Thursday, February 21, 2013

Live, Laugh, Loathe

Recently West Virginia has been getting a load of public exposure.  It's easy to say that once a state or region gets televised that it's not just a few select people who get the wrong idea about that state's moral compass and social standards.  I'm not going to speak blindly and say that everyone who resides here doesn't act or live like the people on television, because that would be casting stones in another direction.  But I will say, if you judge a book by it's cover or take hype at its face value that it is easy to be misled and judgmental in all of the wrong ways.  Before continuing, please keep in mind that this was written in a sarcastic, urbane way.  If you believe a word of it, as it is only opinion and experience, then you are falling directly in to not so gray area of being judgmental.  As a whole, as humanity, we live, we laugh, we loathe; but here in West Virginia you either learn to make great use of your time or metaphorically go to the dogs.  This is our sub culture.  It is not a reflection of every individual in either scenario.

People who have grown in the city are always quick to yearn for the theoretical slow-paced "country life". They hustle and bustle through their careers, hailing cabs to Sacs & Fifth, and ride public transportation in to the mouth of hell; and when they're aloft the penthouse apartment they've pencil pushed their life away for, they dream of country life. They dream of lazy days beneath a sturdy oak betwixt a barn and farm-house, quaint and tucked away in the lush green that rings true to somewhere around seven acres. They drift to sleep with a Tim McGraw tune in their ears. The tune convinces them that things didn't use to be this hard or that you didn't used to have to worry about your neighbor stealing your Blu-ray player and TomTom. The silky twang of a guitar eases that same urban listener closer to cashing in their 401k and heading for the hills, briefcase in hand. 

Depending on what age you turn up in "the country" depends on how well you'll be received by Johnny Farmer and his "kin". If you're willing to cash in on retirement and buy yourself a nice freshly built house on the hill, it's really unpredictable how every person will see you. But, against all odds, I'm betting you'll be seen as the city boy who sat at a desk for a few years and decides to move in to Johnny Farmer's territory to raise property taxes and make his life of hard work in cow feces meaningless. I can even bet that you'll be received well at the local general store; but as soon as you finish pumping the gas in to your Audi A4, which mind you isn't suited for FARM USE, you'll be as useful to them as tits on a chicken. Do chickens even have tits, considering that they're foul? 

I've been fortunate enough to experience both. Growing up in the city and turning to the country when the city decided to swallow my parents whole. We visited the country occasionally; not because we had the money to do so, but I'm guessing just because it's America and we were free to roam back and forth across the interstates as we pleased. I believe returning to the country was my father's idea, but I'm just guessing because I don't really remember. I procrastinate when it comes to asking questions about where we're going and why. Procrastinating comes easier in the slow pace of country life, but don't take my word for it; I'm sure Johnny Farmer would say we're anything but slow-paced, with the cattle and whatnot. 

In my town (yes I'm referring to it as my town since I'm now one of those fabled land owners, in a sense) there are a few things we're always told. Myths, legends, common laws, etc. You're only as good as the dog you hunt with. You better have winter tread on your vehicle come October or you won't make it off of the mountain alive. Don't air your dirty laundry if you don't want others to know about those strange stains, or something. We're told things to instill the fear in us, to keep us "safe". Stay away from the haunted plantations. Maybe our parents are too busy living so slow-paced that their brains have slowed down and tossed the idea of hands on parenting out the back door? If they did, it would have all been swept under the rug along with the warnings they've stamped across our foreheads at the age of five or so. 

Culture shock, is that term used anymore? Are we ever really shocked that we can be scooped from our "Live, Laugh, Love" nests and dropped in to "hide it well" suburbia, or vice versa? Life is what you make it, another rural common law. Life is never what you make it. If it were, that wouldn't be life at all would it? Life is unpredictable, no one can ever really be culture shocked in this era. You always have prefixed notions, if you say you're culture shocked it's because you've yet to desensitize yourself with all the white trash talk shows you watch...or you're a liar. You were prepared and have always been, you and your preconceived notions. The city person expects an easier life, the country person would expect culture. The city person has the disadvantage here. Only because, no matter which side of the Mason Dixon line you live on, you can seek culture if you're willing and able. 

The city person moving to the country has always been a cliché of sorts, an expected outcome in the end game process of life. In the country we love thy neighbor. If we take from someone we give back. We take care of each other. We attend church on Sunday because here on the mountain we're closer to God. Myths and blasphemy. We're all cut from the same mold, as humans. The city person expects to bring their life with them, and protect it with fierce force. I just hope and pray they don't bring their sons and daughters and expect a no holds barred approach. 

It took years for our locally based police station to catch up on the drug problems we face here. And that was having them based in our "city" area. A Wal-Mart does not make a city, by the way. Most cities place their Wal-Mart on the outskirts of city limits. To attract the backwoods tourists, I suppose. It's 2013 and our state police force, God bless them, are just now addressing that we have a drug problem. They were blind to the fact that we've faced this problem for years. That's slow-paced for you. Do you know why? No, it's not because our peers and neighborhood children have recently discovered that heroin gets you high. It's because now we have made it a problem. Addicts from the city take advantage of their families first. Addicts from the country, well we just take from our neighbor. Which throws Bob Cityslicker's brain for a 180 at this point. Oh, you thought we didn't take without giving back? Really, we've all just learned the fine art of cleaning. Sweeping the problems off of the front porch of life and then writing a nice country song about it, to wash our hands clean of any guilt by association. We've become so well at cleaning that the police force didn't dig up our dirt until recently, 2007 at best. What's worse is all of this cleaning left no room for help facilities and no funding to do so. We're so slow-paced that we have free range cattle and free range junkies in our very midst. Don't lock down your valuables yet Bob, but please reassess your misconstrued views and expectations. 

In the country, we do have drugs, sex, disease, famine, poverty, and your run of the mill thievery; we just have to go further to do it all. Think that your Audi A4 or vintage BMW won't get stolen or sent to the chop shop for scrap? Think again. Some misconception is that we're a bunch of backwards backwoods 4x4 truck driving rednecks. Fuel an opiate addiction and these backwards fools will get the upper hand. The only water safe to drink on this mountain is the beer. You don't trust anyone, anywhere in this God blessed US of A. Hunter Thompson warned us of the "fear and loathing" since the seventies. This is where the fear sets in, in rural America. The search for the American dream was fruitless. That's exactly why I personally believe that the loathing has always been here, along with it. 

We have all the fine amenities of the city within our reach. They're just harder to maintain and sustain. We have section 8, only because we're one of the neglected states that still has yet to pull through segregation in the real estate area. We have welfare, but don't fall back on it...Johnny Farmer won't allow you to. Love thy neighbor, huh? Well, that only applies if you're not a liberal or footloose Democrat. From what I hear, unbiased, you don't love Democrats in 2013...they love you from behind and then screw you over so even your insurance can't get your torn asshole fixed. That's what I hear anyway, I fair well without expressing my political views. You need to vote for your family, not your common sense, here. If the last election didn't prove otherwise, I don't know what did. I guess we're all not praising Obama with our breakfast prayers because in the country we tend to president ourselves. It's the law of morality. Love thy neighbor, if your morals are similar. And if not, then maybe his wife will. Or his daughter?  Sweep it under the rug, no one will remember in a few years anyway. 

Unless you're swindling the system to get that welfare check you can barely pay your rent with, then no one remembers a thing but the "good ol' days". Average WVWorks stipulations give you roughly three hundred a month, if you work voluntarily, unpaid, for an average of 38 hours a week. So, if your rent is four hundred and fifty dollars, your electric is budgeted at one hundred, and you have a land line telephone which costs you almost seventy dollars a month...then you go on welfare and still owe "the man" three hundred and twenty dollars a month. But Johnny Farmer thinks he knows you and your basic needs, so don't be born in to's obviously the only choice you have. 

Something else that comes at a slow pace, sex. We're educated on the matter when we care to be, all else is caught in the strainer of life, no remorse and no repercussions. Our poverty plays in to this a great deal. There isn't much to do in this town but to create a brood.  But, are you really satisfied and content to pass your life away being bred like someone's hunting dog? To bend at your husbands every whim?  But, hey, the money is fantastic isn't it? But this is a matter of hearsay, as is almost everything in this area. We've all had our turn there, naked and buzzed in the back of a borrowed Pontiac, with some drunken drop out on top of us, breathing alcohol and BOD down over our shoulder. Some of us jerk or blow our way to adulthood while others tend to pull their common wits together and escape this place.

No matter where you're from, life sort of jacks you off at every turn.  Sometimes you end up satisfied, other times you end up with a case of theoretical blue balls, which can be attributed to the damnation of our town. 

We used to be a mining town and we used to have homecoming parades, a dentist in town, a barber, a few general stores, and mines of our own. We also used to have quite the array of boys and men we deployed to the armed forces, also. Now, do you realize what we have? A graveyard of veterans, two general stores...two only because one has gas and the other has beer, and a few people who've sold their land to strip jobs or windmill projects. The town is in ruins, prematurely ejaculated and wiped clean from the floors of society.  

When it boils down to it we're a nice town to vacation in, to visit. It's quiet until provoked, like an underfed tiger in the zoo. It's nice to watch him pace, it's nice to watch him jump through the hoop, until he breaks loose and follows you home because he could smell the beef jerky in your back pocket. You may even make it back to visit us. To sit in the living room of your vacation home and allow your children to roam our quaint town without supervision, that's country life. What you know won't hurt you. 

I should write tourism brochures for a living. I could fill them with information on how some people around here pick the locks on your vacation home and screw on your couches. Or to fill you in on how your daughters most likely aren't admiring the scenery while you watch NCIS via satellite...and that it's probable one or the other is bent over the tailgate of some Good Ol' Boy's Chevy. Don't worry, if the going gets tough he has four-wheel drive...and chlamydia is easily curable. Because you should be educated on the ways of our society, that is exactly what we do, we destroy your vacation no matter how ideal it is. 

If you ask any of the locals about this town I would bet that they would say that it's a great place to live. A great place to grow up. And a great place to settle down. Asking them about the job market is completely pointless, as we have none. Asking them about the weather is acceptable but it's hard to tell who you can believe and who you can't. But, inserting your own two sense when you have no social ranking is suicide. Inquiring about history that biologically doesn't even belong to you, forget it. Not many peek their heads out of the rabbit hole to stop playing dumb and actually form a sense of self-awareness and economical standings. But, hell, I'm ready for it. I'm ready to preach revelations through the loud-speaker at the softball field. Really, does it matter at this point? We've hung people here before. Or so I've heard. You can't keep the proverbial rooster from crowing, it's in his DNA...unless you chop his head off, which he's still liable to roam for days after that. 

And with that being said, my intentions were good, they still are. I don't see myself above anyone honestly, unless they decided to string me up by the neck above them.