Route 66, 2006

A degraded and muffled Fourth of July. The prospect of celebrating America these days feels like a dark joke. Last year the president threw himself a parade with tanks in the street. Yesterday he stood before Mount Rushmore and stoked white resentment while he raged against boogeymen and science. Hopefully these are the last gasps of something dying. Meanwhile, local officials are pleading with Americans to stay inside this holiday weekend. Another fifty-thousand cases of coronavirus yesterday.

This morning I tried to gather my thoughts about being an American in 2020. I stopped mid-sentence after realizing I’d written the same words fifteen years ago, back when I thought the Bush years marked some kind of nadir: I am an American. I say this to myself and marvel at the flush of embarrassment, the red tingle of some forgotten humiliation or slight. I feel as though I owe someone an apology.

Sometimes I hum a nonsense melody I heard years ago from a man on the corner: I don’t care if it gets warm or if it freezes, just so long as I have my plastic Jesus. At dusk I went for an ugly run through the park and found relief in the clumps of people with their blankets and little grilles, laughing in the night and not reading the news.

Tonight I’m hanging onto this quote from David Lynch: “I think it’s money in the bank to get a good feeling going in the world.” Or as George Clinton laid it down forty-five years ago: “Good thoughts bring forth good fruit, bullshit thoughts rot your meat.”


Funkadelic – Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On | Westbound, 1974 | More

Today’s the perfect day to revisit the greatest American band. Eddie Hazel’s guitar was made for times like this, and George Clinton arrives at the seven-minute mark, sounding like a god: “You gravitate to that which you secretly love most. You meet in life the exact reproduction of your own thoughts. There is no chance, coincidence, or accident. Free your mind and your ass will follow. Be careful of the thought-seeds you plant in the garden of your mind, for seeds grow after their kind. Play on, children.”

Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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