Maps have a similar effect on me. It's
fun to be
one place for awhile; even funner to wonder what the next place will be
like. The anticipation is hard to battle, and unfortunately, it often
that the place I'm currently at takes a back seat to the place that's
In Quemado, I took a break,
determined to enjoy
the place for awhile and not just pass through. I stayed overnight at
the Largo Motel. In music, "largo" means slow. An omen if I ever
I took a walk in the evening, to watch
darkness settle across the small town. The air was chilly. The cold
of my tripod and camera stung my hands. My breath was turning to mist
the air, but except where it reflected in the street lights, the mist
lost in the darkness.
Not every block in Quemado has street
areas along the roadside that evening were completely dark. A block
my hotel was one such area. I could make out only outlines of buildings
or fences set back from the road. I felt the gravel from the side of
road under my shoes as I wandered tentatively, my path lit only by
the headlights of the occasional passing truck. I wondered as they
passed where those trucks were going, rushing ahead as I often did
in anticipation of the next place.
Overhead, the stars unfolded like my
The night sky stretched out forever, and from such a sight I, too,
have thought Columbus' hypothesis crazy. My eyes jumped from one
to the next. I can recognize about five, but only name three. Something
else I've always wanted to improve.
When I reached the end of town,
blocks, I stopped a moment to take pictures, then began my return trip.
My eyes had adjusted all they were going to by that time, but it was
dark. I made my way as best I could, following what I could see of the
road lines reflecting the light of the stars. Another block down, I
dogs and rustling across the street, where I could make out the
of a burned-down two-story building, one that I thought I remembered
a daylight drive past had been another hotel, or possibly a laundromat,
or both. Were there dogs over there? I would be defenseless if
But the rustling stopped and after waiting a moment, I moved past.
I crossed the street in the next block
to go to
the store. A big place for such a small town, with wide aisles and a
stock. And warm. A few glances from the other two shoppers.
"Cold out tonight?" the man at the
asked me as I laid my purchase on the counter. I had expected a "Where
are you from?" instead, as my tripod and unfamiliar face gave away
my status, but he seemed more interested in the weather than in me,
suited me fine.
"Very," I assured him, nodding for
I considered purchasing a "Quemado Family" calendar when
I saw it by the door. It was a calendar with pictures of prominent
from the town. But I passed.
Back outside, I crossed the street again
the remaining few blocks to my hotel. A semi-truck started up in a
as I was passing. The driver turned the cab light on, casting a
yellow glow into the street. Had the driver done so to light my path,
was it just good timing? I wanted to look inside the cab and see
Quemado face. Perhaps he -- or she -- was one of the "Quemado Family."
But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew we were only extras in
other's lives; united in this place through coincidence, and, I
a mutual love of the road. So instead I looked at the stars again, and
asked them to see the driver and I both safely to our next destination.
My hotel room was warm and the bed
and even though it was only 8:30, I turned off the lights and laid down
to sleep. Just before sleep hit, I wondered what would happen if the
didn't come up the next morning, and the things I had seen on my walk
Quemado that night would be the last sights I'd ever see of the world.
As I settled peacefully into a pleasant and dreamless sleep, it occured
to me that that wouldn't be all that bad.
(click on the
image to see a larger picture)
This photo of Quemado was
taken last fall on a trip there
by a friend of mine, Jason
The moon is still visible in
the early-morning sky near