Your Real Life in Fiction: Hometown & Family

(on “So Boring I Need Drugs,” a story from Mike Bahl’s Scenic Utah)

“Talk a little bit about how your own high school experience may have informed this piece.”

Like anyone else, I hated growing up. It doesn’t really matter if you grow up in a small town or a city, it’s pretty much the worst while you’re in the thick of it. As I look back, I realize I didn’t have it so bad. Somehow the Dodgeville area is a bit of a hippie mecca for Wisconsin. I don’t know why exactly. I’m going to blame Frank Lloyd Wright.

Yeah, I had hard-headed traditionalist teachers, but I also had people who were half a step away from going to live on the streets of San Francisco purely for the adventure of it.

There are farms and bars and abject poverty and weather-ruined buildings (see a WC Tank film for all of this), but there is also great wealth and yoga and farmer’s markets and wind farms. I don’t know. The whole area is weird. But so is everywhere.

If I had grown up in an actual city, I would be fucking dead by now. But it was hard enough to find weed in Dodgeville, let alone meth or coke or heroin. I have no doubt that if I’d grown up with easier access to any of these, I wouldn’t have made it past “growing up.”

I have plans to better express my feelings about the whole area later.

“Is the annoying brother based on a real sibling?”

My brother was no more annoying than anyone’s brother. Here’s something strange: we almost never talk to each other. I don’t know if I’ve ever called him. Maybe a couple of texts or e-mails. I haven’t lived near him for almost ten years at this point. I completely abandoned him when I moved away and I think this really hurt him and made his life harder than it should have been. I went to Wisconsin a couple of months ago and it was like I’d never gone. I always say that he and I are basically the same person and people think I’m joking, but it’s true. We think almost exactly alike. His coworkers, upon hearing that I was coming to visit, said, “Cool, are you guys close?” His response: “Yes. No. Yes. It’s weird. We don’t talk or anything, but yes, absolutely.” We talked about family stuff while I was there and completely agree about things that people in my life think are outlandish. I know that is vague, but I probably shouldn’t rat him out right here. That seems shitty.

I’m rarely happy where I am and when I daydream about moving back to Wisconsin, living with my brother is somewhere near the beginning of that daydream.

“Do you think kids do drugs because they’re bored in general? These kids?”

I did drugs because I was fucking empty inside. But some kids do them because they’re bored. It seems silly, but it’s probably the healthiest reason to do drugs. Boredom passes; vacancy doesn’t. You can kill time. I tried to kill myself (this isn’t strictly true, but close enough to the truth and too good of a soundbite to not include).

To refresh yourself on this series on craft tied to the book Scenic Utah, start here.


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