It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! — Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Well that clears that up.
Robert (Pat Harrington) and Willy (other guy) are driving a well-worn GMC pickup through Utah. OK, I have no idea where it is, but it looks like the scenery in In the Dead of Winter, so I’m calling it Utah. They seem to be on the run from a lone motorcyclist who is a dorky version of Leonard Smalls. They pull off behind a billboard and the biker cruises on past.
Apparently this biker is constantly following them and horning in on their good luck. It is not immediately clear what good luck they might have had, 2 scuzzy drifters with no chicks, ratty clothes, and a beat-up truck with their belongings heaped in the back. Or what the biker is doing with his “harvest” as he appears to shop at the same dumpster.
But apparently Robert has an instinct for finding opportunity. His spidey-sense leads him down a dirt road. At the end of the road, looking out over the vista, in the distance they see a domed city of skyscrapers. Sometimes it is New York, and sometimes it isn’t. Robert points out there are many tire tracks leading to this point. It is the only place this miracle can be seen.
Despite being public land, Robert and Willy put themselves a sign out on the highway and charge people a buck to look at the miracle. An old couple pulls up and is euphoric seeing exactly what they want to see. Soon people are flocking down this dirt road to see the miracle. They are seeing city skylines from New York to Rome to Paris to London. A dweeb shows up, sees Xanadu, and thankfully begins quoting Taylor’s Kubla Khan rather than the John Travolta movie.
Robert has a reverence for the site and how the city is different for each person. Willy is all about the Washingtons, excited at the prospect of “steak dinners and new shoes!” Then the biker shows up. Having observed the traffic all day, he went to the gummint and put in a claim to homestead the area. But the biker can’t see the miracle.
From a hill, Robert and Willy watch the biker collecting the money from the gawkers. Robert is glad they are out of it. It was wrong to set up rules and charge people to watch. They should have just put the money on the first church poor box they came to. Soon, they see the people are demanding refunds and the biker bailing on the site.
The go back to the site, but the miracle has disappeared for them too. However, a family drives up and takes in the site with great joy and reverence. Soon Robert and Willy are re-redeemed and see it again also.
Not much going on here, but I kind of liked it — for RBT, that is a miracle of rare device. I appreciated that the highway scenes were actually filmed on location. Even Pat Harrington, who I usually find annoying, did a great job.
- This was inspired by a mirage Ray Bradbury saw as a child in the Southwest US, possibly a Fata Morgana. He seems tight with details, just calling it a “miracle” as far as I can find.
- Correction: Willy says they are 90 miles from Phoenix, so they are in Arizona.