I went on a road trip, from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, with a friend. We boarded the plane in New York, wearing thick down coats and gloves, and arrived to an airy, badly carpeted airport that looked like a 1990s casino. As we stood, waiting for our bags, we shed layers and layers- the airconditioning was fighting with a sweaty, dog-like warmth.
We drove through the back streets of industrial Phoenix to pick up some camping gear. On the way, my friend became excited upon seeing the sign for a ‘Jack in the Box’ restaurant. This is a fast food chain you don’t apparently get on the East Coast, and she had heard magical tales of the food they served, which proved to be all true. They served something called a ‘Buttery Jack.’ It is a burger, literally dripping in herbed butter. She ate one and gave a positive verdict. I ordered an Oreo shake. It was so thick that sucking on the straw felt like some sort of tantric sex exercise; I could feel my pelvic floor muscles contracting, and yet the level in the cup never seemed to go down. In the end, I gave up and let it melt into a solid pile of white goo, but it didn’t increase in liquidity- it just seemed to get grubbier and sadder the more it came into contact with the air. I enjoyed it very much, but I didn’t eat again for hours, like a snake full of carrion. (I would happily return and buy another one, to be clear).
Jack is watching.
The Jack in the Box advertising mascot- their answer to Ronald- is a nightmarish hulk of a man with a white mask on, who stares down from photographs on the walls with a rictus grin on his plastic face. In the picture directly above our table, he stood silently at the end of a forest path, trying to remember where he had hidden the quicklime for dissolving his latest murder victims’ remains. It was unsettling, especially because it took us nearly twenty minutes to notice the pictures; he’d been stalking us, biding his time.
We listened to twanging country music all the way to Sedona. Sedona is a sprawling modern town amidst extraordinary red rocks that look like they were left as road markers by aliens from space, the same guys who left us with Uluru. There are a lot of swanky, concrete hotels with outdoor heated jacuzzis and ice machines, and chunky, shuffling tourists looking to get their vortexes sharpened or their chakras polished or whatever it is you do with those parts of yourself. While waiting to check into our hotel, we searched online for an ‘aura photo’ to see what they looked like. It looked pretty damn muddy. I could see why the guy needed his cleansed. Unfortunately, we hadn’t made an appointment, so instead we went up to a popular overlook to watch the sunset, along with every other person in the state who knows how to use Google.