As I write these words I am deep in an unknown, alien territory. Everything around me is old, dead, looming or crumbling. Ghosts of the past and half-way forgotten factories stretch out in all directions. Dirt and trash fill the streets as black snow piles up in mini-mart parking lots. The air is cold, but not bracing. Even nature seems to have given up its efforts.
“How many fatalities on this road usually?” The driver seems puzzled I would ask such a question. The woman beside me smiles.
“Uh…not that many.”
“No. There’s so much traffic you can’t really build up the speed for that.”
I think back to the night I loaded up on vodka and hit I-95 at one-hundred and ten miles per hour, daring the world to kill me as I pushed a 1990’s Camry to its limits. Some part of my engine exploded, leaking oil all over the road and bringing me to a halt. I was stuck eighty miles from home for a day and a half.
This is not Florida.
We eat at an Italian restaurant run by a family that lives in it. They do not accept the magic fun money the college has given to its students.
“Come by tomorrow,” he tells Marten. “Is that okay?”
“Sure. Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah, yeah. I trust you man. I trust you.”
For someone hailing from a land more familiar with lynchings this is all unreal. I have never been to college. I have never been around so many books, so many young people, or so far from the sound of gunshots. These people do not pray for the deaths of their enemies, nor earnestly hope those that piss them off die in ditches.
On the way out of Florida a friend and I were talking about people we knew who’d been jumped in the woods. Why we carried guns. The moments where there was a distinct possibility we would be snuffed out like candle flames and nobody would find our bodies.
Here that world seems practically unknown.
Perhaps it is the area I’m in, the people I’ve met. Maybe none of this is normal. I watched a group of Anarchists make a shiv to break into a car when someone locked their keys inside. They then changed the motherfucker’s tire for him just because.
Nobody lives alone here and nobody owns what they call home. They tunnel into ancient houses old as the country itself, massive structures built by hands long dead and whom they’ll never know. Four, six, even nine people sharing houses, food, clothing, rides.
“This is so weird.” I’m staring out a window, hung over and near death.
“Yeah.” A man I’ll call T. taps the glass. “See that abandoned building there? I have no idea what it is. The wall completely surrounds it. There’s no entrance or exit, everything is blocked off.”
It certainly sounds like The Future.
Connecticut by all measures is a shadow of whatever it once had. You can actually see where the towns gave up as they headed towards the mountains. The landscape is no different from any other part of New England, the history not that interesting. It is a place almost without identity. Colleges and insurance companies hold most of the dignity while a general sense of “getting along” seems to be the prime ambition.
The United States will probably all look like this, though with much worse architecture. Beautiful ruins here will be burned out strip malls everywhere else, half empty super-markets home to heroin addicts and the pit bulls they care for. Less urban areas will become sprawling wastelands, wild patches of absolutely nothing but the occasional Walmart. Gangs will rule entire towns and the fires they set in dumpsters will keep them warm.
The decay is comforting in a way. Nobody believes anything will be built like the leviathans of brick and wood, the steeples and three-story towers now home to colonies of graphic artists. The past is never coming back. There is nothing to “make great again.” Connecticut has had its time and place in the sun, the long shadow of winter being all that remains.
But it is in these shadows that something peculiar is happening. Something is rising from the ruins.
My initial talk did not go over well. Asking young and impressionable college students if they were ready to “have their fingers cut off” or be sentenced to 41 years of solitary confinement for organizing was perhaps a bit…dark. I delight in the macabre, the horrifying. In a clean, safe room perhaps I was incoherent. Some people did get it, almost all of them working class. They knew the horror I raged against.
What’s better is they were actually doing something about it.
I am sworn to secrecy so I must speak generally of course. What I can say is real, dirty work is happening in the shadows of Connecticut; it is perhaps one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. They are building networks out there with very real security structures and intelligence services. They have militant action and free therapy for those negatively affected. A simple word about “opsec” was enough to make strangers nod understandingly and give conversations a wide berth. I was investigated before I ever met them. What I have seen here will change my life forever.
And these people care. They are not “party members” or ideological tools for some greater good. They actually love one another. They are people first and foremost, with names like “Grease Trap” and “Smokestack.” Anarchism wasn’t something they tore out of a book, it was a visceral byproduct of how they lived. Surrounded by these people, in these DIY spaces and crowded homes where ownership and law practically ceased to exist, I have never felt more safe in my entire life.
It is strange to be an alien here, a visitor from another planet. Hope is not my way, nor peaceful co-existence. The height of my own ambition sometimes is to secure an outpost in the wilderness where I can successfully do what I wish and kill anything that vaguely lurches in my direction. These people could surely be no kin of mine.
Someone took a bus from New York just to hear me speak. Rhode Island showed up too. I have been hugged, quoted, even seen the very book I wrote in countless bedrooms. I have asked again and again “who am I to you?” How have I found myself here and in this company? Who were these beautiful souls I felt as if I’d known forever?
The unflinching friendship, the deep conversations, the very real sense that as the world slowly crumbled into madness and oblivion….that some people were going to be alright. That scattered about a dying planet humans were caring for one another and making sure Capital would not kill them.
Here, among the shadows, crumbling steeples, and shuttered houses, in the decay of the American empire, the final last gasps of a civilization long dead and finally rotting, new life is poking out.
Death and dismemberment will rip the United States into a thousand bleeding pieces. If this is what will rise in its place, if what I’ve seen in Connecticut even has the remotest possibility of spreading elsewhere…I look forward to each new horror with unfettered joy.