Melinda Stone and
Hemingway Western Studies)God knows what goes on in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. For some reason, Boise State University turns out the weirdest, woolliest, most deranged books (one of their most recent was called Citizens for a Poodle-Free Montana.)
And years ago, when we were running The Fessenden Review--- the best, meanest, most eccentric poetry books, by far, came out of BSU. It probably has to do with those dark winter nights, and the snow, and the snow-geese, and people isolated from what you and I think of as civilization. Or is it that they are stuck with the monicker "BSU?"
The newest silliness is called Suggested Photo Spots. It's so revolting we damn near threw it out with the circulars from The American Wildlife Federation, the free diskettes from American Online, and the bills. Something about it, though...probably the very vulgarity of it...made us stop and take a gander.
"Twenty Full Color Postcards!" it says. Postcard, Schmostcard! Stone and Vamos, through some bad genes, or black magic, have managed to locate twenty of the ugliest places in the United States --- and to memorialize them with photos, maps on how to get there, and thumbnail --- dirty thumbnail --- descriptions. O, the descriptions! This for Great Falls of the Mohawk Cohoes, New York:
In the early 19th Century these were roaring falls that rivaled Niagara as a tourist destination. Later their drop became the driving forces for Harmony Mills, the largest water-powered mill ever built. In the 20th Century, the river was diverted for hydroelectric power, leaving barely a drip. Tourists now stay away, proving that it is the water that brings visitors to a waterfall.
With the map and directions ("From I-787 North, turn west on Ontario Street...") they tell you to "Bring climbing rope to get down the cliffs."
Other scenic areas include the International Border, Tijuana Beach: "This fence runs along the USA/Mexican border...In 1993, by U.S. government order, the Army Corps of Engineers extended the wall beyond the beach, well into the Pacific Ocean, ensuring that only the best swimmers can cross here." Their directions conclude with the thought that, "Sunrise and sunset bring out the warmest hues."
Then there are "Power Lines, Hanna, Wyoming" (see Fig. 1, above); "ICBM Silo, Lodgepole, Nebraska;" "Abandoned Oil Drilling Site, Promontory Point, Utah;" and, the best of the best, "New York City Sludge Depository, Sierra Blanca, Texas." Seems there is no place to put all the sludge that is engulfing New York, so they send it by train to Texas, where, according to the authors,
It is dumped out of orange boxcars and spread on the ground like peanut butter, where it provides nutrients and moisture that support the only perennial green grass in the area.
If after reading this, you have a hankering to go sludge-searching, "Exit from I-10 at Sierra Blanca, and take Business Route 10 west. Two miles west of town, the Photo Spot is to the east. Look for the orange boxcars. For optimal photos, shoot this site in the afternoon." And there it is, mounted on a telephone pole, courtesy of the authors, a fine red-and-white PHOTO SPOT sign, so you'll know right where you are.
Funk of the highest order.
Let's give them five (black --- very black) stars.--- Leslie Seamans