" … [I] might well find myself forced to call such places home again."

When I travel, I try to imagine what it might be like to live in the places we pass through. What sort of houses do the locals seem to favor? Where do they shop? How do they transport themselves? I'm unfortunate because, having grown up in a Walt Disney movie set, few places pass even perfunctory scrutiny as halfway decent places to live. Many seem too barren of the fundamental necessities of what I believe constitutes a decent life, unfortunate waysides where life as I know and expect it seems simply impossible to live. My first visit to New York City left me, as I believe it leaves most people, wondering how anyone could possibly eek out a living there. Later visits found me discovering tiny pockets of possible homesites, but even those seemed surrounded by hostile territory.

Subsequent visits often blunt my initial impression, which tends toward the scathing.
I admit that I appreciate home more for my excursions, growing to ever more deeply understand the apparently rare balance The Muse and I have stumbled into in our home life. We've been entranced by few places we've visited together, leaving grateful that the fates had not cast us up and onto those shores. In Fayetteville, The Muse showed me the trailer park she used to inhabit back when her son was small, a dank hollow shaded by huge trees just off a thundering arterial. She found home there for a time, drawn by opportunity and circumstance to live among the cockroaches on the periphery of acknowledged society. I imagine that Fayetteville has her charms, but not anymore for me and not for The Muse.

I understand that people live self-satisfied lives in these places like Texas, which seems entirely composed of the sorts of places even a desperate house hunter might reasonably choose to decline any opportunity to move into. From sweaty savannah to windy weed patch, the place presents as a third-runner up in any beauty contest, even when the wildflowers bloom and the predominant wind takes the day off. It seems a hard scrabble sort of place aching to disappoint. It might feature the finest highways in the country, but it can't seem to fund its schools or respect its women. We drove yesterday, with only minimal complaining, along The Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway, a road that should have rightfully been predominantly potholes, paved in blood, and charging exorbitant tolls. It took us to Dallas, a town still desperately searching for a reason to exist in the sort of location hardly suited for habitation. The primary purpose of life there seemed to be to flit from place to place while successfully offending every other driver on the road.

I can seem smug even to myself when I travel, my sense of the superiority of my home showing itself in a hundred subtle derogatory ways. I catch myself looking down my nose a lot, though I know that others carve perfectly satisfying lives out of even the thinness of such unpromising soils. I don't have to, at least not yet. So I'll leave Texas to the Texans, who if not exactly deserving their country certainly seem curiously proud of it. We drove around the small town we landed in last night, a tiny Texas Panhandle place featuring both an oil refinery and a five thousand head per day slaughterhouse as anchoring industries. The place seemed permanently wind-blown, hunkered close to the hardpan, trying to nurture a few thorny rose bushes. This looked like a hard place to live, one where stray dogs roamed the alleys and the pick-up payments might easily overwhelm the household budget, one where nature is a closer relative to peril than beauty, yet people seemed to be thriving even there.

To my eye, much of these United States fully qualifies as a ThirdWorld sort of place, places where ancestors swallowed the railroad's bluster that the rain would follow the plow, though it never did. Once a family plops itself down somewhere, it's bound to set roots, throw off suckers and shoots, and find a way to thrive there. Much of the settling that occurred before us and indeed continues today has been haphazard, encouraged by bluster and broken promises. We are here and we'll make the best of any less than ideal situation, since few of us have ever enjoyed the luxury of being in any position to choose, let alone choose better. I hold nothing against either Texans or New Yorkers because they live in ThirdWorld sort of places. My First World will always be the old family place, my anchoring home. My SecondWorld is where I presently live. My ThirdWorld features all the places I cannot imagine myself comfortably calling home, in full acknowledgement that I have and might well find myself forced to call such places home again.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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