Monoculture Gothic part II.

You can spend your entire life in a place and still have no real idea how to describe it. What sets it apart from other places? What is the phenomenological experience of inhabiting that space? What about the locale, the surrounding industries, the culture makes people unique? Does anything? When someone for some godawful reason comes to town on a visit, how do you pick what to show to them? 

Everyplace has a Cheesecake Factory equally as nice as yours. Every city has an art museum that is supposedly pretty OK and for which parking is hard to find. Every major metropolitan area has a zoo with a delicate mix of state-of-the-art, impressive exhibits and run-down, antiquated cages that call forth ethical questions. Maybe you have a beach, but a pool would be nicer. Maybe there is a Symphony, but does anybody go there? 

When your guest asks you how you spend your time, you have no idea how to answer. You cannot think of a single thing you have consciously chosen to do in this town because it was interesting, or fun, or unique. You go to work, you go to the store, you get your car fixed every time a new pothole wreaks its wrath upon it, but surely there is more time than that, surely you spend it doing something. They ask you where a cool place to go is, but you don’t know any. You don’t go anywhere. 

Where does all that time go? Where does it go? What have you been doing? My God, what do you do in this place? What makes this place what it is? At the moment, when you’re asked that, you are sitting on the couch across from your friend, glasses of Crystal Light weeping condensation into your little paws. There is light coming in, and you can hear a car alarm or a fire engine.

But you cannot in that second think of a single destination or any activity to do. The world seems to not telescope, but rather microscope in on itself. You look down at your shaggy taupe carpet with the barbecue sauce stain that nobody else can see, you did good a job shampooing it out. Unless you tell them. Then they can see it. 

You are not sure there is anything at all outside of this room, not even a lawn, and certainly not a real city. A weird, trippy kind of dread consumes you. You have to think of something to say, but you are so distracted by your lack of knowing that you almost don’t care about impressing your visitor anymore. You just want him or her or them out. 

You ask if they are hungry and they say no not yet, you just got back from the Waffle House like twelve minutes ago wasn’t it? You remember and are filled with more dread. The pie with cheese is coursing through your bowels already. You always feel like this after Waffle House. 

Why do you go there instead of some quaint, kicky place downtown? Something with character? Go down there, have trouble parking, see the big empty buildings, walk in between the CVS and the Walgreens and the new fancy Starbucks. Go to one of the few places that is unfamiliar to you and your guest in name, sit with your thighs sticking to a rubber-leather booth, order a platter of buffalo meat sliders, sip a sour foamy pale ale, and feel as if you’re in any other cutesy-ass gastropub in any other slowly rebuilding downtown area in any other nondescript city that nobody should visit in America. Pay. Leave. Get lost on the way home because you don’t like taking the highway. Surrender your alignment to yet another gaping craggy pot hole. 

Bowling. You suggest bowling. You and your guest drive past the combination A&W Rootbeer/Long John Silvers, past the jungle-themed strip club, past the rusty Amtrak station. Arrive and park on an unpainted lot. It’s closed. Has been for a few years probably. Yelp coulda told you. Your guest doesn’t say this, but you can hear him or her or them thinking if this is where you go for fun, how did you not know it was dead?

YES! This photo is implied to look like EXACTLY what you think it is. Leave your mind in the gutter and give zero fuc**. I can’t wait to leave this hell hole of NYC and see my lovelies in Chicago. And let’s be real - Midwest folk are much hotter than these NYC wanna-bees. In the Midwest- we don’t even have to TRY. Tootles, NYC. Don’t hold your breath till I get back. - Adam xoxo

7

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minnesota gothic

- You are on campus and all of the boys are wearing shorts. The snow collects on the brims of their caps. “Aren’t you cold?” you ask one, concerned but also bemused. “We are not cold,” all of the boys in the coffee shop answer, simultaneously turning to face you. “We are not cold. We are men.” These are the only two things you can be: cold or man. You must chose now.

- You are saying your last goodbyes before leaving the party. You cannot remember a time when you were not attempting to leave the party. You do not know anyone here, yet you must talk to each person individually before you escape. Each time you think you have succeeded, another old woman hugs you and asks about your parents. 

- At the potluck, a woman compliments your hotdish. “Thanks,” you say, “It was my grandmother’s recipe.” It was not. You read it off the back of the tuna can. You are forever haunted by your lies. 

- Your friend is going up north for the weekend. To the cabin. By the lake. They want you to meet them there. “Where?” you ask. You beg for directions. “Go up north,” they tell you, “to the cabin, by the lake.” They are too polite to be exasperated with you. “Which lake?” you yell into the darkness. There are so many.

- Everyone is so nice and so accepting. “We are so nice and so accepting,” they tell you. They make polite suggestions, in the form of a notarized and annotated list. This is what you must change about yourself. Then you will be accepted. 

- You are so parched, but it is a Sunday. You cannot drink on Sunday, no one drinks on Sunday without crossing the border. It is a dangerous crossing, the neighbors are hostile. It is not worth the risk. 

- “Hot enough for ya?” the cashier asks. He laughs at his own joke and you chuckle politely. It is not hot enough for you. You no longer remember what it feels like to be warm. It has always been winter and it will always be winter, world without end. He is still laughing as you leave the store and walk down the street. 

Midwestern gothic

People wave and smile at you as you drive past them. They seem to know you, but you have no memory of meeting them before.

You drive through gently rolling hills covered in corn and soybeans. You come to a small town with a ramshackle main street. A dog wanders from house to house. Two men sit on a porch and watch you drive by, beer in their hands. The only businesses that aren’t boarded up are an antique shop and an ice cream parlor. The town looks exactly like the one you passed through an hour ago, and the one an hour before that. You begin to wonder if the road you’ve been driving straight on is actually looping in circles.

Thunder rumbles and the sky turns an unearthly shade of green. Is the trembling of the ground under your feet only from the reverberating sound waves?

You drive out to the woods on the weekend to go hiking. When you’re far along the trail, a gunshot echoes, then another, closer. You didn’t think it was hunting season. Is it? Another shot rings out and you dig in your backpack for something, anything orange.

The water in the lake is dark. The local kids splash and play happily, but you wonder what is lurking underneath.