What’s Life Like in Your Town?

…as in: ​perceived ​zeitgeistambiance,  and…everyday experience?

A week or two ago I was reminded of this song, and as happens from to time, I’ve found it impossible to dislodge from my mind and heart. Dement uses her stellar voice to bring an understated pathos to her simple and tender narrative of the tragic demise of her town: ‘goodnight’. Yes, it’s Americana nostalgia, but it did cause my mind to cartwheel with imagery of reports concerning what’s been going on in towns and cities all over the nation, and simply put: degradation, manifesting in A Thousand Points of Dark: Goodnight America.

In my town there have been a lot of changes since the banks were bailed out, and The People were sacrificed to feed the Plutocracy. ‘House for Sale’ signs are ubiquitous; so many are unemployed that the resultant anxiety is almost palpable. People are leaving, and their replacements, if any, have largely been the ‘comfortable class’, demanding services that have raised our land taxes higher and higher. New businesses open, close X months later, and others open in their place. Local residents, and to an extent, the town council, are fighting to keep a frigging Dollar Store from moving in.

Recently a gold milling operation on the edge of town was shut down, the EPA says not to worry about the contamination (good-o, then!), and to Stay Tuned; yes, the outrageous saga continues.

Twenty miles west, the county seat’s Main Street businesses, so many of which were driven out of business by two Big Box stores are now second-hand stores, or just boarded up. Mr. wendydavis reports that the building supply stores are almost always empty of customers; food prices continue to rise.

Bees and butterflies have become scarce, the weather as warm and dry as I’ve ever seen it: we didn’t have what would be called ‘winter’.

But what’s going on in your town lately?

Have you, for instance, noticed public schools closings, and corporate charter ones taking their places as in Chicago and elsewhere? Are staffs being downsized, and class sizes growing? Are there strip malls boarded up as in so many cities, with ‘Vacancy’ signs so old they’re tattered? Have Foreclosure notices become the norm? Are soup kitchens too busy, or local food banks stressed, often sporting bare shelves? Have yard sales decreased, with folks holding onto items they may once have replaced casually?

Perhaps you live in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Youngstown, or other cities where “officials are tearing down tens of thousands of vacant buildings, many perfectly habitable”, especially in formerly industrial cities that have been losing population hand over fist (some of the figures are staggering). Yes, shreds of urban agriculture might ensue, but still, this sort of alleged ‘Creative Destruction’ Gentrification’ and waste rankles mightily. Eminent domain afoot? Who can say?

Perhaps ‘your town’ is Detroit, declared ‘bankrupt’ in mid-2013, ravaged in a ‘Capitalist Conspiracy’ (‘criminal’ anatomy here). Or in Jackson, MI, screwed by Elitists of Both Colors’ ‘Gentrification’ (BAR).

Do you live near Eden, NC, where 80,000 tons of Duke Energy’s coal ash broke through the bottom of an ash waste pond and poured into the Dan River? Do you have safe drinking water yet, and do you know what will happen to the river and lake bottoms affected or the soil you garden and farm in? Or in the Cape Fear watershed where North Carolina regulators, days later, cited Duke Energy for illegally and deliberately dumping 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a tributary of the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water for several cities and towns in the state? Oh, pity you, if so!

Or worse, you might just live in West Virginia or Kentucky, having been flooded with toxins and carcinogens resulting from Mountaintop coal explosions filling the air and waterways (sing it, Willie).

Have judges in your town criminalized poverty as is happening with increasing frequency? Meet just a few of the victims of the modern day Debtor Prisons; see the 2014 Poverty Map! What condition is your local infrastructure in: bridges, roads, any of The Commons?

Has your town been rapidly losing population due to: i) jobs moving to ‘right to work’ states, ii) massive deportations courtesy of the Obama administration, or an increase in HI-B visas, iii) massive foreclosures and family ‘relocations’ to friends and relatives’ houses? By the way, have I mentioned: ‘Fuck you, Obama, and your secret admiration for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’ lately?  Or is your town near the Mexican border, and are you being buzzed by drones?

Some of you might live downstream from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and its leaking pools, or on the Gulf Coast where BP was just given the Green Light to plunder the ocean again, while the Deepwater Disaster (and ‘despite 11 counts of manslaughter and ongoing devastation of coastal communities) is still unfolding. It seems that the EPA offered them a Deal They Just Couldn’t Refuse (small wonder: because Capitalism).

Is your town experiencing angst and fear from recent spates of police brutality during protests and vigils? More may surface soon, but this video is from a 50-person protest in solidarity with folks in Albuquerque who’ve been protesting trigger-happy cops there, and especially the straw-breaking, ruthless extermination of James Boyd (video here). Along with having apparently goofed around with the APD’s website, Anonymous had called for solidarity protests. In Denver, it looked like this: ghastly and brutal:

You might want to read further reportage and watch the archived Livestream here. Will the Occupiers in your town participate in ‘the Re-Occupy Wave over the next several months, or have some reservations? Surely there will be plans for dealing with the cops, including photographing everything.

We’ve been discussing Oppression Art and Resistance art here recently, and although many of you may have already seen it since it’s gone viral, this poster installation art by an arts collective in Pakistan thrilled the socks off me, even as it tore my heart apart.

Stay safe always, but don’t give up the fight: “You must jam the gears of the Machine”, as has been counseled from as far back as Mario Salvo. “Don’t be the Machine’s raw material!” Resist and create alternatives as you’re able.

(cross-posted at My.Firedoglake.com)

23 responses to “What’s Life Like in Your Town?

  1. Even here in the weekend squires’ capital of the world, a half-block away sits rotting unoccupied, a five-year old, brand new foreclosed-upon Obamavilla; MEANwhile homeless plead on the corners of (CG) Cypress Gardens (now, aka Lego-land) a half-mile further on!
    (HELL, my Colorado sub-primed daughter’s former home on the CG lake’s also foreclosed and my other’s “underwater”!).
    Yet, Obum ‘wants’ me to have hi$ DEM BA¢K; when I MUST cover those of My POSTERITY!
    Still, above all his inflicted misery, we More Than EVER need … freedom music! Thank you for its perpetuation and provision for reciprocity, in the face of the malnourishing vacuity of brainstem mudia.

  2. my stars, bruce. i copied some of those lyrics into my blogging help word document for use later. one of the commenters on a thread at naked capitalism had linked to, or mentioned, the song some time back.

    it really is a song of revolution, isn’t it: the tide is turning toward…a better world built from the ashes. (i’d even considered using it to anchor post once.) ‘but i’m frightened for our children’…is so memorable. funny, though, the message doesn’t quite match the pace and verve, know what i mean?

    what is lake CG? (i’ll kick myself later for having had to ask.) ‘underwater’. how many folks are?


    i am so glad that O is term-limited so we don’t have to see how many folks would vote for him again.

    thank you. :)

    this song was just on my realplayer; it’s only come available recently on youtube, and i’ve always loved it. (silly images, but…)

  3. Well, it was Cypress Gardens’ (CG) lake; actual name, Lake Eloise.
    And my grandsons, who I refer to as “dude” (and, likewise), now have a better title (since we can’t ALL be grandudes); henceforth they’re subdudes (gotta Love IT!). The second eldest will also love the owl chicks above; and they all fly off with “angry birds”! Also, the eldest will ‘dig’ the retro-fitted ancient shark speartip from y’alls’ neck of the woods!! Again, thanks for the pleasant diversions.

  4. Surfin’ Big Bird! i can hardly love it more, bruce! epic to an order of magnitude! you made my day, i swear. plus a few short production numbers, my faves! gonna watch it again! Suff! (da beak had trouble with the blllllewwwwwgyyyyaa’s.

    i’m so glad the granddudes will love some of it, but cypress GARdens??? sloooowwwly esther williams turns… (i used to do synchronized swimming in high school)

    good-o. and then some.

  5. Wendy dear
    Life is good here. As always i enjoyed your article. tell Mr Wendy davis i said hello 9and he better know he is a lucky man-LOL) I actually got a story about Tar sands in Minnesota that i would like to send your way, if ya don’t mind.
    Love-Respect-Solidarity to you and yours.

  6. good to see you, and i’d love to hear the story. we are both fortunate to have each other, certainly. nice to be married to one’s best friend, eh? did you mean you’d like to email it, or be an author here? either are easy enough…

  7. i will, but i’m not clear why you’d like me to, unless it’s to link to later or something?

  8. Sitting in motel in Omaha Nebraska

    This City is not doing well. Drove in the main drag to a big building downtown, skyscrapers new stadium, new indoor arena concert venue, and very few cars on the road. and no people on the sidewalks. and prices for art way down.

    Thought I heard some shots last night.

    ugly scene here.

  9. howdy, stranger; i’d wondered where might be. omaha is indeed one of the armpits of america, isn’t it? stockyards and pollution is how i remember it. mr. wd was brought up in lincoln, essentially a city with many of the disadvantages of same, but with none of the cultural advantages metro areas can have.

    ‘Thought I heard some shots last night. ‘ hotflashcarol said shots almost every night, and then sirens, were a large part of what drove them out of oakland.

    i’m sticking this in for posterity, too. it’s a bit of a report on the new global social progress report, partially written by way of hitting ‘republicans’, oy.

    but the US is obviously on a sharp decline in most categories. juliania will love that new zealand is number one overall, although only ranking 25th on gdp per capita.

  10. Honestly, it’s sad, coming down here. stopping here and there, and seeing so many people who appear to be hard working, but just beaten down.

    and yet still polite, and friendly.

    I saw more people hobbling limping and banged up in one day than I see in a year at home.

    Americans deserve better.

  11. I don’t think this city is an armpit, I just think it’s not doing very well.

  12. i admire your empathy for the polite and friendly downtrodden there, mafr. i knew the city as vicious and racist back in the day. ive long ranked it as one of the ten hell-holes in the nation among the places i’ve been.

    but a couple things i’d forgotten to ask and say earlier for if you can manage to come back: why have you noted the decline in art prices? are you on an art quest so far from home?

    and an ‘aha’ moment came to me as well a few days ago. it would be lovely of jane hamsher, if she believe the climate deniers are toxic liars, to come onto some of those friends and indicate such (politely of course). therein may lie the solution for administrators not wanting stifle healthy debate, and making known their…beliefs.

  13. hi

    I mean, driving down here through north south dakota, staying in sioux falls south dakota, all along the way.Those people. In the gas stations, restaurants, motels, the cashiers, dressed like paupers, but working hard, room cleaners, clerks. waiters.

    I’ve been walking around omaha. there are hardly any people on the sidewalks. almost none.

    the few that are, will not look at me, they’re in a hurry, (I’m clean, dressed reasonably, old, unthreatening in any way, etc) they are afraid.

    I went into a little bar to have a drink,there was one guy my age in there who had something wrong upstairs, but was happy and friendly, playing Neil Young tunes on the jukebox. the proprietor looked like he was going to break out crying. a working guy came in, a driver on the job, bought a beer to go. He was grim faced.

    there is a ton of money here, it’s quite easy to see, but it appears to be spent on stadiums, arenas, office towers and so on. There are many vacant buildings, for rent signs, and no people. Few restaurants, no shops no little stores, nothing.

    And it looks like there might be poor white kids on drugs.

    I met one friendly guy while I was stopped looking at an old abandoned building, which he was also doing. He told me the whole old industrial district was being upgraded. He told me Omaha was doing great. That Omaha had many fortune five hundred companies. As I walked on, he got into his Porsche station wagon.

    EVery street is super clean, neat and tidy, yet nobody around doing any cleaning.

    It’s just clear evidence of everything I read about, about all the money going to the top. It’s not nearly as bad in Canada. So when you come to a place like this and see it, it’s strange and maybe hard to understand.

    that’s my impression of Omaha.

  14. art… went into a small art gallery, glass, clay, porcelain , wood. some very nice stuff.

    prices were barely high enough to pay for materials.

  15. a poignant and distressing portrait, mark mafr. many folks told similar stories of the same general atmospherics over yonder, although not always with such soul. a few of the commenters were doing okay themselves for now… the ball field is named for Ameritrade; that says a lot, eh?. again, the same observations about ‘urban renewal’ by way of stadia over yonder. taxpayers foot the bills, and the owners profit. they knocked down lower downtown denver for a stadium and yuppie stores years ago. wonder what the business closure rate is like there now?

    we kicked around the idea that the new normal (TNN) for the underclass is a service economy, hence, what you saw. better paying jobs go to folks from abroad via h1b (hb1?) visas; cheaper that way.

    not meeting your eyes: ‘hurry’ may be part of the reason, but i remember acutely moving from boulder to san jose for a brief stint in 1969. i was not used to *not* greeting people with a smile or not on the sidewalks. i sadly learned that it was not done: it set you up as a mark. i finally learned to keep my gaze down, my face neutral. a small tragedy in my life then.

    i see about the art prices now; thanks. i thought perhaps you were looking to buy or sell something/s in particular. steve’s pop said it was 84 in lincoln yesterday; i expect omaha was hotter.

  16. yeah, after I wrote that, I looked up Omaha at wikipedia. It says that Omaha has five fortune five hundred companies.

    just in case the reader missed it, every second paragraphs says it. That’s the number one source of civic pride I guess.

    came from the peg, much snow, to here, hot, humid, and getting ready for a thunder storm.

    there was a young lady working as a cashier in a gas station I was in, wearing clothes that in wpg people would not take to the thrift store. a very polite hard working young lady. at f’n B.P. to boot. Makes no sense.

    appears that live music is not a big item in this city, cause there is almost none to be had. weird.

    One good thing, many birds, and they are not hungry, like ours back home, that are very hungry.

    I threw one group a bunch of seeds yesterday, and they haven’t touched them. They have lots of food it seems.

    I think this area is in trouble water/drought wise.

  17. been listening to this ….

  18. hey, jazzman,
    omahahaha civic pride; i hear that. claim to fame! lincoln’s is that dick cheney was raised there (i’ll skip my in-laws’ borrowed fame). :) no music, but perhaps plenty of foosball games in bars, as was popular in…lincoln.

    clothes. hmmm. i’ve always mended and patched things, although i had a few nice things i wore to work. but as i said in the op, folks seem not be replacing things like they used to. i always did yard sales and thrift stores, and have since i was in high school. odd young thing i was, but so were my reading habits. yes, it seems to be so different here than in canada.

    sleep well.

  19. As for Michael, life is good here in my little town, and it is Palm Sunday here today. I found this lovely little video I think you will enjoy. When my little church celebrated this day, we went up into the mountains and picked willows for the church, and here’s why:-


    For me now, it is my lilacs, the tall white ones by the front gate, that echo the epistle for today:

    “…Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…”

  20. In Palm Sunday solidarity; ponder, praise-worthy Sochi:

  21. Juliana2

    thank you. what a lovely video. As a good Oirish Catholic i appreciated and enjoyed the video immensely. Thanks agin. Glad life is good with you. Nice to chat again.

  22. We get around, don’t we Michael? You would have loved my little church – we had Catholic seminarians and a wonderful Catholic priest, old school, in attendance. New Mexico Catholicism has a Spanish flavor, as I’m sure you know. They allowed us to present a concert of Russian Orthodox music in the Santa Fe Cathedral one Christmas – we stood in the altar space where Stravinsky himself knelt to receive his commendation! (The Cathedral was packed, too.)

    I’m very fond of Catholics ;)

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