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The Room Next to the Ice Machine

On a recent roadtrip (SF to Portland Or) I made it my mission to stay in hotels that cost no more than $100 a night.

Because I now consider flying as a series of small agonies that might conclude with a crash (Samuel Johnson's "being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned") I drove the Volvo, having done the math, the math proving that driving, all things considered, is almost as efficient as flying, when factoring the time it takes to drive to the airport, go through TSA, sit on the tarmac before departure and after arrival...studies must have been done about the efficiency of automobile travel vis-a-vis air travel, the actual time and fuel costs of each? Though what study could possibly analyze the benefit of having the steering wheel in your own hands as opposed to being crammed into an airplane seat built for a 5-year old child and being piloted by an anonymous captain of whom you're lucky to glimpse the back of his or her head, or a full frontal if he or she should need to use the restroom sometime after takeoff.

Flight is wildly unnatural; that airplane flight is one of the principal illusions sustaining capitalism, under the premise that speeding is a sign of productivity, is one of my carefully considered, elegantly framed theories. The language of airplane flight is full of what I call bullshit semiotics, as is the language of financial institutions: the megabank of America that sends me a check for $1.17; the airline of Alaska texting me that instead of an 11:25 a.m. departure the flight's delayed 8 minutes to 11:33 a.m. Such notifications wear the guise of straightforwardness, wearing their honesty with a straight face--if the bank is honest enough to refund me $1.17 and the airline to notify me that my flight's 8 minutes late, they each must be scrupulously honest, honest to the decimal point, but their honesty costs them nothing and behind the straightforwardness is a smirk.

Driving, I have time to think about such things, remembering Gary Snyder's notion, while somewhere on the road near the border of California and Oregon, a notion I call necessary regression, but which Snyder might call postmodern environmentalism: that man and nature aren't necessatily in conflict with one another but that it might be a good idea to slow down our civilizing techniques should we wish to survive.

Other road thoughts include:

1) can a human utterance be a semiotic? If so what can we make of people who say in the middle of a sentence, "Can I be honest with you?"

2) which is more beautiful, a skyscraper or a wind turbine?

3) if I was to hear my own narcissism what would it sound like?

4) I know a whole bunch of people who aren't important but who are self-important.


Near Eugene I go off road to look for a cheap hotel: 

Me: Do you have a quiet room?

Desk Clerk: Why do you ask?

Me: I'm a writer.

Desk Clerk: Yes, on the 3rd floor in the corner.


I take the room. It turns out it's near the ice machine, a bonus of sorts.

When you do things the hard way it means you have a conscience. It may mean other things as well, but I know it means that.

Reader Comments (2)

Observations and questions I ask myself. There are quite a lot of mental gymnastics involved with travel. Tiresome. I ultimately ask, why am I going?

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaher Tom

By the way, Happy April Fools Day!

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaher Tom

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