The occupancy rates at hotels in the Pacific Northwest last night were almost shockingly high. The Crossland property in Springfield walked me on a reservation the company had allowed me to make an hour or two earlier on Hotels.com, and the handful of other hotels with any vacancies at all had rates starting at $80 or more pre-tax. Every lodging market I checked going north from Eureka, Ashland, and Klamath Falls to Seattle was similarly swamped, with a number of the coast towns showing absolutely no vacancies anywhere within thirty or fifty miles.
What disturbs me more than the hotels being booked solid is 100% occupancy at shitty, overpriced campgrounds like KOA. Campgrounds are an important reserve of shelter of last resort for many homeless, and the bar rates that many of them charge even on slow nights are obscene. As appallingly poor and overpriced as these facilities are, though, they’re far better than nothing.
I do not, then, admire the permanently housed middle class for engaging in recreational travel that crowds and prices me out of some of the few properties that make it financially and logistically viable for me to hold down farm jobs. I don’t give a shit that the owners of these properties are trying to cater to the housed middle class rather than the homeless or the precariously housed or what their target customer base thinks it’s teaching its children by having them sleep in tents at what amount to third-rate army bases. What reliably happens is that the brats whine, twerp our, and learn nothing that they couldn’t learn away from my reserve shelter supply. It is not the last of the fucking Mohicans if it’s a quarter mile off Highway 34 and five miles from one of Oregon’s bitchinest Arcos. Since we’re vaguely on the subject, neither is the BSA. By contrast, the homeless include some of the most skilled and resourceful campers in the West, and the prominent, infamous few who are actually too dangerous or disruptive to function appropriately in a general-population campground can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. We aren’t all weird enough for the Boy Scouts.
These let’s teach the brats about hardy outdoorsmanship blowhards and cryptowealthy dandies driving custom buses worth dozens of acres of greater Terre Haute corn are some of the worst poverty tourists you’ll ever have the misfortune to encounter. Hipsters are too crudely condescending and smug to be taken at face value, and the Kerobokan Prison selfie crowd is Australian, so there’s no need to ask whether they’re insane. The Kamping Krowd, on the other hand, seems to actually treasure itself as the national reservoir of middle-class family values for fucking around at tent sites that I could kind of use as my only patch of real estate at the moment or complaining about how expensive it is to drive Nickeback’s tour bus to Florida every few months because the liberal elites don’t care about the price of gas.
Why did I ever take these wankers seriously as a legitimate cultural and political faction? I dunno, probably because I can be a massive chode sometimes. I guess I was also taught to take them seriously back when I didn’t know any better. As long as I’m sleeping in my car for any purpose other than being awake in time to hike at sunrise or catch Scott Simon and #SPORTS, though, they won’t be checking my privilege again. For fuck’s sake, I drive a beat-up old Civic.
The other disturbing thing about this extremely tight lodging and camping market–which, remember, covered tens of thousands of square miles with a population of something like ten million last night–is that it appears to be a ramification of our much-lauded post-recession (sic) recovery (sic again). To translate, the dwindling bougie minority got into savings or credit again at a time when someone on the television had gotten everyone (yet again, sic) psyched up with the good animal spirits. In case you were wondering, no, a quarter or a third or whatever of the public somehow being able to sort of afford this shit is not the entire economy. That’s privilege in a society where a great many of us continue to lack what it takes to be middle-class. If you, like me, don’t want motels and campgrounds to be the shelter of last resort for so many Americans, there are a couple of simple tricks you can ask your elected officials to do: specifically, aggressively scale up high-quality public housing and dispossess every slumlord who won’t treat the tenant pool with dignity and conscientiousness. I should clarify: these fixes are technically simple. Politically? You probably don’t want to gaze into that abyss, because it’ll stare back longtime.
Just as the consumer confidence of affluent tourists isn’t the entire economy, tourism is not a real basis for an economy. What will we do next? Will everyone take in his neighbor’s laundry and call that an economy? There used to be an ethic that the respectable way to make a living was to produce something of tangible value and importance to society and that it was suspect to support oneself by talking a good story. As much as I don’t want to be a boorish Philistine know-nothing, I have to say that there was some real wisdom to this worldview. It kept a whole lot of people more or less honest. Given that I’ve been picking fruit for a living (all right, a very meager, unstable, partial living) and keep publishing all this stuff for free, I don’t think I can very well be written off as a sheltered dipshit who foolishly venerates the noble savage for having such pristine folkways, although unfortunately there’s a great deal of commentary floating around about the working class that is exactly that.
What can be said for mill or fishing towns, then, is that they have a tangible connection to the tangible production that we all need for food and shelter. The problem that keeps arising in these towns, of course, notoriously throughout the American West and also on the Maine Coast, is that they harvest their natural resource base to the verge of collapse without developing a remotely viable backup plan to support or relocate their residents. Then naifs show up from the big cities with half-cocked tourism plans and overly pure attitudes towards conservation that rub the locals the wrong way. Locals start wondering, seriously, are we being told that our economy now has to be sucking up to rich tourists from San Francisco who drive up here to stare at the ocean? It takes powerful tone-deafness not to understand how this can feel humiliating for people who pride themselves on doing honorable, productive work among people who treat them as equals. The conservationists rarely have the sensitivity to recognize that the disruption to these towns and their residents may be pretty severe and that their state and country have a duty to do what they can to soften the blow, but that the unfortunate truth is that the 90% of the old-growth forest is gone and the salmon runs are being fished to extinction. Instead they have to preen about the intrinsic superior virtue of catering to tourists as a rural folkway. They can’t help themselves.
One of the results is the surreal spectacle of liberals with soi-disant leftist sympathies preaching a shifty version of trickle-down economics to the proliferating ranks of the rural poor. Like, we’ll build all these swanky hotels, and a bunch of you will get jobs at the front desk, and, uh, uh, yeah, these jobs are probably gonna pay minimum wage, but you should have stayed in school like we told you instead of assuming there’d always be work at the cannery. If Donald Trump has an absolutely nonsensical and substanceless plan to bring back the cannery jobs by fiat, he’ll win quite a bit of support in these towns for no other reason than his operating from the premise that cannery work is honorable and should exist.
Knowledge-economy liberals simply do not get this. Trump may be a fucking idiot about everything having to do with fish, but he doesn’t treat those who do work with fish as idiots and losers for not staying in school in the hope of becoming a night manager at the Hampton Inn or something else that may not have any vacancies for the next decade because the local economy has been trashed. There are very few industries to which this gloss cannot be applied. What the hell do the mandarins actually expect everyone to do for a living? Scam his neighbors? Steal from them? Work in some humiliating cold-call boiler room for ten dollars an hour because the mill is hardly paying any better ever since management ran the union out of town thirty years ago?
Food doesn’t just magically show up at Safeway. I reach into a blueberry bush six or seven hours a day and bodily pick it. There are probably policymakers who would believe me if I told them that a blueberry bush was a tea plant or that a hazelnut tree was loaded with coffee beans. If I pointed to Dorris Ranch and mentioned that there’s probably some serious Grade A cherry up in that motherfucker, they’d assume that it was actually a cherry grove, not a coffee plantation. Hell, I could probably convince these fools that hazelnut-flavored coffee is made by roasting hazelnuts at 350 F for ten hours or some shit.
What we have here, basically, is people who are smug about being affluently alienated from the means of production dissing the poors who want to keep growing their crops, catching and processing their fish, and cutting their lumber for being unwillingly and miserably alienated from the means of production. What we have is the former spending the last twenty or thirty years telling the latter that it is the rightful order of the universe for these jobs to offshored to Bangladesh so that landless peasants can die by the thousand head in factory collapses. Meanwhile, we’ll reinvigorate our own economy with a bunch of FIRE sector scams while Manuel Ramos puts on nitrile gloves and murders the homeless. We’ll sell each other homes (sic) in an endlessly appreciating housing market. We’ll dump transient occupancy taxes into a slush fund to pay freelancers to write fourth-rate tourist brochures about cool things to do in Brookings-Harbor while three hundred people continue to go cold homeless in Crescent City. Building more public housing would be socialism, you see. No, Pelican Bay isn’t big government. Where ever did you get an idea like that?
We can’t directly hire Americans, either in the public sector or the private, to directly fill economic needs for housing or food or clothing or transportation or whatever. We have to process everything through some trickle-down scam so that the credentialed can collect their rent. We need to keep the jobs that Americans won’t do available for the undocumented illegal wetbacks, after all. They’re deserving. We are not. They have the work ethic and the hunger. We don’t. In Rio de Janeiro, we can’t build proper public housing to offer the poor a direct way out of the favelas. Instead, we must demolish the favelas and put 60,000 of the already destitute out on the streets. If the poor riot in Brazil, it will be because they have exhausted all other avenues of redress.
Maybe we can start requiring farm and restaurant managers to demonstrate full bilingual proficiency in Portuguese and English to accommodate Brazil’s wretched refuse in addition to Central America’s. Doing something to breed and cultivate less wretched refuse in the first place would be problematic. It would make gardeners more expensive.
Actually, Zika may already be doing this. Smear me for publishing rude ethnic slurs if you wish; I’m still not the one who regards Latin Americans as being incarnate for the purpose of breeding our next generation of scab labor like human livestock while self-indulgently professing to admire Mexico’s diverse culture and obsequiously asking the meek darkies whether they’d prefer to be referred to as Latinos or Hispanics. Kirk Siegler I ain’t; NPR bitch this is not.
Do I have a problem with people who call me whitey to my face? Yes, but only if they look like they’re about to stomp me into the pavement. You may have cause to shit, white boy me, too, but by God, do take a look at some of my coracialists, and see if they aren’t ruining entire regional economies for low rider friends of all colors. That’s the main reason why Americans are telling pollsters that they’d gladly sacrifice a thousand foreign jobs for one American job. We’re getting panda-beared by high crackers and the brown workers that they use to keep the company in the black. Cut the jibba-jabba; we need work. It’s easier to play the beautiful soul from a position of affluence and security.
God can this stuff be depressing. I’ll be glad to get back to the Mid-Willamette Valley’s vibrant diversity of white people tomorrow morning and pick some more fruit. Someone has to feed the flimflammers, and as long as I’m feeding them, they aren’t actively bothering me.