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Posts Tagged ‘Ricko Donovan’


Welcome to the country, and the New America

   Posted by: Ricko    in American culture

It was in the spirit of pioneering that I left the big city in search of a nest in the environs of a small community, one in which I might feel less anonymous and more directly and plainly beneficial to my fellow man, where I might potter about naked without the risk of offending anyone, where I could cultivate my own food around an un-mortgaged house. The house in question was a cosy two-bedroom affair with a screened in porch out front. Plenty of yard. A home in the country.

It was eight miles out from the town center, across a terrain speckled with water, indeed from the map it appeared the small lakes and swamps covered more ground than dry land. It would be near enough civilization, but far enough to hear nothing but the cricket choir at night. The two lane highway out had a relaxing 55-mph speed limit, and anyone familiar with my music knows how I feel about dat. Just off the main road, me and my GPS hunted for Tin Pan Alley, an address I reckoned would have a delightful and distinctive ring to it. Tin Pan Alley ran behind the main road in a loop, like a coffee cup handle. I drove right past the first intersection, easy enough to miss, unpaved and unmarked by street sign. But after driving along a tiny paved road lined with modest two-bedroom houses, some inhabited, some not, I spotted what turned out to be the second connection with a green street sign bearing the name of the dirt road that would bear my mysterious outpost, my retreat from the mass of humanity. I turned into it and the car rocked and rolled over a dirt road riddled with potholes. I trundled along it, passing one after another in a series of abandoned and derelict homesteads, trailers, trailers with makeshift additions, and a few regular free-standing houses. Structures with broken-out windows, worn-out appliances, and other rusted remnants of the past scattered about a landscape overrun by weeds. I veered off into a driveway by mistake and was greeted by two rather bulky dogs on chains who, amazingly, didn’t bark at my strange car. From the roof of this dwelling was draped, in addition to the Stars and Stripes, that relic of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars. When I got back onto the main thoroughfare I passed a few more derelict and abandoned properties overrun by bushes and after passing a two-story makeshift structure with the remnants of children’s playthings in the yard, I spotted what I knew from photos to be that which I sought after. Charlie the realtor arrived not long after I took the opportunity to perambulate the area and peek through the windows of a house very much at odds with much of the dwellings that comprised the little country road known as Tin Pan Alley— it was well-preserved and it’s vaulted ceiling and interior walls of knotty pine very much in line with what I was seeking. Later that day I realized it was more than a house I sought after— it was the country I grew up in. Now don’t misunderstand me— I’m not one of these nostalgics who waves the flag of patriotism to try and summon back an era when women and blacks knew their place, when music and other art forms were stuck within safe boundaries, when television was squeaky clean family entertainment in black and white, when everybody got in line and didn’t ask questions. I do like the idea however, of ice cream parlors, gasoline stations where they wipe the bug shit off your windshield and talk and smoke a cigarette at the same time, where little league baseball and other sports were fun and frivolous and not an expensive-as-hell obsession for parents, where people got together regularly to make some music on their porches absent any obnoxious low-frequency pounding car stereos to pollute the peace. And where we began to experiment with other lifestyles, other designs for living. Such as this now abandoned hippie ghost town I found myself patrolling while I waited for the realtor to show up. I didn’t put two-and-two together until later that afternoon— in a conversation with a long-time resident back in the quaint little downtown eight miles away. Steve informed me that the locale I scouted that morning after a long drive inland from St. Petersburg was indeed once a bastion of hippies. Which ain’t altogther a bad thing, he said and I concurred. But it left me scratching my head and writing these words.

What is happening to my country? What is dividing families and friends along thought lines? What the hell is working on mass consciousness to cause us to be so hateful, so aggravated with each other that we can’t even dialogue, everyone is surrounding themselves only with others who share their opinions, it’s like they’ve got their fingers stuck in their ears and everyone’s all don’t talk about politics or religion. Well then what the hell else is there to talk about, the weather? Why is it that other countries can talk on a deeper topical level than what’s on TV or what you should buy online? Why was it that not so long ago we could talk about such things without fistfights or broken relationships. There was a time when opinions didn’t matter so much anyway— there’s a difference between thinking and blasting opinions around. And I mean on either side of the idealogical divide. And in case you haven’t noticed, there is a huge divide. And it never existed until the rise of cable television and mass media. The brainwashing that ensued is monumental, and there’s too much material there for this post. Anyway, back to my lost America, out there in the woods, out there where the yards of hippie ghosts were littered with junk. Where peaceful potheads once dwelled, now meth and crack heads, pain pill addicts (thanks Big Pharma!) and other ne’er-do-wells cause us to rig our domains with elaborate alarm systems. What happened to small communities banding together to incorporate bartering into their income scheme? Why is health care for all not the law of the land by now, like every other country in what we refer to as the civilized western world? I know history informs us that utopian communities are bound to fail, that man is essentially fixed to self-preservation, but that being said, why is the current political machine and climate trying, and succeeding I might add, to return us to a collective paradigm as dusty and mildewy as the relic from the past I walked through with the realtor that morning in the graveyard of hippie America?

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