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  • "It's dark as shit in Dallas" someone said from behind. My window-seat restricted me so I could not trace the phrase. As we descended, the flight attendant listed connecting flights and their destinations: Lubbock, El Paso, Houston. I knew the names but not the places. I knew the people but not their names. The women were aged and regal, flying American.

    The symmetry of the ever-closer ground was mesmerizing. The Jeffersonian ideal in the afterglow of mortgage-backed securities was low-slung ranch houses splashed into an acre of land. Other passengers sighed as we touched down—they were home. Home was where people slapped each others backs and drank together in garages droning with Clear Channel® radio. Home was where things were smaller and less desperate.

    "It's tough out there," I kept on hearing. "They're just not motivated," some said. "We're driving the train off the tracks and the conductor won't wake up"—I said that in an attempt to make polite small-talk while waiting in line for an overpriced cinnamon bun.

    What's the score in America? I'm not keeping it. I'm watching the twilight beauty queens. They're returning to their great Texan wastelands; they swivel themselves on a dulled airport carpet. If anything, beauty queens know how to walk. They know how to smile incandescently. They know that their story is the one I will follow into sleep, television flashing.
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