Take Your Grandmothers To National Parks -The Toast

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Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.45.29 PMAh, my foes, and oh my friends: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and I’m back. I’ve seen silent stars at 10,000 feet and a stone sky carved out of old and massive earth and I’ve been inside a cave that had a secret bar and dance floor in the back and I’ve had eggs and black coffee every morning before “we’d better get on the road if we want to make it to Bryce before the wind gets bad” and I saw a house pushed so deep into the ground only its roof and the first six inches of the top floor were still visible.

Verdict: American West? More like American Best.

I saw RV parks and cowboy-themed churches and withered mining camps and old polygamist cemeteries and Canadian retirees with “oh, two feet of snow in the backyard still, at least! We’re just happy to see the sun” and more than my fair share of Best Westerns, which are a fine hotel chain with numerous amenities and a real decent breakfast buffet if you get up before nine. A few elk too, and at least one hawk, and a pair of wild boar piglets trotting across the street from Prescott City Hall.

If you leave an ocean alone for long enough, it’ll foam and boil over and then subside into a long red cliff.

If you drive through a forest long enough, the ground will open up and you’re at the Grand Canyon. I don’t know why; it just does.

You ever see the Grand Canyon? You probably have. I hadn’t. I knew it’d be nice. Figured I knew what it looked like — canyon, grand, big hole in the ground, down Arizona way — friends, I was barreled, not to say bowled, clean over. It’s like someone scooped the heart right out of the earth and replaced it with a carving of a sunset. Quiet, too; the kind of quiet you can’t push away by talking any more than you can keep out the night by closing your eyes. An insistent, pressing, loud kind of quiet. You really ought to go. Take your grandmother, if she’s still around. You’ll have a great time. Get the steak at dinner. You’re in the Grand Canyon with a woman born in the 1930s; get a steak.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.45.43 PMFriends, like many of you I was until very recently under the impression that Death In Yellowstone was the greatest book ever written about death in one of our nation’s national parks. Until recently. The Grand Canyon cured me of this folly when I happened upon this little number: Over The Edge: Death In Grand Canyon.

How many people have fallen over the edge of the rim? Fifty-five. Oh, my God. Fifty-five tumbled over the edge. Never go near the edge of anything. Don’t even look at that big red lever on the backs of planes when you’re in line for the bathroom, the one that says DO NOT TOUCH, TOUCHING WILL CAUSE THIS DOOR TO RIP OPEN AND SUCK OUT EVERYONE NOT TIED DOWN IN THE REAR OF THE PLANE.

How many people have fallen over the edge of the rim after telling their son “Sometimes you gotta take chances in life”? One living soul entire.

Purchase yourself a copy. Read it every night in bed before you fall asleep. You’ll have horrible nightmares about being killed, but it’ll be worth it.

(Have you ever died in a dream and then had the dream keep going? I have, now. It’s terrible. You float around, a sort of pained and dimly-aware consciousness that gets foggier and less sure of itself with every minute, but you can’t get back into a dream and you can’t quite bring yourself to realize you’re dreaming and wake up. That’s what I’m most afraid happens after you die, not hell and not Nothing but getting less and less real without stopping.)

Anyhow. Go to the Southwest. I missed you all.

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