Monday, January 02, 2006

Leathery, emaciated fish heads...

In the little armpit of a trailerpark ghost town in Arizona where my grandmother lived, one guy proudly festooned the telephone pole in front of his trailer with the spoils of fishing in the nearby Colorado river. I remember the first time I drove up that dirt road to be greeted by the grinning, gaping maws of long-dead catfish. You don't get a sense of it from the photograph, but these fish were huge with heads bigger than yours. This is sort of a realist counterpoint to the orangutan scarecrows in Planet of the Apes (the real one, not the Tim Burton revision). Beware, all fish who enter here! You're dead meat.

Near my Gram's trailer was a large corrugated metal building. There was a giant rooster on the arch above the trailer entryway, and after about 4 years of going out to visit her there, I finally learned that big shed was actually a cockfighting arena, and was only put out of business in the past year or so. Apparently it was the largest cockfighting venue in North America. People my age who should have been in their prime instead ambled aimlessly about, cigarettes spittle-dried to their bottom lips and dangling (not having enough teeth to manage a proper hold), looking as sere and emaciated as the fish heads. Meanwhile, their dirty, snotty, unattended children played mean games in the road. The only time these people seemed to move with purpose was the scramble to the post office to pick up the guv'ment check and the mad dash to the crack/meth/you-name-it dealer's trailer.

Um, I take that back: The fish heads weren't a warning for fish--they were there as a harbinger of directionless social malaise.

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