Sunday, August 30, 2009

Escape from Nacogdoches

I'm in the middle of making a movie, with the above title. It's pretty much going to be a direct rip-off of Escape from New York, but without the special-effects budget (think Carnivore). I'm currently scouting locations, with an eye towards post-collapse survivability (I'm thinking Pacific Northwest, for some odd reason). Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, it will not star Adrienne Barbeau, Sandahl Bergman, Mary Woronov, Pia Zadora, or any other B-movie goddess. I can't even afford Bruce Campbell, which should give you some idea of just how little in the way of financing I was able to scare up (hell, think Carnivore 2).

The place I'm escaping from is Nacogdoches, Texas' answer to Mayberry. A small college town northeast of Houston, Nacogdoches is host to Stephen F. Austin State University. It has everything you could want in a small town, that is, if you want your small town to die a quick, painful death when collapse hits. An artificial water supply completely dependent on cheap energy, lousy public transportation, no provision for in-town travel by means other than the automobile (you can ride a bike here, but you're taking your life in your hands), a brutal climate that would be unbearable if not for our friend the air conditioner, the list goes on and on.

Perhaps worst of all is the utter cluelessness of the inhabitants about the state of their world and the prospects for their town's viability in the coming decade. Among the town's indigenous population, these are divided into two groups, old money rednecks and poor people (mostly black). The former group has great faith in our perfect God-given system of free-market capitalism to pull things out (I haven't actually asked, but I think this is a safe assumption on the basis of their total lack of action), and the second couldn't do anything about what's coming (beyond the odd kitchen garden, which you don't see here) even if they were aware of the problem. And then there is the transient population of college students (“our future”) who appear to have a never-ending supply of money to feed the local business establishment. One wonders how much they have put themselves in hock in order to obtain degrees in such vital fields as Communications and Theater.

Here is a typical view down North Street, which is perhaps best described as something James Howard Kunstler might see in a fever dream. Ninety precent of this stuff seems to exist for no other purpose than to separate college students from their loan money.

This is one of the many, many apartment complexes where Nacogdoches stashes its poor people. I had the misfortune to stay here for several months, living with a friend of mine who is dying of cancer. Oksana had been put on hiatus from her research position at the school, and her mother had been forced to return to Kiev when her visa expired. Oksana didn't want to be alone, and had been calling to ask me to come stay with her. I was at loose ends, having recently escaped from nearby Houston, so I went. Here I had my first experience with a slum lord, who left us to cook in ninety degree heat when the air conditioning went out. He didn't seem terribly concerned by the repercussions of this, no doubt because poor people don't have the money to sue.

I was a little shocked at the reaction of the people I knew that I called for help. I was looking for another place to live myself, but I felt I couldn't leave my friend to die here. I was told that they were too “busy” to do anything (and probably they were, frantically bailing water to keep their middle-class lives afloat during the current storm). I eventually was able to persuade the office management to allow me to install a window air conditioner (purchased with my own funds), and the crisis was averted. But I can't stop thinking about the irony of all these churchgoers being utterly unwilling to do the Christian thing while I, the Village Atheist, found myself bound by conscience to do something. Oh well, another story for the grandchildren I'm planning never to have.

If the above poetry doesn't bring tears to your eyes, try living here

I'll be providing you with a guided tour of the place in a future post, partly because I think Nacogdoches is an excellent specimen of pre-collapse unpreparedness, but also as a public service. You see, the highways of East Texas are littered with billboards urging travelers to visit “The Oldest Town in Texas,” despite the fact that there is almost nothing to see here. This cynical ad campaign apparently works, as my friend Diane tells me that people call her RV park to reserve space for their “tour.” This amuses her no end, and she tells me that she is always honest with these unfortunate PR victims. “You don't need three days here. You can see the whole thing in ten minutes.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sodini Agonistes

Well, you can only sharpen your pencils for so long. I guess a rage murder/suicide is as good a topic as any to kickstart a doomer blog. The particular case at hand is the late and lovelorn George Sodini's first-person shooter rampage at a Pittsburgh fitness center. For a precis, I refer you to Going Postal author Mark Ames' take on the incident, “Revenge of the Nerd.”

If it seems like I'm coming late to this topic, it's because I have been doing some research on the case as well as some reading in subjects that might shed light on Sodini's individual psychology. I've also been ruminating on my own life, trying to relate my own experience to Sodini's in an effort to understand his motivations. Most importantly, I've been thinking about what happened. In other words, doing what virtually everyone commenting on this event seems not to have done. Well, this is America, after all.

I will surely have more to write about this at a later time, as it opens a nice juicy can of worms about social interaction and sexual relations in our doomed society. For now, though, I'll just say that Sodini missed his big opportunity for love when he turned the gun on himself. As a mass murderer on trial, he no doubt would have had dozens, possibly hundreds, of women lined up to marry him. I'm reminded of the Bill Hicks routine about Ted Bundy and his many female admirers ("Just what are you ladies looking for?").

With the comic relief out of the way, I think I will let myself make one comment. That would be about Sodini's lousy timing. It seems to me that if he'd just kept his powder dry for a few more years, and his head above water economically, he could have made it to the promised land. Many of the comments in the blogosphere have been referring to his apparent high net worth (~250 grand), along with the middle-aged man's vastly increased chances with the opposite sex in third-world countries (N.B. a friend of mine recommends Costa Rica). That is, with young women who live far enough beneath the poverty line that they cannot afford to be as finicky as the average American gal. All Sodini needed was a big enough gap between his own net worth and that of his would-be beloved, and he was as good as laid.

Well, it seems to me that we're almost there! Just a few more months of catastrophic job losses along with the inevitable crossover into double-digit inflation, and Sodini would have had a veritable smorgasbord of desperate American pussy willing to go supine in exchange for the next Big Mac. Just as the poor Russian girls had to peddle their asses to survive the Soviet collapse, it will soon be Jennifer and Buffy's turn (in the Peak Oil community, this is referred to as "humping for turnips."). I remember reading that during the Great Depression, there were 30,000 or so wandering nymphs who offered themselves up sexually to survive, and that was way before the overt sexualization of our culture that's been going on since the 1960s. Sodini, you poor sod, if only you'd waited...

I expect we'll be seeing a whole lot more of this sort of thing, as predicted by (among others) the financial site Seeking Alpha, in it's delectable list of doomer predictions titled, “The Worst Case Scenario (Someone Has to Say It)".

Stand-off dramas, violent score-settlings, and going-out-with-a-bang attacks by laid-off workers and bankrupted investors—already a national plague—will become an everyday occurrence.”

Not quite an everyday occurrence yet, but we're getting there. Like the wingnuts say, America is the Greatest Country on the Face of the Earth, and we can do anything. Including, I imagine, creating the necessary social and economic conditions for rampage shootings to become an everyday occurrence. Hey, who wouldn't want that? C'mon, America! Yes we can!