Friday, November 20, 2009
A Wal-Mart State of Mind
I found this unposted post begging to finally make it on the blog. It was written in Nashville- rest assured that I'm no longer there, but that doesn't mean my transformation has stopped.
A childhood in Troutdale, Oregon isn't exactly the foreshadow of a classy adulthood. Understand that my parents are in no way trailer folk, however, I've often assumed the town that assisted in my rearing heavily attributed to my own future as a sort of potential bumpkin. It's true, Troutdale is a beautiful place near breathtaking scenery and minutes away from downtown Portland, however, it's known fact that any small American town on a river that boasts first class cabbage and strawberry crops isn't quite the recipe for prestige.
I suppose what I'm getting at is my sudden realization that I've actually become what I always feared. Being a Troutdalian was, I believe, just a seed. A small but potentially powerful seed that sat idle for a time but suddenly sprouted wildly out of control upon my arrival in the South. At this time I'm all too conscious and unable to deny my societal role. I am a little bit white trash.
Phase I: In the mid-1980s an unusual circumstance occurred in the very town I have already introduced. I was born. "Say Matt, that's not such an unusual thing, is it?" you're probably thinking. Right, you are. Birth, though a miracle, is far from unusual. Just keep in mind that Troutdale, though complete with an outlet mall and a Dairy Queen (icons of luxury, right?) today, lacked one very important city element back then, a hospital. "Hospital Shmoshpital" say I. Who needs one when you have a kitchen floor perfectly suitable for giving birth?
Phase II: By the mid-90s I was attending Reynolds Middle School, which would be fine if it were not located in Fairview, OR. Period. Enough said. Look it up and you'll quickly sympathize. I can't say much more about those years, they are a bit fuzzy, a side effect most certainly related to the amount of asbestos I inhaled. I probably shouldn't even mention my baggy pipe leg jeans coupled with a too-tight undershirt (worn as a regular shirt. Everyday.) and topped off with a slick pair of white Fila sneakers.
Phase III: High school came and went. I went to the river often. And I landed my first real job. "Where?" you ask? Why, at the Bugle Boy Outlet, just one of many fine shops at the Troutdale outlet mall. I was fired four days later. After high school the dough really started to pour in from my full-time gig at the old folks home. It was there that I developed a deep and abiding love for Bingo. Do you need more than that?
Phase IV: College rolled around and so did my affinity for not wearing deodorant. Or underwear. I went on a mission to the Dominican Republic and that, if anything, worsened the situation; infrequent showers and permissible wearing the same thing everyday. A total dream come true. After college- jobless, poor, and desperate- I returned to where this whole vicious downward spiral began and sought refuge at my parents home. 24 and living at home. Fortunately it didn't last too long and I hit to road for Phoenix. Along the way however, I stopped at Arches National Park and for the first time pulled a Jewel; I slept in my car. And I loved it. I eventually arrived in Phoenix with the plan to start afresh, meaning that I was still jobless and penniless. Selling my plasma became a career and the other donors my family and confidants. In time it seemed a ray of sunshine shone down on my desperation and I landed some work. Lots of it. During a six-month period I managed to begin and end the following jobs: sales rep at Ralph Lauren Polo OUTLET, sales rep at 24-Hour Fitness, "ramp" crew at Sky Harbor Airport- loading/unloading baggage and tugging/towing the billion-dollar aircraft, and finally as a promotional rep for Wrigley's gum, the NBA, the Army, Lucky Brand Jeans, Camel tobacco, and several others.
The promo gigs were my favorite by far. The Army one in particular tickled my fancy as it was held at drag racing events and Camel sent me to NASCAR. Today I love both.
Phase V: Realizing what I am wasn't an overnight epiphany. Naturally, I gradually allowed new ideas and activities into my life but kept those that I was able to recognize as potentially trashy to what I considered, a minimum. for over two decades I practically shunned country music, refused to even acknowledge televised fighting/wrestling events, tried to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart, and most importantly stayed good and far from the South. It's now mid-2009 and what happened next I suppose, was inevitable. I agreed to work in Washington DC for the summer, and as fate would have it the best route from Phoenix passed straight through the southern epicenter: Texas, Oklahoma ARKANSAS and Tennessee. Like a bug is drawn toward a light in the dark, it is nearly impossible for white trash to stay away from the South. I stopped in Tennessee. I loved Tennessee. I stayed in Tennessee. Now I live in Tennessee and I work in Tennessee. Country music enlivens my soul, I look forward to UFC fights, and just the slightest smell of BBQ numbs all other senses and sends my mind down a one-lane highway.
There you have it. I've recognized, dealt, and accepted who I am and what norms I'm to live by from this point on. And you? Who are you?
(But lets be real. I never, ever tried to avoid Wal-Mart.)