Audio: "Go West"
From the Ting Tings to Carla Bruni, the playlist that accompanied Liz Phair on her Phoenix road trip
I’m driving east through the gnarliest patch of desert I’ve ever seen. There’s no moisture, no hint of green left in the land. The mountains look as dry and cracked as a mummy’s tongue, and I can’t believe anyone ever made this trek on horseback. They call this stretch of road the Devil’s Playground, and there’s a sign along the highway with a skull and crossbones on it and a little silhouette of a roadrunner that says Last gas for 30 miles. If your car breaks down, no one’s going to come looking for you. Meep! Meep!Thank God I’m driving a Prius, I think. If I do get stranded, I can learn automotive terms in Spanish while I wait to die. Or figure out the algorithm behind the shuffle feature on my iPod.
I’m headed to Phoenix to attend a NASCAR event (the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil) and a conference on eco-conscious design (the 2009 Greenbuild Expo), which are taking place simultaneously. I’ve never been to a NASCAR race. I picture a bunch of rednecks dousing themselves with beer and slapping their wives on the ass. I’m more familiar with the environmental crowd, and expect to have zero fun at the expo learning a lot of depressing facts about the future that I’ll feel helpless to do anything about. But I figure if I ask the folks at NASCAR what they do to recycle, and get the green-buddies to admit they still dream in Rodney Dangerfield Technicolor, then maybe I can convince our fractious society that we have more in common than we think.