One does not need to go as far as West Virginia or the backwaters of the interior of Maine to find the armpit of America. The armpit of American can be found right in Boston’s backyard in Fitchburg, MA. The photo below that I took from Wikipedia of Fitchburg doesn’t do the dreariness of this bombed out mess justice. Unfortunately, I was too busy doing recon to take photos on this trip.
The photo above is of downtown Fitchburg, about 50 miles west of downtown Boston. What used to be the main strip of Fitchburg is a ghost town. An economic scourge ravished this city, but one can’t help thinking when looking at this place that there must have been a nuclear disaster or plague. Huddled around the eye sore of the carcass of the commercial zone are the tiny, cramped houses of the working class suburbs. There are people there, but one still gets the feeling that most of the people have either escaped or died trying to escape. It is so hilly in some of these suburbs. I read in Wikipedia that Fitchburg is the second hilliest city in the country. Second only, of course, to San Francisco. But San Fran doesn’t get snow. I scare myself shitless imagining it being winter and icy and snowy and sliding down these steep hills in my shitty little Toyato Corolla at tremendous speed into traffic.
Where do the people of Fitchburg work in order to pay rent and property taxes and food? Maybe it was in Gardner, 12 miles to the west of Fitchburg. (The photo below of Gardner was stolen from Pitchertakin’.)
Gardner was richer, but not rich. It too had its share of deserted factories, but one had to look harder to find them. Gardner was almost as depressing as Fitchburg. It was barren, a town with no center and no soul. There were suburbs but no people in them. It was as if someone had exploded a neutron bomb. While one did not see signs of intelligent life in these suburbs, one saw signs of unintelligent life, which included oversized American flags draped over undersized houses and the ubiquitous Romney-Ryan signs. I did not see a single sign for a Democrat. This is a land lorded over by angry white men in denial, rotting away in an anemic economy that exported their jobs long ago. Unlike the impoverished Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine that I recently visited, which had many signs of culture, including public art – real art, not that corporate shit, the people of Gardner exhibited no signs of culture whatsoever. Even in the Paleolithic age people had cave art. There is nothing to suggest that the people of Gardner had evolved beyond their chimpanzee cousins.
Where did these people in Gardner work? They couldn’t all have home businesses? Maybe they worked in Leominster?
Leominster (above) borders Fitchburg and lies to its southeast. Leominster is much richer than Fitchburg, though far from rich. It looks a lot like Gardner, only Leominster still seems to have some element of an economy left. It has several strip malls and a fairly substantial mall-like area which includes a Macy’s and a number of other big commercial retail and food chains. Maybe those who could not escape Fitchburg and Gardner survived the shipping of their factory jobs to the American South and then to China by taking the shit retail and service jobs in Leominster. Housing is too expensive for me in Leominster, but maybe I could commute to Leominster while living in the depressing shithole of Fitchburg.
I stopped to take a piss at the Wendy’s in Leominster, right before getting on Route 2 back to Boston. I decided to reward myself with the $1.00 small frosty they were offering. The girl at the counter was new. She had trouble with the register. I was patient. She rewarded me by calling me hon. I sat down in the back of the restaurant under the glass roof to eat my ice cream. There was one other customer, who appeared to be an off-duty employee. There were flies buzzing around. They really bothered me. I was afraid that they were going to fly into my ice-cream. I hated this area. I much preferred the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine over this desolate and depressing angry white male mecca, but I would probably end up applying for a job in this very Wendy’s and trying to scratch out an existence in this shithole. Massachusetts offers me subsidized healthcare via Romneycare. If I get hurt in Maine I’m dead, or at least fucked. Getting hurt in Massachusetts is not necessarily a showstopper. Maybe I should go to Maine. Maybe dying or being compelled to hang myself because I can no longer work and pay the rent because of an injury would be the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ll probably stay in Massachusetts. I am far from a winner, but I am a survivor. I am the evolutionary equivalent of that pink shit that grows in your bathtub that you can’t get rid of, no matter how hard you try to rub it out.
Driving back on Route 2, a very nasty and crowded two lane highway that runs across the eastern half of Massachusetts, a highway on-ramp snuck up on me out of nowhere, with a driver trying to get on. I didn’t have to yield, but I yielded. I did not have enough time to react, and I did not want to deal with the scenario where this driver didn’t yield. As I slowed down, the driver behind me closed in like a menacing shark. He got so close. Very soon I was going to hear the explosive sound of metal clashing as my body jerked violently. There was going to be shards of plastic exploding through the air and mangled pieces of car everywhere. I didn’t hope that he wouldn’t hit me because I knew he was going to hit me; the question was when he would hit me. I didn’t think I was dead. I wasn’t worried about getting hurt. All I could think about was the thousands of dollars of damage this was going to cause and the horrible, miserable inconvenience of it all. I don’t know how I didn’t get rear-ended, but somehow I didn’t.
I thought about this later. I never heard the squeal of the brakes of the driver behind me. The driver behind me probably was an exceptionally good driver and psychotic asshole who was able to get incredibly close to me at a high speed while decelerating, without hitting me. This was done in order to terrorize me as punishment for my yielding, which slowed him or her down and robbed him or her of about five seconds of his or her life.