Good old Emerald, being the daughter of Rock and Roll incarnate, has recently mentioned how much she hates the suburbs. And that’s all good, except almost every memory I have is from the suburbs, where I’ve lived my entire life. So in todays post I want to address some of the pro’s and cons of Suburbia, the land of manicured lawns and one thousand drug stores.
First off I want to say that I can’t speak for all of the suburban sprawl across the planet. I realize that there are vastly different cultures in vastly different areas, and that will have a big impact on how life in Suburbia is for you. But I will tell you about my own experiences, as I saw them, in my little slice of Earth culture.
I was born in Florida, not that it matters much. I only lived there as an infant, although I spent a good deal of my childhood living there on vacation with my extended family. After Florida, my family moved to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. More like the city of filth and crime. And even there we were in the suburbs. I remember some great memories from my life in Philly, but I also remember the constant threat of city violence and crime. It was livable, but not really good. I remember the snow the most. We had this kick ass park with what seemed like a gigantic hill that got covered in snow every winter. We weren’t allowed to play there by ourselves, but I remember sledding on that hill all the time. I still miss snow to this day. Also I remember this pizza joint in our neighborhood. Every time we went there this old Italian yankee dude would greet us and take our order. He remembered our names every time, and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the best pizza in the whole freakin world. I mean this family could cook up some delicious shiznit. Fo sho. But that’s about all I remember about living there.
So my family ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is where I have almost all of my memories. All my life can be summed up in the suburbs if Wake county. And I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. I had a lot of good memories in Suburbia. So here’s some of the good and bad things I remember from living here.
Something about Suburbia has always felt really weird, like it shouldn’t exist in real life. It’s always had a certain Alice in Wonderland feel to the entire experience. The way the carefully landscaped lawns and gardens laid across the land like checkerboards at night. Rabbits and cats prowling the shadows and the occasional night bird. Fairy circles in the grass, and the symphony of a thousand cicadas trying to drown out the crickets and frogs. The flickering orange light from the street lights, illuminating empty streets occupied only by the occasional dog walker and cop, and of course the random scurrying societal misfit sneaking hither and thither on some black market mission. That’s why I always liked taking a lot of drugs and wandering around at night. My favorite was hallucinogenics, but you can take whatever you like the most. It’s all fun. I recognize this may be perceived as a bad idea, but I wasn’t ever in any danger, except from the ever vigilant pigs. There are a lot of cops in Suburbia, but you can artfully dodge them if you know you neighborhood, and have two licks of common sense. Trust me when I say that cops are much, much less intelligent than criminals. (me at least) If you can get away with it you deserve to. And boy did we. Almost every night in my later high school years, I would carefully slip open the window, ease my body out into the hot air of the night, and hit the road for some nocturnal suburban chemical voyages.
The general hub of travel for our neighborhood was South Garner Park. (that’s right, South Park) Located between the two subdivisions next to ours, it had a seemingly endless array of dark forest paths to escape through. All the bad kids would eventually meet up in this park. And at eleven every night a police officer would drive in, scope the place out, and lock it up so no cars could get in. After then you were safe. We climbed the soccer goals, threw rocks at the lights, raided the shack for candy, started fires. Whatever destructive activities our minds could come up with, we could do it, and all whilst higher than a fucking kite. And if the cops ever did show up, none of them knew the paths well enough to run down them at night. Even with the added advantage of flashlights, we could out run the cops in the dark. At one point we constructed this massive, MASSIVE fort in one section of woods between some trails. I mean, the walls were made of logs dug into the ground and placed as vertical posts. The exterior was camouflaged so well that even in the winter with no leaf cover, you still couldn’t see the damn thing from twenty five feet away. We carried some benches into it, along with a cooler and some lawn chairs, even a grill from the park. We had a fire pit. It was awesome. I couldn’t ever find it without help, since I was absent during the construction phase. But I had this friend named Scott, and I would follow him down these forest paths at night, only barely perceptible patches of moonlight sifting down through the branches to light the way, and he would simply glide down the path. Scott was a kind of creepy guy anyway, because besides being extremely large, and having green hair, he almost never spoke. Still to this day getting him to say more than three words is like pulling teeth. But Scott would silently, I don’t know how to explain it, levitate through the woods for a few minutes, then suddenly stop at some secret marker, and walk right into the forts secret door just a few paces away.
Eventually though, we started getting cars and could branch out and find newer, cooler places in suburbia to fuck around. There was a closed down strip mall about ten minutes up towards Raleigh, and all the bums lived in the woods behind it. At the time, the only thing that was open in the mall was a black night club, and it was only open at night. So we would head back to the loading docks out of view of any pigs and skate around getting drunk and having fun. Occasionally we would have to chase off some homeless fucker who thought the sheltered dock belonged to him, but usually we would leave each other alone.
We discovered this dirt utility road that lead back into the woods on highway fifty. It wound past a condemned house that had been grown over, and around to this really sweet pond in the middle of the woods. I guess the city built it there to access the water lines that had man holes farther on down the road, but at the time we just hung out at the pond. I didn’t discover the man holes till a few years later when I slept in my car at the end of that road for a month or so. But this pond was completely hidden from all view. No houses around at all. And it was just as pretty as you could ever ask for. The duck weed grew thick and healthy, and the woods looked pristine, even though we were really just between developments. We rolled some concrete pipe down the road about a hundred yards and made a trash barrel so we could keep our new spot nice and clean. We called it “the cut”. But eventually word started to spread that there was a new safe place to pull off a car and smoke up or get drunk with plenty of people, and the city chained off the road. Too many dip shits found our secret cut, trashed the place, and brought the heat.
I remember the first time we climbed the towns water tower. It was located right behind one of the police substations, so you had to be really careful. Well, we should have been really careful, but we didn’t really give a shit back then. We would steal the antennas from the police cars and give them to our friends. They get really good reception I hear. For some reason stealing antennas from in front of a police substation on the historic main street seemed perfectly safe, but screwing that sucker on my own vehicle seemed way too risky. Once you parked your car and snuck back to the lot, you had to get in this huge fence with barbed wire. But the idiots who locked it up left enough chain to slide in between the gates. Then you had to turn a palate up on it’s end to reach the bottom of the ladder. And someone had to carry the beer up, usually a 24 pack. That was harder than it sounds cause you’re climbing hundreds of feet straight up a ladder. Maybe thousands of feet, I’m not sure, I am what you might call a ground person.
It gets scary at about thirty feet, cause you realize that if you do fall, you will probably get killed. Once you get up above the pine trees you can see out across the town, and your arms start to get a little tired. Then you realize that if anyone above you on the ladder slips, you’re probably going down too. When you pass the tree tops, the wind starts to pick up and whip at your body. Somewhere around fifty feet before you reach the top, the ladder actually starts to lean out a little, so you’re climbing up a ladder waaaay off the ground, carrying 288 ounces of beer, leaning back, and your arms feel like they’re going to give at any minute. Sometimes people would panic right about here and just freeze. Not cool. But somehow we made it all the way up and back down every time. We’d sit up there looking out for what seemed like the whole span of the planet, sipping our beers, pissing down on the trees below us, and staring out at the moon and stars and the big buildings over in Raleigh.
Eventually the cops caught on that we were fucking around there too. Again, too many dumb fuckers making too much racket and tearing shit up. We had a few close calls where we had to hoof it from the police. They never caught us climbing the tower. But eventually this dickless sack of monkey shit narked out me and my two little brothers by name, alleging that he was meeting us there later that night for a big drug deal, which wasn’t true. They stationed two police cars at each of the water towers in Garner that night. It just so happened that one of the guys in my car lived on that tiny road that went past the police substation and the water tower. When we went to drop him off, they pulled us. That was on Independence day, 2001. The police were so proud of themselves for catching such vile public enemies. That was the first time I ever caught a charge, possession of an alcoholic beverage by persons under the age of 21. If I ever see that rotten mother fucker who narked out me and my brothers to try and save his own ass, who made up some bull shit and had three fucking separate police stings going to catch us, I swear on my fucking testicles I’m going to stomp a mud hole in his ass and walk it dry. Snitches get stitches Brandon fucking Stancill, and if I ever find you, you’d better have a fucking gun, cause no amount of kung fu or muscles is going to stop the tirade of hate I rain down on your sub human ass. Fuck you, you wigger bitch.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
I suppose that pretty much sums up my life in the suburbs. If we need anything special, you can find just about anything you want up in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill. We didn’t have all the crazy shit people living in big cities have available, and that meant we often had to find our own ways to have fun, but we were good at that. Because kids in the suburbs are often a lot of fun. I had many more good experiences than bad. I met a lot of good people, and only a few scum bags like Brandon. Sure, in the suburbs you can’t ride the subway, but that means everyone owns a car and therefore has more mobility. And maybe if you get a craving for falafels at two in the morning there isn’t any place to get them. But this is North Carolina, there aren’t any places to buy falafels in the first place. If you get hungry in the middle of the night, and you don’t feel like getting off your ass and cooking, then just head on down to the Waffle House, or the Country Kitchen and grab some good old fashioned souther cookin. I promise the tea will be just as ice cold and sweet as you can imagine, and the waitresses will be gnarled and burly country women, just like they should be. We may not have the Broadway nights, but you’ve probably never tasted any shine. And we may not have huge museums, but have any of you downtown big city folks ever picked psilocybic mushrooms from a cow field fifteen minutes from your house? I can be in the capital building in twenty minutes and feed deer in the back yard every night. I can head to Raleigh and watch the Carolina Hurricanes stomp your asses for the Stanley Cup again, or I can head the other direction towards Benson for Mule Days. Nobody gets to have everything in their life, and sometimes I wonder what it’s like to live in a huge urban metropolis, but honestly I really love the suburbs, and I really love the south. I’m happy with my place here on earth, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my rebel ass! (no offense Em, I’m not directing that at you, even though you inspired this post. Although if you really got the hankerin’ for a little booty smooch, well, we could play that by ear)
Now in the spirit of doing stupid, crazy shit, just for fun to pass some time in the suburbs, (like right before the Super Bowl for instance) here’s a few pictures of me riding my scooter while holding a pirate flag stapled to a pick axe.
I realize this is probably the most bad ass thing you have ever seen. Mr. Redshirt felt the same way about it. Please note that I am clearly standing up while driving downhill at top speed, with one hand, and no helmet, with not only a pirate flag in my hand, but a skull and cross bones on my Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt. I apologize if you just came in your pants, I assure you that was not the only purpose of this photo shoot.
I really liked this last photo. It was actually a crappy shot of me riding around in circles in the cul de sac, but you can see the entire family of red necks sitting across the street watching me screw around. I kind of like to think of my beer fueled antics as a public service, curing the boredom epidemic. Have a nice hump day, or plague day, whatever you call it.