Head west, young (wo)man. What else is there to do when everything you believe in is disintegrating under your acidic gaze, slipping through your grubby fingers even as you try to grab on to the fading tendrils of reality? When life gets so convoluted that the only thing that gets you excited anymore is the thought of living out of your car for three months … that’s when you head west.
Unfortunately, once you start the journey you realize that heading west is more of a placebo than a panacea. It doesn’t actually fix whatever problems underlie the desire to head west, but it does make your head think things are better, if just for a bit.
The idea of heading west is a better pill than the actual western experience. As long as it all stays in your head, you can believe that the enormous sky and snow-capped Rockies can engulf your emotional anxiety and wash it clean away.
Maybe there was a time when heading west wasn’t just a placebo, when Route 66 wasn’t just a few dilapidated Main Streets now called Business I-40, when the road was brand new and not cracked from disuse and disrepair, when the road was more important than the destination itself. Maybe there was a time when the asphalt/concrete of Route 66 itself seeped miracle cures for heartache, loneliness, and the quiet desperation bred by a consuming consumer lifestyle. Maybe those times are just the stories we like to tell ourselves about how things used to be, hoping against hope that at some point in the history of the world there must have been an easy pill to pop, an obvious action to take, a simple road to drive on to pull our lives back together.
– journal entry from my move to Durango, March 4, 2004