Tarago Diaries #15 – West

Mark reflects on wealth and poverty while travelling through the USA.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 11 August 2019.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/2089523787820616?__tn__=K-R


Article Text

The Imperial leather soap ad. 1970 something.

“Tahiti looks nice!” she says as the billionaires buckle up in their gold-plated baths and swing the learjet towards the central pacific.

It got to me.

A screaming teenage socialist.

How dare they flaunt their wealth?

Silly and fun you say. Why do you have to take everything so seriously?

But see the thing is, irony may be good cover for straight out self-indulgence, but there’s always going to be someone who’ll take wealth seriously. Who believe that wealth is a mark of character and that’s the thing. Millions do.

The dark art of creating envy. it works. Wealth sells itself.

To annoy is to be noticed. Make enemies. Win friends. That’s capitalism.

and the very notion that there are people so rich that they can walk the earth and remain utterly detached from the grinding poverty that surrounds them…

well, truth is, punters usually defer to rich people.

And there are places where it’s not hard to look rich.

Like the gas station in Winnemucca Nevada at 7 am..

In a Calvin Klein T shirt.

Look out below…

In Nevada you’ve got to pre-order your fuel because they won’t take credit. People can’t afford it. It’s that simple. You’ll get noticed though, in a nice way, simply because, you’re not from around here are you? You’re overdressed, your accent is strange and clearly you’re not going to work…

But kindness and respect quickly follow.

Is that American? Or just common decency? One thing’s certain. The deeper you go the less you certain you will become. The thing about travel is that you can’t assume anything. And you certainly can’t assume anything about America. A search for meaning? Oh dear. There’s nothing more transparently foolish than the sweeping statement. And if this journey has taught me anything it’s that.

Observe. React. Learn. That’s it.

How many Americas are there?

Moving deeper west, following the ‘Immigrant Trail’. U.S. 80, from Utah into Nevada. The casinos start-up right on the border, like a giant desert ‘bird’ to the Latter Day saints.

Salt lake was clean, pristine and apparently safe, despite the billboards down town warning punters against the evils of pharma addiction..

But Nevada is flat out ‘kick arse jerky’..

Beyond redemption.

Out here, they’ve crossed the line and there’s no way back.

At the gas station, workers in dirty hi-vis gear, line up to pay for filter coffee, donuts and gas. Heads down, already weary, mumbling thanks before moving out into the early morning light, to drive off in their rusty Silverados.

Someone I’m very close to told me before I left, that America would ‘bore me to death’..

Boy. How wrong you were. To even quibble about the credibility of one destination over another strikes me now as utterly pretentious, peculiarly western and deeply elitist.

But there’s one thing you can’t fail to notice. And not to judge. No matter how huge and glittering the monuments are, how brave and confident the display, declaring to the world, that yes, America is great again, but still, the poverty just keeps rising up, snarling like a vengeful beast.

The homeless will not lie still.

We rise and fall through the ranges, great vistas of grassland opening before us, full of promise and opportunity for the millions who rolled west over the centuries, searching bravely for freedom and happiness, until finally California arrives, in subtle colours, shingled mountain top holiday condos, spectacular freeways, real coffee, Teslas everywhere, and at the end of the road, Alcatraz on your Iphone.

And there, a deranged teenager pushes a shopping trolley past, filthy matted hair and a dog that needs feeding. We keep loose notes now. Jo gives him one.

Emaciated bodies lie comatosed on hot concrete outside the San Francisco museum of modern art,

the camps in central Santa Barbara.

shopping cart pioneers.

And you’re faced with the same dilemma as everyone else who can afford to reflect from behind plate glass as you eat your superfood salad. To discuss or not? The rigours of mental illness, drug addiction, freedom of choice and the minimum wage..

Do the reasons matter anymore? Homelessness is a fixture. No longer a phenomenon. It just is.

A mediaeval dream. Born again.

‘Every one chooses their fate’ the Uber driver said on the way to LAX.

‘Let that one go” you think as you wind your swiss watch forward one hour.

Pacific daylight time.