Back in 2012, I had a hunch to take my audio recorder and visit Cabela’s and REI, two outdoor sporting goods stores. I thought that the two businesses do a good job highlighting the divide in America.
On the one hand you have REI: individualistic, urbane, and environmentally conscious. Liberal. On the other hand you have Cabela’s: large, sells guns, family-oriented. Conservative. Both companies idealize nature and believe in conservation. REI thinks of nature as a place you go to have an exhilarating, extraordinary experience- just make sure to ‘leave no trace’. Cabela’s thinks of nature as a place to go hunting and fishing- and, continuing the tradition of conservation started by Theodore Roosevelt, believes that nature is best preserved by hunters paying their hunting license fees.
Both businesses had giant, fiberglass mountains inside. REI’s was a rock-climbing wall. Cabela’s was covered with taxidermied animals. Both, in their way, represent human kind’s will to overcome and dominate nature.
My project never came to fruition. Nevertheless, I went to the archives and found some audio recorded during my visit to the largest Cabela’s in the world, which is located in Hamburg, PA. I collaborated with the Screaming Stars, who recorded the ambient music on this track. If you have trouble hearing my improvised poem, you can read the transcript as you listen along:
The Post Modern Landscape: a view from the parking lot of the largest Cabela’s in the world
Fresh, black top, parking lot. Huge.
Section A, B, C… you know the rest.
Section for RV, for trucks.
There’s a horse corall. A “pet exercise area”.
A woman plays fetch with her dog.
A Cross, across the way: the Appalachian mountains.
six lane interstate
long john silvers
Looks like it would be hard to go there by foot
and once you’re up there, what’s there?
Nothing but disease, trees, threat, danger.
Better to stay here in the car and drive over there.
The actual town of Hamburg, Pennsylvania
is on another hill
across the valley
across the intersate.
It looks like from here we could lob canons
onto Hamburg and from there they would
launch canons onto here.
But I think there’s more guns in Cabela’s.
Standing on opposite hills like this is greater
than a mere town, greater than democracy.
It’s even rivalling the mountains with its presence.
Wherever you fall on that divide, I love you.