The Sternal Journal
It's just not!
Greetings, Sternal Journalists.
I'm writing to you from Grove City, PA, about 6/7ths of the way across the country as I near the end of my (so far!) contactless journey to be near family, loved ones, and loves ones' family during or around the holidays, dependent on success of quarantine protocols.
Which I first want to acknowledge is a super privileged thing for me to be able to do right now. While we're eating the most boring things imaginable out of a cooler in the trunk and staying only in contactless places, not everyone has the time or means to do that right now (not to mention the comfort that comes with moving through the country and world as a white person), so I'm really trying to stay thankful about that and vigilant about COVID protocols throughout the journey.
I'm also pleased to report that I've witnessed an astounding amount of mask compliance everywhere I've stopped, which includes tiny towns in places you might not expect to be so respectful of that.
In general, it's an interesting time to drive across the country. Not even because of ~the time we're living in~ per se, but because driving across the country is an interesting experience.
This is my second time doing it. The last time was when I moved to LA almost *gulp* ten years ago. Last time I took two and a half days, this time it's taking seven.
Either way, when you do it, when you drive all the way across the US, you realize it's not that big. Like, okay, it's huge. But it's not as huge as we make it out to be when it's at it's most lamentable.
When certain types of people get discouraged about the state of the union (and I inhabit many of the types of certain types of people I'm talking about here), they (we) like to say, "Well, it's a big country!" There is always a throwing up of hands implied. "Country's too big! Let's call it!" "Big ass country! What are you gonna do?"
And it's like okay, yes. Well. We shouldn't complain or be discouraged by how big the country is because many of us benefit directly from the bigness of the country, and it's not like the land was forced on us, ya know? We forced it away from the people who were living here.
So yes, it's a big ass country, but only because a lot of our ancestors thought it was a good idea to steal the biggest country they could possibly steal, and then some of our other ancestors were like, "Hey, that's a big country they just stole. Looks like there are some opportunities. Should we....?"
So don't write off civic duty because it's a big country, I guess is what I'm trying to say there. But also, to get back to my original point, it's not thaaaat big.
I'm using a skill I learned when I was 16 (driving) to cross nearly the longest segment of it possible in just a week! Hell, the last time I did it I was arguably the stupidest I've ever been (21), and I did it in a weekend!
Plus, while every little nook and cranny is unique in it's own way, it's not thaaaat unique. All the tiny places that cross the highway look and feel pretty similar to each other. And so do the small cities you cross. And so do the big cities! We've got maybe like eighteen different types of place in the US and you can probably find all eighteen within 100 miles of any point in the country.
It's big, but it's not impossible. It's vast, but it's not unknowable.
This is, of course, not some "We're all living in a studio apartment together, can't we all just get along?" shit. There are still real problems that need to continue to be fought for and, more boringly but more vitally, worked for.
Buuuuuuuut what I'm saaaaaaying is, stop saying the country's too big or has too many people with all that dang shrugginess. Because it's not that big and there aren't that many people. It's dangerous to write off a thing that a dumb 21 year old can see an entire cross section of in 60 hours.
Regarding not giving up, here is a way to do it:
Six for Six: Shower of Hope is raising $60,000 to house 6 young women experiencing homelessness as they attend community college. In addition to housing, meals, and clothing, the program plans to offer on-site counseling, mental health services, and tutoring.
This is a really great grassroots organization that I've worked with on and off for the past year. They offer showers to homeless people in Los Angeles every day of the week, and now they're branching out into other services. It's also just a fun group of people, which goes a long way for the guests that they're helping out.
Also fun fact: one time, my clumsy ass was mopping a shower and made it too soapy, so when I stepped out of the shower, I slipped, flew 6 feet into the air, and landed on my wrist and upper butt.
Mel, who runs the organization, is a former EMT and showed up in about 20 minutes to check on me. He got my number and checked in a couple times that weekend to make sure I was okay. I was very okay. It was very above and beyond.
If you have six or one or sixteen dollars to spare, spare them to them!
I have much more to say about this trip, but due to time constraints and your attention span constraints, I'll save them for next weekend!
And in terms of recommendations, I'm going to assign the first ever Sternal Journal optional homework assignment:
Listen to Selena's Amor Prohibido. I speak almost no Spanish, but it is a banger of a listen all the same. We listened to it on the first day of the drive and one song in particular has been not stuck, but welcome, in our heads for the better part of the week.
I'll be discussing a particular song from it with you next Sunday, so having listened to the album may augment your experience. Until then, all of the love!