Thelma: Day #3 – Southeastern Oregon

Hay_field• Number of miles driven:  416

• Amount of money spent:  $145.33 ($89.27 motel, $32.35 gas, $6.36.00 dinner, $12.35 lunch, $5.00 coffee)

• Best pic: Oregon Farm Land

• Song of the Day: En Vogue’s This is my Life

• Audio Book: Studs Terkel’s Conversations with America

• Number of times I almost drove off the road: 2

• Number of times someone said “Cool Hat:” 1

• Nighttime abode: Boise, Idaho

Listened to Studs’ interviews from the 1940-60s. Here’re some of the highlights:

• Dorothy Parker – The interview was too short, but as I’m a huge fan, I was thrilled just to hear her voice. Known as one of the greatest wits of her time (ever, really), Parker spoke of America’s timidity in our humor, as well as in our 1950s’ lifestyle.

• James Baldwin – Baldwin was talking about his (then) new essay, “No One Knows my Name” and how it relates, don’t only to black men in America, but to all Americans who, during that period of time (with Jim Crow laws in effect), didn’t know who they really were. More importantly, Baldwin suggests that America as a country didn’t know what it was anymore because of how it treated African Americans.

• Aaron Copeland – He talked of his own “permissive” nature, in that he was open to all kinds of new music and inventions. He was eager to see how this (then) new understanding of sonic sounds influenced music and how we’d incorporate that knowledge into our ability and desire to make and hear music.

• Tennessee Williams – He was talking about how he views himself as an “incomplete person.” I like this concept a lot – that we’re constantly striving to improve ourselves and our thinking is always evolving, therefore we will never be “complete.”

Each of these American Intellectuals was making a profound statement about the state of American thought. On one hand, I feel lucky to have been exposed to this thought-provoking commentary. On the other hand, I began to despair that Americans today no longer strive for intellectual pursuit.

Take the incessant, illiterate texting that represents communication. Or take vapid Reality TV that is cannibalizing our culture. Where is our thirst for knowledge? Our intellectual curiosity? Our celebrities that are essayists / poets / writers / musicians / activists?

Parker commented that great thinkers come in batches or waves. If so, I think America’s long overdue for our next intellectual tsunami.


Read the next post in this series: Thelma: Day #4: Sun Valley, ID

Read the first post in this series: Thelma without Louise: An American Adventure


This entry was posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2010 and is filed under North America.

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