada, will be freezing and starving, unless something changes soon.

to the five unitarians who showed up for our event tonight .... i hope you can understand. i don't mean it as a personal attack. we all, in this part of the world, take stuff for granted. thank you for the nice dinner and pleasant hospitality, and for deciding to use china, rather than paper, plates.