In this episode, we see Alice and Keisha at their lowest point, only to rise again.
We start of with Keisha and Alice alternately wondering if “this is it.” Alice explains that Tamara with the LA Times has published her “exhaustively researched” story about Bay & Creek and Thistle, which included some things that she didn’t even know despire her several years working for Bay & Creek.
Keisha says, “We mosquitoes took what was inside of us and injected it into the whole country. There’s no way down from here. Is this it? This may be it.”
Alice adds that she has no words, and concurs with Keisha’s statement.
The credits roll, and we come to Alice’s POV as the two are driving down the road. Keisha is positively jubilant at this point, screaming and punching the ceiling of the cab. She honks the horn, which Alice describes as “less like a holler of happiness and more like an enormous calf lowing for its mother.” She then adds that the mournful sound of the horn was a hint as to the crash that the two are about to experience, but that they were carried away in that moment.
She adds that Keisha doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hands, which is a bit concerning to her because Keisha is currently behind the wheel. She tells Keisha to be careful, but adds that she feels the same way: “Who had time for careful when this much happiness was there for us to grab?”
Keisha then takes over the narration:
We’re done. That was what I was thinking. What the air in my mouth tasted like. What every sound that came from my mouth said, even when I was too excited to form words. We’re done! We get to go home. And before us, a life. Not that our problems would be fixed overnight. Even in my giddy moments, I didn’t believe in magic, not the sorcerer kind. But I did believe in magic as it exists: sleight of hand, a triumph of human ingenuity and determination. Someone staring into a mirror, eyes bleary, in their third hour of practicing the same simple palming of a coin. I believed in the magic of hard work and sacrifice, and hadn’t we worked hard? Hadn’t we sacrificed?
However, their joy is rather short lived as Alice takes over the narration. She decides to start flicking through the radio trying to find a news station, to see if they can confirm the effect the story that came out had on the world. The first station is music, but she finally finds a news report, but it’s all financial news. The second station they find is just about a mayoral race in Philadelphia. Keisha wonders aloud why nobody is talking about Bay & Creek or Thistle.
Alice is wondering the same thing: “The world had been broken open, but life was going on as though it hadn’t.” Keisha takes over, and the two decide they need to look further, so they pull into a parking lot and enter the diner attached to it. They see that there are TVs on, but one’s showing footage of a celebrity wedding and the other is a news report about a presidential trip to Arizona.
Keisha decides to just flat out ask someone about it:
“Hey,” I said to a man at the counter. He looked up at me with the expression of anyone when they were annoyed by a stranger.
“Yeah?” he said.
What do you think of this stuff that came out?” I said. “The government funding a secret program? Serial killers living on military bases?”
His eyebrows fluttered, concerned. He put up his hands placatingly. “I-I don’t go much into politics.” He said. I didn’t know what to say to that.
Alice picks up the tale again, saying that while she wasn’t as hopeful as Keisha, she at least thought that the news in question would have had some effect. She shouts at the people in the restaurant, asking, “Do none of you read the news? Didn’t you see your government is conspiring against you?”
She thinks, though she doesn’t really remember doing it, that she had grabbed a guy by the shirt and shaken him. This, naturally, gets them kicked out of the diner. She then says that she had spent the next hour “running into folks on the street and asking them to acknowledge the horror in the news, and none of them would.”
She starts screaming “What is wrong with all of you?” at passersby, before coming to the conclustion that they’re wondering what, exactly, is wrong with her.
We come back to Keisha, who has spent that time time the truck, in despair at coming into contention with the human tendency to ignore things that make us uncomfortable: “I had thought it was a mtter of knowledge, that if all of them only knew. But that wasn’t it at all. What I realized in that moment, in that truck, is that all of them had already known.”
She adds that they might not have known specific details, “but the shape of it.”
Oh, they had known the shape of it for a long time. It is possible to know something and choose not to know it. And all of us, all of us together, had known and then chosen not to know So giving them the information had only confirmed their chosen ignorance.
Keisha says that the news article was the plan, and that they didn’thave any backup plans or any idea what to do next, so they just kept moving. The story then skips ahead a month, with Keisha narrating an encounter with a man on a hiking trail in the desert, in “the Native American land near Palm Springs.” The man comments that it’s beautiful, and Alice agrees. He then adds, laughing, that “they can’t take that away from us.” Keisha thinks for a moment about what happened to the people that used to live on the land they’re on, but outwardly just nods.
We then come to Alice, who skips ahead another month, to them driving through North Carolina.
Not quite the seaside, but not the urbane research triangle either. Here there are farms and boarded up main streets, but signs still of life. A giant bird painted on the side of an old building, the animal’s proportions and posture awkward, but its scale magnificent. A faux retro motel with pastel panes in its windows, a monument to color against the farm dirt plains.
Alice and Keisha stop to eat some lunch by the roadside, in the meantime watching a farmer use a huge machine to plow his field. She notices he has headphones on, and wonders what podcast he’s listening to.
At this point, Alice and Keisha start to talk about giving up, and just going home: “It could just be the two of us again, and we could live knowing but choosing not to know about the brutality we left behind. There could be peace in giving up.”
Keisha takes up the thread again, skipping ahead yet another month to Louisville, Kentucky, where she notes that she doesn’t drink any bourbon or see a single horse. The two of them go to an Ethiopian restaurant, where the food is excellent and served to them in a styrofoam container. She comments that Louisville is really only a southern city in name, since it’s closer to Detroit than it is to Atlanta.
The cook comes out for a smoke break, adn Keisha tells him that the food is delicious. The cook smiles at them, and says that it’s a recipe that’s been in his family for three generations:
He nods at this northern city in its southern clothes.
“A couple decades ago, none of them would eat it. Now they want to make sure it’s authentic enough.” He shrugs.
Again, we switch over to Alice, 4 months after the story broke. The two of them are in Chicago, and Aluice is amazed by the size of Lake Michigan, comparing Chicago to a seaside town rather than a Midwest city. While they’re sitting on the lake, a woman runs past them and jumps in, yelling at the coldness of the water.
Alice yells, “Oh shit!” back, and the woman responds, “It feels amazing!” Alice says, “Really?” The woman responds that it feels terrible, but the type that feels amazing before slapping the water with her hand.
Keisha comes in again, and she has come to a realization:
We drive. Adn as we drive, I realize we’re not alone. All of these people, in all of these places, they are waiting to be good. They are waiting for the world to be good. What they need is a way forward.
It’s not that they’re choosing not to know, it’s that they don’t know whta to do with what they know. I had thought it was a matter of knowledge, but it’s a matter of organization. It’s a matter of praxis.
Keisha thinks about the people that they had met over the past four months of wandering, and reiterates a point that she’s made a few times throughout the show: that ours is a country “defined more by distance than by culture.” She then adds that it’s also defined by the people who live in it: “We are the fine parts that make up the heavy machinery the heaves global events forward.”
She ends the episode with the following:
I thought about hands. I thought about thousands and millions of hands, reaching for the spatula at hour eight at the grilltop of a diner, and reaching into a toilet at hour twelve at a gas station, and reaching up to put the canned beans on a shelf at the supermarket, and reaching down to help their child cross the street.
I thought about millions of hands, and what they could do if they all reached the same direction and grasped. And that’s when I knew. It was as clear to me as memory, as unshakeable as my own breath. We were going to organize, starting with us and moving from there.
This was a country made up of a distance of people, and they could not be changed by headlines. They had to be organized, one by one by one. And maybe come part of me had spent the last year waiting for Praxis to save us. But not anymore. We would have to become Praxis ourselves.
That was it. That was it then.
So, the first thought I had was about part 4 of this very season, particularly what Howard had told Keisha: that praxis something thta you do. The word “praxis” basically means applying a theory or ideology to a situation. Politically, it means organizing, which is what Keisha and Alice determine that they need to do in order to fight Bay & Creek, Thistle, and their government backers.
In that sense, it’s also a call against complacency. Let’s face it, the country in which I live is a fucking dumpster fire right now. Joseph Fink, I believe, is intending the world presented in the podcast as a reflection of the state that we’re in right now, and is presenting a call for action for us to do something about it.
After all, isn’t that one of the things art is supposed to do?
(And just as a reminder, if you enjoy what I’m doing here, you can always make a donation! Right now, I have three avenues: my Patreon, Ko-Fi, and PayPal. Your support would mean a lot to me, and would help me continue doing this. Thanks!)