Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The sun rise over the Devil’s Garden is an intricate cascading of golden light spilling over each fin in succession before it finally reaches the ground, giving me the first warmth of the day. But I feel too restless to wait for the light today. I want to go into Moab and avail myself of what little metropolitan diversions exist there; book stores and art galleries and sushi restaurants…actually Moab is doing pretty well for a small town in Utah. On the way down the park road towards Moab, the light finally catches up with me and I stop to become warm amidst the towering skyline above courthouse wash.
Moab has a different feel than any of the other park-side towns in Utah like Springdale or Torrey or Tropic. It has its share of touristy shops selling dirt shirts and Indian beads along with the typical burger/pizza/mac-n’-cheese catch-all American food restaurants. These places always feel alien because they make no attempt to leave a lasting impression; there’s no need for them to, their customer base is merely passing through and their business from repeat customers is practically nil. Underneath the neon glow of the tourist meccas there are tiny shops that seem to exist as much for the pleasure of the locals as to cash in on the tourist industry. If you’re the only sushi restaurant in southeast Utah then you don’t need to be the best sushi east of California but their restaurant is. When you can make a living selling travel guides and post cards you don’t have to staff your bookstore with well read cashiers who can recommend a book to any taste, but Back of Beyond does. And when visitors are most likely to buy a Kincaid looking saccharine painting of the Delicate Arch there doesn’t need to be a gallery curator who collects the most unique abstract desert landscapes, and yet here it is. I talk to the owners of the bookstore and they recommend I visit the Framed Image gallery; I talk to the gallery owner and he tells me most of his sales are to locals. At the sushi restaurant the servers take time out to talk to customers they know who are sitting next to me at the bar.

It’s refreshing to see a fully functioning town underneath the cardboard storefronts of a tourist base camp. I get a haircut from a barber named Norm and purchase some watercolor paints from the art section in the bookstore. Feeling grounded once more I return to the park and the colors seem vibrant again and I start to paint.

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