Somewhere in South Dakota. Neon Jesus is the best Jesus.

Another school shooting, an event so common nowadays that it’s reported like the weather. Because we’ve acclimated. We’ve adjusted. We can adapt to anything, even if it’s awful. I try to pin down the moment we lost the capacity for national shock. Probably somewhere in the years between the killing of twenty first-graders and the election of a vicious game show host for president.

Meanwhile, our constitutional crisis deepens. The president remains defiant while Congress sputters and squawks, determined to follow the rules of a game no longer being played. They pass a resolution to hold the attorney general in contempt. A subpoena is issued for the president’s son. Sanctions and saber-rattling against Iran. We might be gearing up to manufacture another war. I turn off the news.

The motel manager was unnervingly chipper when I checked in, a shine in his eye that could have been religion or drugs. Now he’s walking the perimeter of the parking lot at midnight, staring straight ahead and making perfect ninety-degree turns. I close the blinds. Today would have been my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary and I’m not sure how to observe this fact. I do not want this information to disappear with me. I think about praying but I still don’t know how. Instead I fall asleep thinking about the origin of the word hotel until I become convinced it is a portmanteau of home and tele. A distant home. In the morning, some billboards tell me that God owes us nothing, love is an action verb, and the key to forgiveness was hung on the cross.

I drive with the windows down, thinking about forgiveness and my fifth grade teacher. I wanted to play the saxophone but she said my hands were too small. She made me play the violin and I was terrible. At our Christmas recital, she told me to just pretend my bow was touching the strings.

The towns in South Dakota have solid names like Reliance, Interior, and Alliance. A sign near at a rest area says several hundred victims of smallpox are buried nearby. Inside the travel plaza, giant flatscreens teach us the history of random celebrities. (Julianne Moore’s maiden name was Smith.) I wander the parking lot looking for the rental car, exchanging intense looks with a woman wearing a sweater that says “I’m not bossy, I just get everything I want.” I stare at the electrified gates of golf courses named after slain tribes. I speed past a dozen military planes propped up on concrete blocks like offerings to the machine gods.

Spiritualized – Lord Can You Hear Me?

from Let It Come Down | Arista, 2001 | Spotify | More info

A dazzling oscillation between hush and chaos and back again.

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