December 10th, 2011 / 7:04 pm

Towards a Middle of Nowhere


In 2006, six years after Cast Away was released, a man named Doug Mathieson drove his Hyundai to N 35° 38.036 W 100° 27.076 — an intersection approximately 15 miles south of Canadian, Texas, by the Oklahoma border — and got outside, rested Wilson (a volleyball adorned with a red hand implicating the events of said film) on the hood of his car, and took a photo of it with the intent of commemorating both the film and his commemoration of it. Having not been anywhere near where he’s talking about, your contributor has Google maps displayed on another tab, the flat beige America honoring the endless wheat, the little orange man severely sun burnt from the forever high noon sun. In a description from which said photo was culled, Doug endearingly says, “Cast Away has one of my favorite Movie endings where Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is at the ‘crossroads’ of his life deciding what he will do now with the rest of his life.” I imagine Doug in his early forties, probably married and with an o.k. life, with maybe a little too much time on his hands.

When two friends in White Noise (1985) go to photograph The Most Photographed Barn in America, one notices “We’re not here to capture an image. We’re here to maintain one,” which is what Doug did that Saturday on his journey away from the wife and kids. The desire to convey something is often greater than our ability to create something, so we transfer imagery and meaning among hands, which is the internal logic of the facebook share, tumblr reblog, and twitter retweet. Curation is the new content. In the planned world, the world with bigger budgets and prettier actors, Chuck Noland has promised to deliver a FedEx package which brought him to this fateful intersection, where he is asking directions from an attractive woman who, unbeknownst to him, resides at the recipient address. This, of course, has less to do with fate than a tired screenwriter.


In Twister (1996), a divorced scientist couple tolerate each other in order to chase tornadoes in Oklahoma, a harrowing experience which brings them back together, at least for a kiss under a flying cow. That Helen Hunt is the romantic interest in both films has less to do with fate than a tired casting director. Seems like The Most Photographed Barn in America just blew up, or at least CGI’d up. Disaster movies, like Horror, are the promise that such things probably won’t happen to us. It seems the more boring our lives become, the more we seek the flat yet palpable experience of film. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were actually ducking from nothing, merely cued by the director to act like there’s a fucking tornado behind you, frozen and thawed backwards to 1833, into Hokusai’s “Caught by the Ejiri wind,” which shows, in my mind, letters written by the acquisitions department of The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art offering grand sums of money for the print being forever blown away inside the print itself. The juxtaposition may be a stretch, but wind, and the internet, will bring us together, something explained in Georgia.


In 2010, the presumable unnamed father of the Woelmer family (as cited in their blog “Road Trippin’ “) had either his wife or two daughters take a picture of him at Monument Valley, at an angle he described as “Also known as, ‘Where Forrest Gump stopped running,'” a scene sponsored by NIKE who outfitted the actor’s shoes, their executive brand consultants happily encroaching upon New Balance’s runners market. Monument Valley existed long before the 1994 film — which incidentally robbed Quentin Tarantino of a Best Picture and Director Oscar, proof again that only time will clarify the true winner — our “collective perception” (borrowing from White Noise, again) forever modified by the Jesus-esque Waiting for Godot slash horizontal Myth of Sisyphus scene. Put simply, #forrestruns back and forth across America, gaining massive followers (this was before twitter), and suddenly stops one day at the place commemorated by our Mr. Woelmer. I love the solipsism of film, perhaps more so than novels, for the material components necessary to convey the former. Forrest wears a Bubba Gump shrimp hat, a nod to the film’s own narrative. Time is conveyed by the ruggedly worn out hat, and we imagine the costume design team not only having to manufacture the fictional hat, but wear it down at a hyper rate so that it looks years old. When I think of Utah I think of Mormons. When I think of Mormons I think of morons. So, where am I headed?


It was not where I was going, but the airport I got stuck at en route to meeting my first girlfriend for the first time, with which I shall end this road trip version of a blog post. In 2003, a Pynchon-esque “They” canceled the flight from Atlanta to Columbus Mississippi due to a paltry amount of passengers. It simply wasn’t worth the gas. The 7 hours I was late — a latency I could not convey, this before texting, wifi, and I didn’t have a national calling plan, so for all I knew for all she knew I’d just decided not to come — was the same, each bloody second, 7 hours I spent at the Atlanta International airport killing time as a nervous wreck with blood shot eyes (I was so stressed I blew out a vessel in both eyes). I can’t remember the restaurant, or why it was so packed, only that I ended up having dinner with a middle-aged woman at a two-seat “date” table by a vast window facing the grey runway of planes pointing upwards and leaving this earth; thus, in our universe’s both kind and empty way, she and I had ourselves a forced date. “So, where are you headed?” and we took turns answering. She lived on the east coast, was returning from a business trip out west. Her face kind of dropped as she said that. I then told her my story, how I met a girl online and was going out to meet her for the first time, how she planned a huge dinner with all her family and friends which was being canceled at this very moment and maybe she was crying over the spinach dip because I didn’t show up, how I prayed to God that maybe she would see that my flight got canceled, that I was really here, wanted so much to be there — that extra t my own personal crucifixion — how if this nice lady could only see past the red in my eyes they would be pearl white and shiny behind the verge of tears, of being so young and she so old, we loyal to and playing for our respective ages, the charade of where we were going to and coming from pulled back softly as the waitress places an enormous oval full of meat and potatoes in front of me, yes some cracked pepper would be nice. Another plane takes off, carrying dreams, break ups, business trips, love stories, and failures inside it. A folded barf bag is something that begs to be opened. And that night, a little past midnight, in Columbus f-ing Mississippi, she would put down the Harper’s she was pretending to read in defense of my absence, and walk over to me, our respective fictional selves suddenly incurring who we really were, which would last exactly one year, until, at the same airport, my endured verity would blur on the outside of her tears, through the gate and never back. How big and motherly her smile was, I think she had the pasta, her shiny eyes too holding back the sheen of joy the story of a bald neurotic Asian at the Atlanta airport with bloodshot eyes and a taste for rare steak who flew across this country to try to love and be loved evoked.


There’s a Buddhist saying that goes where ever you are, there you are so here I am. It is 52°F today. My battery is at 52%. A group of four white men have composed and recorded the song in the background, a song portraying the emotional difficulty of being an emotional white male. A Mexican busboy silently removes my empty cup, and I ache for living in his state. This conversation is hidden from others, its white background a surrender flag. I’ve lost the war of making sense. The sun is so crisp it chisels out shadows loyal to the human contours from which they originate. This is my way of not looking at people. I drank way too much last night and I wrote this with a huge headache. Advil starts with an ad. I would have taken the entire bottle but I need to be at work on Monday. I miss her, I miss everybody. This blog’s platform’s rounded “publish” button looks like a pill someone with an anxiety problem might want to take, if they were feeling nervous about a meandering post that went nowhere.





  1. Ethan

      Jimmy Chen Does America would make a sweet animated feature film.

  2. adrian

      Are you the same Jimmy Chen who wrote “Get Her Back Tomorrow – A Guide to getting your ex back [Kindle Edition] ” ??

  3. marshall

      jimmy chen, living chegend

  4. Derek

      Great stuff, Jimmy Chen, as always.

  5. krysbeau

      I really appreciate JC’s writing style/form.  I don’t know if it’s a unique one or not (I’m bad at keeping up with more than a handful of currently-active writers) but it always strikes me as lovely execution.

  6. Helen

      Me too, it’s hard to be earnest and avoid all schmaltz, and hard to be earnest at all  on the internet. Urgh, I’m going to say ‘feels true’ amn’t I? But the juxtapositions are really doing something that feels important.

  7. Lilzed

      “The sun is so crisp it chisels out shadows loyal to the human contours from which they originate.”

  8. erik stinson

      middle of ocean

      ‘outer china’

  9. Driven in Texas

      I actually drove through that intersection once, myself. Not wheat. Cows. And Pronghorn. Glad I did it. Glad I read this blog. No contradictions worth noting. Good piece.

  10. alex crowley

      It seems the more boring our lives become, the more we seek the flat yet palpable experience of film.

      tremendous. that’s exactly why I don’t watch movies (or at least how I convince myself that my life isn’t boring).

  11. Lilzed

      It sounds like a parody of noir (the blinds). Kind of funny. Maybe he’s mocking the jumpcuts in his own soberness and the banality of his RL locale compared to the banalities in his daydream, which he takes more seriously than they take themselves, and which approach something “earnest” or meaningful only at the verge of another daydream. Dunno abt. heartfelt (the story abt. the two finally meeting) but more honest than windmills.

  12. Leapsloth14

      works for me.

  13. JSA Lowe

      “I’ve lost the war of making sense.” How can it be 2 am in Texas and but suddenly I’m in Cali?

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