Tuesday, April 2, 2013

 The American frontier was gone before I was born, though the dream of it resonated.   The reality of an unexplored wilderness, in 1963, was over.   I grew up in the west.  In New Mexico there was a frontier there for me.  A landscape untrammeled.  A horizon.  A visual expansiveness.   As I grew in the expectation of exploration, it became apparent that unless I could get a submarine or a spaceship, the frontier as I romanticized it, was little more than endless truck stops and rundown main streets.   The frontier was paved, or agriculturated, or forested.  It was all mapped. In New Mexico, when I grew up, Albuquerque was the biggest city in the state.  We had three hundred thousand or so.  That was, by the way, more people than lived in the entire state of Wyoming.  Still, by big city standards, Albuquerque didn’t even register.  Kansas City was the first “Big City” I got to know.  When I moved there for college I think there were about one and a half million in the metro area. Two things blew my mind about the developed frontier as a young man.  One was Jones Beach on Long Island.  I was on the beach with some friends one very cold winter day.  There were trash barrels lined up along the beach about a hundred yards apart and about fifty yards between rows, and the rows went on as far as the eye could see in both directions.  A friend who lived there said in the summer it was towel to towel people all along the beach.  I remember thinking there were not that many people in the State of New Mexico.  Another time a friend of a friend took a few of us sailing off the coast of Connecticut.  There was a harbor there and I remember thinking that there was more money in sail boats in that harbor than there was in wealth in the entire state I grew up in.  There were no more frontiers, but there were expanses of humanity and agglomerated cultivations of development that had exceeded the bounds of planned and spilled into the realms of wildly rampant.  Then I saw New York City. And Boston, and Chicago, and San Francisco, and LA.   And I realized that the frontier was no longer virgin landscape, but the hinterland of cultivation gone amuck.  The recesses of the once planned and now obsolescent urbanscapes.  The frontier accessible to me is not the remote reaches of the Brazilian forests, or the last remaining snow crusted peek, but the forgotten and neglected wilderness of urban America…, left to grow wild and unchecked. 

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