I've returned home from my mission to satisfy may father's final request, having scattered his and my mother's ashes at the appropriate places. This pretty much ends a chapter of my life.
I've been doing some catching up on what happened while I was on my "summer vacation". I see that the economy is still in bad shape (too many links there to even bother with) and probably getting worse, Libya is still a complete cock-up, the TSA is still mistreating the citizenry, the media has found another Republican woman to play "Gotcha!" with and etc., etc., etc. It isn't like I expected a miracle during my absence. It's more like a few days of ignoring the largest part of it has led me to see with refreshed eyes.
During the trip, my "travelin' music" was actually the audiobook of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". As I noted in an earlier post, she was the greatest horror writer ever. In the words she placed in mouths of Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden, I can hear the echos of my own thoughts lately. There is something terribly wrong in the world. Our country has a good dose of it, but it's evident everywhere--make a habit of looking at overseas news for a while and you'll get a good dose of it.
I used to spend summers in the small town my Dad grew up in. I remember them as basically great. I spent a little time helping my widowed aunt and my grandmother with things around the house, then spent the rest of the day with various neighbor kids riding bicycles, swimming and in general being a kid. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. The town, while small, was a going concern. There were jobs to be had, Main Street was full of businesses making money to deposit in the two banks, houses were lived in (and rarely for sale), there was a hospital a municipal pool and so on.
Compare that to this trip's experience. Main Street has a single open business. A single bank remains. Two gas stations , a florist, a barbershop, a garage, a grocery store, a Family Dollar (friend of small towns throughout the Southeast) and a bar round out the sum total of business activity. A local church was advertising free lunches. I saw houses abandoned and falling down, commercial buildings abandoned and falling down, schools and churches abandoned and falling down and empty houses everywhere. The city cemetery was unmowed. The radio station was closed; the hospital torn down. I couldn't find the pool. Even the National Guard armory was gone.
I was grateful for my ability to carry concealed, and doubly grateful that every state I had to travel through had reciprocity with my home state of North Carolina. I didn't "need" the gun, but it was a damn comforting presence in a town where every other person looked like a recently released convict and the rest like drunks or meth heads. The people here have given up. From what I could tell, the older folks are stuck there, waiting and the younger ones pass their days walking around town or in a chemical haze of one sort or another. I've seen a lot of small towns named "New Hope"; this is the first one I've ever seen that should be renamed "No Hope". The town isn't on life support, it's under hospice care.
I've never been so shocked in my life. If my Dad was still alive, he wouldn't believe it. I do, but I can't fathom what has happened in the 10 years between my last trip and this one. Even 10 years ago the place was still mostly like I remembered it.
The single bright spot in the place was a restaurant half-way to the next town, which was fairly new and doing a booming business, providing good food at good prices and good service. We ate lunch there; I had to resist from asking them "What the hell are you thinking opening this place up here? Are you nuts?" I suppose some people, like Dagny and Hank, have to struggle against the darkness past the point of good sense.
It seems to me that it is time for me to take a good, long look at "things". Things in my area are far better than where I've just been, but nothing like they should be. The signs of the "wrongness" are apparent here, with middle schoolers selling drugs at school, house breakins rising, gangs and drugs becoming an issue and so on. It isn't "bad", but it sure ain't "good", either.
I'm not sure where we as a society are going, but it doesn't appear to be anywhere we should want to be. I'm not sure where I'm heading either, but I have an increasing sense that some sort of change is just beyond my horizon.
I'm going to keep hanging in here for the time being, but the postings may become sporadic and the nature of them highly variable as I think my way through this. Or they may not; I'm predicting nothing right now. I'm just going to try to be ready and flexible, keeping my eyes open, my powder dry and my ear to the ground, to use a lot of tired old phrases.