Desert Solitaire for Johnny Spirit

Dear Mystery Companions,
As I was cleaning ones and zeros from my electric and all encompassing computer hard drive I came across a book report. This report I authored dutifully for a graduate level course of the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Resources Department at Michigan State University. Never mind the absolute shit-bagginess that I feel now knowing that my Master of Science degree, in part or in whole, was earned on the grounds of a fucking book report. Academia, how convincingly challenging you were. And how confidently hindsight says you were bunk steel on wheels. That said, I felt good about reading my book report. Felt good like a man feels good having shit on a rock after a hard day of smoking pot in the woods. Please enjoy this in all its verbatim goodness.

Voice of a Traveler

Edward Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness over the course of two summer season employment terms at Arches National Monument, Utah. The book was “pasted together-composed would be too generous a word” (p. x) from his journal entries. The reader floats swiftly along on Abbey’s stream of consciousness stopping periodically to speak with tourists at the front gate of the monument, push a cattle herd to summer pasture, follow General Powell’s expedition through Glen Canyon, or rappel into The Maze. The current flows with brutal arguments for wilderness, the myth of American culture, the failure of the government’s land management agencies and the anti-climactic destiny of mankind. As each of these sentiments uncovers the core of the Edward Abbey the man, they also whittle away at the primitive dirt-loving morality that is common in today’s headstrong environmentalists.

This book is either damning evidence that some people just don’t worry so much about why they are doing something as much as the fact that they are doing something; or a well orchestrated cover-up job. Given Abbey’s history as a free-spirit, activist and harsh critic of popular culture the conclusion is therefore the former. The essence of the free spirited human, mythical or factual, cannot be captured by assumption, speculation, thinking about the “why?” of it all. But the attention of the readers and the graders cannot be harnessed without these things. So this paper will assemble, because Desert Solitaire wasn’t telling, the basis of Edward Abbey’s motivations to get up and go and the satisfaction he experienced as a consequence thereof.

Eric Temple’s video (Edward Abbey: A Voice in the Wilderness, 1993) provides the basis for the argument that Abbey was just born for a life on the road. He had an early fascination with the American West and spent a great deal of his time riding the rails and hitchhiking there. John De Puy, illustrator of Desert Solitaire, speculates that it was a love of both the landscape and the sense of freedom that attracted Abbey to the West. In his own words Abbey states, “Once caught by this golden lure you become a prospector for life, condemned, doomed, exalted” (p. 242).

But one dares not assume that hopes of reliving old country songs or pages from paperback novels motivated him to move west. On the contrary Abbey believed, “a man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces” (p. 129). A more realistic assumption is that Abbey may have foreseen the extinction of the American West and chose to witness its final days. Chronicles of the demise of the cowboy way of life are found in two chapters (Cowboys and Indians I & II). Obviously dissatisfied with the state of the modern West, he states with spite “cowboyism rides rampant as never before on a field of golden neon dollar signs” (p. 109) and “the make-believe cowboys flourish and multiply like flies on pecan pie” (p. 110). In closing, with eulogistic overtones he summarizes, “cowboys and indians disappear, dying off or transforming themselves by tortuous degrees into something quite different…the originals are nearly gone and will soon be lost forever in the overwhelming crowd” (p.111).

His desire to witness the fading American west may have also been coupled by a need to escape modern society. Abbey’s trip tracing General Powell’s journey down the Colorado supports the escapism argument:

(My God! I’m thinking what incredible shit we put up with most of our lives – the domestic routine (same dreams every night), the stupid and useless and degrading jobs, the insufferable arrogance of elected officials, the crafty cheating and the slimy advertising of the businessmen, the tedious wars in which we kill our buddies instead of our real enemies back at the capital, the foul diseased and hideous cities and towns we live in…what intolerable garbage and what utterly useless crap we bury ourselves in day by day, while patiently enduring at the same time the creeping strangulation of the clean white collar and the rich but modest four-in-hand garrote!) (p.155)

The desert was a venue for Abbey’s escape from modern culture and for this purpose it seems to have satisfied him greatly. He states, “Wilderness. The word itself is music” (p. 166).

In the end, with his skepticism, aphorism, cynicism, anarchism and near-mysticism temporarily aside Abbey reveals that all the perfections he sees and feels in Canyon Country cannot snuff the flames of the “insane compulsion to be gone, to be elsewhere, to go, to go (p. 269). It seems he gains satisfaction by peering, no, hanging by fingertips, over an edge. Whether by rope over the physical edge of The Maze or by thought over the philosophical edge of the status quo Abbey claims, “Balance, that’s the secret. Moderate extremism. The best of both worlds” (p. 265). Bedrock and Paradox, the concluding chapter of Desert Solitaire, permits the reader to interpret, loosely of course, that Abbey’s inspiration to travel is cyclical. Some motivation, in his case birth, leads to total self-immersion in some experience. Abbey’s style of immersion is like a rock grinding ritual where all the dimensions of his experiences are momentarily converted to fine sand and stored in thoughts and words. This process itself seems a source of motivation, thus with the circle completed he is off again. The cycle is perpetual, and in this student’s understanding, is the blood of his writings. In the case of Desert Solitaire, his stay at Arches National Monument motivated Abbey to begin a new adventure on the flipside of the canyon’s coin in “Megalomania, U.S.A.” (p. 265), better known as the East Coast.

It is these kinds of radical changes in behavior that support an argument that Abbey was operating under shotgun style productions of internal motivations. His stream of consciousness does not reveal a process that governs menial decision making. Instead it argues for the existence of some non-process which allows an individual to experience his or her surroundings without being dominated by the passage of time, cause and effect relationships, or feelings of displacement, awkwardness or the longing for material comfort. Abbey’s satisfactions, like everyone’s, are a product of the war between reality and expectation. Through Desert Solitaire he reveals that wilderness, humankind’s only true reality, is his greatest satisfaction.



20,000 years ago, water boiled and a city crumbled. Deserts blew from left to right.

5,000 years ago, blue became light green. Parrots got feathers. Pictures were invented.

1 hour ago I had a sandwich for lunch.


Star Named in Tabby Love Scandal

Hollywood, CA--- And you thought your neighbor’s “Meow If You’re Muscular” bumper sticker was crazy. Some residents of a posh Beverly Hills community are calling for swift vigilante justice having learned of videos confiscated by local authorities in a routine body cavity search. Cameron Diaz, appearing in court for a simple urinating in public offense, behaved erratically in the courtroom prompting authorities to conduct a routine investigation into her state of mind. “She had on a funny kitty cat hat and at one point regurgitated what appeared to be at least a plateful of homemade lasagna onto the floor” said courtroom bailiff Trent Dyson. “It had canned mushrooms in it, too”

And the deeper they probed the more they found. Among the treasures of the day was an hour-long video of Diaz’s horny escapades with feline sensation Garfield. The pro shot DVD video was found lodged approximately twelve linear feet from her rectum in the lower intestine. Jalyn Tennyson of local Girl Scout Troop #4317 said, "Just thinking about humping cats makes me feel grody, I'd like to get some of my friends to gang up on [Diaz] and punch her in her f*#king face".

Other residents were optimistic, “I see it as both a true medical miracle and a tasteful contribution to the American art form” commented Dr. David Janz, founder of Proctology to the Stars a local astronomy club for hemorrhoid sufferers. “If only more people had her brand of courage.”

Neither Garfield nor Diaz could be reached for comment.


Clubs Trump

Some jackasses are building a machine that could accidentally unleash mini-black holes on your neighborhood.


If it were me, I'd rather not have mini-black holes unleashed on my neighborhood. If God were to come clean today and tell me, all black hole opinions aside, that the world must endure a mini catastrophic event to fulfill some divine scripture or something, I would certainly lobby against the mini-black holes. No matter what the consequences.

Of course old God could trump me up by suggesting eerier alternatives. And crooked smilingly force me to choose from these alternatives a new fate for Earth. You know, the "choose wisely my son" routine. I'd rise to the occasion, in fulfillment of some milder scripture. A second rate scripture perhaps. But one sans mini-black holes.

Fellow Earthlings, I would ensure our cosmic prevalence by choosing one of these alternatives:

- Mini butt rapings by mini prison guards
- Mini eye gougings by three mini stooges
- Mini bowl cuts by mini second rate female hair stylists
- Mini herpes infections spread by mini non-disclosing rural high school aged queens of the "outdoor party"
- Mini white holes