Friday, January 05, 2007

On Pennsylvania

Whenever I return to the Coal Region I am struck by the fact that is seems more and more threadbare. I am also struck by the resiliance of the people here who whether knowingly or not somewhow manage in the context of Schuylkill County. I have missed the mountains and the fog. The trees here are unique in their spacing and growth and I enjoy being able to walk through forests (as opposed to the pine jungles of Minnesotta). There is a gap on interstate 81 headed north out of Harrisburg that I have designated as the beginning of home next to the village of Ravine. Between that gap and Hazleton 40 miles on 81 to the north I spent my childhood and my connection to these mountains is very real but strained.

The people here are hard. Kind , loving, loyal, but hard as the stone that their forefather's cut through for a living. It is not an easy place to be a gay boy if there is an easy place for that. People here talk a lot about many things. You can't get a sub ( a hoagie in local parlance ) without having an argument about politics of some sort. It is a welcome change from the quiet Germans of Saint Cloud. The faith of the Coal Region is a very very pragmatic thing and by in large it is a sort of hammer. You use tools for a job religion is a tool that let the people handle a dangerous profession for the better part of 150 years and the economic despair since. That being said no one takes a hammer too seriously.

The issues of the people of the Coal Region with gay men is not religous it has to do with a sense of deep suspicion towards anything new. New= Dangerous New=Weak because the old has survived maybe not prospered but survived and anything that challenges survival is dangerous. My grandparents didn't "know" any gay men, ergo they are new. It takes a while for people here to come to grips with change of any type. In a place where the blue collar working man is the pillar of the community and even the wealthy are despairaged in comparison any sign of percieved weakness is assaulted and gay men are percieved to be weak. Of course the gay men who make it out of here are anything but weak.