Santee. Shit. I'm still only in Santee. Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in Russia.
When I was in Moscow after my first tour in Louisville, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be a young, beautiful girl in my bed. I hardly said a word to the dyev, until I said "yes" to the abortion. When I was in Moscow, I wanted to be in Slutsk. When I was in Slutsk, all I could think of was getting back into Moscow.
I'm in Santee for three days now. I'm waiting for another soul-destroying glimpse at dead-end suburbia -- getting more scared. Every minute I stay in this room, I get more scared. And every minute a U-haul-assed soccer mom pushes her supersized CostCo shopping cart full of 18-pack toilet paper and Jumbo-sized Val-U boxes of Tide detergent and 48-packs of Diet Coke towards her minivan...I get more scared. Each time I look around my small room, the walls move in a little tighter...
This is The End, indeed.
The end of a lot of things. The geographical end of continental America, for one thing. And with the geographical edge, the end of hope too. Where else do you go if you're an American from any point East of San Diego, and it doesn't happen here? As "The End" says, "The West is the best."
We've been taught by the directional motion of our great ancestors that the strong always head West, that your life can always be made better if you head West. West is the direction of hope and prosperity. West of San Diego, there is nothing but ocean.
So once you're as far West as you can go, then what?
Nothing dramatic, really. Failure and misery don't necessarily have to be cinematic. Well, that's actually the definition of failure and misery: its very lack of drama. That is suburban San Diego in a nutshell -- a lack of drama, like 99.999 percent of this country. Because if I've learned one thing by traveling all over the middle of America by car, and by living in Kentucky and driving back and forth between Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois, it's that America looks pretty much the same anywhere you go, with a few rare exceptions. It's a lot like the old Soviet Union in that way, except that instead of uniform Univermags and Intourist hotels, you have cookie-cutter Target-anchored malls with green pyramid roofs and Comfort Inn chain hotels.
So you get to San Diego, and you find that nothing has changed, nothing awaits you. Then you drift away from the nucleus - La Jolla or Mission Bay, the coastal jewels - knocked out like a proton zapped by an isotope, just a few miles away from the nucleus, into San Diego's dry, shrub-and-rock-lined suburbs like Carlsbad or Escondido or Santee, where you can settle in for a long, long time. And get angry. And eventually...snap.
Of course, it isn't just losers who snap. Not by a long stretch.
Take, oh, for example, my home town suburb, the suburb where I went to high school, Saratoga. But rather than tell you about it, I'll just quote the whole Associated Press article right here:
Saratoga High student Saturday, January 31, 2004 SARATOGA, Calif. (AP) --
A student linked to a cheating scandal at Saratoga High School is believed to have plotted to blow up the school as an act of revenge, officials said.
Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies arrested the 16-year-old on Jan. 16 for allegedly stealing bomb-making materials from a chemistry lab, according to court documents. He was apprehended at gunpoint during a break-in at the school's science building.
Authorities also found explosive materials in the bedroom of the student, who reportedly told them he was planning to do "bad things" to the school.
On Jan. 22, the school obtained a restraining order against the student, forbidding him from being within 300 yards of the school's campus on Herriman Avenue.
The unidentified boy, who has been released to his parents, was one of eight students suspended in a cheating scandal in which a teacher's computer password was used to gain access to classroom tests and answer sheets, the San Jose Mercury News reported.