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Cyber Café
Ray Rasmussen, Autumn, 2004

It’s four weeks since I struck out for the Escalante Wilderness of Southern Utah. The roads are rough and clouds of dust kick up behind my truck. Signs warn that they are impassible when wet—as if it ever rains here. Each day, I walk dry streambeds, cross arid cactus flats and search out places where the view through my camera lens fills with weathered sandstone spires, curving canyon walls and rock art left by the Anasazi.

In the desert’s silence, the only sounds have been an occasional birdsong, the rustle of lizards hidden in sage brush. In the evenings, a small fire casts a ring of yellow warmth, the moon journeys through the sky and coyotes yip in the thrall of the hunt.

Today, I pass through small town and enter a cyber-café—it’s a kaleidoscope of the senses—new age music, the fragrance of coffee and baked goods, the steady hum of voices, walls hung with artworks.

In this Mormon dominated town, the café is an alternative gathering place for a mix of people who wear the down-to-earth garb of the 70s. A bulletin board offers the usual in new age dalliances: massage, tarot, acupuncture, whole earth foods.

Like me, a number of people ply their computers. I don’t speak with anyone except to order coffee and food. Yet, I feel connected to the people here. It's as if we solo travelers have each used a different path to find our way to a remote island.

Email floods in—messages from friends and a wave of spam offering sexual aids and the companionship of wanton females. I feel like a 19th century sailor arriving at an island port, thrilled to find mail from home and, there for the taking, an exotic woman.

The messages rest in my mind like the flotsam and jetsam found on a beach—glad tidings and troubling news. I am torn by the urge to rush home to the complexities of everyday life and the desire to return to the simple elegance of the canyon lands.

desert streambed—
a scatter of debris from
the last flash flood