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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

United States

Submitted by on January 20, 2017 – 10:17 AM15 Comments

Have you ever gone to Springfield, IL?

I only spent a night there, so what do I know, but walking from my hotel, an anonymous box plunked down at a crumbly corner, along the hem of the downtown, squared off and bright, to a vegetarian restaurant and a surprising flawless Manhattan; then walking back, thinking after giving away all my singles to the sniffly figures who sidled up to me with videogame regularity, hmm, perhaps this isn't the safest area of town. But I felt safe enough. I liked the humanity of the place, the sense of historic occasion and the dowdy stucco side by side, that it had and is both, can only be both.

It reminded me in that way of Graceland, or I guess really of Elvis, why we love him: the silver-tongued sexy mama's boy with the kookballoons sandwich prefs who died taking a crap. Not even taking a crap; trying to take a crap. It's why he's one of our secular saints, that any one of those things makes him a man, makes him a star, but that all of those things together make him…American. Glorious. Ridiculous. Sweet, and fat. His museum is his home, because of course it is, and the sightings of him persist, because of course they do — he's family, and ghosts come because we need them, not the other way around.

If you think this is about to segue into a discussion of Donald J. Trump's similarities to Elvis, the garish taste, the living larger, it isn't. I would say the similarities end right about there, and…well, maybe it's useful to look at their respective homes, Trump's gold and cold, not a pajama pant or Dr Pepper can anywhere, but then at Graceland the commitment to comfy means a carpeted ceiling that you, the paying customer, can touch. Can and will. But what I mean is the sense of late, in the last few months, that "home" is not here, "home" is not safe. Sitting sullenly over another excellent Manhattan last night, listening to that preening Volvo commercial that co-opts Whitman's "Song Of The Open Road," I thought about Whitman, that he really did contain multitudes, a bunch of them RULL annoying and druncly, self-important, embarrassing; and I came home and got all dusty digging up my old Norton and reading "When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd," my inane margin notes in my try-hard bubble print and for some reason a mention, in marker, of the death of Vladimir Horowitz, beholding my own multitudes, some of insight, mostly pretension, all waiting at that time, waiting to understand anything Whitman had to say about death, or anything else.

Whitman found family in country — the physical land, America and all its birds and smokestacks — and I do think there's something to that, to going into it and through some hills and seeing how many things it is. But it's hard, today, to think that might restore anything, because of that feeling of dislocation, of danger, of definitions dissolving. The wonderful, exhausting, beautifully disastrous thing about the U.S. is that all the different ways and days that we struggle to reconcile, the differences and the struggle both make us what we are as Americans. We can only be every AND either, and like the man said, the hard is what makes it great, but a lot of people don't see it that way, and hate me, and hate my friends, and my head hurts, and I'm tired and I'm afraid.

And I'm grateful, and I'm furious. I'm Springfield. I'm Whitman. I'm Elvis. And I'm going to fuck some shit up. You should come along, so we can keep each other safe.

See you at home.

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15 Comments »

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    A very nice overview of "Lilacs" and its imagery, if you're interested. If you're already too drunk to care, [clink] and maybe another time, hee.

    http://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_67.html

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Oh Sars, you can't know how much it means that you're here today. I've missed you so.

    I cannot believe you have to live so close to the event horizon, and hey, if a few of your namesake fruits hit the Dump Tower sign, nobody saw nothin'.

  • Allison says:

    The dystopian view brought to us by a 24 hours news cycle that they choose to fill with the same story over and over again. Violence sells, sex sells, tragedy sells. The more people watch, the more the story stays the same. It's a vicious cycle that this person who is now President manipulated masterfully.

    I weep for this country. I weep that We the People haven't lived up to our founder's hope for us. I am disgusted by the willful ignorance, the blind eye that was turned toward the misogyny, the vitriol, the abject lack of humanity.

    I am usually a glass half full kind of person, but this is difficult. So I will just remind myself that Federal government, while able to impact my life, has only as much power over my life as I choose to allow.

    And Sars, I've missed you, too.

  • Melanie says:

    "…and ghosts come because we need them, not the other way around."

    Girl….

  • tittles says:

    Sarah, I think I speak for all of us in the TomatoNation: I adore your writing, appreciate your advice, and have your back as you go fuck that shit up.

  • Nic says:

    It's been awhile…but somehow I knew to check; knew you'd know the right things to say. *clink* back at ya.

  • Heathen says:

    Obama gave us hope, and light, and a reason to believe in the best of us. Do not let them steal that. Let the belief be the legacy that they cannot undo.

    *clink*

  • bluesabrile says:

    *clink*

    I've had this overwhelming feeling that I want to go home, but I'm an adult and I AM home and there's no where to run to, now. I have to stand up and get ready to fuck shit up, if not for me then for my daughter and the country that she'll inherit from us.

    I'm trying to find comfort in the things I can control, in the familiar things I love. Baseball season approaching. Planning my daughter's birthday. Sewing projects. The anger and sadness are exhausting, and things like that help me stay sane.

  • bluesabriel says:

    And then I spell my own username wrong. So. There's that.

  • Hollie says:

    Oh my god, I am so glad you are back. Yes, I'll gladly come along. Cheers…

  • Meggy says:

    Thank goodness for this, and for all of you. I somehow knew to come here this week and check in, and my god: you all know. You know. And you put it into words better than I have been able to.

    Here's to defending our home.

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you. I have followed you for years, since Mighty Big TV. I don't comment. Not just here…I never felt comfortable commenting online. But I have followed and read and loved your writing.

    But I know that I can't be silent anymore. Not with Trump and all the hate he inspires. So thank you for all of your courage and kindness and spot on commentary. And know that I am here, supporting you. And no longer silent.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Welcome to the commentariat, Lisa! TNers are tops on the internet in that regard. Just my opinion.

  • Cat_slave says:

    I've missed you too. And the TomatoNation. Because of you I know there are intelligent and compassionate Americans. You can make a difference. That helps when I feel shell shocked about recent politics there. Not that it always is flowers over here either, but fact is that the American politics affects us much, much more than our politics affect you.

  • Sandman says:

    Oh, I'm so glad to see you back! I've missed your take on — well, everything. Sorry I'm late to the party, as usual, but, carry on, Nation.

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