We went to visit my parents this weekend. They live on a hippie commune in what could generously be described as “timber country” but should more accurately be termed “methland.” Our time there was on-brand. We drove three hours so that we could sit around in an apple orchard, eat fabulous cheese and partake of gloriously creative mostly-vegetarian meals cooked straight out of the garden. We also drove an hour — because everything is an hour’s drive — to have manhattans on the porch of a gay couple who live on an off-the-grid homestead. We read, looked at constellations, played board games, and admired the wildlife (e.g., a four-foot gopher snake). We complained about Trump, and expressed ritualistically various fears, some of them having to do with wildfire, others with the water supply (including, apparently, the fact that the local watering hole is now polluted by fecal coeliform) but mostly having to do with the county planning office. We listened to gunfire, and traded stories about Clarissa the car-burner, or got updated on so-and-so’s girlfriend, who’s now on a heroin jag.
All of this is taken as a matter of course. None of it is deemed worrisome, or at least not worrisome enough to do much about.
This makes me want to scream.
My spouse — who’s not from around here, and certainly not from around there — recently discovered that one of his work colleagues is from around there, and that her father bought a place just down the road from the commune to which my parents belong. He remarked on the odd architecture of the house to his daughter, who passed the nugget along to my husband, specifically that there is a room accessible only through a hidden half-door behind the water heater in the bathroom. Maybe it occurred to the gentleman in question that such rooms are useful during raids by the county sheriff’s office, or even by the feds. Maybe it didn’t so occur. I only have the story third-hand.
Similarly, I only have the story third-hand that the gentleman in question was driving in the “neighborhood” (I use this term very loosely) when his car broke down. There being no cell service, he had to hitch a ride. The two guys who kindly gave him a life were natives, and whether for that reason or for some other, the white guy asked them “so what’s with all the burned-out cars around here?” Answer: “that’s the only way the county will come out to tow them for salvage.”
Ponder that nugget for a moment. Ponder that that’s the answer that apparently was given, or more narrowly the one that was passed on. Nothing about this place makes sense. Nothing.