Friday, October 19, 2012

30 minutes to freedom

A headache, a cup of green tea, coming down from the stress of midterms and the aforementioned mutual destruction of dumbassery. Thankful that life has a way of just kind of going on. Perfection is unattainable, learning from mistakes and growing as a person's hard but more realistic. It's the end of the week, I'll get my doom on the airwaves tomorrow night, distance provides a better perspective.

Before the fiasco at the desk, I spent yesterday roadtripping with my dad down to the ancestral homelands of Appalachia. The fall colors were beautiful and therefore uncapturable on a mediocre digital camera aimed out the passenger window, but we talked and listened to Creedence, Elder (which he'd never heard and liked) and whatever was on XM radio which got boring really fast just like the terrestrial airwaves.
  We took our time down the back roads, and this time I noticed a lot of signs about the "War on Coal" which gets way more press down here than any other wars on entities. Also, fracking down here is huge, with trade publications touting college scholarships and economic revival,  billboards advertising good deals for your mineral rights. Some combination of lottery and gold rush and the company town at least from outside observing. These things are the only things really going on here besides the prisons, and while the scenery is beautiful, I know the soil isn't great and the water isn't either because my dad's cousin won't let me touch the tap.

My great-uncles all worked in the coal mines, they and their sisters had eighth-grade educations. They were smart as hell but didn't have the chance to show it, saving the wit for storytelling, morbid humor, and self-deprecating Catholic and Polish jokes and messing around with their city slicker relatives from Clevelandia. They're always happy to see us, and my head hurts drinking all this diet soda, but I learn something new each time, some tale of those departed, something else about the land around here.

Every year another one or two pass away, and there's fewer people to visit. We stop by the old farmhouse where my grandma was raised and it's locked up now, the garden empty, the canna bulbs probably still in the root cellar. Some other people are looking at it, they say their house burned down due to some bad wiring. It and the hundred acres behind it, the barn with the grand piano falling apart, for rent now.

It's beautiful out here, but I think I'd get lonely and miss my art museums. I see the occasional spraypainted black van doubtless owned by some metal kids, the occasional band t-shirt on the street. The music store down there carries more banjos than up here. It hits me how different the issues are out here. How if the bridge is out, it's unlikely to get replaced, these roads are so narrow and full of pebbles I understand the need for four wheel drive and pickup trucks. Abandoned baseball fields and stripped houses, railroad paths to nowhere, meandering roads between the hollers. At least in Clevelandia, a few people stick around, I wonder who will be in these towns in another 30 years.
We eat dinner at a diner near the casino. It's raining as we drive home, and I'm too tired to really think straight so we listen to riffs and nod along. My best memories involving my dad have to do with these kinds of things, traveling with no hurry, lots of music and being able to laugh at the same things.


  1. Many years ago I traveled those roads up and down the Ohio river. I knew a lot of people and knew how they lived, a simple life. I can only imagine what it's like now. It was just starting to die when I left. If coal is king then he wasn't too kind to his subjects.

  2. These places are on the road to becoming hundred-acre museums. All the loot in the world here, but these are merely the domestic versions of overseas out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Makes it easy for us to permit fossil fuel kings to trash the place.

  3. That fracking is going to do for Appalachia what Deepwater Horizon has done for the gulf.

    And the people in charge know it, but don't care. They get money now, the rest of the suckers will pay later, and for the rest of their lives.

  4. the rural poor are the off the radar left-behind,it's already ugly and going to get much worse.