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SIBERIA BRIDGE
Where I wrote the story

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     Siberia ghost town in the East Mojave Desert is flanked on the north by the BNSF railroad line, which runs east and west through a great expanse of otherwise quite empty desert. On the other side of the ghost town—running parallel to the railroad—is Route 66, or the "Mother Road" as it is sometimes called. Both corridors of traffic—rail and road—have existed here, in various forms of improvement, for more than a hundred years. I first found Siberia ghost town after spotting from the road, the lone, standing stone wall which now serves as the center of the empty community which once was. I noted the wall while driving eastbound on Route 66; probably just as I was driving over the bridge which would later factor so significantly in the tale of the writing of this book.

     I certainly didn't notice the bridge when I passed over it that first day back in 2015. I was simply exploring the East Mojave by car, moving slowly along Route 66, checking the road on either side for anything of interest for potential exploration. In fact, I wasn't looking for anything near the highway in particular...as I wasn't much interested in anything too close to the civilizing touch of either the highway or the railroad, and I was instead searching for good places where I could safely park my motorcycle some safe distance away from the road, while I went for a long desert hike. So, when I saw the ruins of Siberia, I wasn't drawn to these for their own sake, but instead to the fact of a relatively well-maintained, short dirt road which left the highway leading to what appeared to be the ruins of a very old building. "That'll do!" I probably said as I flicked on the left turn signal and made my way carefully off the Route 66 asphalt and onto the dusty road.

     The distance from the highway to the ruins is about the length of a football field. Not far at all. And the dirt road is in pretty good shape, seemingly well-traveled and well maintained. I would later learn that this was due to the ongoing attention of the railroad workers—track men, signalmen, linemen, railroad police and others who make their living keeping this stretch of railroad in safe, operational order. I'd later come to know some of these men. Swell guys. Honest, hard-working men. People I respect. And I always strive to stay out of their way when I'm at Siberia and never allow myself to become a nuisance to their hard, honest labor. In fact, I've found labor here too, of a sort... Though I'm never paid for my efforts, Siberia has become a quite effective work site and source of inspiration for me for both my writing and my videos, as well as my every effort of improved living. The ghost town—and in particular, the bridge under the highway near the town—are where my desert muse does seem to live and reside. Live, despite the fact my muse is quite dead and non-existent, a figment of my imagination, alive, in a sense, only as long as I live, and have the will, and the way, and the motive force to breathe life into something only my own musings might create. My muse did find me here in the desert, in the ghost town of Siberia. She did then also follow me far out into the desert where she mostly shadowed my movements, nearly always silent, refusing to speak to me among the holy relics of the dead mountains and forgotten wastes of a landscape that never cared and never lived and never knew or loved or possessed any dear sentiment, thought or capability which our species might attribute to life. My muse was my unloving, unfeeling, unthinking and unliving, imagined escort though a place through which I could never pass without her attentive ministrations and silent whispered hints of something more to be found beyond my adventures and excursions, something to be found in the place I'd left behind, in a life I must love should love ever be anything to dissuade the emptiness it was then too late to unsee or forget. The muse is my desert voice. A silent soliloquy and homage to what I can never truly know, or share, or escape from. My muse resides and originates from under that desert bridge.

     So what part does the bridge at Siberia play in all this? Was there some poetry to be found beneath the girders and beams holding up the highway? Did the muse follow me from somewhere else in the desert (or Japan) to that place in the shade beneath the road? Does my muse live there still while I am away? Can the muse be found there after I am gone, or if someone ever came with me to the desert? Why the bridge? What role does that place play in this story? Shade and shelter are the answers. A refuge from the heat and fury of the desert summer. I came to the bridge out of necessity—and then discovered a place of catalyst for what I might immodestly call my art.

     The first time I went to the bridge I did so simply to get out of the sun and escape the heat. The heat. So impossibly intense there in the deep East Mojave during the summer. There's truly no rest from the blaze out there in the open desert. The sunlight out there can surely kill. So much energy piling on across whatever skin is exposed. A real threat. Nothing to take lightly. So, on a very hot July day in 2016, I decided to pack some water and a few necessities and hike the quarter mile to the nearer of two bridges which I could see supporting Route 66 to the east and west of Siberia, where flash flood arroyo crossed under the road. The first time I did this I went to the bridge to the east of Siberia. It's a good bridge. And I found some interesting things below it, including a travel book, written in Japanese, with a hand-penned note (again, in Japanese) on the back. The note was written by a man who declared that "he would not die away from home" and that he "would make it back alive." I went back to that bridge again a few months later. The Japanese book was still there. The shade was good there. It was a fine place to rest and find shelter. The bridge served well the important purpose I was then after.

     It wasn't until a year later before I tried the other bridge—the bridge to the west. I decided to give that other bridge a try when I realized the western bridge was closer to the Siberia ruins than the eastern bridge. The fact of being close was good, as it allowed me to better keep an eye on my motorcycle parked back at the ghost town ruins, which I periodically check on by popping my head out from under the bridge to make sure nobody is loading my bike onto a truck or setting a match to the gas tank to create a desert bonfire.

     There was also something good about the space below the western bridge (though there's not much head room down there), but there's also something more... The sand is very soft, and good for sitting. It's a good place to plop down and think. And that's how the writing got started... Just sitting on the soft sand below the bridge, with the sun roasting the desert beyond my shade, and the sound of periodic automobiles crossing fast overhead, and the frequent rumble and growl of mile-long freight trains moving by slowly a quarter mile to the north. This setting under the western Route 66 bridge became my place at Siberia ghost town... A sort of circumstance and atmosphere where I could cultivate and get to know better the muse I'd met earlier out there at the edge of the blank desert wilderness. A dead muse who seemed willing and able to follow me sometimes to the places where I go, and where I'm willing and able to think. To think, without much distraction I can't willingly ignore. To think, where the conventions of my kind and the ways of our collective consensus appear as weak sentiments easily put aside in favor of whatever else can be proven more sound and compelling. This is the bridge where I wrote much of the content found within Going Alone, especially the content under the heading "Notes from my muse." This is the bridge where I discovered the solution of developing a life of meaning in the face of a universe which seems so far devoid of inherent meaning or purpose beyond the mute scope of survival and the worthy act of passing our life from ourselves into those who will soon take our place. This is the home of my desert muse. And the place where I found the words of the story I do choose now to tell.

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"These are the furnace-lands
These are the burning wastes
The apotheosis of desolation
and solitude
Rocks and thorns, baking
Under a lunatic sun
A lizard scrambles, alarmed
By the shadow of a circling
hawk
This arid wilderness, thick
with ghosts
Where mad prophets wander
And the jinn gyre and dance
The empty promise of water
In a wavering, distant mirage
I came here to this place
where all hope dies
A lonely, forsaken death
I came here, like I always do
For this is the wellspring of
imagination and thought;
My harsh mistress muse
Hunkered down, under this
bridge
My refuge of shadow
My fortress of silent solitude
I stare out at the glaring day
And wait for inspiration or
madness
Either one is good."

 

- G.L. Stokes

ABOUT

Going Alone was begun by Kurt Bell in an effort to help others understand and manage  the recognition of the apparent indifference of the universe to our well being, happiness or even our existence, and to find ways to make a good life in spite of this fact.

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