We’re powering west through sad and lovely North Dakota on I-94, with rainshadows on the beckoning end of day horizon, and round hay bales, corn, and dirt road villages to the sides of the road. Gray billowing clouds above.
We’re listening to NPR, and Robert Siegal, our plucky and ever-present patrician voice of reason, is interviewing a woman with an electronic scanner in a supermarket. The woman works for a statistics firm and is recording the price of apples, oranges, and grain to track inflation. Are you lulled into a mellow stupor yet? R. Siegal follows the statistician around for what seems like a half hour as she reads the price of apples. Hmm, 3 pounds for a dollar ninety nine. And how about Valencia oranges? $1.22 a pound, offers Robert, a little too eagerly, his grade school role as the kissass nerd racing to the fore.This goes on and on and on. NPR has truly trivialized itself (and Us the listener) into an ostrich’s hole, where we can muse on the minutiae as the distant thunder arrives.
North Dakota presents miles of open, uncluttered beauty to interstate drivers. Picture the rolling hills of California, 50 years ago, somewhat flattened out by a giant Hand O’ God, and that’s what we’re seeing on this long, long drive. We’re chasing the sun, and sunset and twilight last hours and hours.