Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I grew up in the "bad" part of Michigan; Flint, which is alarmingly close to Detroit, which is the source of all evil in the world. At least, this is what I am constantly told by the residents of northern Michigan. "Aren't you happy to be away from all that?" I'm commonly asked. At first, my answer was an unqualified "Yes." No more.

Two events in the last few days have solidified my decision to get the hell out of this place. The first was a conversation with a teen I happen to be rather close to. In my pre-asshole days (meaning before starting this blog), I was deeply involved with some of the teens in the Kalkaska area, which included this particular young lady. A while back, we bumped into each other at a local mall, grabbed a seat and started catching up. After a few minutes of typical small talk, I asked how things were going at home, which I knew had been basically shit. Her hesitation clued me to what was coming. Her mom was still living with her abusive boyfriend. She hadn't talked to her dad in months, even though he lived a half-hour drive from her mom's place. She wasn't really talking to her mom either, but at least that meant they were arguing less. She still had the option of her grandparents' place if shit got too heavy. Most of her "friends" had dumped her because she was trying to clean herself up. And in three years, when she turned 17, she could drop out of school and tell them all to fuck off.

She was right. Things actually were better than the last time I talked to her. She had stopped drinking after she started having black-outs, she hadn't been cutting herself recently, she wasn't sexually active at the moment, and no one was beating her, most likely because the nice weather made it possible for her to make herself scarce.

I can post this much detail without worrying too much about someone identifying who I'm talking about because I have had nearly identical conversations with over half the teens I worked with (several of whom I have recently talked to, so odds are, this isn't you). Understand that I wasn't intentionally seeking out "troubled" teens. In fact, the context was such that teens from "bad" homes were under-represented. A local day care that had mostly kids on family assistance, had 100% sexual and physical abuse victims at one point. How in hell could a small, rural community have such high rates of child abuse, self-inflicted violence, under-aged drinking, teen pregnancy, high school dropouts, etc.? First, many of the locals are ignorant or in denial. Retirees, who make up 20% of the community, live in an insular little world that has little or no contact with working-age families with kids in school. The local news always makes a point to connect any criminal with Detroit. The person is from Detroit, or from the Detroit "area" (meaning anywhere south of an east-west line from Grand Rapids to Midland), or the family "recently" (meaning any time in the last 50 years) moved from Detroit. Kalkaska is a nice little town where the locals just don't commit crimes. Secondly, the rest of the locals simply don't seem to care. When police are challenged as to why known drug houses are allowed to operate openly, or why known child-abusers aren't even investigated, they respond that there isn't much they can do as long as they "keep it on their property."

But what really brought it home was this. Waiter is right: what a waste. I know that these problems are not unique to Kalkaska, but I'm too close to people here that are involved in this on-going train wreck. Nothing I do makes it better. There is nothing I can do to make it better in the face of the massive ignorance and apathy here. I have to get as far away as possible. You can call me a coward if you like, but after seven years of slugging it out in the shit and piss of humanity, I'm done with it.


At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whose to say you won't find the same problems in the next place? D

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Justa Drifter said...

I fully expect to; it just won't involve family or other people that I care deeply for and/or feel an obligation to help.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL ... I'll believe it when it "doesn't" happen. You seem to find all the lost sheep (or they find you) and feel the obligation to help. (and continue helping even after they are out of the picture) D

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Justa Drifter said...

Yea. Probably right.


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