So, twice since my last post, I have been hideously bamboozled. Read on, my dearie-os, as I recount these tales of woe.
Firstly, I followed an ad from Craigslist to jam with a band that seemed to want to take me on as a fiddler. I was super excited after our first get-together, and resolved to practice hard to get gig-ready. At my first official practice with the band, we arranged an old sea chantey I enjoy called Cape Cod Girls, and it sounded smashing. And though my solos were a bit on the slow and sloppy side, everyone seemed to like me and enjoyed the sound. I began to dig in, practicing the repertoire, and look up opportunities for gigs, including the folk fest I’ve loved since I was knee high. I fantasized to no end about what it would be like touring with the band, playing alongside them, getting paid for having some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Then I got the email from the guitarist and manager saying that I had been unceremoniously voted out of the band. So, one fantasy shattered, but otherwise, I’m coping well, right? Oh, just you wait my friends, just you wait.
So, I go back onto Craigslist, and I’m looking for a new place to sleep. I read this entry describing what amounts to a pastoral wonderland – an old farmhouse on three acres of land in North Amherst, complete with chickens, wild grapes, music festivals in the summer, and a passive-solar art space in the works, and all for an unbeatably low monthly rent. Sounds like a little slice of hippie heaven, doesn’t it?
Well, first off, it wasn’t even in North Amherst, it was in Sunderland, which may not mean much, but for me, it meant that I had gotten myself on the wrong bus, but at least I was able to get the right bus from where the wrong bus dropped me. Then, it was a relatively simple matter of getting the driver to make a special stop so that I didn’t have to walk an extra quarter mile to the side-street, but she was a sweetheart, and did this happily. I disembarked and mounted the steep, rocky road, little more than a dirt track, with farmland on one side and forest on the other. Now, I love the countryside. This road reminded me of one of my favorite places back in Vermont, the mountain home of Kristina Stykos, which doubles as her workplace, Pepperbox Studio. But when I reached a certain part of the trail, the farmland dropped away into the vast bowl of a quarry, with machines working in the bottom that looked like Matchbox cars from my vantage point. The quarry looked like it dealt in sand or fill of some kind – nothing as interesting as shale or granite, and it reminded me of the old song – a song that I had last heard during band practice -
” Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County / Down by the Green River where Paradise lay / Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking / Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”
It was possibly the ugliest thing that I have ever seen. The lifeless sand stared up at me, gripping me like a gristly wound. On the other side of the puddle-spangled roadway, the forest fell away to reveal a sparse plain almost devoid of life, with piles of brush and topsoil heaped up haphazardly all around it. I wondered deep down whether I could really stomach coming home from work to a sight like that.
I continued on to the house itself, a rambling old farmhouse with a truly astonishing amount of rubbish in piles and patches festooning the immediate area. I mounted the rotting stairs to the porch, and my tour guide showed me a small, dim common area, a generous kitchen, and the several tiny rooms that were up for rent. The whole place felt as if it were being held together by duct tape, bubble gum and spittle, and though I’ve been in many similarly cluttered and cramped punk and hippie dwellings, none of them gave off the feeling of despair that this one did, nor had the prospect of living in those more homely surroundings made me feel so singularly uneasy. The house was too eerily quiet, like something out of a Lovecraft novel. There was no community there, and of the two young men I talked to there, one mentioned an ad that painted a similarly rosy picture of life in that house, but I found it hard to see what the ad writer did. I was happy to leave, but furious with myself for being so crushed to see that the place had been so brazenly whitewashed by the Craigslist ad, and for being so quick to get my hopes up.
It is difficult to cope with the feelings of shameful failure that these experiences inspire. . It all makes me wonder, does anybody – besides magicians and their ilk- ever really trick us or do we only trick ourselves and then blame others for our own gullibility?