Friday, August 1, 2014

I live in hell... No Seriously.

I don't normally talk about me on here, but I felt that perhaps I would look at how where you are impacts who you are. I live just 20 minutes outside of what a Rolling Stone article referred to as "The Arm-pit of Ohio". That's right Rolling Stone called compared us to an Arm-pit, but it doesn't end there, I actually catch a lot of references to Youngstown in popular media, and none of them are flattering.

Here is a video of Drew Carey mentioning Youngstown:

Paulie of the Sopranos was imprisoned in Youngstown during the first episode of the fourth season, at the end of Goodfellas he is witness protection in Youngstown, and most recently the Netflix original Hemlock Grove mentioned Youngstown in the first episode of their second season by a female character stating she was "followed in to a bathroom". Do we just get a bad rap? No, not really, there are parts of Youngstown that aren't nearly as bad as people believe, but one trip to the East Side of Youngstown and you will understand where all of the negativity comes from. There are actually people who proudly wear shirts that proclaim that we were the "2 Time Defending Champs 2001-2002" for "Murder Capital of America"....awesome. But, I didn't grow up in Youngstown, I grew up in Warren, Ohio about 35-40 minutes North of Youngstown, which is famous for this...

YEAH!! Suck it! Yes that is correct, we have a two story, glass, McDonald's featuring a Baby Grand Piano in the middle, because you need to have class with your Big Mac. But, also Dave Grohl (yes of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stoneage fame) was also born in Warren, which they made a pretty big deal about, they gave him an alley, yes an alley, and they made a pair of 900 ILBS drum sticks to celebrate it. That in itself is pretty cool, that Dave Grohl was born in the same town as me, not the drum sticks or the giant McDonald's. Warren is not a magical place however in fact it's about as bad as Youngstown when it comes to crime and poverty.

But, growing up it was all normal, it's all I knew, and my parents managed to keep me safe from it. I lived on a street where I could run free and play without having to worry about bad things happening to me. But, we moved around a lot, eventually we moved to a town just outside of Youngstown called Boardman. Boardman was weird for me, people seemed to be a bit better off, there was a shopping district (it's one of the biggest in the area, next to Niles which is 15 minutes from warren), the kids in school seemed to have shit figured out, and the girls looked better. I was actually starting to come into my own in Boardman, I had friends, felt a sense of normality, was becoming popular with the ladies, and I was starting to feel some sense of belonging. But, an unfortunate family problem caused us to pack up and move away from Ohio.

We ended up in Tampa, Fl and if Boardman was weird to me, Tampa was a foreign fucking country. I wasn't exactly living in the lap of luxury, we lived in a double-wide, our yard was sand with weeds jutting out of it haphazardly, and the AC worked when it felt like it. But, after some time I really felt at home, had an amazing group of friends, had amazing success with the ladies, and there was actually a cultural scene. Tampa helped define me, it made me want to do something with my life, I felt creative and alive, and I was loving every minute of it. Eventually the family member we moved down for went back home to Ohio and we stayed, due to my Dad still living in Ohio I was shipped off there every summer. I recall one summer vividly because it was my first real taste of life in Warren was really like. It started with some family members getting me drunk, going to the ghetto of Warren, trying to get me to lose my virginity to some random teenage girl whom was plied with Alcohol and Pot, and when she went off to buy more Pot, she was beaten, robbed, and raped. I became immediately scared to be in Warren, I was 14-15 and there was chaos all around me. I was embarrassed to come from such a horrible place, and to know that my own family had taken on it's mentality. I was always relieved to go back to Florida.

Eventually the company my mother worked for moved down to Ft. Lauderdale, Fl which prompted us to move away from my new home for yet another. I was pretty miserable at first, I was flipped off by a kid at the laundry mat, flipped off by a random woman whom was just sitting on her porch, and I was regularly ostracized at school, and I eventually quit. I felt alone and out of place, eventually a former school mate invited me to a local show, from there my life got a lot better. I threw myself headlong into the local music scene, got in tight with some local bands, ended up in some pretty horrible relationships, and eventually found myself moving back to Warren. We moved as an entire family, my fiancee at the time, my mom, and my brother. I have to admit moving back was depressing, realizing that everything I enjoyed in Florida was magically missing from this black hole was even more depressing, my impending marriage even more depressing.

If I wanted to see a show I had to drive to either Cleveland (which is just as depressing as Warren) or Pittsburgh (my home away from home), if I wanted to experience better chain resturants I was stuck with what they had in Niles or I had to drive to Cleveland or Akron. I lost my taste for most things, the people closest to me were getting way into drugs, and I ended up stuck in a series of soul crushing jobs that paid far less than what I was worth or doing. The light at the end of the tunnel for me was my Son, when he was born the jobs became a little less soul crushing, and I didn't care as much that I was isolated from everything and everyone (due to my incredibly restrictive marriage). I was once again offered a way out of Ohio, my wife's sister asked us to move to Massachusetts, they pulled out the big guns, better quality of life, better wages, and they were connected. So, we packed up, and moved our lives out east.

It didn't take long for me to realize I didn't belong in MA, everyone seemed to have their head up their ass, and my wife seemed to be going in the same direction. After an Industrial Music Festival in Connecticut my wife asked for a Divorce. I moved out, met someone else, lived in the Spanish Ghetto, and could barely support myself. My relationship was emotionally abusive, I was broke, and I hated everything about MA. One of my only friends offered me a place to stay after I broke up with the girl I was with and was facing eviction. So, I moved myself to Rhode Island, but, even with 2 room mates, whom constantly had tons of friends over. I found myself withdrawn, and I was driving an hour to work and an hour back and I couldn't face another day of uncertainty, so I packed it up and moved back to my mom's house in Youngstown.

Ever since I have found myself in a constant cycle of mundane, soul crushing, barely breaking even life. I have a great girlfriend, and a wonderful little girl whom I love with all my heart. But, this place just sucks the joy out of life, it makes it impossible to get ahead. I have gone from job to job, made minimal friends, and never made enough to support myself on my own. This place is devoid of anything cultured, bands don't come here, events don't happen here, business come in and go just as quick. The president mentioned our city as a model for expansion, that's a fucking joke. This is the arm-pit of Ohio, people are struggling, our wages are underwhelming.

When I started going to school for Software Development (no, I didn't finish, no, it wasn't my fault, long story short don't go to ITT Tech), my teacher's stressed that once we got our degree to get out of Ohio. Not just out of Ohio, go hundreds of miles away, go to California, or Arizona, or Texas, or the East Coast. Why? Because staying here you will never, never, get paid what you could with that particular expertise. That is the general sentiment, if you want a good job, with a decent wage you have to leave to do it. Become an over-the-road trucker, find a job near Pittsburgh, or just move. I have worked at an industrial foundry for almost 3 years now, I spend my nights (because I work from 10PM-6AM) slaving over what is called an Electric Arc Furnace or EAF. It uses electricity to turn scrap metal into molten liquid, my furnaces hold a little over 7,000 LBS of liquid metal, that is heated to temperatures of up to 3,050 degrees. When you look at pictures most of these furnaces have covers on them, they are loaded with robots and conveyor belts, while the operator safely monitors it from a booth. I literally place everything in my furnace by hand, if it's way too heavy I have an overhead crane, I monitor it by looking down into it, there is no cover, there are no robots, if there is water in a piece of scrap metal it can explode... all over me and anyone within the vicinity.

For doing this incredibly dangerous job I make $13.60 an hour, when I got my first job in MA i made $11.50 to start and after a month I was up to $12.30. Do the math, I have been at my job for longer than the other, it is 100% more dangerous and I make a whole $1.30 an hour more. Actually earlier this year, my glove caught on fire, which caught 4 layers of clothing on my left arm on fire. This caused severe 2nd degree burns to the side of my left hand and my left fore-arm. It put me out of work for a month. I had to drive to Akron to their burn center, and I had to go through the ever painful process of worker's compensation. Through this and the agonizing pain I was in the only things that saved me was the love from my family, my girlfriend literally nursing my wounds, and video games. I know I probably won't ever become famous for writing about video games, I'm not good enough to go on the pro circuit, and I am too far away to enjoy any of the events that happen in the industry. But, this takes me away from the horrible conditions of life in this crappy place.

I believe that where you live greatly affects whom you will become. People have the tendency to take forgranted the options they have, or the opportunities all around them. When they do big game release parties they are far far from here, when a developer opens a new studio they aren't around here, when tournaments happen they a miles from here. Building connections here are useless, and most of the jobs you can find around here will lead you to nowhere but a nice house in a shitty town. Be thankful for what you have, unless you live a place similar to mine and then you have my sympathy, but, if you do live in a place where there are things happening and people are making good money, and living pseudo-happy lives, take advantage. Don't squander your possibilities, because as the bumper stickers I see everywhere state, I am "Stuck in Ohio".