Lara Durback




It is the Garmin, Mom's GPS tool. Knowing exactly where a person is and yet she fiddles with it, it tries to direct us to certain unneeded locations. She sometimes wrongly programs it. It knows exactly what lane we are in on the highway. It terrifies me. It got her through pitch black roads in the middle of the desert. If you start driving the wrong way, it sighs, "Recalculating," as if yr an idiot, and swiftly begins detour directions. I remember asking her on the last trip, "who UPDATES this shit?" and she said, "the government" and also that it was all done through satellites. Makes perfect sense but I cannot wrap my mind around it. We drive to a park in Cave Creek called "Desert Awareness Park," something sounding conscious enough for my purposes, and unanswerable to Mom's desert danger inquiries. (I wd love to make fun of "danger" but love my Mom too much to do that here.)

Well, "Desert Awareness Park" was completely abandoned, it seemed. Actually a newish kids' playground, but nearby an eerily dug-out large lot, feeling like a mini- No Country for Old Men setting. I saw a quail bopping around, but nothing else. There was a shooting range right alongside, the largest suntan belly on a man that I had ever seen shining in the distance. Mom said, "This is not what we were looking for."

The place we had tried before that was a random address Mom had typed. I didn't know this and clicked on the location. So the Garmin took us to this dirt road home before I realized what had happened. And how does Garmin know the address of the dirt road home? [Is this what surveyors do?] I remember in downtown San Francisco, the last time Mom visited, Garmin kept directing us to gas stations with no gas. I kept telling her there was no way there was gas in the financial district but she said, "Garmin says here." And it wd be another 7-11 with no gas.

The origin of Garmin in this particular car: a gift to my stepdad from a rich relative. I can imagine all the people who have their GPS all the time. I know the GPS is in cell phones. [The phone that knows when I change time zones, unlike my old phone.] I know I have been in casual carpool over the Bay Bridge with people who had a large one implanted into the car. And it had a giant Legoland-like appearance of the city on it. I don't know how people are going to live without them soon.

My uncle told me he typed in my address on "Google Earth" and can see a picture of my house. I would not want to do this to anyone, nor tell them about it.

The damn Garmin is so weird. One thing I noticed is how you have to stay still for a while in order for it to recognize your location. You cannot start it in a moving car. What are the repercussions of this? I want to know if all systems of GPS require stillness to begin. Now I am sitting here wondering if all these questions have been answered and I just haven't paid attention ever.

Back to AZ, I hated when we tried to go up the large hill with cacti and the woman said it is private property. Yet there were no signs. Griz the blacksmith who was both a real blacksmith and a play blacksmith (at amusement parks) had warned us of this but told us to try anyway. Why wdn't someone let people walk up a hill? Griz says they own "half" the mountain but the trail that went up the mountain or hill clearly and obviously spiraled over both halves. It was the hill/mountain that the road curved around, it seemed so inviting and open, such a lovely view. And she let the dogs run up to us to intimidate. Though they were sweet doggies, she did not stop them from running. Why not just be straight up and put a damn sign up? I scraped cactus on my leg just before that. I wanted to try more, I just wanted to walk around. And they have the right but I too have the right to try it. They pissed me off because they just bought part of the land, such a dumb portion. I would be glad to be respectful of them had they been there, but...

...And the guy in the van had been telling us about how the golf courses waste so much water, yet there are so many of them right against the desert. Constant drought problems. How I hate hate hate being a tourist, how I ended up there with her at the conference, but I was grateful to be with her. How the concierge insistently directed us to Sedona where there are tons of rich people shops and chain stores mimicking the red rock formations, so clogged up that you can barely distinguish formation from foreground. We were cursed to be driving around in that car though it was lovely. There were so many rules about not pulling over. I wd have preferred seeing what animals I could see.

There was the bull that they brought into the fake "ranch" setting of IGA grocery store conference people. The sweet cute bull I was happy to see up close. But people mounted him one by one and took fake rodeo pictures. My stomach flipped and I felt emotionally sad for him that everyone was staring and taking turns. But to many people, this is all there is to animals. I explain my objection but don't feel so strongly that I need to leave. I just find it curiouser and curiouser where the money goes. How I end up trying out these extravagant things far from my life and then feel embarrassed when I'm near them.

Note: This was written before the existence of iPhones, etc. in March 2008. It was written right around the time Google Earth came into my awareness. I am now only beginning to fathom how the internet comes into iPhones through the phone line and not wifi. (As in someone telling me the movie projector broke down in a theater, and everyone was on their iPhones. I said, what? Wifi in a movie theater? No.) I think each notch of communication technology will be fascinating to notice at the moment it is happening, for the future, and for mindfulness' sake. I wouldn't have said the things I say in this piece now, because now these observations have already slipped into the "I'm used to it" nowhereland. I would like to give a nod to Renee Gladman's work. As I was reading Toaf I thought of her discussion of cell phone reluctance. This is one of the jobs of poets, to point out these things. Because the invasion of invisible space is another way we are invaded...

This piece was first read at the Crevasse house reading and performance circle at E. 22nd St. in Oakland...