rapid city II: the shrine to democracy

On my last day in Rapid City we went out to Mount Rushmore. The route to the monument is littered with distractions intended to filter out as much tourist money as possible: Reptile Gardens (Now Featuring Maniac, The Largest Croc in the Western Hemisphere!), Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo (This Way For Family Fun!), Bear Country U.S.A, Cosmos Mystery Area (See It. Feel It.), Museum of Woodcarving (See Wood Come Alive), and even the Presidential Wax Museum (From George W. to George W.). As you drive past Keystone (turn left for Historic Keystone!) a roadsign makes one last desperate grab at your wallet: "See the Two Rushmores... The Monument and The Caves!" I felt like a piece of krill in the caverns of baleen.

The monument itself was suitably turned out for our visit. Bright sunshine cast sharp shadows on the rock, children ran circles around the pavillion, and tourists snapped photo after photo. After a few minutes it began to resemble the scene from Delillo's White Noise in which the characters visit The Most Photographed Barn in the World:

here is the spot where, had The Lotus not lent it out, you would find the relevant passage from White Noise. As an aside, The Lotus cannot believe that she bought 60 perogies for only $3.40. That, my friends, is a steal.

It didn't take long for the glory of Rushmore to wane. After all, I'd seen the image a million times, even if this was my first visit. What held my interest was the crowd of tourists who'd come to see Rushmore and pose with the presidents in the background, each one wearing the same rictus as a relative or stranger snapped a shot. How many photos of Rushmore actually exist? How many temporary smiles? Logos from defunct companies on T-shirts?

It gave me an idea. Which I'll tell you about after I have lunch.