terland beyond the Appalachian Mountainsrnand, later, the Mississippi River,rnthey behaved like slum kids set loose in arnMayfair confectionery shop of continentalrnproportions. As the comparison suggests,rnthe determining factor seems tornhave been class, not culture, race, or ethnicity,rnthe late-arriving Anglo-Saxon-rnCeltic immigrants having acted as irresponsiblyrnas the newer stock (or more so,rnSandoz —herself the daughter of Swissrnimmigrants—would have said).rnHow does America in 1999 look to arnman who has lived for the past 20 years inrna small town in the least populated staternin the Union, without a television set or arnlocal movie house, and who travels mainlyrnby pickup truck? Like Denver InternationalrnAirport, I guess.rnCivilization once dominated, withoutrnnecessarily controlling, the world. AtrnDenver International, nothing controls,rnin spite of the shiny arcades, polishedrnfloors, and all the moving parts. Wogs arerneverywhere —at the car rental desks, securityrncheck-in, out on the tarmac. Alsorncrowds of lazy-looking, slow-spoken andrnslow-moving, ill-dressed native Americansrn(but neat, no stains or body odor: everyonernhoping and praying to get laidrntonight). If the American people arernworking themselves to the bone, two orrnthree jobs apiece or so we’re forever beingrntold, why are more than 50 percent ofrnthem overweight? Americans’ dress andrnphysical condition suggest they take neitherrnthemselves nor anything else seriously,rnlulled in the torpor of the MentallyrnHomogenous State. (Mass public educationrnreally works, contradicting the jacketand-rntie intellectuals who claim humanrnnature possesses a natural defense mechanismrnagainst indoctrination, brainwashing,rnand socially enforced stupidity.)rnBacklit advertising panels on the wallsrnfeature nature, children, romantic love,rnsimplicity: Industrial America payingrnhomage to all those things it’s most intentrnon destroying. “How do you keep inrntouch with the world around you as itrnchanges?” Thanks, but no thanks. In thernnews today: The Senate Republicans reversernyesterday’s vote on gun control;rnRobert Rubin, chief architect of our nationalrnfelicity, will leave Treasury in July.rnHe may yet go down in history as therneconomy’s Thomas Andrews, though escaping,rnprobably, going down with it, asrnAndrews did in the case of his own masterpiece,rnthe Titanic. To Hell with thernstock market, our national idol. Capitalismrnhas created an illusory world in orderrnto sell the real one; mass democracy, anrnillusory universe to sell itself The wastelandrnwe find ourselves inhabiting is therninevitable result.rnBy the time I’ve added the extra insurancern(“bumper to bumper”) the rentalrnagency man hints I need to have in orderrnto avoid a tolerable chance of ending uprnowing something like the sticker price onrnthe car, the total amount comes to twicernthe charge the travel agent quoted me arnmonth ago. It’s how we do business inrnAmerica today, and you give us any backtalk,rnwe’ll call security and have you takenrnout of here (argument being regardedrnby the authorities nowadays as simply anrnearly stage in the process of going postal).rnIn the parking lot at the end of a bus ridernacross what appears to be a couple ofrncounties, I’m deposited, without introduction,rnbehind the wheel of a DodgernSomething-or-Other (Sprite? No, that’srnthe soft drink) and a dashboard bearingrnno resemblance whatsoever to my ’88rnFord truck’s. They might as well haverngiven me a Stealth Bomber to pilot as thisrnDodge Spud. (Greyish tan, elongated,rnand lumpy, the car resembles nothing sornmuch as a freshly dug potato.) It takes 15rnminutes to discover how to turn the lightsrnon, and I’m launched then, into thernpenumbra of the coming Rocky Mountainrnnight, the weird sci-fi landscape —rnnot urban, not suburban—that is becomingrnAmerica.rnSince the collapse of antiquity, its retreatrnto the monasteries and feudal estatesrnof Western Europe, the history of thernWest has been the idolization—and thernidealization —of material wealth, againstrnwhich Christianity, for one, has had arntough time competing. Alchemy—thernquest to turn dross into gold—didn’t endrnwith the Middle Ages; it just changed itsrnname and moved out of a basement address.rnAlchemy, not Christianity or evenrnscience, is the true history of the pastrn1,000 years. The New World was nornsooner discovered than it became recognizedrnas man’s ultimate treasure, thernGolden Continent; later in its history,rngold, already idealized, became abstracted,rnthrough paper money first, thenrnstocks and bonds, the new alchemy; thernfinal step has been off the Gold Standardrnand up to the Golden Dow. That’srnprogress, after all. And who, in our wonderfullyrnmodern, secularized, and enlightenedrnAmerica, has actually seen orrneven heard of a golden buffalo calf-rnProtestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Other—rnconfidently awaiting the daily sacrificernon the national altars?rnModern Western culture, like everyrnculture in history, has its momentum, itsrntrajectory, before which Americans —rnnow more than ever —refuse to stop,rnlook, and listen. There’s a train wreck inrnstore along the track: our real rendezvousrnwith destiny. The Civil War and its aftermath,rnnot the Missouri Compromise,rnwas the “firebell in the night”; havingrnbeen rung so often since, it is today asrncracked as the Liberty Bell. Americans,rnfor the most part, pay no attention.rnSometimes it seems that, in spite of arnpopulation of 265 millions and counting,rnthere is no one at home in America.rnThe motel at the Loveland exchange isrnnearly deserted, but a single room costsrn$50-plus. When I go for breakfast nextrnmorning it is snowing, which the manager,rna Polish immigrant, isn’t thrilled by.rnLooks good to me, though—another immigrantrn(from New Mexico, in thisrncase) who’s had enough sun this pastrn22 months to satisfy a thousand madrndogs and 50,000 Englishmen. FromrnFort Collins, Colorado, to Laramie,rnWyoming, is a distance of 80 miles andrn2,000 vertical feet through broken redrnhills dotted with black juniper trees, separatedrnby grassy swales fresh and greenlookingrnbeneath a covering of wet Mayrnsnow. South and northwest are the high,rnsnow-covered mountains of Estes Parkrnand the Snowy Range pushing up intornWyoming from Colorado. A brief haltrnacross the state line to get out of the car,rnkiss the groimd, and do what men so easilyrnand uncomplicatedly do, outpacingrnthe female sex yet again-and onward,rnfollowing the snow-slick curves up to TiernSiding at the southern end of thernLaramie Plain. Good grass here, realrnturf, and black forested mountains beyond,rnfull of snow. The dashboard showsrnan exterior temperature of 41 degrees:rnParadise is a cold day in Heaven. . . .rnMore grass, a few ranches, the railroadrnrunning beside the two-lane…. At last, arnview of Laramie, Wyoming—my newrnhome—established on the east side of thernvalley against the low north-runningrnridge, a part of the Medicine Bow. . . .rnFairgrounds, railroad yards, the tall sandstonernspire of St. Matthew’s EpiscopalrnChurch rising above a community ofrnabout 27,000 souls. That’s too many peoplernstill, but a big improvement over LasrnCruces (pop. 78,000 minus the university).rnIn today’s insane and overcrowdedrnworld, one needs to be grateful for smallerrnand smaller favors. ^^rn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn