A Fluid History Of America

America began in the Northeast. Here the wellspring of the dream of America cracked open the granite, drowning the dreams of the Iroquois and Algonquians, here it has the most depth, as it has had the most time to erode the land. It quickly flowed south, and its tidal pull sucked down dreams from as far away as Africa. New Orleans is unique because it existed before America was a dream. This did not prevent it from partaking of this flood.

As the American Experiment marched westward, the detritus of its various depths of dreams landed and took root in various places. In Missouri and around the shores of the Great Lakes it deposited hearty, solid people, and those with less density continued west and south. Salt Lake City accrued around a deposit caused by an eddy current of spirituality that flowed out of upstate New York; this is also true of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Las Vegas exists largely because the universe loves a paradox. Thompson [cit] speaks of standing in Las Vegas and seeing the high water mark of a wave that had started in San Francisco; what he was seeing was, I believe, the backwash of America hitting its edge and turning back upon itself.

Los Angeles, however, quickly established itself as the western pole in America’s dreaming, and the whole country can be considered a state of tension and flow between these two very different Americas, the Eastern Origin and the Western Boundary Condition. The precise locations of the poles drift over time, of course, but the Western Pole is currently situated in a hand car wash in Beverly Hills that has a tamale truck in the parking lot. The Eastern Pole is located in a small deli on the Lower East Side. The addresses are not a matter of public record, but I can say with assurance that both the tamales and pastrami are delicious.

Eventually America reached a more or less steady state and I determined I would have brunch at a cafe with several outdoor tables and take advantage of the overcast. Unfortunately I chose to do this in San Francisco, on a Saturday no less, where everyone else had the same idea. Desultory, delusional, dispersed San Francisco, where mad individualism, the only motive power that pushes the current up and over the Rockies, washes up against the western shore and breaks the land down further into a fragmentary marshland of islands, torn by currents of wealth and history into a swampy archipelago of desires. San Francisco likes to pretend it has a soul; what it has is ghosts.

Shown: The Western Border ConditionShown: The Western Border Condition

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