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Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton


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Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #1: Route 66


My road trip from Massachusetts to New Mexico eventually intersected with historic Route 66, as announced with much nostalgic-tinged ado and souvenir-fueled seduction on every highway billboard. My internal adventure-meter started buzzing, fueled by my 11-year olds half-remembered 1960s TV viewing. For those of you who don't remember, according to Wikipedia,


"Route 66 debuted on October 7, 1960. The premise was simple: earnest, privileged and sheltered Tod Stiles' (Martin Milner) father dies and leaves him a shiny new Corvette but little money; he and his buddy Buzz Murdock (George Maharis), who grew up in Hell's Kitchen, take off in the car to discover America, in search of adventure and enlightenment."


        "You see, were sorta looking for a place where we really fit,"

        Buzz explained. "A kind of niche for ourselves. You know?

        But, until then, we'll just sorta keep looking and moving."


Hmmmmmm?? Somehow from my 2008 vantage point (with a lot more life experience, meditation, critical and political thinking, and just plain reality checks under my belt than in 1960), this Route 66 thing feels a lot less romantic and adventurous and a lot more like mindless (and let's face it, immature) American existential privileged bullshit.  Especially in light of the soaring price of non-renewable, ozone-depleting fossil fuel, global warming, environmental degradation, and the level of world-wide human suffering.  Sure, we all want to "sorta kinda fit" and I'm all for ENLIGHTENMENT.  But hold the Corvette, the attitude, and the ennui, please.


Rather than getting their Hollywood-glamorized "kicks on Route 66" an estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl during the 1930's. Certainly in the minds of those who endured that particularly painful experience, and in the view of generations of children to whom they recounted their story, Route 66 symbolized the "road to opportunity." In his famous social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the "Mother Road." 


History & the truth can be gritty and hard to bear. But if we turn away and forget, we may become lost.


Dust Bowl

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