Down Here With The Rest Of Us. Mike Ness – white light white heat white trash hero

I love Social Distortion. I have a neverending urge to play Down Here With The Rest Of Us through neatly manicured state and national campgrounds that pander to the quarter of a million dollar motor homes, while not making any space for those of us who can only afford the rent on a campsite and have to live moving place to place to place. They are happy to take our money in the winter and don’t give us a chance to keep a space over the busy summer months when the tourists push us out.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I lived moving campground to campground, state to state, shifting south to north, west to east with the seasons and the weather. I wake up and sometimes cry that I can hear the shout of the crackadoodledoo and the gunshots and the sirens outside, instead of the evening coyote call, and the birds that sing and walk on the camper roof. I wasn’t left with much choice in the end. The pandemic kept closing campgrounds and summers got progressively more unbearable as the tourists forced out those of us who lived on the road.

People now reserve summer campsites a year in advance, only a patchwork of days here and there available, when we had a need for a spot every single day. There was simply no room left – we were pushed out. I used to look at their campers worth more than some houses and their fancy equipment, and their pull along jeeps and wonder if they could ever fathom what it was like to be down here with the rest of us? Did they look at our trailer and wince at the ugliness of poverty? We kept a clean campsite and ourselves to ourselves, yet these interlopers always seem to feel entitled to stare and walk through our site on the way to theirs, or bring their dog to our campspot and let it shit on our space not theirs.

That said it all really. They considered us their toilet. They didn’t want dog shit in their space, but hey, we were trash, and a bit more shit wouldn’t hurt. One day I got absolutely furious. There I am cooking and some rich privileged tourist leads their dog to our site and leads it within smelling distance to shit there, and as it squats I get the rising feeling of rage inside me. How dare they. I pay the same price as they do. My space is my own, let the dog shit in it’s own area, not mine. They were outraged that I minded. My mind was blown. Down here with the fucking rest of us indeed.

Mike Ness of Social Distortion is a punk hero. I always suspect he is trying to be Joe Strummer, even to the point of a slightly hokey Brit accent, but considering Mick Jagger’s affliction in that regard I think we will call it equal? This is angry music. Angry about the system, the Man, and the way life goes for those down here with the rest of us.

Now I always appreciate a Velvet Underground reference, and naming this album white heat white light after the Velvet’s 1968 offering made it a done deal. I was going to love this band almost unconditionally. I wound down the windows of the camper, we had the best sound system imaginable, hugely powerful. I have no idea how Billy swung it, but there we were in a shitty 22 year old camper with a sub woofer that could blow the doors off a barn, and I turned it up all the way to 11 (in another dimension I am a member of Spinal Tap) and screamed along to Down Here With The Rest Of Us as we drove out the campground:

You’re working for the men
Who don’t even know your name
That’s the way that it goes
When you’re down here with the rest of us
You might lose now
Your beautiful children
Your happy home, yeah
And your beautiful wife
That’s the way that it goes
When you’re down here with the rest of us
You’ll suffer hard now
As you bury
Your loved ones
You’ll suffer hard now

But however loud you scream along to Social Distortion these people will never hear you. However much the tears run down your face as you try to tell them why the fuck you just want them to take their dog to shit in a common area or else their own site, and why throwing beanbags at your bedroom wall at 11pm is just not polite when there is a woman in there trying to grieve.

Instead I pulled out that 5th of 151 and twisted off the cap and drank. I drank and drank and drank and screamed until I blacked out. Cletus and his white trash buddies didn’t get it. They whooped it up. I decided it was a competition, and upped the ante. Fuck glasses. Who needs a glass. I may well have paid Billy back for all those times I restrained the worst of his drunkenness. The next day as I grabbed the nearest bucket to puke in he told me I was magnificent. I didn’t feel very magnificent. I felt terrible. I have never enjoyed drunk over. I was drunk for two damn days. I deserved it. You can’t go through huge trauma then a woman feels entitled to let her dog shit next to your supper that you have cooked when you can barely function.

That was the last time I drank. I sobered up, and decided to run at life clearheaded. I knew if I started down the road of Numb I would be lost forever. It was too easy.

The Boy came up to me and said “do you remember going to sleep and then waking up and playing a PJ Harvey song on guitar at like 3am?” The shame melted away and I started to laugh with him. “Was I singing?” “Yeah, Ma…you were quite good actually….do you have that album in here?”

5 Comments

  1. Ms Anthrope

    People who take their dogs to crap in other’s spaces are just a small example of why I hate humanity. Where’s the empathy? Where’s common courtesy? Not so common anymore I guess.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Yeah, I’m not too fond of humanity myself…then I start to feel guilty about being unfriendly…There is no courtesy. The fact they defend their actions always boggled my mind.

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