Is this the way to Amarillo?

Today I set off on the road again, but before I launch into that, have a few shots of Texas.

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A hidden gem

A hidden gem

I arrived at the Abilene greyhound at 2:10 for the bus due at half past. And then more fun and games: the stoic chap behind the counter couldn’t get his computer to work, and the clock was starting to wind down. With two minutes to go and no apparent development, I leaned across the counter and asked in rather a strained voice whether I might not just hop on and deal with it there, because ‘I really gotta get this bus’. He looked at me placidly, reproachful, and told me I was the one who showed up late. I had to bite down on a remark about twenty minutes being rather more time than printing a ticket should take.

Turned out I needn’t have worried, as the bus was late again – an hour, this time. We set off into the night with the moon at our flank: full, fat, heavy and – call me romantic – somehow auspicious. It lit up the curve of the midnight cloud and seemed to foreshadow good things to come.

The earth wheeled on through space; the moon relented and the sun came up. But that’s rather an understatement. Josh’s wife had told me: ‘everything west of here is nothing’, and that’s both true and untrue. The darkness, untroubled by street lights, fell away to reveal infinite horizons on both sides, the barren scrubland peeling away from the road until the curvature of the earth bent the fields out of sight of the naked eye. Above them, that massive, capacious sky was back, shot through with bright marigold flares. The sun is more brilliant here, near the equator. Hanging over it were draped these supermassive anvil clouds, and beneath them, in the delicate mauve of dawn, hung the wispy strands of distant rainstorms. It really is a landscape to inspire. There’s simply so much space and light. I’ve not really seen anything like it.

As the sun came up it was cradled in the clouds.

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I arrived in Amarillo just before 9, having got a little – just enough – sleep on the bus. Americans may not know this (even the person I spoke to there didn’t), but Amarillo actually featured in a terrible, kitschy song by Tony Christie, popularized briefly in England by comic Peter Kay. Link is here, if you dare.

It is bad.

Anyway, it was with interest that I walked out from the as-per-usual grotty station into the early morning. But uh… Amarillo is definitely a place that has seen better days. The streets were more or less deserted, the buildings were run-down brickwork with smashed windows, and the only thing in the entire town that was open was a Subway, where the counter attendant wished me God Bless. I wandered around the nearby blocks for about an hour, and then over to the churches, but really there wasn’t much to see. The people I did come across were all incredibly obese, which I’m increasingly starting to associate more with poverty than anything, and a general air of decrepitude cast a pall over the silent streets. A sad place.

After I reboarded, the countryside changed from flat green plains to flat brown plains, then vast, arid sierras with titanic shelves of rock breaking through like whales. Then came a hilly, tussocky area that reminded me of No Country For Old Men, and finally a series of rapidly undulating mounds that were so small and defined that they seemed almost artificial.

I arrived in Albuquerque and have been chilling out with my buddy Rhysaati, who I’ve known separate from PA, for about ten years now. It’s good to finally meet him. But I gotta go now, this isn’t the house I’m sleeping in tonight. More news tomorrow.

5 Responses to “Is this the way to Amarillo?”


  1. 1 Renée 07/08/2009 at 12:55 am

    “The people I did come across were all incredibly obese, which I’m increasingly starting to associate more with poverty than anything…”

    This is actually rather true. Prepackaged crap-for-you food is, unfortunately, cheaper on the surface than healthy foods. It takes time and planning to make healthy meals from scratch within the same budget…time that lower-income people don’t usually have as they are trying to put said prepackaged food on their tables. It’s a shame. Although, there are plenty of non-lower-income people who are obese because they have a deficit of self-control. haha

    On a lighter note, your photographs are quite iconic. I’m stealing the chapel one for my desktop. 😛

    • 2 SwashbuckerXX 07/08/2009 at 10:34 am

      I had an interesting conversation about the price of food with my Russian host family when I was studying abroad. Packaged junk food was still a luxury item there at the time (1997), so they thought it was really weird that healthy, fresh food is more expensive in the States. Granted, fresh greens aren’t too easy to come by in Moscow, but local produce was super cheap.

      When you think of it, it *is* pretty bizarre that processed food is cheaper than fresh food, and I’m pretty sure that effed up government policy plus processed food industry lobbyists are to blame.

      • 3 Renée 07/08/2009 at 3:14 pm

        Who knows? Of course, you can eat healthily for the same budget, but like I said, it takes planning. That can be daunting for many people, especially if they weren’t raised in a house that cooked and ate healthily.

        Local produce is often the key. Unfortunately, urban areas or arid areas don’t have the same access to local produce that other areas have. I don’t know what the solution for that is. Any time you ship food it costs money. :-/

  2. 4 xantus 07/08/2009 at 2:55 am

    wordscapes. beautiful.

    I had heard that amarillo song but not the original video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld1DTmXesTo
    they look like they’re having more fun 😀

  3. 5 Eben 07/08/2009 at 5:13 am

    Funny you should mention No County for Old Men as I read one of Cormac McCarthy’s other books, Blood Meridian, while I was on holiday. That had some stunning descriptions of the Texas landscape in it.


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