My screen delivers footage of strangled sea turtles and disoriented walruses plummeting off a cliff. The United Nations says we’re on track to extinguish one million species from the planet. Tomorrow is the New Hampshire primary and all of the candidates are on television saying, “We’re surging.” The death toll from the coronavirus topped 1,000 today. The results of the Iowa caucus remain unknown. I keep scrolling, fighting the urge to click a headline that says “Ten things you’re doing wrong at restaurants.”

I stand in an Econo Lodge parking lot in the hour of the wolf, bronzed by the glow of the Walmart and Waffle House logos across the street. The only noise tonight is the highway and it sounds like the sea. I’m fantasizing about the desert again, a place for transforming a messy life into myth. One of these days I’ll point the car west.

An hour ago I stood in line at the Gas ‘n Go behind a furious man with a pistol tucked into the elastic waistband of his sweatpants, yelling that the cashier only gave him three Powerball tickets when he should’ve gotten four. I bowed my head and thought about patience and chance. The manager intervened and everyone narrowly avoided getting shot. Near pump number nine, a woman in the passenger seat of a jumbo pickup truck wiped away some tears. She caught me looking and I turned away and began fiddling with the radio. A chipper advertisement encouraged me to order nutrients harvested from jellyfish.

Standing in the grass near almost every city highway ramp, there’s a man holding a cardboard sign. Sometimes it says veteran, sometimes it says father, but it always says hungry. Sometimes I give him a dollar, sometimes I look the other way. I hate these moments when my nation not only feels cruel, it looks like a mirror. I stand in the Econo Lodge parking lot and think about what to do next.

The Detroit Escalator Co. — Shifting Gears

from Soundtrack [313] | Ferox, 1996 | Spotify

A selection from Neil Ollivierra’s gorgeous slow-motion score for post-industrial introspection. Motored by quietly churning machines, Soundtrack [313] rides a rare line between the plaintive and the hopeful. There’s an excellent in-depth interview with Ollivierra at Ambient Music Guide.