Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lonesome Highway W/ Full Moon

There's a painting by one of the New Yorker's regular artists, Istvan Banyai, in this week's issue that captures the essence of the contemporary American road. All the elements of the four lane -- the loneliness, the isolation, the feeling of being lost in an alien landscape -- are realized.

It's a perfectly balanced composition in late-night colors, mostly pink, white, and shades of gray. The scene is supposedly Highway 65 heading south, but the big yellow billboard for the Durango Orchestra would not likely be on a road connecting Minnesota with Louisiana, because Durango is in Colorado.

That just underscores the ubiquity of the place in the picture; it could be anywhere. Its elements are horrifyingly inevitable: the long, squat Wal-Mart store, a little further along the Golden Arches atop a long pole, and the semi-truck carrying "FOOD" approaching the freeway on-ramp from the left. An isolated pink sedan follows a white vantruck down the lonely nighttime highway, and way in the distance, the mandatory police cruiser with lights flashing, although you can't tell which way he's going.

I've been lost in this landscape many times. It's a disorienting place where nothing seems real, an alien environment where you're afraid to stop for fear of encountering strange beings. The worst thing about it is that it's everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Mostly it's nowhere.

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