Just Passing Through

Outside of The Eagles’ classic song Take It Easy, most people know absolutely fuck-all about Winslow, Arizona. I’m fortunate to have actually spent a little time in the place. My aunt and uncle lived there for a while and we used to spend Christmas with them. Actually, they lived there twice. Once when I was fairly young, then they moved, then they moved back. Then they moved again.

At any rate, I’ve spent some time in Winslow. It’s a tiny, little wide spot on I-40 between Holbrook (also a wide spot) and Flagstaff (a cool wide spot and home to Northern Arizona University and Bookman’s). Winslow is your run-of-the-mill small Arizona town and aside from the fact that the Mormon church went out of business and someone bought the place and turned it into a giant house, there’s not much to say about Winslow.

Oh, it also has a place that serves the world’s worst Chinese food. My grandfather loved that place.

Now Winslow is dying the same slow, desperate death a lot of small towns are experiencing. The movie Cars made this sound like a tragedy, but aside from the fact that Winslow is a convenient place to get gas and a lot of people are going to lose their shirts when the town finally closes its doors, not much of importance will be lost. People will find new places to live and the world will move on just like it has when countless other places have rolled up the streets and called it a done day.

Anyway, enough about the sad and sordid history of Winslow, Arizona. The point of this post is just how much of an asshole I am that I can look at the slow death of a small town and see nothing more than a story idea.

Last week we took a trip up to Zion National Park in Utah to spend some time with friends and celebrate some birthdays. As we were passing through Winslow (at exactly the speed limit, I assure you),  we saw the remnants of some building or another. All that was left was a mostly empty dirt log, the rusted I-beams that made up the frame, and an old rail freight car.

A perfect place for a story with all kinds of high weirdness. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but driving (at exactly the speed limit) wasn’t conducive to getting a decent shot. But I saw the scene and immediately saw the end of the world had come and gone and there were still a couple people out there working on some strange tech hammered together with dreams, bailing wire, and bits of crashed UFOs. Around them were 50 gallon drums filled with flaming refuse and the endless brown desert. The stars filled the skies. They had one final shot at redemption in a world that died with a whimper.

Maybe it’s just me, but I saw a story in that old frame and dirt-bound freight car. Inspiration comes from all sorts of bizarre places.

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8 thoughts on “Just Passing Through

  1. We travelled through a lot of the U.S. once opon a time. I remember some of those tumbleweed towns and might even have driven through Winslow on the way to Zion National Park. There’s plenty of scope for inspiration almost anywhere. I like the idea of your story!!

  2. Maybe that is the lot in life of an author. We give words to possibilities where people don’t instantly see them. We take the refuse of the world and turn it into something unusable. I had a similar experience recently when I was driving through Chicago (where I am from). To see the rusting remains of the post industrial world being replaced by the new modern buildings gave me an idea for a long forgotten super soldier who is disturbed from his slumber under a former military factory. Pissed off and highly polluted from years of sleeping in the industrial waste of Chicago, he wakes to find a world filled with Starbucks fueled millennials. He has a score to settle with the company that left him there.

    Perhaps the author is here to interpret those plains of existence unseen by the masses and breathe life into them. Maybe what we see in our minds is actually happening in a different reality, separate from our own?

    Maybe The Clockman really does exist in another reality and you are only the author who sees his activity?

    1. Fascinating idea. I haven’t been to Chicago in a while and even then I was stuck downtown doing some work for the commuter rail folks. There are some great stories around each corner and down each alley. It was a trip to me how the downtown area was this huge, bustling place during the day that emptied out at night.
      And, man, I hope the Clock Man doesn’t exist; he was a scary dude.

  3. Great post. In a wasteland, a writer’s mind can go down a million different roads, even if there’s only one. Your vision of Winslow reminds me of some of the scenes in King’s Dark Tower series. Good stuff.

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