Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stairway to Pabst Blue Ribbon

Lots of people have a cultural heritage. It might be a weak heritage, or a pernicious one--but they have one.

Generally speaking, citizens of the USA don't have any such thing. They have fast food and TV shows and generic monotheistic religion--this crap passes for culture in our nation. But they have no love of native language, they have no sense of tradition, and they have almost nothing that could be considered remotely as a self-revealing set of morals and educational rituals. Instead, the people of the USA have the internal combustion engine, guns, watery beer, and a proclivity for intolerance and violence.

Case in point are my own set of roots:

On my dad's side I'm Scots-Irish. My folk apparently at one time, hailed from the depths of Scotland. I don't know shit about Scottish tradition and history.

On my mom's side of the family my immediate genetic roots are Austrian Jews and solid English. I don't know any Hebrew, damned few Jewish traditions, and nothing of anything remotely Anglo.


So what am I left with?

Recently I visited a place in West Virgnia called Pinnacle Rock State Park. It was, apparently, established as West Virginia's very first state park. It's not a very attractive spot for a park. It sits right beside a four-lane roadway (that was being widened while I was there). It has few of the amenities that one normally associates with a park--no campground, and it seemed terribly cramped in the way of space. Oh, well.
The park's namesake: The Pinnacle.

But I wanted to see this place because I'd heard that it was a bit of fun to climb and had a good view from the summit. So I went.

The thing is a tower of sandstone at the top of a ridge that is set above a town beside a heavily traveled highway. Don't go expecting to find any peace and quiet. You'll have to deal with the constant drone of diesel and gas engines and, probably, the bellowing of other humans.

All I wanted to do was snap a few photos and climb the damned thing. I did that.

What would Billy Bob do?

As I got to the top I, of course, encountered signs telling me to stay on the trail and not to go rock climbing. Rock climbing is apparently allowed, but only with a permit. I got to the top and looked around. Strangely, I was the only one on the pinnacle. My wife was oddly the only other human in the park. When we'd driven up, the single park employee had quickly shut the door of the visitor's center, jumped into his pickup truck, and driven away in some haste. I assume it must have been lunch hour, because it was early in the afternoon and certainly not closing time. For whatever reason, I found myself alone on the needle of rock with no one in authority to enforce the rules spelled out on the signs around me.

My Southern nature kicked in.

I climbed over the barriers that are supposed to keep you off the summit. I scaled the rocky walls, contrary to the rules that were doled out by permit. I got to the summit of the Pinnacle.

I done went and did it, now.

The first thing I noted wast that the goddamned thing is covered in grafiti. Serious grafiti. Painted in on flat latex and flourescent day-glo and permanent oil. The rock is violated in typical country-boy fashion, words declaring loyalty to various schools, clubs, girlfriends, beers, etc. I recognized this display of casual destruction immediately as part of my white trash redneck culture. From which I arose and within which I am, begrudgingly, a part.

So that's my culture. The USA redneck culture. As flat and featureless and as tasteless and stupid as anything that ever crawled out of the muck.

Surrounded by the signs of my culture: spray-painted idiocy in the cave just under the summit of West Virginia's Pinnacle.

I really need to learn Gaelic, or Yiddish.

Maybe both.

No comments: