I returned to Milwaukee about two weeks ago. I was visiting friends and family because I had to drop off my girlfriend in the middle of Wisconsin and it was convenient to continue on to the east side of the state. There was my old baby sitter, my dad, my best friend and my cousins, but in terms of real worth to my life and care, nothing else.
After meeting with my cousins, my friend, and a fan of Cappy Cap, at a cigar lounge on the west side, the only thing I had left to do was kill time, maybe revisit some old haunts, visit my dad and attend a "charity" event where a handful of old school mates would be. There was nothing, and I mean, nothing left in Milwaukee for me. So inbetween visiting my dad and going salsa dancing with my best friend, I was killing time, which landed me at a bar all of 200 yards from my old middle school.
At this bar was a "fund raiser." It was for kids with Asbergers syndrome. Everybody was very friendly and a nice girl who was a friend of mine back in the day was kind enough to invite me to it, so I showed. But when I showed, it was sad. Not sad because anybody was mean or unpolite, but because it showed we were 200 yards from my former middle school. I couldn't remember names, but I remembered faces. They were older now, decrepit, certainly not as handsome or cute as they used to be, but the ultimately sad thing was, was that they were still 200 yards away from the middle school. They hadn't left. They never left. They were still living in this wretched shithole of trailer trash Milwaukee. They were dating the same people and (after conversation) I realized they had bred and inbred resulting in children from multiple fathers/mothers, lines of which you could connect on the old high school year book.
If anything I took from it, it wasn't the stereotypical
"Yeah man, I was the nerd and I proved to be more successful than all of them."
That was a foregone conclusion I knew in '91.
It was the shock at just how utterly low class, trailer trash and shitty people I had attended school with AND how they never escaped it, DESPITE being on the precipice of a major metropolitan area. They had ALL of the opportunities a modern metro area provided and they still insisted on being and remaining trailer trash. Not just the people I saw, but the stories I heard about former friends and acquiantences. One went to jail, the other was dealing drugs. Single parents about, and divorces were standard. If anything it provided a lot of hindsight and proof that I wasn't insane back in the 80's and 90's, that these people (both present and in reference) were genuinely lower class.
The reason I bring this story up is not for revenge or "I told you so-ism," but rather to make a very important point for younger folk, especially kids who are in the current environment where all of their world seems commanded and controlled by the temporary and faux hierarchy of their school.
It is a FLEETING and TEMPORARY aberration.
I didn't believe it when I was in the thick of it, but when you graduate these people will be forced into the real world in one regard or another. And in the end a person's true temerity, salt and worth is what is going to separate the wheat from the chaff. Even with parental or government subsidy they will fail because it is the person, and their low caliber, that will fail them, not society. And besides, you won't remember them as your life becomes preoccupied with more important shit and more important people.
I didn't believe it, but it will happen. The prom queen will fall. The jocks will get fat. And it isn't because of universal karma or "divine intervention," but because society, especially at the public school level, creates a a huge bubble of popularity, fakeness, and bullshit. It is systematic and predictable. It will prop up young kids to certain heights. Kids with short term skills (throwing a ball, big boobs at an early age, etc.), but no long term ones (mathematics, logic, science). Skills that only serve in that short lived environment. And once that environment is taken away from your peers they will deflate like funding from Dotcoms in 2000 and their true value will show.
For years you will think that you want revenge, but if and when you see them you'll realize their real lives are all the revenge you'll need. It will be so much revenge, you'll actually pity them.
And then you'll leave the bar and continue on with your life.
I suppose it's all what you make of it. I returned home about 5 years after grad school. My older brother's crowd, the ones who had muscle cars, hot and cold running ass on demand, etc, had traded youth for addictions, divorces and failure on many levels... The friends I meet up with once a week when I'm home from sea are mostly people I met in kindergarten- married, successful or at least content and self-employed in the trades. I'm the oddball for changing careers, living abroad then coming back, but my social circle is united by the absence of pathetic shame that coats so many of my siblings' peers.
You can't go home again, once you've had your eyes opened and have distinguished yourself a bit, but working in 3rd world shitholes part of the year sure as hell brings back the appeal of familiar places. It seems to me that your life is where you make it, and there's plenty of contentment to be had if you surround yourself with only the closest of friends and loved ones, and let everyone else FOAD.
Many people do not understand the quote that 'All men are born equal'. That refers to law and that's it!
And contrary to the liberals and our their suicidal bank lending practices...most poor people are poor for a reason. Laziness and stupidity being the big ones.
yeah. i can relate. i still know some peeps back in kenner that were incredibly smart, but never did crap after HS.
and thank you. i appreciate it.
Wouldn't these type of people be considered the "Real Americans" you refer to in your book?
Basically, you are saying what I told you in your "Wyoming" posts.
Really no difference in the lower class on the edges of Milwaukee and the small-town bar crowd in Wyoming. You just had no reason prior to being among the same type of people in the Milwaukee area that you had been among in the Wyoming bars.
Maybe worth noting: The environment is only fleeting IF you leave. It's quite easy to get sucked back into the low-class crap if you stay put. It happened to me for a few years when a good job opportunity landed me back in the same town I went to middle school in. After 3 years it finally dawned on me that I needed, again, to get out of there!
That's what happens when you give the cheezy high school speeches instead of the real-talk.
We all know it, but thanks for reminding us Cappy.
You can go back to your old house, or old school, or old neighborhood ... but once you leave and experience other people, places, standards, customs, and attitudes then you can never go "HOME" again.
Excellent post, Captain!
This is why I don't even talk to my family any more. They're a pack of losers and screw-ups not worth the trouble of even talking to, much less visiting. I can't think of a single thing I miss about the Rust Belt urban basket case I used to call home.
Well, maybe one thing. When the decline really starts to set in and the welfare state blows up I do want to see what my brother with the four kids his crazy fundie wife insisted on having plans to feed them if he can't afford to now. Or what my alcoholic mother who spent every penny my father ever made and then some on crap she didn't need plans to live on in her "golden years" when hyperinflation and default does for my father's pension. He can't afford to retire even now.
Watching their stupid burn them alive while they scream for mercy will make the decline a lot more enjoyable. Mentally drafting the perfect way to respond to their begging for help with instructions to lick my bearded burrito, EABOD and FOADIAF is a great way to spend a boring afternoon at work.
The prom queen and the jocks only failed in your case because they were lower class proles. If you had gone to school in an upper-middle class area, even the ones who stayed behind would probably be plenty successful.
I expected more from you. This is sad.
You are looking at it from your perspective.
Many have kids, a spouse and a job and are happy with their lives.
You have yourself.
I grew up in a small middle class town in western MA. My family still lives in the area. I left for a military career and did not make the early reunions.
I did, however, go to the 30th.
My experience was opposite of yours. The event was attended by people who were largely successful on many levels. Most were reasonably in shape, and many of the women still maintained their attractivness.
The losers had self-eliminated themselves by then, I guess.
I went back to my 40th high school reunion and hadn't been back "home" since my mother died in the mid 90's. I've had virtually no contact with any of my classmates since 5 years after graduation.
About 20% of us moved away from our hometown and only maybe 5% were more than 150 miles from where we grew up.
In general, most everybody who graduated was reasonably successful, some like me had advanced degrees. We've had some that died early due to medical issues - heart attacks and cancer, another was killed in a fire, another was killed in a light plane crash.
I have no knowledge of how the non-graduates worked out.
My school district was partially rural and part subdivision - pretty much middle class across the board, so that probably helped us succeed. We had no inner city or scuzzy areas.
What was unusual though was what people ended up becoming - in many cases people were doing things that were totally unpredictable and others were doing exactly what would have been predicted.
I guess that means my experience was different than yours.
My son, being raised in small AZ town, then moving to a shit hole in central CA. has blossomed by enrolling in the Navy. Has seen Europe and middle east. I told him as soon as he graduates from high school it's like it never mattered. All those stressful times and "problems" don't amount to crap once you leave graduation day. He said "Yup, you were right, mom". Now he can go on (trade school, college, whatever) as a more mature person.
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