Tag Archives: Arkansas

Shake it up

Of course we all know that liberals tend to congregate in cities, in all of their self-reinforcing bubbles. Which is not to say that conservatives don’t live in cities, because obviously they do, but a large majority of small towns and small cities across the country are populated by conservatives.

I’ve been thinking about a strategy lately though, for liberals to truly take over America. Everyone that fled their small, conservative hometowns for the big cities should move back! Think of the revolution. Maybe I’m being dumb and idealistic, but the idea is a little bit appealing to me, to be honest with you. But maybe only appealing in a hypothetical sense.

But there is a part of me that’s wondering why I would leave Portland, with all of my new experience and training, and then move to another big city where I’m not really needed? What if I moved back to Arkansas and started a chapter of SMYRC there, where one doesn’t exist? And what if I also started doing community education on GLBT issues? And helped elect liberal senators?

It’s definitely a trade off, but if one truly feels that one has something exciting and necessary to offer, wouldn’t one want to go where that product is most needed?

It’s just a thought. It doesn’t mean I would have to stay there forever….

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Your mama’s not around, there’s no telling what we’ll do when we’re free

It occurred to me recently that I’ve become one of those boring old people that lionizes their youth beyond all recognition, despite the fact that I hated it when I was stuck in it (of course). This has come to my attention more starkly lately because I’ve been writing a young adult novel based on my youth. Not quite autobiographical, but not completely fiction, either. The events (mostly) are fictitious; the people, and the settings, not so much. The characters are all thinly veiled or composites, which, I guess, isn’t really so unusual for fiction.

What writing the book has done, is re-engage me with all of the things I did love about that age of the early 90’s, the summer of 1994 to be exact, especially the music and the aesthetic. It’s funny, because one cultural marker I keep returning to over and over while I’m writing is that appalling movie KIDS. How I loathe that film for its faux nihilism and reveling in violence both physical and emotional while pretending to condemn it. Besides, it’s just boring as hell. But man, I love the aesthetic of that film. I imagine my novel to be the anti-KIDS. Yes, my book contains a teenage suicide, some drugs, sex, a little violence, a gun. Kids wandering wild through the endless and desolate night (nothing new when it comes to teenagers, really). But those kids are me, and my friends, and things we really did and experienced, and while the kids also hate it at the time, I’m looking back at it through a lens smeared with the vaseline of nostalgia and longing. I get the feeling that Larry Clark filmed KIDS with a feeling of resentment and a giant boner, which is never a good combination. I also realize that KIDS came out in 1995, a year after my book takes place, but that’s irrelevant; the song remains the same.

It’s been really fun listening to a lot of music from that era that I loved, but haven’t listened to in a long time: old Hole, Automatic For the People, Nirvana, Little Earthquakes, a lot of random punk, some industrial (My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Ministry), Green Day, old Rancid, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and lots of 80’s music that my friends and I ate up at that point, like The Smiths, Concrete Blonde, New Order, Jesus and Mary Chain. If there is one song, though, that I’ve listened to over and over and over that I feel gets me in the mood to write, it’s “Natural One,” by Folk Implosion, which, yes, was from KIDS. And it’s just a fucking awesome song. I’ve also been pretty inspired by some newer music as well, though, that I think fits the tone and ambiance of the book, like Frightened Rabbit, Bon Iver (who I’m in love with right now), Blonde Redhead, and just in the last week, Big Pink.

It’s weird how much I feel like I’m siphoning off of that movie for my writing, but it’s almost like an attempt to rewrite that movie and get it right. One of my characters is even based, in a strange way, on Chloe Sevigny, probably my favorite actress, and to me, someone who represents a true adult product of that era that’s still around. I don’t know if anyone else remembers this Details layout, but I do, and I loved it. I really wanted to be those kids, at least until I saw the movie.

There was, without a doubt, a serious strain of nihilism and hedonism running through youth culture at that time, far more than now, I think. If Kurt Cobain was considered the spokesman for my generation, then it was nothing but shattered idealism and hopelessness. In some ways, the book I’m writing is a recognition, I think, of that pervasive feeling and attitude with which we all grew up, but also an attempt to move past it, to acknowledge that youthful malaise with a weary, but much wiser, adult sensibility, and to finally acknowledge that people like Cobain are no role models, and I kind of hope my future kids know who he is, but either think he’s just as much of a douche as I do, or that they just don’t care. I can’t quite concede that kids are better off with Lady GaGa than with Courtney Love, but maybe they are. Who knows.

Hopefully I’ll finish the damn book. I’ve written up to and a little past the climactic point, and the rest is all come-down and denouement. It’s been a lot of fun to write so far, and I hope that someone will find it a lot of fun to read someday. I’m writing primarily with a contemporary teenage audience in mind, but there’s definitely a part of me that hopes 30-something’s will pick it up and feel as nostalgic and silly reading it as I do writing it.

I’ve told every little star

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Kids who grow up in small towns have to more or less invent entertainment for themselves. Not that I grew up totally isolated or anything, but the nearest town where we could really “do” anything (go out to eat, go shopping, go to the movies, go CD shopping) was a 30-minute drive away. So in small towns you find yourself a little niche, private places to hang out, away from adults or supervision. It seems like this is actually much easier to do in small towns than in cities.

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to love to hang out at the old Monte Ne resort. Before Beaver Lake existed (a huge, man-made lake in Northwest Arkansas where everyone goes now, but didn’t exist before 1966), there was a fancy spa-resort called Monte Ne. The developer and owner was a very eccentric man:

Harvey did some deep research into the history of the Ozark Mountains. He claimed that they were some of the oldest mountains in the world and definitely the oldest in the United States. They had been untouched by volcanoes and earthquakes. He believed that the mountains around Monte Ne would eventually crumble and fill the valley with silt and sediment. Figuring that the mountains were approximately 240 ft (73 m) high, Harvey planned to construct a massive concrete obelisk and its capstone would remain above the debris. Archaeologist in the distant future would be able to dig down and find the monument[32] He called the project “The Pyramid” and dedicated the rest of his life to its construction.

There is so much more to the story; if you like eccentric characters with tragic ends you should take a few minutes to read his Wikipedia entry. (FYI, my great-grandfather, once the mayor of Rogers, was a good friend of the developer and helped finance his presidential run. It was some weird, probably right-wing, made-up party that never went anywhere, but does offer the distinction of hosting a presidential convention in Arkansas – the only one ever.)

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We liked to hang out there, I think, largely because it was so isolated, and largely because we felt the creepy, decrepit structure gave our lives some poetic sensibility. Walking up on that hulking structure in the midst of a pitch-black night, with no light shining but the stars, is one of the more intimidating experiences of my life, probably. But we went there frequently, sometimes even parking our cars in a small lot in some trees nearby and sleeping in them overnight. We would occasionally start fires on the concrete floors, or go skinny-dipping in the moonlight. Or we might go there with someone special to make out or smoke and share our angsty poetry by flashlight.

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It is the place I will probably associate most with being a teenager in Rogers. I went back this weekend to see my family and decided to drive down there and take some pictures of it. A thing like that never changes, except that some of the underground hotel rooms we used to hang out in were submerged because the water is so high right now. I got a little nostalgic, I won’t lie.

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The place has always captured my imagination. Several years ago I wrote a full-length screenplay centered around it, called, originally, Monte Ne, which I am now half-heartedly adapting into a novel.

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I took several more pictures which you can look at here, (in full-size, too) along with my pictures of my July 4th weekend with the fam!