Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Free Essay: "Of Trailer Parks and Country Clubs"

[Note: This essay will appear in To Make an Assay: Volume Two. Volume One can be downloaded for free here.]


Of Trailer Parks and Country Clubs

WE LIVE in a trailer park. It’s called an “RV resort” on the cracked and fading billboards along North Bank Rogue River Road leading to it, but it’s a trailer park. “RV resorts” aren’t shabby, run-down acreages peopled with meth-heads, serial killers, and hillbillies whose family tree are stumps. Trailer parks are.

   This particular “resort” is peopled with aged folks. At a guess, I’d say the median age is close to seventy. At fifty-five, I’m one of the “resort’s” youngest residents.

   We have lived in “resorts” with meth-heads and hillbillies, and probably a serial killer, or at the very least someone who was seriously thinking of becoming one, or who knew someone who had actually made that career choice. Our last “resort” was like that.

   You’d think that the hardest part of living full-time in a thirty-four-foot motorhome would be the lack of space. It isn’t. Human beings are naturally frugal and simple creatures. You’re probably laughing at that, and I can understand why. A cursory glance at any neighborhood, at any strip mall, at any city, at the commercial landfill that is the Internet would seem to contradict that, and convincingly.

   Still, it’s true. The fact that we’ve allowed ourselves to be brainwashed doesn’t change our essential natures, ones that lived in peace for tens of thousands of years with the bare minimum, and did so happily. To be happy and contented, we do not require much at all. It’s wisdom to recognize that, embrace it, and live it. We try do.

   No, the lack of space inside our home isn’t the problem. It’s our neighbors outside of it, and the lack of space separating us from them.

   Trailer parks (I’m just calling them what they actually are now) crowd folks right up against each other in order to maximize profits. The park we’re in currently is fairly decent in that regard; still, our neighbors are no more than twenty feet from us, and on both sides. Such tight quarters can and does cause problems.

   Kye and I are very private. We try to be as unobtrusive and invisible as possible. Generally, we get away with it.

   You wouldn’t believe how upsetting that is to a lot of people. On multiple occasions I have heard our neighbors deride us for “being so quiet” or “mysterious” or “uncommunicative.”

   We do our best to leave others alone. Despite what you might think, that’s the last thing folks want. Despite what others may say, the truth is, they want to be messed with, interfered with, interrupted. It’s one lesson I won’t soon forget.

   Being truly different upsets the herd. Being a true nonconformist (as opposed to what marketing, teachers, gurus, and other brainwashers tell you is nonconformity) really gets folks’ dander up. It really does.

We live in an RV for numerous reasons. When we bought the TARDIS, the original plan was to use it to tool up and down the west coast of the United States and visit Yellowstone National Park, Kye’s spiritual home. The problem is, our Doctor Who-named RV is old—as in over thirty years old. Its engine is in pretty good shape, surprisingly, but its body is a mishmash of dry rot and old fiberglass that likes to crack, forcing me each summer to inspect it carefully, then fix the damage the previous winter wrought. It’s a painful, painstaking, tedious job that usually takes two or three days at four or five hours a pop to complete. So if we did take the TARDIS to Yellowstone, I’d have to do all that work, then do it again when we returned to Oregon.

   Uh, no.

   The space we rent to park our mobile home costs about as much as I paid to rent a one-bedroom apartment in 1981. We are parked next to a cherry tree that is, as I write this, blooming. It’s gorgeous. Ahead of the rig maybe a hundred feet is a line of cottonwood trees. Beyond that is the Rogue River.

   Despite the close proximity of our neighbors, this place is about as close to Heaven as we can get without actually being there. It isn’t the city. It isn’t expensive. It’s deeply quiet—so much so that I’ve heard vacationing city folk complain about it. It’s full of color and fresh air. When I go on my walks, I am accosted by traffic maybe once in three trips. I can literally amble up the middle of the road to my turn-around point and back without having to move once to the shoulder. I’m certain you can’t say the same thing.

Back to people. I guess the question I’m ultimately getting at is this: Is “trailer trash” confined to “RV resorts,” or is the term dishonest and inaccurate?

   It’s really easy to look at RVs and trailers and declare the acreage full of “trailer trash,” but is it more so than, say, a brand-new suburban development in Parker, Colorado? I have my doubts.

   I was raised in Country Club Estates northeast of Fort Collins, Colorado. It was where Fort Collins’ wealthiest residents lived. The homes were large or huge, the kids all pressed and clean, the yards spotless and trimmed and replete with fountains and other ridiculous signs of ostentation.

   And yet the daughter of the mathematics professor who lived next door went to jail for being an accessory to murder and robbery. Just down the street a high-school peer of mine used to hold regular pot parties that devolved into little more than teenaged orgies while her parents traveled, which was often. Not far from her was another family whose sons regularly engaged in bullying and drug-dealing and stealing cars. Across the street from him lived a urologist who took far too great an interest in his female patients, and a psychotherapist who, a few years later, got busted for the same shenanigans. Up the hill, closer to our house, lived an angry old Republican who regularly threw rocks at passing cars because they were traveling too fast, or because a woman was driving, and he objected to females driving. Two doors closer was a banker who was busted for defrauding his employer to the tune of over a million dollars. If you got back on Country Club Road and took the next right—the very last turn you could make before running into the Country Club proper and its golf course—you’d run into a row of homes so frequented by the sheriff for everything from domestic violence to drug dealing to prostitution that it was a surprise whenever you didn’t see him there taking a report or stuffing a handcuffed someone into the back of his cruiser.

   Every home at the time was considered very large and luxurious. Everyone was white. Everyone was a Christian. The parents all voted Republican.

   Living in a trailer park, as I have now for over five years, has been much the same as living in Country Club Estates was when I was a child. It was a startling realization that still makes me laugh to this day.

In the end, of course, it comes down to man’s continuing indecency towards his fellow man. It comes down to woman’s continuing indecency toward her fellow woman. And it comes down to what we actually teach our children, as opposed to what we claim to teach them. That’s the biggie right there. For what those children actually learn from the actual lessons we adults teach them starts a new cycle of indecency, no matter what income bracket they come from.

   Some of the most decent people I’ve ever known were dirt poor. They weren’t crooks; they weren’t welfare cheats; they weren’t drug addicts. But we are inclined to judge them simply because they aren’t in a higher income bracket. It’s insanity.

   The United States is particularly vicious in that regard, for absolutely everything a person does is judged against their income level. It’s obscene. There is even something profane called the Prosperity Gospel, in which its proponents grotesquely claim that wealth is a sign that God approves of one’s life choices—including, perhaps especially, the indecency one shows for those less fortunate. That’s what we’ve become in this nation. And it is leading us straight to catastrophe.

   Since I started this essay well over a month ago, two of the best neighbors I’ve ever known suddenly upped and moved away. His name is Luc; hers Venus. His mother, in Arizona, is, apparently, very ill with cancer and needs someone to look after her. Venus has never known a “regular” home, having been raised as a child in a trailer and living the entirety (thus far) of her adult life in one. She and her husband are just past sixty.

   I have mourned their going for days now.

   Do trailer parks have a higher incidence of drug abuse, incest, high-school dropout rates, parolees, louts, wife-beaters, prostitution, violent crime, gangs, and general lawlessness? When I first moved into a park, I was very much inclined to say yes. But as I mentioned above, trailers are shoved very close to each other to maximize profits for the parks’ owners. It concentrates the crazy. But in terms of numbers, does it multiply the crazy too?

   I have my doubts. All those homes in Country Club Estates were spaciously placed apart from each other. But the crazy was still there. If all those folks were placed in trailers, wouldn’t it look just as bad as the craziest parks we’ve lived in thus far, if not worse?



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