Indigenous Road Kill Of America

April 23, 2013
  • Indigenous Road Kill Of America

I might have mentioned this before. Back in 2005 I spent six weeks driving cross-country to write a book (see that link at the top of the pages that says, An Unpublished Work Of Staggering Genius? that’s it) about music in different American cities. Compiling stories and interviewing musicians brought me all around the country, from Louisville and Chicago to Dallas, Tucson, San Diego, San Francisco and Olympia. I think. Did I — no, wait, none of the people I wanted to talk to in Olympia ever got back to me. Oh well. The point is, there was a lot of driving that summer. And while I was traveling a lot of roads often taken (I-5, I-80, I-90, I-35, I-40, I-44, etc.) I also strayed from the beaten path frequently in order to explore different regions I’d never before visited. All the while, I saw a lot of a road kill. I saw A TON of roadkill.

At some point — I think I was in Texas, counting the cemeteries between Abilene and Lubbock — I thought it’d be really cool to compile a coffee table book about America’s indigenous road kill. You could break the book down into sections based on region (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Mountain/Southwest, Pacific, Pacific Northwest) and each one would have its own unique photographs of roadkill.

It sounds utterly macabre, sure, but I was alone in a car every day for six weeks. The minimum drive was three or four hours, but there were days that included twelve, thirteen, fourteen hour drives. Being alone for such lengths of time rarely results in genius ideas. Most of the time you’re just trying to stay awake between one gas station vending machine and the next. I occupied myself in a variety of ways. I spoke to a cassette recorder about everything I was thinking (who I had a crush on, what I thought about the people I was meeting, my impressions of how each interview went, my motel rooms, etc. etc.). I listened to books on tape. I sang along with classic pop and rock songs of my youth. And, for a few days, I tried my hand at taking pictures of roadkill for my Indigenous Road Kill Of America coffee table book. All I knew was that I wanted it to be artsy, and I didn’t want to have to stop to take any pictures. I kept trying to snap these photos of armadillos and roadrunners and foxes while cruising at 80 or 90mph and nothing ever worked.

In 2007 when I drove out to LA I made a stop in Independence, Missouri. There I captured my first somewhat artsy, somewhat usable photograph of some Real American roadkill. It looked like this:

In 2011, I took a week off from life and flew home to New Jersey, then drove myself to Savannah, GA to clear my head. While driving along Skidaway Island, I spied this grizzly scene. I’m pretty sure the vultures were praying on a dead calf, but I’m no animal expert. What do I look like, Steve What’s-His-Name-Who-Died-By-A-Stingray? Check it out:

A few days after that I spied a different vulture crew chowing down on a dead cat. The very same cat you can see above as the header image for this blog post.

And then today I saw this outside my house. Ben found it on the walkway up from the street to our front door. I think it’s an unborn bird being eaten by ants. I tried submitting it to Reddit but no one seems to care and/or think it’s interesting as I do. Also, I’m not sure it qualifies as roadkill because it’s practically sitting on my doorstep.

My point is, even though it has been seven years since I dreamt this brilliant dream of a coffee table book about road kill, it still sticks in the back of my head. I think it’d be pretty hilarious in a darkly comedic way. What do you think? Should I go ahead with it? Should I really try to make this a reality? How many photos would i need for such a book? It’s not, like, an epic tome that would require all kinds of fancy essays and hundreds of photographs (although it could…it very well could…). I like to think of it as being kind of like that photography book I loved as a child where every chapter was a series of photos depicting the killing of baby mice. That thing really spoke to me. I still remember it. I saw it for the first time at the bookstore in the Old Orchard mall in Chicago with my cousin William and I’ll never forget it. I want to shape some child’s mind exactly how that book shaped mine. Only with dead roadkill instead of dead baby mice.

It’s gonna happen. Even if it takes me another ten years. Indigenous Road Kill Of America will see the light of day!

The Blue Nile – From A Late Night Train [MP3]

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