please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Unleashed in the East II: Fuck Eastern Oregon

I guess I forgot to mention that the people in charge of highway 205 (not to be confused with Interstate 205, of course) have sort of decided not to take care of you in any way. Amenities are few and far between, and even an oasis like Frenchglen feels like it can tell you that bathrooms are only for customers. This is how I came to be shitting in someone's driveway.

Well, not 'driveway', and not really 'someone'. It was one of the many gravel access roads leading up to property owned by Roaring Springs Ranch, and as there was no one at all around, not driving, not farming, not nothing, I felt okay doing it.
But of course, if for some reason someone had come along, I'd be the bad guy. This is what we, the outsiders do when we come to God's Country: We Shit All Over It.

I was listening to somebody singing the praises of Fort Worth, Texas (something I never thought I'd hear) on the Willie station, and I thought; "Well, there's too much Texas-sucking going on on this station, but that's not really all that surprising and hell, let 'em have it. Let people have things like that."
Strangely though, what it got me thinking about next was my own mixed feelings about the half of the state that I called home for much of my young life.

I was part of that rural brain drain thing y'know that they all keep talkin' about. The first time I was offered an opportunity to leave eastern Oregon, I took it with only tentative glances back. This lead to several years worth of the same question every time I went back to visit; when are you coming back? Oh, 'never', was my reply, and this made people just stare blankly. Lots of people leave that place, and almost every one of them I've seen goes back. Except the queer ones. They largely can't.
And I might add that this is a milieu in which many of my peers had never even left the county, and sort of viewed it as a badge of pride. So after we finally got it established that I was not going to be returning to eastern Oregon, the message then became oh, so you think you're better than us?

For one thing, non sequitur, asshole. For another, maybe I am, but that's not the issue. The question really is; what incentive was I ever given to stay? Widespread dislike of/threatening behavior toward me because I was a smarty pants who made everybody else look bad? Casting nasty little aspersions on me because I dress funny? Just the plain old 'staying is the right thing to do because everybody thinks so'? (Cue the voice of Janine Turner from 'Cliffhanger', shrieking at Sylvester Stallone; "SOME US STAYED!" I like to use this line when something unremarkable has happened.), or Loyalty for Loyalty's sake?

Let me explain something to you, EO. For all your lovely vistas and -yes- occasional quiet, homespun wisdom, there is a reason that thinkin' folks abandon you. There is this 'to be simple is to be an a baby is to be an angel' thing going on with you (though certainly not just you) that is to be avoided and discouraged. It's that good old American bullshit about how the best reaction is the first one, before you've thought about it at all, and how to think about things too much renders them effete and impure. How it is at base a good thing to be incoherently angry all the time, and to be a screaming child the rest of your miserable fucking life, consistently blaming all those people out there who think they're better than you, and are Elite.

Well, back atcha: what could be more elitist than thinking that you know the thoughts of God? That you are somehow better equipped to judge who and what is immoral, due to your baby-like simplicity? That it is right and good to attempt to be an arm of God's judgment and vengeance here on Earth (which is specifically warned against in the Bible, by the way)?

Above all else, how culturally arrogant it is to socially enforce the most closed-minded responses to all issues, in lieu of actually listening to other people for half a fucking second. On one hand, this is a remarkably lovely part of the state, on the other hand, fuck eastern Oregon; I know of which I speak.

But of course, those who -on either side of the Cascades- would seek to further divide us as a state also deserve my most heartfelt contempt. Hey Portland: thanks for buying things and shipping them everywhere! Couldn't have done it without ya', love, eastern Oregon.

Hey the-rest-of-the-state: thanks for living places we don't wanna live and doing things we don't wanna do, which leads to the production of things we need to
survive. Honestly, couldn't have done it without ya', love, Portland.

So there. We all gotta get along. The thing about it is, when we're talking about things like water, the social niceties quickly fall away. The people who first moved to the farthest southeastern corner of Oregon did so because the government was giving away land there. So people, doin' like people do, moved there in droves. Generally speaking, five or ten years was all it took for them to see that a small farm just wasn't going to work, and they left.

But some of them STAYYYED! And before too long, the government began massive irrigation projects that helped bring water to places like this. Technology in general improved, and finally you could at least kind of grow things in the desert.
Flash forward to the present day, and what few people stuck around are beset and besieged with a whole bunch of fees and bureaucratic bullshit because they're tryin' to make an honest living tilling the soil. On one hand, bureaucracy truly can be excruciating, and law tends to overlook the human aspect. Some of the regulations are genuinely arbitrary seeming and maybe even weirdly punitive.

Furthermore, I think I can accurately say that they aren't well served by their political representatives. Those would generally speaking be Republicans, who are far more likely to wander around shrieking about teen pregnancy and how there's gay people and stuff than to maybe make life better for their constituents. For instance, most people in Harney County are pretty up against it financially; they're barely making it as it is, and still must fork over the same amount of certification fees for everything, it seems that the rest of us who want to work in Oregon do. So...Yeah, if you could put down your picture of an aborted fetus for a minute there, maybe you could help out the farmers, yes?

But: the fact that so many of the locals respond to all this with ideas along the lines of 'well, screw fish; nobody cares about fish, or makes a living off them' is just goddamn precious. Or they'll get all mad at lawyers and environmentalists, while forgetting that -if left to themselves- they will not bother taking care of their water sources and will gladly kill each other rather than share.

We had the pleasure of debating this with a bar owner/auto body mechanic. It's not like we were sitting there talking about our political/environmental views, either; it's just that after forty-eight hours in a town that small, everybody is wondering what the hell you're doing there.
And dude, when he was not buying strange drinks for Bee (what kind of redneck enjoys a fucking Creamsicle, anyway?), just wants to yell. He will not listen, and I don't mean ' reason'. I mean just the basics of what it is we actually do with ourselves. He's too incoherently angry, too tired of the rest of the world...Understands deep down that we're not the problem, but still, likes to be loud, and dislikes having to comprehend things.

He also grew up forty minutes or so from where I did. I asked him why he left, and he muttered something about all the goddamn Mexicans. When asked for my reasoning, I just said, "I just had to get out of eastern Oregon."



Blogger rich bachelor said...

Of course, it's easy to read some sort of anger or something against the eastern half of the state in the title and body of this peace. Not quite.

I'm really talking about something that bothers me about lots of Americans, and probably something that bothers me about most humans.

It's just nice to occasionally exorcise old demons, and above all else to remember that I'm a lucky man who was ultimately able to say, "Wonderful. I invite you to continue this argument, Eastern Oregon, without Me."

1:25 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Good lord. I misspelled 'piece'.

11:48 PM  

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