“What did you drive out here?”
|August 29, 2011|
Speed Week 2010, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, Sam Klein
When I leave the pavement and hit the hard white of the Bonneville Salt Flats, I press the pedal to the metal on The Hummer. The speedometer hits 94, but that’s nothing to brag about at my destination: some scattered trailers five miles past the end of the road. Mike Waters, parked in a lawn chair behind them, would not be impressed.
“What did you drive out here?” he asks.
“A Prius,” I say (The Hummer is its nickname). Mike snorts. He wears sunglasses and a Speed Week hat. His arms are a deep pink roped in purple scars from excised carcinomas. He has held eight different world land-speed records during his racing career. The fastest was 257 miles per hour. Now he is an official with the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), the host of Speed Week.
“We’ll take Don’s truck,” he declares. He’s agreed to give me a tour of the course.
Speed Week, a red-letter event on any gearhead’s calendar, happens every August on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Salt, as racing nuts call it, is the thirty-thousand-acre hard salt bed of Lake Bonneville, an ancient inland sea. It’s 120 miles west of Salt Lake City and 6 miles from the Nevada border. The only town around is Wendover, straddling the state line. Liquor stores, porn, and low-end casinos dot Nevada’s side; Latter Day Saints and an abandoned World War II air base occupy Utah’s. Bomber crews trained at the Wendover base during the war. They built a city of salt on the flats and dropped bombs on it. The Enola Gay crew secretly trained at Wendover for the first atomic mission.
Which is the bigger ecological disaster, A-bombs or the automobile? The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed about 110,000 Japanese civilians instantly, and another 250,000 or so over the next five years. Automobile accidents wipe out 1.2 million civilians a year worldwide. The radiological contamination caused by Fat Man and Little Boy turned out to be fairly limited. The environmental legacy of the internal combustion engine has yet to be fully gauged, but it looks to be massive. Headlines stream into my phone daily: floods in Pakistan, a heat wave in Russia, landslides in China, oil in the Gulf. Everybody knows internal combustion has to yield to something better. But what?
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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