"I aim back in what I think is the direction of the freeway. The string of harbor lights in no long of interest to me. The town had what I wanted; it gave it to me expeditiously, and now I want to leave. I've left some money here, and a wealth franchise owner is a few pennies closer to a new home while a disinterested high school student is a few pennies closer to a new alternator or a prom dress or a six-pack of beer. By daylight I'll forget I was ever here.

"I'm not proud of this transaction. This is a town with a history and a character. A person could spend a day or a month or a lifetime here, just listening to stories and staring out at the sea. There's a past to be explored, the echoes of Native belief to be heard. But I have not time for these things. I'm on the fly. I got my food, they got my money, and my feet never touched the ground.

"How did I let this happen? This could be the place. My family could have lived here. But the neon strip broke my spirit. It convinced me that this is the same place I'm trying to escape, not somewhere with a magical force all its own.

"I'm overcome with a deep sense of gloom. 'This is America, now,' I think. 'One great drive-through.' It's platted into our cites, built into our economies. The ghosts of former cultures are silenced. Downtowns are dead or gentrified. The vibrancy of our culture resides in these endless trips of neon hawkers who have as their sole purpose the extraction of money in exchange for real or perceived service. The elderly, the poverty-stricken, those who by choice or circumstance are reduced to the odd and suspect status of pedestrian no longer have access to the centrality of civic experience. Like the main streets that used to give them succor, they are vestigial, allowed to exist only because no one has yet figured out a benign way to get rid of them."