“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?
Pale Youths in Love
I remember when I was a pre-teen and they moved into a loft across the street from me in Tribeca, where I lived. And an older neighbor friend told me they were living in her building, on the top floor. I saw him at my corner deli, and on the street smoking, but never her. At night, I sometimes looked up at their windows and saw their lights on. He was not very impressive in person. Cute, but no big deal.
What is Work?
Without a written record, we cannot know with certainty how the earliest humans thought about work, but the importance of sharing food and other resources means that prehistoric work embodied at least an element of serving the needs of a community rather than just those of an individual and his or her immediate family.
Genesis: A Supreme Fiction
It occurred to me that Genesis is such a supreme fiction, or perhaps it is the supreme fiction in western culture, which begat many others. For thousands of years this book has been the mirror or lamp that reveals what reality consists of – regarding the nature of human existence, the cosmos and God. Or, to put it differently: the meaning of life, the universe and everything.