“There is no better way to see the U.S.A. than on a Japanese motorcycle…”
Artist Statement / Story written January - February 2020
On August 14, 2019, I left my home in Inglewood, CA on my Kawasaki KLR650 headed for New Haven, CT. Eleven days and over 3,000 miles later, I did not anticipate that the things I experienced on the road would have such a significant impact on my soul. As I travelled across the continent, situations confronted me that were much more present than my previous artistic concerns, which were rooted largely in a speculative realm. I experienced firsthand how environmentally damaged, economically depressed, and enduringly racist the United States is today. From coast to coast, there was not one mile of street or highway that was not littered with some kind of trash. Plastics, bright white styrofoam especially, stand out when you are scanning the road. On Historic Route 66, where there are so many relics of better (and worse) times for this country, I could see and feel that America is corroding from the inside out. After a couple days, the feeling of nostalgia left me; one tourist trap, abandoned gas station, and rusted out Cadillac too many. Something is very wrong here. In addition to the postwar ruins of the 20th century, on the road there is an atmosphere that is difficult to describe. I feel deeply that there is something strange about our climate. It feels synthetic and broken.
Maybe it was the lack of air conditioning, feeling the atmosphere as a fluid medium, a constant force. At 75 M.P.H., the air feels dense, like moving through water. Turbulence ripples from big rigs upsetting me and the bike. It makes my knees involuntarily squeeze against the gas tank. In Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, crosswinds constantly force me to countersteer to keep going straight. Headwinds push the bottom of my helmet directly against my lips. The wind, more than anything, reminds me this is my first motorcycle and I’ve only had it for a month. In the Midwest, I overhear farmers lamenting another year of drought and failing crops. The weather is still hot, and getting more humid. The locals get colder, sometimes staring at me with a mixture of fear and contempt in their eyes. I begin to worry about finding safe places to refuel and camp. Travelling so exposed, while riding across the country by myself, brought terrestrial issues to the forefront of my mind which overwhelmed my consciousness.
I really don’t want to be so depressing though. This trip left me with as much hope as it did trepidation. Throughout the ride, I kept thinking about the song Old Town Road, which I heard in truck stops, diners, and piping from cars on the street. It was #1 on the charts at the time. The fact that a hybrid country/rap song can be so popular speaks to a yearning for unity that we don’t see in our politics. At a small gas station just outside Chandler, Oklahoma (the kind of place my parents would advise me to never stop, definitely not in the Green Book) the attendant, a tall white woman about my age, welcomed me inside to take a break from the triple-digit heat. “You don’t have to sit out here! We’ve got air conditioning!”, she said with a friendly smile. At the Aldi in Effingham, Illinois I see a guy wearing a TOOL t-shirt. “That’s a cool shirt dude! Are you ready for that new album?” “Hell yeah! Already got it on pre-order!” Coming into St. Louis on I-44, I rounded a bend and saw the Gateway Arch for the first time, glowing in the late afternoon sun against a cloudy sky. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. The further you get from home, the more your license plate becomes a badge of honor. In Indianapolis, a guy at the Sunoco shouts at me: “Yo! You rode that thing from Cali?! …Goddamn!”
LIFE IS ART ART IS LIFE