We sneaked away for four days – back to Lake Superior. It was a last chance before term started and I returned to ferrying little kids to and from school.
Marquette is such a pleasant town. It was good to smell the fresh air and once again wander streets studded with fine examples of Victorian architecture. The Catholic cathedral has probably the most glorious restrooms in the whole of America.
Marquette looks a pleasant, prosperous little conurbation, and that’s because it is.
Of course, Lake Superior is 550 miles from central Illinois, so two of those four days were spent travelling. That told a different story. The road north of Chicago runs close by Lake Michigan for some fifty or sixty miles. Grand houses front the lake, no doubt many of them second homes – vacation getaways for the wealthy of Chicagoland. It was amazing how many were up for sale. Those hanging on grimly to their homes were flogging off their toys. Motor cars, boats, snowmobiles, trailers – even a bulldozer outside one property – were all sitting on the front lawns with “For Sale” signs plastered over them. One could sense financial belts being tightened even as we passed by.
Why do American towns have to be so grubby? I’ve travelled fairly extensively around the Heartlands and the East, but Marquette is the only town in the country that draws me back. Most have the exact opposite effect. I can’t wait to get away. Some even hold a threatening air. The average American small town looks like something you’d maybe expect to find amid the wastelands of northern Siberia. A motley collection of thrown together buildings, often in need of repair and certainly requiring redecoration; cracked and uneven sidewalks; dingy stores with flyblown food hidden away behind oily gas pumps; obese youths sporting long-unwashed T-shirts, back-to-front baseball caps, and driving rust-bucket pick-up trucks. Only the inevitable McDonald’s sign stands out, it’s unholy yellow cleanliness stark against a drab and sordid background.
Americans still live with their heads in the clouds of Empire, unaware their feet are sinking inexorably into the quicksands of economic collapse. They’re happy to see hundreds of billions of their dollars wasted on the Pentagon’s warmongering ideals, so wouldn’t dream to complain when their new automobile breaks its axle on a pothole in Main Street.
The inhabitants of small town America live boring, repetitive, unfulfilled lives. There’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, so they eat endless burgers and donuts and grow fat. Yet mention the word, “Change,” and they’d probably shoot you.
We drove home yesterday. Back to the central Illinois small town where circumstances dictate we spend another two years before shaking its dust and grime from our feet, finally escaping for good, and hopefully settling permanently in our haven on Lake Superior.
We had a storm this afternoon; one of those noisy summer storms that whip up out of nowhere, dump five minutes of rain, and then are gone to bother someone else. Halfway through the action the cable went out. The local weather channel, sworn to keep us informed of possible danger from tornadoes and other nasties, evaporated into nothing as every TV within ten miles shut down in the blink of an eye.
The storm past; rainclouds cleared. Sunset’s rays peaked beckoningly through drenched foliage. It was over.
Ten minutes later, for no apparent reason, the power went out.
That was at five o’clock this evening. It’s now seven forty-five and I’m typing this by the light of an oil lamp. According to the digitally recorded woman down at the power company, electricity may be available by midnight – though, possibly not.
No-one complains. It’s like the potholes on Main Street. Besides, there’s no-one to complain to. The power company’s digitally recorded woman isn’t programmed to handle such matters.
She’s just one more uncaring, disinterested, fob-you-off voice, in one more grubby small town in a disintegrating America.
Filed under: Going under