Before I launch into the new series I want to address something so that no questions find themselves within my inboxes. Given my penchant for speaking about suicide and how often I put hints and clues to things in my work, I can safely assume that someone reading this is going to panic when they see that the logo for this year is a noose and that the dark naming schemes and topics about the upcoming blogs are me hinting that I want to kill myself. No. That is not and never will be the case. This is a creative medium, and I don’t want you to get all weird about it. Just witness it for what it is and don’t be a dick head about it.
I just want to part with my hometown the only way I know how to part with something, with words and feelings so real that it rips a part of me out and drops it onto the ground for everyone to see. Isn’t that why you came here to begin with?
Thank you for supporting me, through the last three years and going into the fourth, the message has not changed and it will not change any time soon. As always, my friends…
Life is not Meant to be Awful.
This year will be the parting song that I will sing to a city that has been many things to me. It has been a safe haven to hide in when the world is too scary. It has been a place where I have run from myself within. A place that has both brought me to the peaks of mountains and has knocked me off of those same summits. I have fallen in love in this place, I have fallen in love with this place, I have written so many stories in the dirt around my childhood home and I have written so many more in the messages I’ve sent to those that live here. Our Town of Gallows is not perfect, but it is a good start. For all the good it has given me, there has still been a lot of bad, yet I was stuck hanging around no matter how badly I wanted to leave. Still, what is life without the setbacks that add so much to our own stories?
With this year and many of the ones before it I have wondered about my hometown, it has existed as an enigma to myself and many others. Living in an economic bubble, Elko sits in a space between danger and boredom. The city itself, pumped full of Native American and Cowboy stories that are told around the clinking sounds of whiskey glasses in any one of our many bars. Kept afloat by the power of the mining industry and to many, is the only reason it has survived for so long where it sits.
I am one of a generation of kids who were born here and have lived out a large portion, if not all of their lives here. We know of all of the different party locations, we have held secrets about this town that only we thought that we knew. “The Spot” was a place that I was introduced to the year after I graduated by a guy named Tony, tucked away by the river there was a small pool where kids like myself would gather. You and a couple friends would park on the road in the middle of night and leg it over tall stalks that were just poorly managed weeds. On the other side of the pesky barrier there you could find a small pool where the river tried to run away from itself but couldn’t quite make it. Stuck to stay spinning in its corner until the water all dries up and the world changes into something different.
A teacher at Elko High School (along with many others) used to talk about how Elko was a black hole. He had grown that idea from the fact that tons of people begged to leave, would make every attempt to do so and still find their path leading them back to the safety of our little bubble. I definitely understand what he meant by his statement, but to be honest I think Elko is a little less black-hole and a little more The Spot. Because those people in my own life who have tried as hard as they could to run away to only be dragged back never really went that far to begin with. They just stayed spiraling, like me, right outside the main body of the river. Forever cursed to spin in circles and be lost.
Of course, that’s a pretty dark mindset to hear, especially on this blog. That is however, how this year will likely be. There are many blog posts coming your way where I finally pick up the things that I have seen broken in my city and call it out for what it has become.
A Town of Gallows.
So, Elko, I have decided that there are a few things that we need to discuss. I have loved living here for much of my life. I have begged to move out of Elko for other parts of it. Still, I find myself sitting here in the same old city, writing the same old books, doing the same old things I always do. When it really set in that I haven’t packed up and left I realized what I needed to write about more than anything.
How about the fact that Elko rests in the least productive state in all of the union when it comes to education. Nevada ranks last (or second to last, according to the most recent data) in its education rankings. Which means, by countrywide standards we are pumping the money from mining into something other than our children, which turns around to bite us in the ass when those children leave forever and don’t return because they didn’t ever feel like they were being taught here.
Don’t misunderstand me, however, Elko has some of the best teachers I have ever met. Two of which I owe this whole business to, indirectly.
Then there is the stigma in Elko about “this town” which is something I have never wanted to embrace.
“This town is full off…”
You can go ahead and fill in the blanks. Full of liars, cheaters, nasty women, self-indulgent pricks, whatever.
I’ve always hated when my peers would say something like this because I loved Elko, I still do. This place is my home and I will never forget that. However, because it is my home, I must hold it to a certain standard. I am pressed to call it out when it lets bullshit thrive and boy, do I have a years’ worth of bullshit to talk about.
I have been apprehensive about speaking on this subject. There are so many people who are in love with Elko and I don’t want to take that from them, but we need to look around us you guys. There is a lot going on that we can’t seem to get around because we are blinded by our own love or hate for the place we grew up.
I grew up here, cuddled within the arms of my mother who always inspired me to work and to be brave and to never let anyone in the world hold me back. To always pursue the highest and most important things to me.
Through years of practice I have found out how to do that and I have put that practice into action. I have stood up and fought against bullshit whenever I saw it. I have put my heart on the dirt and I have watched as people have openly stomped upon it. I have logged on to social media day in and day out to see people actively getting on a social forum to slander one another. I have seen my own generation so involved in each other’s business that they had forgotten that they had their own lives to live. I have watched relationships fall to pieces from behind a restaurant bar. I have watched businesses that employed amazing people fail because owners couldn’t manage their funding. I have watched men and women get arrested for things I could never see those men and women doing. I have watched the people in this city beat and batter each other all day, and when the dinner bell finally rings they get up, dust each other off and sit down for dinner.
Their noses and cheekbones bruised and broken, their blood red as their passion. Their skin as blue as the Nevada skies, truly taking the term “battle born” to heart, and I have watched as the bruising around their eyes turned black as the hopes and dreams they once held for their own futures turned to sour anger. Even the good ones, the best ones, have turned on their friends and families because we are a small town that isn’t so small anymore. Yet we still behave like no one in the world can see us.
I grew up in Elko, with a heart and a mind that were full of passion and hope for the place in which I lived. I had set goals to reach for that would put Elko on the map. That would make this place famous because of the things I would do with my life. When I was younger, I was obsessed with this idea of people remembering where I grew up, and here I am. Years later, and the aspirations of that bright young mind have grown old and tired because above all that I see in Elko, out of all the good and the bad that I witness day to day, I can see one thing above all the rest.
The murky grey fog that comes when the bright minds are given new life. When a new project is announced by a boy in middle school because he wants to be a scientist. When a new artist emerges within the guidelines of our city, when a young girl decides to do something for the town and gets pushed back. I see the fog roll in, masking up all of these brilliant bright people with a cloud that darkens their souls and with that cloud comes the good ol’ city of Elko, est. pop. 20,279 strong, and they roll in with the fog and roll out with the fog. When it clears, not everyone knows what happens, but there are a few of us that see it even when we participate.
When that fog rolls out we can see those bright lights hanging from the lamp posts by homemade rope and packaging twine. Some stuck in the sky swinging from the Christmas garland that has been hanging on our street lamps for fifteen years.
And I see every one of those lights burning out slowly, until they get darker than death itself.
My latest book Mean Shadows is up for pre-order right now at www.linmtba.com (Released on Dec. 25th)
Go pick up a copy for yourself! 🙂