State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Natalia

Extinct animals, discontinued cars and disarmed rockets meet their end at the Great Plains. Grass covers many a secret and is a great backdrop for modern art installations. You get extra points for confounding future archeologist: just to think that we may know as little about Stonehenge as they will deduce about Carhenge.

In the 19th century prairie provided in abundance: land was parceled out to whoever would claim it, bones were dug up and carted off to whichever museum sponsored the dig. Military installations served the immediate purpose of suppressing native population.

The 20th century shrunk the plains. It’s all about conservation, preservation and recycling now. Finally somebody figured out that it is cheaper to send paleontologists to the bones, not the other way around. With tribes persuaded to stay on reservations the military is free to engage in world wide conflicts. And perfect location for retaliatory missiles aimed at targets in the Soviet Union is now a good location for a cold war era museum. Cars are still everywhere, but once they reach certain age, they are shredded and sent overseas instead of providing material for artwork.

Diversions that we find amid the grass detract from the sad truth: the prairie as the first Europeans knew it is gone. And digging bones, installing defense system or bringing in cars contributed but a little to its destruction. When we cracked the agriculture thing - it’s water, stupid - and the plains became the America’s bread basket, we signed their death warrant. So former bone beds digs, cars as art and decommissioned missile silos are the apt memento.


Just to be clear: I am not a big fan of the representational art. I feel that the era of cameras requires a painter to look beynd the obvious. The same applies to sculptures even if the sculpture in question is the size of a small mountain. Even if the mountain is not so small. That said Mt. Rushmore was not supposed to be an art piece. Or at least not just an art piece. It became an altar of secular religion of americanism. And an allegory of everything good and bad about America. It was conceived as a marketing stunt: to attract visitors to the unquestioningly beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. It was designed by a Ku Klux Klan member and it occupies a land that happened to fall under American control in less than savory circumstances. It was financed largely by federal tax dollars in a good old tradition of senators syphoning money to their states to reduce the waste on federal level. It was constructed with typically American combination of ingenuity and brute force: precision tools and dynamite. There were obstacles that were overcome: when Jefferson’s visage cracked and had to be blasted off, it was aptly recreated behind Washington’s left ear. And as any popular idea the Mt. Rushmore spurred the healthy competition. Works are under way on Crazy Horse Memorial nearby, which is way bigger and probably will turn out no less ugly than its rival.


I try to enjoy eating out. And in most cases I don’t have to try very hard. I am not a culinary snob. Not above enjoying a fancy dinner prepared by someone who actually knows what she is doing. I am also glad if I am offered something fresh and uncomplicated in a reasonably clean environment. When a server is nice and friendly I take it as a bonus. When he is a bit busy and forgetful I don’t let it to spoil my evening. I would be useless as a food critic since I like almost anything. You have to make an effort to disappoint me.