Ive seen the sun go down over a Tokyo evening. Ive seen the shimmer of the heat over the Dakota plains. I’ve followed the road over the Rockies and taken that Oregon trail. Ive spent nights in casinos trying to find a space to stop, feeding the quarters into useless one armed bandits in exchange for a safe place to park, as women with hair down to their knees pour drinks for pockmarked men. A crimson faced white man slopped car washing suds over me in Montana, as I went to pay for gas: he didn’t appreciate the out of state plates and clearly wanted us to hightail it out of his town. We were only passing through on the way to Minnesota – on our way to the most perfect summer. As beautiful as the country was, as big as the sky, as wild as the wind blown prairies as lonesome and fascinating the dusty deserted ghost towns were, I wanted to wide eyed gawp at the beauty of the state, while getting the fuck out of there to somewhere less hostile.
Outsiders are not welcome in the heartland. America is so set in it’s ways for such a young country. People jealously guard their mountains and 40 acre plots. They sit in their small towns, proudly declaring their heritage right to the main streets and the pine trees, while the native people are pushed out to harsh reservations and sad conclusions. As an outsider, a late comer, America tries to push you out, repel and shut the doors. It has only been since I have been in San Farncisco that I felt accepted and loved and wanted by the country I love so dearly. California, as much as the rest of the country gaze on at it’s sun drenched beauty, it’s surface liberalism and its deep set hypocritical devotion to the twin Gods of capitalism and success, has been a haven. California does not feel as if it wants to push us out, instead it gave us a home, a place to belong, friends, and a sense of possibility. It might be way after the goldrush, but the state of California has been solid bullion to me. Even if I am a social cripple, that is ok California is full of dysfunctional. Perhaps I found where I should be, where I belong. Perhaps I needed to travel in a huge circle in order to come home back to San Francisco. I cannot find my way around interactions. I am not from here. I am not from anywhere anymore. I am lost, but at least I am lost at home now.
The trip out west for the pioneers and the colonization of these western coastal states, the cruel treatment of Sacagawea, the Lewis and Clarke adventures have had their impact on the insular Oregonians, the independent Californians, and the mostly bright and friendly people of Washington State. The Oregonians like to boast of how many generations they have been living in that hick hellhole of a state. It always makes me want to remind them that they are interlopers too, they are implants as well. There is no getting through to some people, like that dude in Cool Hand Luke said, “some men you just can’t reach.” Driving into Dismal Nitch, on one of our trips up north, I stood looking out over the bay and wondered what Sacagawea thought of the perpetually cold and grey enclave that looks over the Oregon border. I cannot imagine she was very impressed. Freezing half to death in the cold of a Washington winter, I was not impressed either, however wind whipped and desolate, green and lush the surrounding area may be.
Volcanic plains in northern California, the ruins of Tule Lake Japanese detention center, the scorched ranches of Klamath county the Alpine beauty of La Pine, none of it made my soul feel peaceful. Small town life, the main streets and the gossip, and the cops that think they are being cute and clever but leave ya running for the hills when they try and entrap you into falling for their schtick: “hello kids. I am not a cop, I am a drug dealer. You may trust me. I am one of you dirty little druggi…I mean fine upstanding members of the underground community.” This was the kind of man that pronounces the aich in veHickle and gets sunburnt on his scalp. He has only ever worn a baseball cap sideways, and only then as an attempt to go undercover like the big boys in real places, in some homage to The Wire or some other cop show that he probably sits at home watching with all the lights turned up bright and a sweet little wife called Nancy, that is secretly bored of him and is screwing the gardener like some new world Lady Chatterly. It is so tempting to play with these normal people, to fuck with their mundanity, in some infernal game of cat and mouse, or cop and rebel. So tempting but so dull to put oneself in danger from these meathead authoritarians. Acab, baby, all the way.
“Sure budderoo. You gotta number I can call you on, if I want to take you up on that?” I had already decided he was a cop. A drug dealer would pull out one of his 5 burner phones, and call you so you have a connection to the connection. A cop would bluster because his boss had not told him which pigphone to use at the pigpen. The smile on his face was so blissfully happy, so overwhelmingly overjoyed at the thought of catching my opiated ass, that I almost wanted to give him what he wanted. My pleasing conditioning must run deep. The only possible way forwards is to resist.
“Lemme call the station…..I mean my sister to see what phone I should use for you to contact me, should you decide you wish to purchase diacetylmorphine or that (he stops to think a moment) CRANK from me later today.” I wanted to pat him on his bald shiny pink head, and feed him bon bons for being such a good dog, such a well behaved boy who did his homework. Shame the school books he was learning from were out of date. No one has called it crank since 1995, at least not without irony. I could have helped him. No drug dealer worth their non porcine salt would approach a woman in a grocery store by the chips, starting up the conversation with small talk about blue tortilla chips, enquiring about my boyfriend, who he wanted to talk to, and starting an open conversation by the yoghurt about whether or not he could interest us in hard drugs. Hard time more likely.
Walking fast across the parking lot of the grocery store he approached me in, then running bent over double laughing and hopping into the RV to take a slug off my bottle of vodka and orange to stop my hands shaking long enough to get home and do up a few oxys, Billy sidling over like Captain Jack after a hit of ether, I started to feel like I had just mugged myself off.
Hugging my bottle, driving over the bridge I looked over at the sober-ish Billy. “Hey…you think he really had some smack?” Billy looked over smirking. “Yeah, plenty in his evidence locker.” I smiled back at him gently: “Figures. Devil has all the best tunes.”
“Who do you think dobbed us in?” Billy was gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles were blanched white. “Doctor. You have pupils the size of pin pricks. When we went for my script, I reckon she rumbled you. You should never take your dark glasses off. Never. Your eyes are too green. ” I had the opium rage. “Yeah well, your…mother is a whore..” I ran out of fuel for childish fighting and shrugged my shoulders and looked out of the window at the pines and the oaks on the ridge, at the mountains and the lake, and the open gravel mines and the hills stripped of their timber. I didn’t belong there, not at the little blue house, not in that little town trapped between the mountains and the forests. I didn’t belong with Billy dying slowly in ethanol 5th increments or 40mgs to heaven installments. I didn’t belong with the pissant cops who couldn’t catch a junkie if they were nodded out with the damn needle still in their arms. I didn’t belong dying slowly with the cougars on the trails or the strange elderly hippy scene that seemed to be left over from the days of Ken Kesey who had a ranch near there at some point.
San Francisco is not perfect. I look out my window here for one of the last times before I move up to ___St and it’s slightly more refined urban view, and see the empty horizon where the rest of America lives out there beyond the big liberal cities. Some good, some kind, some insular and bad, some racist some open, some struggling and dying in their own small pieces of brain matter and sanity and small losses and large suffering out beyond this safe haven of a State which said I was alright really.