Ernie had his own take on the Utah road trip I wrote about in the previous blog entry. He saw things from an artist’s point of view. This posting features a few notes he took, along with some art he scribbled on the way. The hoodoos of Bryce reminded Ernie of tikis, so he invented a new form, the tiki-hoodoo.
Ernie: None of it seemed real until we were up in Northern Arizona, when all the structures along the roadside were trading posts and the mountains took on flowing, shattering shapes. Suddenly Phoenix, Glendale, the job, the routines that controlled our lives were far away. Possibilities were now wide open. Anything could happen.
When we stood on the Route 89 bridge that spanned the Colorado, Nora and I snapped away with our cameras – we were the two obsessed with taking pictures (though I was definitely the most frequent snapper – I think I took over 600 photos). Chris is a rocket scientist, he thought the bridge was pretty cool in and of itself. The river flowed somewhere between 100 and 200 feet below us, it was a little hard to tell the depth. I’m still wondering what caused the spooky bubbles – organic matter decaying?
As we continued into Utah, Ernie kept thinking like a painter.
Ernie: It was like wandering around inside a Max Ernst panting. Ernst painted many landscapes that resembled this geologic wonderland, most of them decades before he finally moved to Sedona.
The Red Rock country of Vortex Land is mild surrealism compared to Vermillion Cliffs on the Navajo Reservation. And this was just a warm-up for crossing into Utah. At first the rocks just talked. Then they sang. Eventually they sent out vibrations that echoed across the universe.
Those may sound like fanciful remarks, but I felt the same way. One of the reasons I took so many pictures was that I was trying to capture the whole experience. Looking at them reminds me what it felt like to be there. But I wish I could have made quality sound recordings of the places themselves – an odd notion, because it was the silence of those places that impressed me. You can’t record that. If you could, those recordings of CANYON SILENCE would sell like hotcakes.
The first Utah city we stayed in was Kanab. Here’s what Ernie had to say about it.
Ernie: We spent a couple of nights in Kanab, with its authentic and Hollywood cowboy memorabilia. From there we checked out Zion (where the bus driver warned us about the Datura AKA the Devil’s Trumpet AKA loco weed that grew all over), and Bryce Canyon, where we found out that the fantastic spires of rock are called hoodoos. A lot of tourists and park workers were speaking French and German, making it like a visit to Europe. At one point I overheard a family speaking French, and they turned out to be Asian.
I loved Kanab so much, I wondered if I might like to move there some day. It’s well-positioned for exploration of the National Parks in the area, from the Grand Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs to Zion and Bryce. I imagined driving to Zion for daily hikes. But when I set my weather function on my Cox home page so I could see how cold it got in the winter, I quickly realized it’s probably too cold for me. It’s perfect in summer, though. So maybe we could rent a place there for a couple of months . . .
We underestimated the time it would take us to travel Scenic Routes 12 and 24 on our way to our next stop, but the roadside scenery was fabulous.
Ernie: Our next stop, through some more fantastic landscapes, was Moab. There we stayed at the Inca Inn, run by a nice German couple. It was next to a Mexican restaurant that offered Mayan fare, and Lin Ottinger’s Moab Rock Shop and Fossils, where geologic treasures are guarded by a dinosaur covered with Christmas lights. Datura grew up through the decorative gardens in front of many of the businesses on main Street.
I think I loved Moab even more than Kanab, and that’s quite a lot. I confess, Lin Ottinger’s rock shop and the great Mexican restaurant next to it may have influenced me.
Ernie: From Moab we went to the Arches and Canyonland National Parks, where hoodoos spoke, and we learned about cryptobiotic soil, a living crust of bacteria and microbes that grow on desert dirt as the first stage to making it viable for plant life.
We were all very careful not to step on the cryptobiotic soil. And in Arches and Canyonlands we saw the two geologic features that I liked the best. In Arches it was Park Avenue (a place I think of as the Hall of Kings because one of the formations to the East looks like a pharaoh wearing the crown of Upper Egypt).
In Canyonlands it was the Sky Island viewpoint of the Colorado River. The scale of both of these views is really hard to portray in a photograph.
Ernie: From there we took more incredible scenic byways, as the signs called them, cross-crossing the Colorado River all the way to the state of Colorado, where we stopped at the Dinosaur Journey Museum and took a break among the mechanical dinosaur and fossil displays before heading through more crumbling mountains that grew higher and greener as we made our way into Denver.
Ernie’s reaction to the World Science Fiction convention was to feel inspired to get working on things again. That alone makes it worthwhile. Here are his conclusions:
Ernie: How could the WorldCon compare to geologic wonderlands? Science Fiction is another world. Another world in crisis. Another world in transformation. The short story still has potential, but New York has turned its back on that. I say it’s time to turn our backs on New York. Anyway, I’m determined to finish my fetal stories and set them loose to show the bastards how it should be done.
Denver is still another world. The 16th Street Mall is a great place for a convention to spill out into. Places to eat, characters walking the streets talking to cell phones or themselves. New and old styles of architecture, buses, and trolley cars create a 21st century urban experience, complete with Nigerian street vendors, homeless beggars, and tattooed youths.
Somehow I managed to find and talk to all the people I wanted to catch up with at the convention. I changed my mind about the short story market, decided to start making a go of it. Also, the editors at ANALOG and ASIMOV’S said that they’d rather have their magazines in the science fiction section than on the magazine rack. I told them that I’d get to work on it.
Em got an idea for a novel, she happily spent most of the con working on it. I looked at ‘Mars-A-Go-Go’ and found that it was not far from being finished. I need to work out an agenda for short fiction. I’ve also been drawing every day this vacation so far. The creative juices are flowing, and this wasn’t yet the end.
Ernie did a bunch of drawings during the trip, and he finished up some stories. He didn’t lose the energy he found on that trip, and I didn’t either. Now we’ve got a scanner, so he can post his art online. Our blogs and our Facebook pages give us new and better ways to connect with an audience. So the story has a happy ending – because it’s just the beginning!