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?

Ohio Portrait no. 131

Ohioans love John Glenn. Love him. We love our astronauts in general, and our airline pilots, and take a perverse kind of pride in the fact that we have spawned so many people who are desperate to escape the pull of the earth. 

But John Glenn we love especially. There is a school of public affairs named after him at The Ohio State University, my alma mater. There are high schools, middle schools, and state-wide scholarship programs in his name. His image is on tapestries, formal paintings, stamps, and commemorative China. We love John fucking Glenn. 

At my college graduation, John Glenn was the commencement speaker.. I think he was sick of talking about the fucking majesty of space at that point in his life, so instead he regaled us with tales of living in a po-dunk farm town in central Ohio. After talking at length about how he spent his adolescent years walking ten miles to arrive at a general store, the only place nearby with a phone he could use to call his girlfriend, he pause and literally said the phrase, “It’s not like that now for you kids with your Tweeters and twatters”.