Monday, February 6, 2012

The land of make believe

Hey darling, let's go up to Mountain Shadow Campground and visit with Betty Lou and Howard the Duck. A former flatfoot, Howard did his twenty and split the force. Now he putters around in flea markets. We call him the duck because he waddles and quacks like one and his real name is Duckworth. He kinda looks like a duck too whereas Betty Lou is all bone and laughter.

We'll take I-80 out toward Stroudsburg and head north when we hit Hope. It lies a little way beyond the sign for the Land of Make Believe in the shadow of Jenny Jump Mountain. I can't believe the amusement park is still there. That's where I got my history. Cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys. Hard to shake that view of the world. I like Hope. It's a pretty little Moravian settlement with stone houses, antique dealers, and a picturesque old mill inn. I had a trout fillet there once. The waitresses wore bonnets and gingham -- kinda cute -- but the fish was overcooked.

The whole effin state is the land of make believe. When you drive around the backroads up there, you begin to suspect that half of Sussex County is in ruination, darling. Nothing but outbuildings crumbling, houses full of holes, muddy driveways hosting rusty pick-ups and beat-up ATVs, tangled woods, lots of debris. It's hard to believe that people live in some of those places. How the hell do you heat a house with plastic bags covering the windows and plywood instead of doors? And those are the habitable dwellings, with little curls of smoke coming out of the listing chimneys signaling somebody's home. Doing drugs no doubt.

Even worse are the sad abandoned structures with foreclosure signs taped to the outer walls and feral cats slinking around the backyards. Roofs caved in, shingles scattered on the ground, shredded tar paper fluttering in the breeze, epitomizing the death of the hopped-up American Dream. This time of year everything is gray -- the sky, the hills, the woods, the structures, the ponds and streams. Sometimes you catch a face at one of the intact windows and it too is gray.

That is Ron Paul country up there. Don't tread on me, I've already been trod on. Leave me alone, I like the smell of my own stink. Whatever I got coming to me, you can't take it away. Up there it aint like New York, darling -- up there you can be poor and look poor and act poor. In New York you gotta be rich or pretend to be rich, or pretend not to care, or slip right into urban victimhood, homeless, looking for a handout. Howard remembers the city. He couldn't afford to live there but he wasn't too poor to police it. He worked off his envy on those poorer still.

Let's go up there and make our visit. We won't stay long, I promise. Just say hello to Betty Lou and see if Howard's found anything interesting at one of those flea markets. Just stop in for a cup of coffee and some cake. I want to hear her laugh. I want to remind myself of how they live.

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