CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Mollusks on Wheels

Reading the various stories recently about driving on beaches, as vexing for safety reasons as environmental and simple quality of life factors, I couldn’t help but think back to Edward Abbey’s classic reproach, in Desert Solitaire, to those tourists who traveled via car in the national park at which he was stationed. I know Abbey the man is something of a thorny subject but the book is one of those rare titles that leaves an incendiary impression, the date and place of first reading forever fixed in one’s mind.

What can I tell them? Sealed in their metallic shells like mollusks on wheels, how can I pry the people free? The auto as tin can, the park ranger as opener. Look here, I want to say, for godsake folks get out of them there machines, take off those fucking sunglasses and unpeel both eyeballs, look around; throw away those goddamned idiotic cameras! For chrissake folks what is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare? Take off your shoes for a while, unzip your fly, piss hearty, dig your toes in the hot sand, feel that raw and rugged earth, split a couple of big toenails, draw blood! Why not? Jesus Christ, lady, roll that window down! You can’t see the desert if you can’t smell it! Dusty! Of course it’s dusty – this is Utah! But it’s good dust, good red Utahn dust, rich in iron, rich in irony. Turn that motor off. Get out of that piece of iron and stretch your varicose veins, take off your brassiere and get some hot sun on your old wrinkled dugs! You sir, squinting at the map with your radiator boiling over and your fuel pump vapor-locked, crawl out of that shiny hunk of GM junk and take a walk – yes, leave the old lady and those squawling brats behind for a while, turn your back on them and take a long quiet walk straight into the canyons, get lost for a while, come back when you damn well feel like it, it’ll do you and her and them a world of good. Give the kids a break too, let them out of the car, let them go scrambling over the rocks hunting for rattlesnakes and scorpions and anthills – yes sir, let them out, turn them loose; how dare you imprison little children in your goddamned upholstered horseless hearse? Yes sir, yes madam, I entreat you, get out of those motorized wheelchairs, get off your foam rubber backsides, stand up straight like men! like women! like human beings! and walk – walk – WALK upon our sweet and blessed land!

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This entry was posted on Friday, September 10th, 2010 at 2:58 pm and is filed under Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Mollusks on Wheels”

  1. Obbie Z Says:

    We have a park here in La Crosse, WI, where they have an annual “Rotary Lights” display. A huge obnoxious display of Xmas lights fills a quarter-mile oval in the park. During the display, an endless parade of cars crawls thru the oval, windows closed, fumes from idling engines filling the air.

    To me, a big part of the “holiday” experience is experiencing the season itself, with all its dark, frozen glory. A walk thru the display is diminished by the sound and smell of all the touring cars, the sealed compartments of families apparently afraid of the world they pass thru.

  2. Betty Barcode Says:

    Apart from his gender bias (it’s ok for dad to walk away from the kids but not mom, who probably needs it more), three cheers for Edward Abbey.

    I wonder if the average, middle class American can no longer imagine how to move through the world without a car. I live in one of the 10 best neighborhoods in America, as designated by the American Planning Association on the grounds of walkability, density, mixed uses, etc. We are a, 1890s streetcar suburb with sidewalks, houses fronted by porches, a tree canopy, minimal street crime, a thriving commercial district with genuine urban storefronts instead of single-story, single use econoboxes or plazas fronted by parking. A walker’s and cyclist’s paradise!

    Yet the other night my neighbors got in their car to drive three and a half blocks (!) to an exercise class because it was starting to rain. Darn, if only someone had invented the umbrella!

  3. John Says:

    Mr. Vanderbilt,

    I think you should let me post. Furthermore, if you want to do the public a service, blog-entry about Best Driver In The World. Only reason not to seems competitive– please.

    John D. Williams

  4. Bossi Says:

    If it’s of any interest, along the northermost tip of New Zealand’s North Island, the west coast is an almost perfectly straight expanse of beach which also functions as a roadway for vehicles which are capable. In many cases it is the only (or by *far* the most convenient) method of access to/from other destinations, despite being both vehicle & tide dependent.

  5. Doug Faunt Says:

    That’s why I ride a motorcycle.

  6. geografree Says:

    EA-http://vimeo.com/11583368

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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