Earlier today I got on the highway I’m looking at now and took it way out into the desert. I figured the true scarcity of the middle of nowhere would give me an appreciation for, and perspective about, the relatively routine sadness and malaise of all those towns where nobody’s happy.
But the desert was alright. I didn’t find an answer to working-class hopelessness out there, but I did find a coping mechanism. When there are no human beings to be found, and civilization exists largely in the innuendo of far-off road signs or cars passing you 40 miles over the speed limit, the prospect of keeping it together seems more manageable. No eyes are on you. Problems get smaller. It starts feeling egotistical to think the problems in California are new, or special. The desert will outlive you by a billion years.