Walter Mencken 2:02 p.m., June 25
- Community Blog
The Drawer Below
"You don't like the desert but you live in El Cajon?" a friend asked. And he's right. It is stinkin' hot out here. According to Google's translation service, El Cajon means "the drawer below". Mental images begin brewing when I roll that around in my cheek. The drawer below. It's appropriate in my case, maybe much more than others. I'm thinking of the very bottom drawer on my own dresser. Its the place where I keep clothes I seldom wear, like that blue-and-white striped sweater I love but haven't worn since my last driver's license photo. And that Star Wars figure that I am just sure will be worth thousands some day. Oh, and there is those six socks that have no better half. And the train ticket from when I went to visit my sister. Cheap cologne, some broken headphones, a few batteries, 3 loose pennies, a peppermint candy, workout shorts, and a shirt that says "Joey's House of Crabs", an unfortunate gift that fortunately never fit me. Yes, the drawer below. This town fits that description. Its full of people who don't belong anywhere else. They are too rich to live in Lakeside, and too poor to live in La Jolla. I fit here, and I don't. I fit because I am a middle-class, working slob from another city of similar size and demographics but in another state. These my peeps, as they say. And yet, I don't fit because there is an overwhelming sense of not belonging here. I sense it sometimes when I see the looks on people's faces here, and hear their sad expressions of meaningless lives. I sense that they also feel as if this is merely a stopping place on their journey. Like my hometown, it is a vortex. A vortex full of old ideas, old thinking, stifled growth. The largest building here is the courthouse, where people flock from miles around to sue, get sued, marry, divorce, claim innocence and accept judgments. The tan courthouse stands as a shrine in this metropolis, an idol to the gods of commerce, order, and modern living. Its a feeling that haunts the inhabitants, reminds them of their vulnerability and weakness. It permeates and seeps through the souls of people, coming out of the tailpipes of their Harley Davidsons, sifting down the cement chutes of road crews, staining the burger wraps of their lives, getting lost in the thick of their beards, blending in with their tattoos, and the relentless buzz of 50 cell phone conversations blending and weaving into a sound that mimics the Cesnas above. And yet, when the night falls, and the neon arrives, there is a quietness that only humanity can emit. The quietness that silently whispers "We are all the same."