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I Can't See You



Growing up, it was always great to hear kids returning from vacations and talking about their great adventures. During show and tell, or on the playground, all of us Bingham Canyon kids listened very closely to worldly matters that took place outside of our "one road in, one road out" canyon enclave. Our views of the outside world were limited. So, when a kid went away for a bit, the first thing we did was rush up and start asking questions.

Each summer, some of our Navajo classmates living up in the Highland Boy area of the canyon would be off to spend the summer on the reservation. No one—that I recall—ever asked which reservation—it was just, "I'm going to the reservation." They'd leave basically the day after school ended. Upon return, we'd listen closely to tales about sheep, the desert and dancing rituals, and we'd admire their new turquoise jewelry. All we knew is that they had gone to the desert somewhere, which was weird because they were here before we were.

At the same time, a solid number of Hispanic kids sojourned back to their familial roots for a good part of summer, too. Most of those kids were rooted in the Taos region of New Mexico, where their families had lived for decades and certainly long before New Mexico became a state. They were here before we were, too.

Their stories were about wild animals, hot peppers and all manner of fruits and vegetables. In that era, it wasn't uncommon to hear the pejorative term "cherry pickers" used to describe families who took on extra harvesting work in the summer. I've always despised the name-callers, given that my own mental rolodex of lifelong friends is filled with Hispanic surnames.

My own family didn't vacation a lot, but we did travel. My dad was at times assigned to study mining methods in other copper mines. Thus, our summer vacations meant staying in the only motel in Morenci, Arizona—thanks to the mine there—before moving on to a place like the Chino mine in New Mexico. If not for the outdoor motel swimming pools, our vacations were just like staying in Bingham Canyon. Still, they were real adventures for a Bingham kid.

But not like the adventures of kids who went to Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm. Everyone wanted to go to Disneyland and we'd make it one summer, too, but pretty much after all the others. It was J.R. Hart who first told us about his visit to the mysterious Knott's Berry Farm. I wouldn't make it there for another three decades, so imagine my surprise when I discovered they actually sold berries. I thought all that time it was "Notsberry" Farm, a family name. Such it was when young kids mix up their wide-eyed storytelling.

Yet, the biggest story each year was when kids would talk about a Southern California trip and say something like, "we couldn't see anything because of the smog." What's smog? "The bad air." Oh. "And the superhighway has eight lanes. We were in traffic jams all the time." Were they bad? "I'd never live there! There's nothing but construction, too!"

Of course, we all eventually visited and had the same experience—bad air, bad traffic, huge construction. I believe only one classmate ever moved to Southern California. The rest of us get the same experience right here, every day, and don't need to. We've been forced indoors all year round.

I was driving south on Interstate 15 this week—through so much smoke I still can't breathe—on a stretch that had six lanes all but stopped in each direction. We have all the crappy air, construction and unassailable traffic, but no Disneyland, no Knott's Berry Farm, no surf, no MGM Studios, and no professional baseball team. Our valley is filled with people who just go back and forth, all day long.

I miss life in the canyon. Our only road was plenty. My kids are gonna be screwed in a few years. Living here is, simply, no longer pleasant.

Send comments to john@cityweekly.net.