Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Day 8 - Out of mind and into my car

Greetings from Day 8 on the road in Los Angeles, where half the cable television stations in our hotel speak a language unfamiliar to my ears. For the first time, I have seen a Chinese network delivering the news, complete with that CNN-type scrawl along the bottom of the screen. Quite the sight!
You can easily drive across the country and never know what is happening in your hometown, your home state, the state you are in (literally and figuratively) or anywhere else in the world. Significant portions of the nation area simply too remote to receive normal radio signals and often those stations within range give the news as little attention as possible – prioritizing it behind the local minister’s mid-afternoon evangelizing or the wheat and cattle prices.
Unless you are within the immediate circulation region of a major metropolitan daily paper, the edition received in the nether region has old news. Of course, it’s not old if you are totally unaware that it has taken place.
News delivery is not a problem in Los Angeles. Every network and radio syndicate is on the air. If you make it here, you make it everywhere. I confess that I have yet to hear the sex advice call-in shows (if they, in fact, exist) and the adjustment to certain shows (live here means far earlier than otherwise the norm) is not easy. Watching new national network news at 6:30 p.m. LA time meant ABC was not among them, since Monday Night Football was already underway. It must be a kick to enjoy baseball or football with breakfast tacos.
Monday’s big LA news story was a massive blackout in midday, caused by a careless public works employee and a bad countermove. Never has so much been made about a blackout than turned out to be so benign. The ABC radio station was broadcasting its sister TV stations telecast live on the radio, which doesn’t work when the anchorman goes, “Wow, look at that picture!” Bad radio.
The big news connection had this action as a possible terrorist attack because some kid from the O.C., who gave up on girls and turned to Al-Qaeda (couldn’t have been because the clothes are hipper?), threatened Los Angeles and Melbourne in a tape. No one is taking this guy seriously, which could be a mistake, but the man’s history and background suggests low-level lackey. Besides, terrorists probably shouldn’t call us “infidel dudes.”
Still, as a news junkie, I am a newspaperman and I love collecting newspapers from most of the communities I visit. My floorboard will be stuffed with half-read editions from Phoenix, El Paso, San Diego, Los Angeles and (future to come) San Francisco, Albuquerque, Amarillo and all points in between.
But to the totally oblivious to the world around you, just play your CDs. All the time. Music erases the realities of life on the road. And you can literally orchestrate many of your experiences – pre-program your background music.
While at the Grand Canyon, play Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” (I will.) In the Joshua Tree National Park, play anything off U2’s album, “The Joshua Tree.” (I did.)
Beach Boys music while driving up the Pacific Coast Highway? You betcha. Tony Bennett in his city by the bay? Of course. Crank up Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” while flying down the Santa Monica Freeway? What do you think?
The Cowboys’ score? Who cares? I’ve got the Who playing. Flood? What flood? I’ve got the newest Sheryl Crow CD.
When you are driving and taking photos and seeing the beautiful sights of this great land, it is easy to lose track of time and events. You don’t need a trunk full of CDs to do it.
Just before departure, we picked up one of Jodie’s co-workers at DFW Airport and we were telling her of the big news, involving Hurricane Katrina and the sad fate of New Orleans. The woman was only faintly aware of the circumstances and not the details.
“I haven’t seen the news in a week,” she said. “All I’ve been doing is playing with my grandchildren. You tend not to focus on anything else; least of all the news.”
Oy vay! In a few months, I might be totally out of it.
Ask me then if I care.

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