Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Take to the Hills

Before I became the Freewayblogger I used to collect clothing and drive it up to villages in the Sierra Madres: probably the best job I ever had. The concept was simple: collect warm, useful clothing, pack it as tightly as I could into boxes, then drive across the desert and up into the Sierra Madres and leave a few boxes at each little church, or chapelito, I came to. Each trip took about five days, covered 2,000 miles and resulted in a couple hundred very poor people being a little better off than they were before. It took about three years, but with the generous help of Paul and Nell Newman, I was able to get clothing, medical and school supplies to damn near everybody living in the northwest Sierra Madres.

Life in the Sierra Madres is radically different from ours, mostly because there's no electricity. That means there's no TV, no computers, internet or videogames. The only media is a couple of staticky AM stations at night, so the importance of celebrities, globalization or the war in Iraq are mostly lost on them. Paris Hilton means as much to the people of the Sierra Madre as she does to you or me - the only difference is they don't have to hear about her every day.

What they have for entertainment instead of media is each other: family, friends and neighbors, huddled in tiny communities surrounded by thousands of miles of some of the most beautiful land on the continent. They eat meals together, talk with each other and play with their kids. Not because they "should" but because they have to: that's all there is to do. Anyone who's spent any time in communities without electricity will know what I mean when I say that the only thing more amazing than what technology's given to us is what it's taken away.

Like Freewayblogging, Take to the Hills was highly adventurous, involved a lot of driving and operated in a grey area of the law. Since I didn't have any of the necessary permits to import clothing, I'd have to either bribe or talk my way through Mexican customs. If I was sent back, I simply waited a few hours and tried again. I always managed to get through.

The roads into and through the Sierra Madres are some of the most beautiful, isolated and frightening I've ever driven, comprised equally of desert, cloudforest and jungle. At night the sky was filled with stars - thousands of them - and there were times when I'd stare up at them knowing I was the only human being around for miles and miles in any direction. If the night was dark enough I could see the stars rise above the horizon - actually see them move and almost feel the turning of the earth... watching the big wheels turn.

It's customary at such times to think about one's place in the grand scheme of things, to re-evaluate the path you're on, where it's leading and if it's right. I was spared a lot of that. I was taking warm clothes from rich people who didn't need them and delivering them directly to poor people who did. It didn't really leave much room for soul-searching.

I'm bringing this up now because for the past few days I've found myself feeling like something terrible is about to happen: that the macabre farce that's been the Cheney Administration has finally reached the bitter end of the second act, where everything seems to be at its worst with no hope in sight. I know something's going to happen because something has to happen... simply because things just can't keep going on like this.

As any film student can tell you, everything that takes place at the beginning of a film will come back in the end, and with that in mind I've found myself thinking more and more about where I was when this whole thing started. How about you?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really heart-warming post!

I also catch your 'something Evil this way comes' feeling. I don't know exactly what you are referring to but I for one got a little boost last night when I read Pepe Escobar's latest column. On Iran specifically, he wrote:
The Bush-friendly "new Europe" of the current Sarkozy-Merkel vintage of course knows that voracious US Treasuries buyer China de facto controls US interest rates, so China literally pays for Bush's war on Iraq. "New Europe" also knows it's absolutely unlikely China would ever finance a Bush war on Iran - which would be a direct attack on Asia. More power thus to a negotiated European-brokered solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier. - Link

I'm hoping he's right and you are wrong. I figure you would be too.

Kind regards!

Anonymous said...

Scarlet, this post is great - you're an amazing writer.

Are you going to "Take to the Hills" again?

(In *that* truck? LOL!)

You know I'll help you with fund-raising and even help you put everything in spacebags and vacuum them flat fer ya.

Say the word.

Anonymous said...

PS: "What some guys will do to avoid shopping!!"