Hit the Road

Thunderbird_Badge_(2452178008)

“Blessed Lord, we thank you for delivering this lost soul to us, for entrusting his salvation into our hands …” it was the voice of my travel companion, hysterical, elated and tearful. Who could they be talking about??

Oh damn, was this meant for me? I instantly panicked and, when I saw someone approaching the door, turned on my heels and ran. Around the corner, I crashed into a heavy bronze sign, reading ‘Happy Hour’ and lunged through the swing doors of the bar.

There I hid at the far end, behind a voluminous guy adorned with lots of gold jewellery, surrounded by heavenly made-up, high-heeled company. They enquired about my obviously serious predicament, and I told them all. “Welcome to America”, he said and ordered a double whiskey for me.

(From: My First Personal Encounters in New Mexico)

After getting drunk enough to dare to leave the bar (the Christians had peeked in but did not enter the devil’s lair), my new amigos accompanied me to my room and we parted ways, hugging.

Around 3am the Hallelujah lady banged on my door, crying and asking for forgiveness. Still very much under the influence, I opened and impassionedly looked on as she fell on her knees, stuttering that it may not have been the right way to deliver me onto the Lord. I absolved her and went back to sleep. The next day we went back south, in absolute silence.

I just wanted to get the hell out of that place, return to the airport, cross the Atlantic. But as we passed through Santa Fe, just at the crossing of the St. Francis and Cerrillos roads, I spotted a familiar figure sitting by the roadside on a backpack. Amita. I motioned the lady to stop the car, grabbed my stuff and jumped out.

Amita did not seem very surprised. She told me excitedly that she had hooked up with some Japanese guys. They wanted to go to California via Las Vegas, crossing the Hopi and Navajo reservations, through Mesa Verde, the Utah Canyon lands…for that purpose they had rented a car but they were unable to drive it safely, and I could be the chauffeur. I did not understand any of it really, but went along anyway as it seemed to be a quick way out.

As it turned out the three guys had rented a turquoise blue Ford Thunderbird model from the early ’90s, not realizing that they were too short to drive it unless sitting on books or cushions. So they rather unhappily agreed to Amita’s plan, and I found myself behind the wheel of that cruiser.

Upon leaving Santa Fe, I tried to persuade them to choose a more direct route to L.A. as I had no inclination to visit another Indian reservation. They refused stubbornly. A cassette tape was stuck in the radio, I turned it on. It was the soundtrack to ‘Pulp Fiction’, so I steered the Thunderbird north westwards towards the land of the Mesas to the tune of ‘Pumpkin and Honey bunny’, shrugging my shoulders and saying to Amita: “F**k it, let’s go to Hopi“.

We have now reached the point where the literary text ends and Alexander’s life on the reservation begins. There are scant written records of his first three years on the reservation with the tribes. In 2002 he then documented a trip to the Navajo Lands for the non-profit organisation, NATIVENOW!, which he founded in Austria in 1999 with his friend Thomas Steiner, in an online diary which provides the reader with further insights into tribal life and traditions.

NativeNow! on a honeymoon – an online diary

Friends and fellow travellers on this journey through life: we – Tom and Sasha (the abbreviated form of Alexander in German) – have decided that it is time to leave the Austrian homebase and hit the road.

Word has reached us that our extended family on the Navajo Reservation awaits our presence. Well, we will saddle the big silver bird and make our way towards the four corners area, Arizona/New Mexico/Colorado/Utah, to see if the desert storms have left some Hogans standing and to chill out with the sheep and rattle snakes.

There is also this traditional wedding we have been invited to, and we are planning to present our friends over there with a very personal, typically homemade NativeNow! surprise. And as we are going to cruise all over the place, we will also keep the camera ready to bring you back some images.

For those who might be missing us while we are hanging around with the Diné or those who are simply curious about aspects of reality on the reservation, we have set up this diary. Whenever we have the chance, we will reach out and invite you into the atmosphere of this NativeNow! trip.

We are building a bridge between our homes and families. When members of NativeNow! pass on information (by this website or by any other means), we confirm that it is always first hand and cleared with the people concerned. We travel with curiosity and respect – come with us!

Day 1, 03-06-02:

We have been on the move now for more than 24 hours and the strain is beginning to show. But the journey has been smooth so far. No trouble at immigration or customs, and the ride we rented has even got a CD player.

Sitting now on the motel bed in Flagstaff next to the railway running parallel to Route 66, I can´t help being a little shocked about how small the world seems to have become. Vienna-Flagstaff in a day, and I wonder if my soul is not still somewhere over the Atlantic.

The nachos and chicken wings we had for dinner are keeping my intestines busy. So, I am going to hit the sack now, hoping I won’t explode in my sleep! Early in the morning we are going to cruise northwards to the Rez. Already here it is damn hot and completely dry. Pray for rain. Good night, Sasha is heading for dreamland.

Credits

Image Title Author License
Thunderbird_Badge_(2452178008) Thunderbird_Badge_(2452178008) allen watkin CC BY-SA 2.0

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