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Rant #485
(published May 6, 2010)
The Chasm
by Sue Ellis
There is a ramshackle town in the Arizona desert where tourist Hummers from nearby Las Vegas whip the dust in the streets onto the already unclean storefront windows, the six passengers barely taking notice of the shabby citizens; instead bracing themselves for the harrowing dirt track/road trip adventure that will lead them to the lip of the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I have camped for two nights among the cactus and snakes at a little RV park that's really a low-rent refuge for the nearly homeless. My chemical sensitivity keeps us from joining the throng; someone might be wearing perfume, so we gas up the Subaru and follow along at a respectful distance on a road that can only be described as a goat trail, until we notice a few goats going overland who have better sense.

The destination is run by local Indians, a site seeing tour of the Grand Canyon with a glass-bottomed viewing platform being built out over the edge of the canyon, so far out that it will cause toes to draw back in their flip-flops even as the spirit soars—but, alas, it's not open yet. We find the concession area and a cool drink, browse the trinkets in the open-air pavilion and congratulate ourselves on finding a place where I can "be" without the inhaler or head pain—and that's when we find out that the tour must be taken on a bus that runs the length of a paved road along the canyon's rim, with passengers whose names I already know: Tide with Bleach, Snuggle Fabric Softener, Johnson's Baby Lotion. My husband refuses to board without me. No walking allowed, for safety reasons, so, defeated, we gaze longingly at what is visible: the high side walls of the canyon's red, ochre and bronze rock formations across a chasm that no horse or outlaw can jump.

Sue Ellis lives and writes near Spokane, Washington.

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