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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


mountain laurel

Driving in Alleghany County is in many ways someplace entirely different from what it was when I and the county became acquainted. I notice guard rails everywhere now. I'm all for them as safety features, but they're ugly as they can be. Maybe it would help if I were to look at them as roadside art. Long, narrow minimalist sculpture of metal placed so firmly by the side of the road that if a car leaves the road and hits it, it merely leaves a dent in the sculpture, adding to its character as a work of art, like wrinkles add character to a face. It doesn't do much good. A guard rail is a guard rail is a guard rail. It is what it is. They do, however, characterize the flow of the changes I've seen over the last 35 years. I call my time in the mountains the time of the barns falling. Barns were everywhere in the county, so many that nobody ever thought it something to think about that there might be a day of no barns. We're getting there. We still have some barns, but less every year.

All the way along I thought of taking pictures of the barns. In the early years I'd see barns fall here and there. They made me think about getting pictures of existing barns in the county. But there were so many, it was unthinkable. Then I see them gone, not a trace, like nothing had ever been there, and just as much forgotten. The next generation wants to sell the land, not work it. I think they probably fell after a full life as a working barn, then time started breaking them down with age, until they just fell down of their own weight. The time of their use is in the past. Christmas tree growers tend to make their buildings that aren't really barns, because they have another particular function, more factory-like, the metal buildings a crew can put up in a few days, or cinderblock. The nature of the barn's use changed, so the nature of it's construction changes as construction materials and tools change. These barns will have their day too, hundred years or so, after agricultural methods change out from under them like they did the family farm.

I drive out 18 north and it is mostly the same except for the guardrails everywhere. Subdivisions, newer and bigger houses, major lawns that attest a man who wants a lot of time free from the house on weekends. I look at those lawns and see a little man on a little riding mower in this big field of green he's going around and around mowing. For what? To keep snakes away from the house? A New Yorker cartoon I never forgot was a lawn in front of a house, the man on his riding mower, the woman holding a leaf rake. Above his head is a thought cloud of himself on a tractor. Above her head is a thought cloud of him on a child's play tractor. I see huge flat lawns that would make excellent croquet grounds. But nobody plays croquet. It's a fun game, but the only time enough people are together to play a game is family reunions. Then people play it because they're bored. No tv. Just familiar faces. Let's play croquet. Anybody can play. You don't have to be any good. I don't even know if Walmart sells croquet sets. If they don't, that tells me nobody plays it anymore. The last of the croquet sets are gathering dust behind boxes in garages with faded pink flamingos. Decapitated Barbie dolls are found in the basement.

More newer cars and pickups everywhere. In my early years, it was the fashion among men to drive old pickups that they kept running by their own mechanical skills. Suddenly, one year that was over. New trucks became the fashion and I was the only one left driving an old truck and stuck with it, because I couldn't afford payments on a new one. This was around 1980, early 80s maybe. It was after the trend of redneck boys in long hair listening to REO Speedwagon. The trend has been newer and bigger pickups ever since then, up to the popular 4-door dually. What a carbon footprint. 6 big expensive tires to be replaced every couple years in addition to payments and gas consumption. Quite a lot of social changes were behind that change. Primarily, mountain boys don't do much mechanicing any more. Cars and trucks are so complex to work on now, no shade tree mechanic can even get started on one. I really don't understand a Detroit that consciously and intentionally makes engines so complex only dealership mechanics are trained in the skill to deal with the engines.

That's where we've come to with about everything. It's that impenetrable wall civilization has been racing toward full speed. We're there. We're in the fullness of capitalism where the rich take all for themselves and leave the masses to tough it out. Detroit ran itself out of business advertising fuel consumption excess as the cool new thing, in league with the oil corporations, golf course deals, until oil predictably reached the cost level that this excess we were trained into had a momentum of its own that was hard on a lot of people, who have them and can't get rid of them. All through the last 30 years the Japanese and Korean cars were selling like crazy here because they got better gas mileage. Think Detroit would get it? LOL

They had plenty of time to make the transition to socially responsible vehicles, but chose to go against any social responsibility, in the corporate way. So in another Republican created Recession/Depression (Recession in the stock market, Depression in the working class) Detroit folds due to its own decision making going against reality. The boost from the government gives the appearance of giving Detroit the time to start switching to making socially responsible trucks and cars. Only, however, by popular demand. Never motivated by socially responsible thinking except if it pays. That's when "natural" appears on containers all over the grocery store. The word natural sells. Corporate mind has left the dimension of the people, exists only in the world of certain country clubs. We are targets. Now with internet marketing we're zoomed in on for our particular interests. We're like targets under a drone 2 miles in the atmosphere looking at us through satellites. 


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