The Squeaky Robot

A Meddling Robot in a Human's World

Posts tagged “America

Land of a Million Elephants

Posted on May 9, 2015

While in the small city of Pakse, a man named Akamu told me a story. We sat in a noodle shop at lunchtime draining our hot bowls of their contents. Every ten seconds a rotating fan found our table, blowing our dirty napkins away. “It’s a story about a giant jar in the sky. How Lao people came to the earth.” He said how a ‘big evil’ grew from the land, and at its end hung a jar that blocked the sun, casting darkness unto everything. “The gods came to cut the big evil, to give the world light.” Only when the big evil was vanquished and the jar fell, presumably, could humans emerge from the jar. Then came the animals, the “rocks like…

Road Trip Brain

Posted on August 25, 2013

We sailed through California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, clipping Montana and Arizona along the way. No mind-numbing traffic, rolls of hay for days (each scene could’ve had its own frame, entitled The Great American Landscape), blocks of bright green surrounded by seas of waterless yellow, decrepit road-side shacks, small places with big stories, ordinary towns at the base of extraordinary mountains, deep red and pink. This was the America I hadn’t known. We ended up spinning over 3700 miles of road in twelve days. Exponential tire rotations. Twelve tanks of gas. From San Francisco to DC, then practically back again. And yet it feels like nothing. One hundred miles pales to 1000. Before, as many as fifty would’ve been a big affair. Three…

The Life and Death of a Kite

Posted on August 20, 2013

The Life & Death of a Kite

In Memory of Joe Kessler

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The life of a kite is beautiful but tenuous. Great effort must be put towards its flight, even more should it thrive and soar. A kite needs ample care. You must give it wind. Continual tugs and pulls, caressing the line so that it catches a gust and doesn’t falter. You need to run; a kite needs energy. So run very fast! Run so fast that the kite becomes an extension of your body. So that you share the same heart. What you do on the ground matters very much in the air, especially for the life and death of a kite.

Grand Tetons

Posted on August 18, 2013


For billions of years, heat and pressure and volcanoes and sediments and wind and water and plates worked together unceremoniously so that we could one day have mountains like these. And then you forget about America’s inane media and backwards politics, about its injustices and tragedies. Because when there’s a rock like that in front of you, there’s little else to do than to stand there, mouth gaping, and make space in your head for something much bigger.

Atomic City

Posted on August 17, 2013

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Listen, it’s like this. Cold War enthusiasts will have a spot in their hot hearts for a place like Atomic City, not even a blip along the road halfway between Arco and Blackfoot, Idaho. Once a hub of America’s latest and greatest nuclear activity, it has since given way to the quick-cooling nature of fiery arms races.

The City has twenty-seven residents, only three or four of whom still work. The bar serves as the terminus for all things relating to the outside world, namely the post office and the long-gone gas station. Inside, the bar is a shrine to America’s booming years. Neon signs, novelty ash trays, retro toys and collectibles sit along the wood-paneled walls collecting dust until someone new is curious enough to take a closer look. The mustachioed cowboy pictured, Dwayne, in fact owns the bar and a whole block of Atomic City, the front and center dirt road adjacent to the racing track where small groups gather every summer to drive in circles, and he’s in the process of selling his land to no buyers. He’s a retired operational engineer at the nearby hidden plant, looking to rid his territorial burdens and join his lady in Blackfoot.

But I suspect no one will see turnover in Atomic City. I suspect that its twenty-seven retirees will each quietly go away and the place will live up to its pending status as a ghost town. Even now it’s more of an oddity than an actual zip code. Eventually, the only trace of its noble past will be the radiation that lingers on through the whistling wind and dust.

The Greats on Serenity & Nature

Posted on July 23, 2013

  Recommended music for the following thoughts and visuals. Kahlil Gibran Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Bill Bryson Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old. Walt Whitman I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. Carl Sagan The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the cosmos. Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. Jelle Brandt Corstius Since the beginning of time, nomadic people…

Hundred-Mile Wilderness

Posted on July 19, 2013


   A ten-hour road trip north of home and I find myself in the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, a notorious section of the even more notorious Appalachian Trail. This is my brother’s trip, though. I’m just along for the ride, offering just my driver’s license and extensive knowledge of the perfect s’more.

   My brother and his friend are avid fishermen. They discuss fish as if there is no other topic to be discussed. They eat their meals quickly and expel from their seats when they deem socially acceptable in order to make it back to the swimming hole before dark. They happily navigate sluggish brown water down to their waists and then happily pluck squirming leeches from their legs. It’s all part of the job.

   It turns out that all people, from 0 to 150 years old, can teach us something. My brother, eight years my junior, has already grasped something it took me much longer to learn: there is more joy in the routine, the effort and the attempt than there is in the catch.

   While they fish, I sit in a kayak with my camera and wait to catch the sunlight.

The New Beat

Posted on March 23, 2013

John Clellon Holmes once said, “Everywhere the Beat Generation seems occupied with the feverish production of answers—some of them frightening, some of them foolish—to a single question: how are we to live?” Holmes was a kind of wrangler of his wayward band of brothers – Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Cassady. He collected and compiled all holy data equally induced by drugs and existential despair to document and thus immortalize the claudicant enlightenments of his lost thinkers. And that’s what it was all about; the beatniks occupied themselves solely with the single most relevant question of any person’s life: how are we to live? In this way, we are all beatniks. No one’s experience or story counts for more than any other, just as no one…