a us vacation provides scary enlightenment

It is getting harder and harder to get me out of the Yukon and on the road. I am, for the most part, content here in my little isolated wilderness…

It is getting harder and harder to get me out of the Yukon and on the road.

I am, for the most part, content here in my little isolated wilderness setting and I no longer travel as well as I used to.

But last week I packed my old leather luggage (not the kind that follows along behind like a puppy on wheels), threw it over my shoulder and flew out of town.

I spent the night in a B&B in Vancouver and did so because the price was right. When I booked the room I was told taxi fare from the airport would be $25. It was $45. When I added $90 round trip to the price of the room, the bargain slipped away.

To get to Denver I have to fly to Phoenix. It’s 38 degrees Celsius here and as their way of introducing me to the heat we land and sit on the tarmac for 50 minutes without air conditioning. No one seems to mind.

As sweat begins to bead up and roll down into my flannel shirt, the cabin comes alive with cellular conversations. From where I sit I get bits and pieces of three.

The young overweight “kid” next to me makes four calls in rapid succession. One is to his office where he instructs his secretary to fire one of the company’s drivers rather than give him a 15-cent raise.

Behind me in a deep and very loud voice a man insists the deal they had for $18 million may have to go to 19. But even then, “There is more than enough profit.”

I wonder why this guy is sitting in coach.

To my left a teenager argues with her boyfriend. He is not coming to the airport to pick her up. Can’t get dad’s car during the day. She hangs up, calls back, hangs up again, folds her arms and steams.

I land in Denver on schedule but miss the shuttle to Boulder. The next one is full so I will have to catch the 11 o’clock.

Not much is open in the airport at this hour. Making my way to Wendy’s I line up behind an obese mother with two kids who are literally screwing themselves into the ground.

She grabs the youngest before he pulls down the napkin holder. He does manage to get hold of a box of straws and scatters them around my feet.

The little girl in tight braids tugs at my pants, frothing at the mouth. I can’t understand a word she says. It is a language of a tightly wound motor.

Both kids suck on sugar sticks. Mom orders them each a large Coke, gets a coffee with four sugars and races on down the corridor.

I hear chairs hitting the floor somewhere in the distance and I catch the faint sound of a tightly wound motor.

My garden burger smells like pork.

I bite into it anyway in front of a television set telling me the Third World War has begun in the Middle East.

The CNN announcer — sporting gelled hair that sticks up over 1950s thick-rimmed glasses — is putting together the scorecard.

Syria aligns with Iraq, Germany and France will not support the US. China and Russia need Iraqi oil so they will make themselves scarce when the real fighting begins.

In the booth next to me a marine who is not old enough to shave and is covered in cheap tattoos looks over at me. “I’m goin’ over there next week, kick some butt.”

My burger tastes like pork. I toss it and go outside to sit in the night heat.

At 11, my shuttle arrives. So does the marine. We sit together for 35 minutes while we wait for a scheduled passenger who doesn’t show.

The van idles with the door open. I am getting sick. I ask the driver why he doesn’t turn the damn thing off. “Company policy.”

As we get ready to leave the driver calls out the stops we will be making along the way, 12 in all.

The marine bolts for the door. He is on the wrong bus. He kicks a garbage container with his highly polished combat boots and marches back to the terminal.

I am staying on “millionaires row” in Boulder, up against the foothills open space, and walk to the downtown mall on a street lined with SUVs, four-wheel-drive Carraras and Hummers.

Several post stickers in the back windows: “My child goes to Sendac School for exceptional children.”

One new Lexus has decal bullet holes pasted on all the doors. They look amazingly real and I quickly look around for the young marine.

Two joggers sweat their way up the street, both on cell phones.

I walk past a vintage VW Bug. On the bumper there are two stickers:

One reads, “A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t function unless it’s open.”

The other, “Keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

I make a mental note that the bug has four flat tires.

For dinner I dine at the new downtown Julian Hotel. I eat a pale-green soup with a drop of blonde goat cheese sunk in the middle.

Amid the constant hum of central air, it is so cool inside I ask the waitress to open the window. She does and thanks me. “I have been freezing all day in here.”

Before I finish scraping the cheese off the bottom of the china, a valet with pimples is tossed the keys to a purple Carrara, puts it in reverse, burns rubber and back into a Volvo SUV.

The hood folds under and steam rises from the Volvo. The waitress chuckles, brings me another Perrier.

I open my notebook and jot down the following: Kevin Costner in Waterworld tells a community of people, “You have nothing I need, you’re dying.”