I haven’t been alone on my trip west. My copilot’s been dead over forty years and he’s scary as fuck. I’m writing this in a motel room in Weatherford, Oklahoma and have driven well over three thousand miles over the past five days. Robert Moses has been along through the majority of those miles.
I’m roughly halfway through Robert Caro’s The Power Broker. It’s a relentless and thorough accounting of a public official who used every trick in the book and invented many of his own to impose his will on those he came into contact with. He’s known best for building bridges and roadways and parks, but his greatest skill seemed to be leaving a trail of destruction wherever he went.
I listen to his exploits from the hills of Iowa, through the nondescript taiga of Nebraska, and into Colorado as night falls. More accounts of scorched earth follow the next morning as, outside the car window, nature is showing off by throwing one dramatic mountain in my way after another. I sit through a traffic jam that lasts a couple hours, the road glutted with skiers, as Moses is forcing the hand of mayors, governors, and the odd president to get what he wants.
He keeps riding shotgun all the way till I hit the lights of LA and tags along as I ride back east through the nonspaces of eastern California and Arizona, on to New Mexico.
I take a break from the monster every five or six hours and listen to music or silence. But it feels like he’s still in the passenger seat, waiting patiently——as he never would, were he alive——till I turn his story back on.
Even now as I sit in this motel room, I know he’s waiting. Because he knows I want to know how his story ends. Whether the author ever finds out what really drove the man, aside from some animal zeal for monopolizing power and control. Were all those bridges, roads, and parks worth the damage and pain he inflicted to realize them?
I wonder if Moses will stay in the Hertz lot when I drop off the car at Midway or get on the Orange Line and follow me home? I know he hated the subway, so maybe there’s light at the end of this tunnel.