lee sent me a walk in the woods by bill bryson. he wouldn't stop raving about it. i've never really known lee to go on and on about a book, especially not to the point that he asked for my address, and it was in my mailbox 3 days later. anyhow, it was a fast read. took me three or four nights to polish it off. much like kerouac's on the road, it filled me with wanderlust. my long-forgotten dreams of completing a thru-hike of the appalachian trail were rekindled in part. perhaps this summer i'll forgo my route 66 coast-to-coast plans (mostly because i'm not sure if the old danger ranger can hoof it to california one more time!) and hit the AT's full length in virginia. 550 miles in all....we'll see.
anyhow, what struck me most in the book was not the memoir of life on the trail. that i easily related to, recollecting many nights spent in my tent after many miles on my feet. it was the commentary on everything else running through his head along the way that most interested me. oddly enough, here's the passage that resonated the most with me, for its absolute truth:
Consider this: Half of all the offices and malls standing in America today have been built since 1980. Half of them. Eighty percent of all the housing stock in the country dates from 1945. Of all the motel rooms in America, 230,000 have been built in the last 15 years...At the time of our hike, the Appalachian Trail was 59 years old. That is, by American standards, incredibly venerable. The Oregon & Santa Fe Trails didn't last that long. Route 66 didn't last as long...Nothing in America does. If a product or enterprise doesn't constantly reinvent itself, it is superseded, cast aside, abandoned without sentiment in favor of something bigger, newer, and alas, nearly always uglier.
agreed? in 274 pages of prose, that is what i agree with. no tradition in america. my kids won't have the experience of visiting my "hometown" when they're growing up. my folks won't live there anymore, though they may be in my adopted hometown by then. my grandma has lived in the same house for close to 50 years. i haven't lived in the same house for more than 10 years at any point in my life. perhaps my itchy feet aren't really helping me grow roots by the same notion, but that's the america i've grown up in. the woods that brian, mark, adam and i used to goof off in are actually the land that my mom's current school sits on. the once-deserted stretch of sw 20th ave that i once took a trip on as a pledge is glutted with gaudy apartment complexes, cookie cutter subdivisions, and too much traffic for a two-lane road.
wow. my fingers just wandered. i'm not sure where that came from. my subconscious types quickly.