PRAY FOR OUR NATION: Notes from Route 66

I do not pray, I do not practice any religion, but I do meditate daily. I’ve found the notion of a ‘higher power’ to be helpful in staying sober (today is day 203). So I guess it makes sense that when I got my film back from the lab last week, I found a lot of religious and spiritual symbols in my photos.

Somewhere in southern New Mexico.

Somewhere in southern New Mexico.

Brian and Disco outside of Effingham, Illinois.

Abandoned motel in east New Mexico.

I don’t know a lot about Christianity, but the symbols scattered across I-40 lead me to think it’s something that feels compelled to assert itself.  I plan to photograph and understand organized religion - which I think I was already doing here, subconsciously - when we make it through this pandemic.

Given COVID, I didn’t feel comfortable approaching strangers and having faith-based conversations, and yet, some interactions on the road were inevitable. 

The front-desk person at the Springfield motel was a Q-Anon conspiracy theorist, and after he took my ID for check-in, he asked how I felt about Tom Hanks running a pedophile ring out of Hollywood. Then he said we should kill all pedophiles and showed me the tattoo he’d gotten that day on his forearm: the archangel Gabriel.

A woman at the Motel 6 in Flagstaff nursing a 40 introduced me to her German Shepherd which was allegedly trained by the FBI (I believe her). A motel manager let me pay in cash and was absolutely shocked into silence upon discovering that she and I drive the same car.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the trip was experiencing the tension surrounding wearing a face mask in America right now. I look forward to reading some think-piece years from now that explores the complexities of American behavior during a pandemic. The polarity is difficult for me to process. Wearing a mask upset a lot of people in gas stations and rest stops. People’s choice to forgo wearing a mask, in turn, upset me.

Barstow, California.

Leather-smelling air freshener.

Somewhere in Texas.

Bathroom in Catoosa, Oklahoma.

This trip was irritating and unconventional, however, I still came back to California feeling renewed. Maybe I felt a little bit happy? This nation is wild, colorful, unfair, funny, beautiful, ugly, and home. Nothing is all good or all bad, and this realization brings me great relief. 

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