Burn the Boat/Marginal People


 

    Ladies and gentlemen, the wages of sin are fairer than honest compensation. Years ago, such bombast might’ve been an exaggeration. Today, it’s not even laughable. In fact, such recognition deserves rueful acceptance.

    Any following these posts know the writer has decamped across America; from Northeastern suburban splendor to the Mojave Desert. As chronicled, abject neglect beyond my control has transformed me into an involuntary economic refugee of sorts.

    Imitating conquistador Hernando Cortez and his particular New World conquest, I’ve burned my boat. Truly, stranding myself was easier than Cortez’ and his band’s self-inflicted marooning.

    Unlike those Spaniards who hankered for Spain, I’ve no reasons to return east. The sun has set on my immediate family; the addresses we once inhabited have either been demolished or reconfigured and repurposed into new places. The amount of restoring all those memories would weary me to no good end.

    Las Vegas is the new dateline. And the resettlement is purely mercenary. A point I do have in common with Cortez.

    The Mojave Desert is starker than the Sonora, a landscape which I have affinity. McTeague, Frank Norris’ Gilded Age novel, culminates in the Mojave’s most extreme depression, Death Valley. An apt place for blind greed to die.

    Blistering as the Sonora can be, doesn’t the Mojave exceed its pitilessness? This crucible’s topography appears far severer. And haven’t the residents adapted to and attained this cruelty?

    Las Vegas is a transient town, maybe the most so in the West. Unlike other outposts which can boast longer, deeper establishment, civic spirit is shallow surface here. Forget how the locals profess regarding their town. When prompted, they might mumble Chamber of Commerce boilerplate. The tax rate provided against services received reflects a truer portrait.

    A less benevolent one at that.

    Bargain basement tithes and depressed real estate prices lured me to Las Vegas. After recent perils in renting, I desired to own. Moreover, society grants owners greater privileges than renters. Now that’s incentive.

    However, lower taxes also mean paucity in services. Not so much in municipal obligations, though certainly towards communities. Woe to the poor devil here misfortunate enough who stumbles off the path, who requires a helping hand.

    The cynic in me can hear those braying pieties the loudest as they offer ashes instead of assistance to the unfortunate, the unlucky, or there we all could’ve gone by the grace of [your deity here], the careless.

    “You’re on your own!” The favorite line of shudda-been Scripture spouted by the insufferably righteous everywhere, not just in this basin.

     Yet as I can attest, from prior residency in Western precincts, all the more so in Las Vegas, foments this harsh regard of the indigent. Hoary lore retains a stranglehold here. That being bootstrapping, rugged individualism, dependency on the self, all the while vehemently eschewing outside intervention. If the individual fails succeeding, then he or she deserves to fall off the path.

     “When the lore becomes legend, print it as fact.” Harsh. Darwinian. The West. Must be an attitude derived from those lines between New Testament verses.

      How unlike industrial America. The rural-stamped South, too. 

      Slander Northeastern and Midwestern regional tax burdens as mouth-breathers such as Texas governor Rick Perry does, through them they do a far superior job of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and healing the sick. Perhaps society needs a secularist base in order to practice what the pious profess. Otherwise wouldn’t our pavements be far more littered with starving, raggedy clothed and ill people?  

      You know, the unchecked kind breeding epidemics. Curing those outbreaks cost real money.

      While the South has more than its fair share of rock-ribbed moralizers ready to endlessly extemporize upon deviant behavior at the merest suggestion of others’ transgressions, something in a good many Southerners’ character compel them to comfort on personal levels. Rather than depend on authorities to ease the wayward, don’t more than we think, more than we’ll ever know, extend that effort themselves?

     Well, that’s a rhetorical question. On purpose. Gratefully and mightily benefiting from Northern rearing, the writer first saw light in Carolina. Most family members never migrated towards civilization. So I’m aware from observation and hearsay. The answer lies somewhere in between seeing and listening.

     Back when I earned proper incomes, it gladdened me to exhibit generosity. Either through “onerous, backbreaking taxes” or charitable contributions. Naturally many reading this now will counter had I given less my current stake would be larger. True. But as a long list of fabulously wealthy people daily prove, more money has a habit of creating lesser persons.

     Referring back to Cortez, I burned the boat, not my provisions.

     Generosity is just one more item sacrificed to the Northeast. Not only do I lack the wherewithal, but since irresponsibility festers here in Nevada’s climate there’s scant nature to extend little kindnesses.  

    In one week more beggars accosted me for spare change than during decades back East. Not that I look like a soft touch. (Trust me. I don’t.) I quickly gathered putting the touch on anyone outside their straits a prevailing trait among deadbeats. These living ghosts sit past tolerance and nearly beyond notice of wage earners.

    Don’t see as it blithely stepping over the poor. The clapped out and busted predominate these skiver throngs. Who knows how they crashed in Las Vegas? Who cares really?

    I suspect all arrived with the greediest intentions, and were disappointed then discarded when the tables or slots failed producing the expected Midas yields. Or became so lost in the city’s partying scenes none realized their outgo exceeded income until they were rudely excluded from the gaudy drug and booze suffused rooms onto outside sidewalks.

    It’s funny. Back East I rarely thought about the destitute. Our community didn’t require it. Our institutions looked after them, caring for or hiding all but the most egregious cases. Here in Las Vegas, though, there is no escaping their plague. There is only building a sufficiently thick shell to block the pleas.

    Okay. Consider it done.     

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