The Hundredth Meridian

Circuit Rider

A town without a saloon is like a woman without a heart. I made Blanding, Utah, before sundown, checked into the Best Western Motel, and rang up the front desk from my room. "Is the Elk Ridge Restaurant within walking distance from here?" "It's just half a block away." "Do they have a liquor license?" "Do sell liquor? I don't think so. We're a dry town." Not as long as I'm a resident. I had in my luggage a half-bottle of dry red wine, from which I drank a glass before crossing the street to the restaurant. It was a characterless place, furnished with tables and chairs fabricated from blonde wood and crowded with large pale families gorging on fried chicken and sweet rolls. And a meal without wine can only be compared to a Mass without transubstantiation. I ordered chili and a bottle of pseudobeer, ate quickly, and returned to the mole) to finish off the wine and immerse myself, through Selina Hastings's superb new biography of Evelyn Waugh, in the bibulous aristocratic world of a London clubman. I was awake before seven the next morning and on the road by eight o'clock, headed south across the northern boundary of the Navajo reservation to the town of Mexican Water in Arizona.

I drove for some hours across the land of the Navajos, fine upland desert almost entirely removed from the Epoch of Growth that the Dineh alternately despise and demand, though the folkways they...

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