Preface and Acknowledgments
This idea for this book grewout of a placewhere nothing much happened
and no one really gave a damn. The people there were mostly white, and
mostly poor. There wasn’t much of a middle class, except for a few well-
educated folk trying hard not to be snotty so their kids wouldn’t get beat
up at school. There wasn’t a real upper crust either—the only rich people
were summer folk at the lake and theweekend skiers up from their urban
and suburban homes.
It could have been in New Hampshire, or West Virginia, or California,
or one of thousands of places across America. A place full of weeds and
broken glass, worn-out buildings and faded paint. Here the crumbling
walls of an old mill, there the iron tracks of the old railroad, everywhere
piles of busted tires laying toppled in stagnant heaps. Broken-down steel
machines, rusted in place, are harsh reminders of jobs that came and
went. In pickup trucks and trailer parks, am stations play songs of failure
and loss, the twang of bad endings and hard regrets cutting into the air
like spikes of old barbed wire.
In church on Sundays and Wednesday nights, preachers preach ser-
mons on hard work, coping with sin, and coming to Christ. Tuesday is
league night at the bowling alley: big men, their bellies gone flabby with
beer, roll balls at the pins, while their girlfriends and wives smoke men-
thol cigarettes and drink gin and tonics in the lounge. Thursday is ladies’
night and the women bowl for free. Friday and Saturday nights the kids
pack into muscle cars and pickups and cruise the town, looking for some-
thing—anything—to do. Party at the gravel pit: drink cheap beer around
an oily fire, smoke some sticky ditch weed, get hammered, and drive
home. I grew up in this kind of place. Fora time, my father was the minis-
ter of a small local church where members lived in trailers and, in winter,
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