Part II (15 Jan ’15) – “Last Exit to Elsewhere” –
illustrates Mr. Heat-Moon’s superb writing
I was going to stay on the bent and narrow rural American two-lane, the roads to Podunk and Toonerville. Into the sticks, the boondocks, the burgs, backwaters… Into those places where you say, “My god! What if you lived here!” The Middle of Nowhere.
Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon’s classic 13,000 mile drive in 1978 through the nation’s back roads — its blue highways — is a beautifully written travelogue/memoir about American culture (and more) outside of fast food franchises and Walmart Superstores.
Maybe America should make the national bird a Kentucky Fried Leghorn and put Ronald McDonald on the dollar bill… the franchise system has almost obliterated the local cafes and grills and catfish parlors serving distinctly regional food, much of it made from truly secret recipes. In another time, to eat in Frankfort [KY] was to know you were eating in Kentucky. You couldn’t find the same thing in Lompoc or Weehawken.
“Honest food at just prices” is a metaphor for life far from the nation’s urban centers. “One infallible way to find” it is to “count the wall calendars” in cafés in blue-highway America. And count he does. From Manteo on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to the Pacific, Mr. Least Heat Moon (pictured above right) writes about Americans’ acceptance of ceaseless change, commitment to family values, love of the land and no nonsense, straight talk. His prose is masterful – simple, elegant, intimate, the right word at the right place, rhythmic, varied sentences, organic similes and metaphors rising spontaneously, vivid descriptions that bring life to literary scenes, impulsive, striking humor and the formidable ability to transform observations into interesting ditties into anecdotes into vignettes, weaving all into a theme that characterizes much of American culture and intrinsic qualities of the travel experience.
Space limits illustrative examples. They come next week in Part II.
— Tucker Cox, contributing writer
Photos courtesy of Bing Images