Sunday, September 23, 2012

Full Circle

Two or Three weeks ago, I went back in time to the Town where I was born and raised, lived until the age of 18.  I left and have never returned.  And I haven't spent much time thinking about it since then.  But an article in Orion Magazine, Jan. Feb. 2011, "Colonization of Kern County" by Jeremy Miller brought me "home" again with an abrupt yank.  I grew up in the desert oil fields of Taft, California, and my father was an engineer working in the industry.  Miller's article details the vast destruction the oil industry has wrought in the area.

Steam extraction of heavy crude oil

As a child, I lived in a lovely, old house with a wrap-around screened porch and an oasis-like garden.  I roamed roads of our oil-lease home on my bicycle, built forts with tumble weeds, played on the hillside "cliff," balanced on pipes across ditches, went rabbit hunting with my dad.  It was a good place to be a kid.    

The post WWII oil boom peaked in 1985, and the once prosperous oil town of Taft has shrunk to half it's former size.  The air smells of hydrogen sulfide.  All the houses where families once lived on the oil leases have been torn down, obliterated.  They have been replaced by a dirt-bike raceway with a gated entrance where we once came over and down the hill onto the lease with a view of the office where my dad worked, the shops, neighbors and our home.  The high-wage oil industry engineering and management jobs have been outsourced to San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Honolulu Oil Lease, office, shops, neighbors & playmates
Revisiting my hometown was surreal.  In the last few years, I've begun to experience episodes of anxiety, usually brief and most often associated with several days of headaches without much respite.  Then the anxiety began to surface when I was in situations that challenged my supersensitive nervous system.  This return to my old home "place" brought forth wave upon wave of anxiety.  I don't really know why:  whether it was the haunting, dusty, depletion of the town, the environmental destruction in the area, some association with the time and my family, house and neighborhood (or "lease"), the complete eradication of home and 'hood' or some combination of all three.

Anxious me
We didn't hang around for long, just one night.  That was enough.  The next morning we packed up and headed back to the coast, the ocean, the beach where I always find respite and ease.

Lovely beach and ocean, Morro Bay

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