Seeing America through a windshield.
We had a very large project for a Banana Republic store in New York City. 43' linear feet of 8' tall display cabinets for a Pop Up in their Soho store for Fashion Week. Not only was it a rush to get it built, the only way to get it delivered and installed on time and on budget was to rent a 26' truck, load it up at the finishers the minute it was dry and drive it out ourselves. But it wasn't just trying to deliver on the largest project we've had to date that had us anxious. As they say, "timing is everything..."
Airen and I left California on January 20th, 2017. In the dead of winter, on Inauguration Day, we apprehensively headed east on I40 with 6 days to cross our country.
California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York. States of America.
The drive was bumpy and long and hard. A 26' truck is a rough ride and certainly gives one an appreciation of all the long haul truckers who put in those endless miles bringing to us all our stuff and things. The countryside in winter is blank and brown; only imagination fills in what must in Spring be lovely high plains and dense forest and rolling verdant hills. And there was no time for sightseeing, especially in such a large vehicle. We were just about Holiday Inn Express, Subway and Starbucks with a few excellent local finds for dinners. Driving was all the rest.
We did not listen to the radio or music or anything really except the sound of asphalt and conversation when it struck. A break from news was more relieving than we could have known. One doesn't know how much information is taken in all day long until it is totally unplugged.
From our bubble in California en route to the bubble that is NYC, there was the rest of America. The view from 40 is truck stops and billboards. There is quite a bit of God and guns and Trump. In Virginia there was a roadside store, painted in large letters on the building's side, "We buy guns. Jesus is Lord." Some of the tallest structures we saw were roadside crosses. Of course we have these same minded citizens in California, it is just that there is so much of every other kind of view and voice here that it is all just part of the cacophony. Get out into the spare unpopulous of rural America and these messages feel much more comprehensive.
A conversation we did have, was spurred by Airen's thought "If you are born into a life with limited options, can you be blamed for fighting to keep (or get back) that which you have?" It just makes sense. In rural America everything is either right where you are or very far away: neighbors, jobs, grocery stores, family, government. If that factory closes, that farm folds, that oil field gets shut down, you're kinda screwed. Where is another job? How do you feed your family? Move? Can't sell a house in the newly minted ghost town. Only so many greeters at the Walmart and cooks at the drive-thru. Limited options on the most basic of necessities: work, food, home, dignity.
And this led to larger thoughts on the lottery that is birth. To appreciate all the fortunes that one arrives with on this planet and appreciate that others may arrive with less. Not for the sake of patrony and pity, but for empathy. Empathy. To see through another's eyes to understand them. This was Airen's path to seeing into the motivations of people from who we are both so ideologically different. Going from who-the-fuck and how-could-you to why-did-you? Empathy seems the portal through the paradox that is what it is to disagree and still get along. Empathy takes a little of the edge off selfishness. And that goes for the neighbor next door, the one half a country away and the one half a world away.
And, well, then we arrived in Manhattan. We unloaded the truck on an early, drizzly Friday morning and installed the project over the course of the next 5 days, just in the nick of time. It looks great. And so on to the next project...
The end, I guess.
A good breakfast to start the day off right.