Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vacated Childhood

Sometimes I happen to drive through towns or cities where I lived with my parents when I was growing up. These days there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in those places that is welcoming to me or which resembles in any way the comforts of--as they used to say--home and hearth.

It's strange to travel through these spots, now. What were once areas where I could count on something approaching welcome there is now only coldness and a lurking fear. These days I don't even have photographs of these old homes and neighborhoods. The houses that my parents either owned or rented are mainly gone. I used to joke that wherever I lived was later leveled.

There's nothing quite like the iciness of traveling through a town that once held the promise of a safe place to lay one's head, and a warm home where you could retreat from the rain with the security of four walls and supportive allies. Now, when I move through these towns and cities all I see are buildings and streets and strangers and no hope of any finer emotion.

I never lived in this house. But this wreck isn't far from where I did live when I was a kid in the hell-hole known as Brunswick, Georgia. When I was a child, Brunswick had an economy based on industry of various types. Chemical companies, pulp mills, industrial fabricators, and other such ongoing concerns. One by one those places closed up shop, some of them leaving hideously polluted superfund sites. This crappy shell is typical of the structures still standing in Brunswick. My skin crawls whenever I do happen to travel through this horrid little burg, but I sometimes force myself to go back there to take photographs of places I recall. I have one single friend who still lives there, but mainly I stay the HELL away from it, zipping past at the speed limit on the rare occasions when I do travel nearby. I once took my wife to see Brunswick, and after about 30 minutes she started begging me to get her out of there as fast as I could. I complied.

This is Decatur, Georgia. I rather liked Decatur when I was living there as a kid. Some of the happiest memories of my life are from that time. The town was pretty cool in those days, and it's pretty cool now. But there is no one there for me and if I go back, the only thing in the way of a welcome is what I can buy from a lodging establishment and a restaurant.

My parents' first bookstore was somewhere around this area (North Highland Avenue), circa 1966. It was a great bookstore and I loved being in it. It's where my dad began to accumulate the vast stock of old comics I was able to rummage through during my childhood. It's rare that I encounter a comic book that was published after 1955 or so that I haven't at least held in my hands.

This is Macon, Georgia. Another town that holds absolutely nothing for me. This was on Poplar Street where my parents' bookstore was located. Also known as "the Avenue of Flags" because of the state flags project. My parents funded one of them--the flag for the US Virgin Islands. That was a place they longed to visit, but which they never got to see. I did visit the

Islands, partly because of their fascination with that part of the Caribbeans. As for Macon...the only thing that could entice me to visit it again would be to see the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds.

This is part of downtown Ellijay, Georgia. When I lived in the county it was 100% white and was easily the most virulently racist spot I ever lived. You learned to keep your fucking mouth shut there. One of my teachers was a supporter of a well-known neo-Nazi (JB Stoner) and the school system would bring in Christian evangelists to regale the student body with messages from Christ (against the law and all that, but who was going to complain?). Ironically, I had pretty fun teenage years and developed my love of the outdoors there and learned to hike and backpack. I was also active in sports--football, track, and wrestling. We were rarely in the town itself because we lived on 120 acres of forest on the other side of the county on a chunk of wilderness where our nearest neighbor lived 2.5 miles away and the nearest paved road was more than four miles distant and our driveway was exactly one mile long. I miss the land, but not the ignorant, hateful, racist folk who lived in Ellijay. There is nothing there for me, now.

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