As soon as I get out of Houston, I stop to fill up on gas on my way to Arkansas towards Cleveland, (Texas), I am violently stricken by the ambient poverty, again. Tanned white faces that look bewildered that remind me of images of the Great Depression in the last century. The heat is overwhelming. I clearly envision where the term “rednecks” comes from. Take this redhead kid for example, pushing carts in full sunlight on the supermarket’s parking, his skin is not really made for this weather.
As I’m coming back from the gas station, a man pulls out a gun from his trunk and walks decisively towards the supermarket. My first instinct is to start the car and leave as fast as possible. Then I realized that there was a large stand of guns and ammunition in this store, and that he’s probably just bringing in his gun for repair. Billboards rhythmically appear on the road with more or less aggressive messages in the name of Jesus, where we are summoned to “repent” and “confess”, or better, and better yet, to “submit”. With the same nagging regularity, but in an alternating manner, other billboards that are no less aggressive promote mega “adult stores”.
Bumper stickers on the back of cars are smaller but equally present. I find myself fascinated by this man driving a huge black 4×4. He’s old and white and has pink skin, well shaven, Rayban’s shades, his arm lazily hanging out of his window displays watch and large gold rings.
At times, there is an eruption of incongruous objects. Take for example this horse pulled by a truck in a true wire cage that seems to stand still in the middle of the cars in motion. Then, comes another one filled with real plastic, life-sized, fake cows.
In the kingdom of cars, tinted windows to shield oneself against the sun (as well), people obviously meet less, all they do is literally cross each other. We don’t see who’s who inside the cars.
And then, of course, there are these vast landscapes…. Europe on steroids!
These skies, which open onto endless industrial plants, such as these oil refineries. Violence even seems to be in the weather, which goes from the brutal heat to short and nervous bouts of rain. The light which cuts across like a knife is rougher and less golden than in Louisiana.
I am having a great time listening to the satellite radio that came with the rental car. But, not just any soundtrack will do. Jazz, for example, does not work with these landscapes. It’s almost too intelligent or too sophisticated and too urban for the abrupt prevalent simplicity I see in Texas. It will not work with the sheer masculinity of this black biker with broad shoulders, a bandana on his head, who is arriving on his Harley as a knight in front of a castle, near the sanitized downtown of Shreveport.