Trout Fisting In America #27 – Escape

Every night I go to sleep frantically pivoting between two apps on my e-reader, Realtor & Maps. Where could we go? Where could we live? My criteria are simple. The next town has to be cheap, and it has to be interesting. There needs to be a grocery store or convenience store close by, a place I could find quick easy work in a pinch. Yeah, ideally I’d be bartending, or barista-ing, or doing something with a little extra tip money, but you need to plan for emergencies in this country.

Last year it was Vermont—Brattleboro to be specific. Maybe Greenfield, Massachusetts if we couldn’t find decent work in Brattleboro. But then I read about the heroin epidemic in Greenfield. I started worrying about buying some old drafty house that was a hundred years old and not being able to afford to fix it up. Say what you want to about the high desert, but you aren’t going to freeze to death.

So my thoughts turned to Bisbee, Arizona, up in the mountains of SE Arizona. Decent houses available for less than $80,000. Close to Mexico. Only an hour-plus drive from Tucson, one of three cities in the US to host the glorious fast-food quintella of Waffle House, In-N-Out Burger, Krispy Kreme, Jack In The Box, and Dunkin Donuts. The other two are Phoenix and Dallas, both of which are unlivable due to both their climate & culture.

In both Brattleboro and Bisbee, I’ve imagined myself getting a shift at the local community radio station. At Bisbee’s station, the improbably/inevitably named KBRP, I imagine a morning show, ‘You’re listening to (belch) K-BURP radio, where you can’t keep good music down.’ I imagine the depth & breadth of my music knowledge will help me make friends, or at least provide a semi-creative outlet.

I’ve added these cities/towns to my weather app, so I can check them each day and compare/contrast w/my current existence.

Last night my Bisbee fantasy drifted 20mi east until it reached Douglas—why not Douglas? The real estate’s even cheaper, and it’s right there on the Mexico border. They even have a Denny’s. I haven’t been to a Denny’s in years. I imagine myself going there at 3am and waiting impatiently for my distracted methed-out waitress to eventually return and refill my coffee. Yeah, let’s go to Denny’s, I think. It’ll be awesome. It will be terrible. It will be everything emblematic of this dull distorted empty life all at the same time and what could be more American than that?

And yet lately I also find myself drawn to Nova Scotia. You have to understand, my wife is coming down the home stretch of her PhD and so a lot of our possibilities are academic-based and this town called Antigonish has one of the best universities in all of Canada. It’s near the ocean. I bet the lobsters there just fucking walk right up onto your plate and cover themselves in butter. Of course the truth is she could get offered a six-figure job next year in the pacific northwest or some shit and all these places would go out the window. Even if we both agree that buying a $50,000 house in Bisbee, AZ and spending the rest of our days painting Bob Ross-type landscapes dotted w/UFO’s and selling them to tourists seems like a noble career, as noble as anything else, it’s hard to turn down the big bucks, assuming they ever get offered. And yet we both know that even if you win the rat race, you’re still only just king of the rats. So why not find a place with some beautiful scenery and a decent library and a school system decent enough that our kid won’t get too beaten down intellectually or even physically (not just talking about neighborhood violence either corporal punishment in schools is real y’all).

But I feel like I need to run somewhere. I imagine myself in southeastern Arizona, driving a highway at night, my headlights the only illumination for miles. Mexico on my right, the US on my left, an infinity of possibilities stretching out ahead of me. In Douglas, there’s a Pizza Hut restaurant that hasn’t yet been converted into a sex toy store or a pharmacy or a sushi bar. They have a lunch buffet. All of Arizona has mexican food in abundance, the kind I haven’t eaten since I left California all those years ago to pursue whatever weird-ass literary dreams were festering inside me. But yeah, I imagine my radio show as a way to make friends, to become part of a community all over again.

As for the town I live in now, the vibe has changed somehow, the vortexes all spun shut. The psychedelics have all been washed out of the municipal water system, to be replaced by antidepressants, fratboy piss, and nosebleed residue laced w/cocaine. Once upon a time I loved this town like no other. I still love many of the people here, people I’ve known for years, but everything about this town feels claustrophobic, stifling, predictable, and dull. Maybe the magic still exists, and I’m no longer able to find it. Maybe this town only reveals its magic at night, and I am too much in the day, too much in the sun with my son in this moist unforgiving light with the summer heat so oppressive you can only see the world though a squint and when you wipe the sweat from your forehead the salt burns your eyes and it turns out not all pain is transcendent or capable of making you stronger. Sometimes pain only teaches us that it hurts to hurt, and that pain is something you’d best try to avoid.

And yet, and yet, I have a community of friends here, very good friends; brilliant, sensitive, funny people who you can count on. So what the fuck is wrong with me? What the fuck is wrong with us? This desire to run, where does it come from. I remember feeling like this back in 2004 when I was living in Asheville and dissatisfied with everything. I eventually decided on moving to Nogales—living in Mexico, working in Arizona—but then this girl came to visit and suggested I spend the winter in Florida working a catering gig w/her and saving up money, but then things got serious and so we ended up in here in Athens and even as I fell out of love w/the girl I fell into love w/the town and then I met the girl, a different girl, and I fell in love w/her too and eventually she became my wife b/c we wanted to have a kid and you want to make sure everything’s legally clear about who’s doing what. And oh yeah, at some point we’d formed a band that got to put out records and tour places and go the UK. Life was good. Hell, to any outside observer it’s still good.

But I go on craigslist and look at job listings in other towns. I search google maps for their coffee shops, thrift stores, book stores, record stores, bars, restaurants. There has to be a better life out there, a place to feel a connection to something…anything. I don’t know. Maybe everyone’s on the run in some form or another and that’s just life in America (except for people in Massachusetts—they never leave Massachusetts). People trying to stay one step ahead of their nightmares, believing their winning lottery ticket is just across the next state line, and when people run out of road, they grab a gun—or a syringe, or a bottle—and kill everything inside of them until their burial becomes just a formality. And though I use ‘running out of road’ in the metaphorical sense, it’s no accident that two US terminus points, California & Florida, are ground zero for a violent collective insanity, places where having one’s face voluntarily rearranged with a scalpel is a privilege for which you pay many thousands of dollars.

When all you feel is isolation, maybe it’s better to go someplace where you know you’re all alone.

My violence is all internal, constantly patrolled & always contained, or allowed out through approved methods of catharsis—exercise, art, performance, etc. But I am, for better or worse an American, and Americans understand the language of violence, murder, and death better and more clearly than anything involving love or forgiveness. Go ask the Indians about our capacity for peace. And while social genetics are bullshit, and psychological inheritances are flimsy at best, we live in a nation where we fear our neighbor and want to kill the things we fear. And when most art/culture/tv/internet works double-time to convince us otherwise, to instill the belief that we live in a society that is moral and just, it’s no wonder that most people are wracked by anxiety & dread. You either numb yourself or you go insane. Or you go grab a gun and never start shooting.

This country owes its very existence to the ideal that you have a write to take what you want and kill anyone who gets in your way. We’re a nation of thieves dressed up as saints, of murderers dressed as missionaries, and it’s time people at least took off their costumes before they inflict suffering on their neighbor.

Some days I guess the only feeling I’m sure of is this desire for everything around me to completely & irreversibly change. I need to believe that such things are possible.

 

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday (sometimes even more frequently!). We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. You can check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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