The underwhelming tourist attraction known as Four Corners, located where the 4 corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet, is widely regarded as a kitschy crossroad of analog charm. Lately, however, it has become a jammed junction of interstate squabbling. What normally should be a celebration of shared boundaries is now a crossroad these states must bear. A very cross road. A 90° cross of imaginary lines with real consequences.
Four Corners is a manmade boundary drawn up during the Civil War when territorial contours were out, and crisp military lines were in. A surveyor’s simple, crosshatched fashion statement designed to tame the unruly landscapes of the Wild West. Looking at these stodgy, block-shaped states today one thinks they could’ve used a dose of Queer Eye for the Straight Line. But stylizing the intersection of Four Corners in 1863 was perhaps asking too much of a preoccupied Army Corps of Engineers embroiled in another, more lethal intersection – as in this case the intersectional War Between the States.
Four Corners is an attraction (if you can call it that) of dubious novelty. While it’s true that visitors can brag they’ve been in four states in one day, that’s not really saying much. Heck, I’ve been in 8 states just doing laundry – the states of anxiety, serenity, denial, hostility, bliss, arousal, gratitude and Nevada. Of course that was before they adjusted my medication.
My emotional stability aside, Four Corners has always been regarded as a goofy and uninspiring destination – the most anti-climactic place on Earth. For some it’s a bucket list item to check off. For others it’s a cartographer’s wet dream that has of late become an interstate nightmare. What began as a friendly 4-state quadripartite agreement of mutual benefit, has devolved into a relationship of Holy Acrimony. But state-wise you can’t break the bonds of Holy Matrimony because, unlike people, states can’t get a divorce. They’re stuck with each other. I mean the last time some states tried a dis-union it didn’t work out too well for either party.
So how did a series of 4 right angles generate so much acrimony? I know 3 rights make a left. What I didn’t know was, in this case, 4 rights made a wrong.
New Mexico in particular has grown indignant at being walked all over as a result of this stately agreement. “But that’s the point,” countered Utah. “We’re all being trampled on. You should be rejoicing. New Mexico just doesn’t get it. We’re trying to promote foot traffic.” New Mexico claims its foot traffic is disproportionate and that more people are spending time tramping all over their “Land of Enchantment” than any other state. New Mexico believes there’s more wear and tear on their little ¼ corner and consequently they want more than just the usual 25% cut of revenue for maintenance.
Some envy crept into New Mexico’s statement as they expressed displeasure with the agreement. A New Mexican official elaborated, “We want the same status and celebrity as other states. Take a state with great star power like New York. They’ve got their own cheesecake, steak and even their own minute – Damn Yankees! Georgia has its peaches, Iowa its corn and Mississippi has it’s…ummm sharecroppers? Maybe the less said about Mississippi the better. The point is, what do we get here in New Mexico? We get to be ‘enchanted.’ Enchanted. Well la-ti-da. And to add insult to injury our northwest corner is treated like a national Port-a-Potty.”
To redress their claims, New Mexico is proposing to withdraw from the Four Corners Union in what they call a “New Mexit.”
In reviewing New Mexico’s concerns, Utah spoke for the group saying, “I think New Mexico’s been smoking what Colorado’s been growing, and maybe they’ve gotten a little too enchanted.” Utah has their own issues with the Four Corners Union stemming from the fact they didn’t even want to be a state to begin with. No, their people had greater ambitions. They wanted their own country. The country of Deseret. Do you know what you call people from Utah? – Utes, Aggies, Utahans? Nope, you call them Mormons. Reports indicate that Utah vows to build a tabernacle around their 90° quadrant and make Arizona pay for it.
Arizona, on the other hand, plans on constructing a giant Koi Pond on their little corner of God’s arid acre. They also announced they’ll stock it with piranhas if Utah doesn’t withdraw their asinine proposal.
And that brings us to Colorado. Due to recent cannabis legislation, Colorado wasn’t even aware there was a problem. “We spaced it,” said Larry Stone, owner of the Stoner’s House of Herbs, a marijuana dispensary. “Really, I didn’t even know we bordered New Mexico till just now.” He paused, looked at his watch and said, “It is now isn’t it?”
These days Rocky Mountain high Coloradans are skittish about visiting New Mexico calling it “The Land of Entrapment.”
4 Corners Dissension Spawns Opportunity for Others in the Very Esoteric World of Shared Boundary Theme Parks
While 4 Corners is stymied by its fraternal spat, other states aren’t standing still in stoking the micro-appeal of shared boundary theme parks. And in doing so these states have managed to do what many thought impossible – to make a geographic theme park even less compelling than 4 Corners. For example Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have devised a geographic wonderland at their common boundary point called 3 Triangles – a place where reclusive tourists, who are unable to withstand the social pressures of birdwatching, can stand in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana all at the same time! Who wouldn’t want to do that? – I mean besides me and everybody else.
The 50th state of Hawaii has initiated a boundary-themed attraction where they encourage tourists to put one foot in the Pacific Ocean and one in Hawaii at the same time. They call it the Surf and Turf Experience. I call it wading.
The oddly shaped states of Florida and Oklahoma are trying to steal 4 Corners thunder by developing panhandle theme parks. I’m wary of a panhandle park. I think it will draw the wrong element. I mean who wants to visit a place filled with panhandlers.
Even the corporate-whoring state of Delaware has toyed with the idea of creating a fantasy tourist space where visitors can put their feet down, click their heels together and legitimately exclaim, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Del aware? No. Del unaware.
Binding Arbitration for Four Corners
To the great relief of Navajo Indians hawking trinkets and Fry Bread at 4 Corners, it appears a solution is on the horizon. The horizon being yet another shared boundary – this one between heaven and earth. To the surprise of many, it seems all parties have agreed to submit their grievances to binding arbitration – surprising because no one thought they were even into bondage. You don’t expect states whose boundaries are straight intersecting lines to be so kinky. But hey, if it offers a resolution, who am I to judge?
It turns out this entire make-believe spat seems to be a fantasy of invented problems – a pretend tissue of made-up issues. A mere scaffolding for quips, asides and allegorical allusions. And I believe that’s altogether fitting and proper because, after all, these lines are imaginary – both the written ones and the cartographic ones. I believe the arbitration panel will find in favor of the author whose boundary dissolving essay demonstrates not that he is lost in a make-believe world of imaginary lines and pretend quarrels, but that he was merely suffering from March Madness.