tour diary    
  shelley jackson  



In the morning paper, the Battle Mountain Bugle, we read that four people are in jail for stealing Wonder Bread, that May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, that the spring craft fair offered many items, and that Big Mama, a 9 and 1/2 foot boa constrictor, was rescued from a burning mobile home. So was Big Mama's dinner, a rabbit, who starts a new life today. "After what that rabbit went through, it didn't deserve to be a snake's dinner,"says Big Mama's friend and rescuer.

I am practising guitar in the passenger seat and considering writing a talking blues song about our trip or maybe the Ballad of Shelley and Kelly (it's too convenient that our names rhyme), when we pass Thunder Mountain. After a hasty consultation we pull off, bump down a gravel road, park.

What is Thunder Mountain? It's a frontier Gaudi, it's a nightmary-go-round, it's a jungle-gym for fever dreams, it's history Play-Doh, it's a worm-casting from the world serpent. Like the barbed-wire buffalo (four and a half miles of tangled American dream), it's part come-on, part warning. Rolling Mountain Thunder built it; his son maintains it; Nevada made it a historical monument, Dr Daniel Seth Gordon and Shirley Stone (who they?) designated it an Official Most Wonderous Site, as do Shelley Jackson and Kelly Link and a sleek handsome reptile I think is probably a gopher snake and we will call Small Mama from now on. You should go there and see it for yourself.

We type wind letters on the petrified typewriters. We look up the vagina of a triumphant red personage spread-eagled on the roof. We wish more people built things like this instead of entering MFA programs, although we are among those who attended MFA programs instead of building things like this. I take a picture of a sun-bleached demonic-looking baby doll whose legs have been passed through the holes in a pelvis of a cow. Kelly takes a picture of a butterfly with a chief's face. We pour all our loose change in the donations kitty.

Small Mama, peering from between the pink concrete moccasins of a sad-eyed lady, watches us go.

In Reno, we find our way to a Borders, where we find our books and turn them face out on the shelves and order lattes and ask directions back to the freeway from "Scott," who is very helpful. I am driving and I am tired of driving. I wipe off my sunglasses so I can see the dead bugs on the windshield more clearly. We listen to the Magnetic Fields. We listen to Chubby Bunny, though we can't tell what they are saying. Kelly says, "It sounds like they're barking." We bark along with them. We listen to Rufus Wainwright, though we can't tell what he is saying either, for different reasons, so we chime in on the vowel sounds and leave the consonants alone; as a result our singing is more like howling. We howl the whole record. When we see the Welcome To California sign, we cheer. At Donner Pass I take a picture of myself biting Kelly's arm.

On the down slope there are signs to truckers: "Let 'er drift. Cool 'er down." We wonder if these signs have more authority with truckers because of the dropped consonants. We fly down the mountain. We let 'er drift. We cool 'er down. We pass truck after truck. I call my parents to say, we'll be in Berkeley in an hour. Five minutes later we are stuck in traffic.

Earlier I bought a bag of gummy bears because it contained conjoined twin bears and I want to take their picture. Now the gummy bears have gone soft in the heat. We eat them; it's like eating spoonsful of jelly. We eat pretzels. We moan softly. We are 62 miles from home and we are not moving

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