It was going to be a three-day drive to my campsite, so I had decided to download the audio version of The Iliad because I wanted to make the best use of my time alone, and I thought it would be good to make improvements at being a civilized person. I thought a lot about Achilles, about his decision to die in battle for the glory of being forever immortalized in a poem. I don’t think anyone cares about the dead hero’s kind of immortal glory anymore. I know that’s the only kind of glory I would want though, and knowing that about myself made me feel pretty good, like I was a little better than most people. My campsite was nice. It was by a little river and I could see red and brown mountains all around me and twinkling stars at night. I felt satisfied that I was happy just enjoying nature, and being myself, and thinking my own thoughts without having to say or do anything to impress anybody else.
One afternoon, I decided to take a break from hiking and see what the little town down the road was like. I was walking around just looking at the different shops. You could enjoy yourself without buying anything because it was a tourists’ town and most all the stores had big show windows. American Indian crafts were displayed in a lot of the windows. There were hand-carved totems and pipes, vases engraved with petroglyphs, hand-crafted flutes, silver platters with turquoise inlaid around the edges, and bone knifes with etchings of bears and snakes, eagles and mountain lions. Professional looking signs showed pictures of the artists and told you something about them. Some store windows had mannequins dressed in quirky signature clothes, by some designer or another, that most people would never wear in a normal place, and hand-made jewelry with the metalsmith’s initials on the back. There were t-shirts with pictures and names of famous people who had lived in the town and bookstores that had big signs in their windows advertising books with the same names. There were really nice sculptures of people with plaques that told you about the person sculpted and the sculptor. People want fame, I thought, and I felt smug for knowing it.
A giant marimba was in front of a group of stores. I had never seen a marimba or heard of one for that matter, but it looked like a xylophone, only the planks were over wooden tubes. There were two big mallets that anyone could use to make a sound or some music. I picked up one of the giant mallets and struck a note as lightly as I could. The sound was louder than I thought and some people looked at me. I picked up the other mallet and hit a few more planks a little harder so that the sound was a little louder. More people stopped and looked. I experimented a little bit and noticed that all the notes made agreeable sounds so if you played them one-by-one they sounded pretty pleasant in any order. A small crowd began to gather around. I was a little more confident now, so I hit the planks a little harder and added some variety to the sounds so that they made a little tune. Some people actually clapped. My heart felt like it was swelling a little in my chest and my head felt a little dizzy. It was one of those feel-good moments you never forget.