Saturday, March 23, 2013

Where I Live

So this is what you see where I live.

Not much to shake a stick at.

But I feel this weird connection to it, a landscape made from overgrown weeds and litter and asphalt, with a backdrop of worn-out apartment complexes where overworked people try to find a way not to feel overworked.  This is Forest Park, Ohio.  I drive from and to it everyday.  It seeps into my head like White Castles coffee into carpeting. 

There's a mystery here that really does not need to be solved, just lived.  I know it's every body's story, but I have this landscape stripped of itself, X-rayed and mordant and broken and raw.  It's the way I like things.  Everything I do -- writing, making art, living, thinking -- all comes from that ugly bark and those odd arthritic half-asleep branches. 

When I was in high school I hid from pep rallies.  Didn't go to dances.  I barely made it to and through school.  I spent most of my time trying to write things down or make art.  Trying to escape by realizing what I was escaping from.  I lived in a crappy little brick house in a family that was always falling apart, in a house that was too. 

And I wound up here.  I'm not sad at all.  Not regretful.  Because this is where you end up anyway, no matter how hard you try not to.  This place without a sense of place, and yet it's the only place you'll ever know.  A little under a mile away is the cavernous dead mall.  And down the street the shut-down Hollywood video, and in front of that the Mexican restaurant no longer open either.  We'll go for walks in the neighborhood and all the houses and apartments feel closed up too, but you know people live there because there are cars and porch-lights and dogs barking. 

This sense of place is what you try to understand when you write stories and poems.  You don't glamorize the atmosphere and you don't make it worse.  You just stare it down and know it for what it is.  You make meaning out of it because you have to.