Abbey’s identification of Industrial Tourists in Desert Solitaire

Abbey’s identification of Industrial Tourists in Desert Solitaire (which I read this evening) sounds like me and dad vacationing in the car, seeing all through the glass windows, only one step better than TV. It was a self-recognition—I had noticed and felt before that this trip seemed shallow—no depth, and thus was boring. All the beautiful scenery and I only wanted to get through it.

Yeah, we have chosen to see a lot quickly rather than a small amount in depth. Yeah, as Abbey condemns us for zipping through the parks—that’s true. Valid criticism. But he says something about it being tiring. Hard work. But it hasn’t been that.

The excitement of the road experience—it’s been a kind of macho thing for us. Haven’t felt pressured to get anywhere, nor have I felt hard-worked. We’ve set a goal—”hey, let’s visit Spokane”—and we did it. Fun, not hard work. No, we were never really in the environment, seeing all the country from the fuzzy gray seats.

But you get out in these damn national parks and they are incredibly shallow, too—all the damn tourists crowding, snapping pictures, absorbing history and culture by osmosis—I’m here, educate me. Not only that, but seeing these cliff paths paved over, such as at Roosevelt National Park. A certain packaged feeling—not that I expected it to be really dangerous, but it takes some excitement out of the experience when you’re not going anywhere [challenging]… I want to get to the real hill, just walk to someplace, the top of some hill, like I could at home. I want to just walk, not be confined (as I am actually not—I could walk off the path, but they wouldn’t want me to—and they already ruined it by blacktopping the trail anyway) to their outdoor sidewalk.

So it hasn’t been all that deep to get out of the car anyway. That breeds cynicism, believing that no place is good—I haven’t taken the time to really experience the place before judging it. I am saying that those places are no better than any other places, without being in the place. I’m only seeing, not experiencing.

But I don’t want to say that everything I do is flawed—don’t want to harbor self-hatred or be an ingrate. It’s cool what we’re doing, glad I’m here, though we may not be taking each park in its full depth.

We’re seeing Montana. In a way, it’s like I’m taking pictures now, experiencing later. That’s not my intention, but the way it turned out. Sometimes it feels like I’m the Trip Photographer. I’m taking pictures instead of living it the first time, reliving it before living it.

I said that I can’t wait til I get my pictures developed. And that’s what I meant—I want to see how they turned out. But a third person angle might be that I want to see what my vacation was since I didn’t see it the first time.

[From journal of 19 Aug. 1994, 10:20 p.m. Mountain Time, Broadus, MT, Journal 7, page 39-41]

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