I keep telling myself that I am being a little too harsh on Susanville. Perhaps that little town isn’t akin to the Orc infested kingdom of Mordor; sure it has a volcano close by and tends to smell but still. No, Susanville is actually a Hellmouth! (Heh, you think I was going to go somewhere serious with this? Please). Susanville has had more strange happens within it’s tiny population of 15,700 then any other town I can think of. Where oh where to begin?
Let’s start with the population. That number I listed above isn’t quite accurate. You see, the town of my childhood has two large state prisons (with a federal one on the way). The town “council” (made up of a couple of old dudes in cowboy hats who, Starchamber style, decide what to do over their morning coffee) cut deals with the state. The only way a prison can be built is if the town gets to count the incarcerated populace as Susanville residents, thus getting more money from the Man. It also creates the highest per-capita ratio of imprisoned citizens. We number one! Then we have the medical incinerator, which was only open for 98 days. The reason for it’s closure is not fully known to me. But, the building was never torn down. It simply sits there, a mechanical beast waiting to engulf all those who dare to enter it’s fiery chamber. The time that a nameless (and bodiless) head floated down the Susan river only to be found by Mr. Terral’s 5th period PE class. The Mormon’s and their strange desire to baptize each and every person…After they die! I don’t know it that happens everywhere, but I can’t imagine it being as open as it is in Susanville. Finally, the strange and personally frightening ability that Susanville has over it’s previous residents. You see, like the fictional Hellmouth, Susanville doesn’t like to let anyone get out alive. Those few that do are often drawn back to it’s vile hick embrace. Every time I go home to visit I know I am tempting fate.
Somewhere out there is an angry bull with my name on it!
It’s also strange that the people who live there don’t seem to notice, at least very few do. I was one of those few. How could you NOT walk around that town and notice the absurdity of it all? I wasn’t content to simply stand on the street corner, a can of Kodiak burning a chew can ring into my back pocket, spitting in a Coke can while muttering “Yup”. That’s not to say I did anything to make the place better, screw them! Once those buggers closed down the bowling alley I could care less what happened. Thankfully I wasn’t alone. I had a full crew of Justice Leaguers. There is indeed strength in numbers. Together we would plan elaborate ways of surviving various Redneck Holocausts while going over the latest D&D rules update. It is with no small amount of pride that I say that most of us made it out of that place in one piece. I say most because there is one who didn’t. No, he didn’t keel over… But he does still live in the basement with his grandparents and shares a bathroom with his mom… Read into that all you want, I know I have. During this last trip home I didn’t notice anyone like me. They were all standing on the corner. Like extras in a Romero movie. Just watching the rest of the world go by. Now, I’m not saying that I am so much better then those who decide to stay in that town (well, maybe a little). If that’s your choice, fine, you have this Geek’s blessing. But please, get out and see something different, even for a short amount of time. Although I do wonder what happened in that town to make everyone so conformist, to make all of them want to listen to the same crappy country radio station, to drink the same watered down beer. Maybe that’s the nature of things. A strange form of social Darwinism. It’s normal for all the Geeks to be weaned from rural America.
A few hours before leaving I took one last walk past the old park. There, sitting on a splintered picnic table were two people. A girl with bright (obviously dyed) hair, and guy with greasy black hair. She wore a “I (heart) Nerds” T-shirt, he had one of those Milky Way shirts with an arrow that read “You are here” logo. There were playing a hand of Magic: The Gathering. In the background, through their small Sanyo tape-deck was a poorly copied, but wonderfully loud sounds of Blitzkrieg Bop playing.
I can feel better about leaving that town now…Mr. Pointy has been passed.