“I guess you’d say I’m on my way to Burma-Shave,” sings Tom Waits in the 1977 song “Burma-Shave”. But where is he going with his female friend? Somewhere, but nowhere in particular. They are just going, getting away from trouble with the law, and from a town that doesn’t have the distinction of being a dead end; it’s just “a wide spot in the road”. Burma-Shave isn’t a destination, and it isn’t even a journey, which implies some kind of specificity. Burma-Shave is the anonymous, insignificant, American ubiquity, the inland ocean in which a person could lose themselves. It is the road; or rather, it is the road-side.
There’s something nostalgically current about this story that grabs me. Maybe the viral nature of the campaign that capitalized on the baby-boomers’ generational separation from their parents via the interstate highway system that connected the east coast from the west by 5 days and a now easily-obtainable, used automobile or a ride.