Author: Bailey Reutzel

Alabama

“Why’d you come here,” the bartender asks as she pours a bottle of Budweiser into a cold mug. She’s a middle-aged white woman with blonde, immobile waves and rhinestone crosses on the ass pockets of her jeans. The restaurant and bar (one of two in Camden, Alabama that isn’t a fast food chain) is filled with white people. The older ones throw the glances of regulars and a table of camouflage-wearing young adults sit behind me talking about their kills. “Well I write about economics and Wilcox County is the fifth poorest county in the country. I figured I could find something interesting here.” It’s not the kind of thing townspeople want to be known for, especially ones wearing rhinestones. The uncomfortable look she gives makes me regret saying it, although it starts up the conversation pretty fast. “Well we’re the most well-off poor county out there,” she says, pointing to the lack of homeless people on the streets and the huge southern-style houses I had already noticed driving in. “The people that work have to pay for the people that don’t,” she says. “That’s just life.” There’s a blasé tolerance in the answer that’s refreshing, as if she understands that in a country full of diverse people that all have different experiences. Sometimes shit happens. “There are those that work and those on welfare. And it’s all blacks,” she says....

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Florida

“Those things are dangerous.” I’m in Orlando, Florida, but there’s no smuggler or seedy nightclub in sight. No, the danger the man is talking about takes the form of a little band of rubber and plastic, imprinted with those iconic mouse ears. He says it to my brother, one father to another, as my niece pushes her pink Disney MagicBand up against the radio frequency reader at a kiosk, trying to transmit $30 from her dad’s bank account to the Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) in the process. I’m sure their accountants think this qualifies as “magical.” The MagicBand launched in the summer...

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Kansas

I’m more than halfway through a 14-hour drive, when the red and blue lights catch my attention. I merge into the left lane of Interstate 70 thinking a Kansas cop has pulled someone over, then notice a yellow sign lit up: “Drug and currency checkpoint ahead.” Oh shit. Then another one, “Dogs in use.” Seriously shit. I suck in air as my heart skips and starts beating faster. My subconscious makes me touch the breaks. I’m riding dirty, having just picked up two weed chocolates, three pre-rolled joints and a pain-relieving weed gummy, all medical grade. There’s an exit! But no one else is slowing down. No one is pulling off. Surely I’m not the only one driving out of Colorado with marijuana? Maybe I should just toss the bag out the window. I call up a friend in Missouri and he starts investigating. “Don’t pull off. It’s a ruse,” he says. “Which actually the courts recently ruled was not a good enough cause to pull someone over if they exited the highway.” Why are the roads such a scary place for road trippers now? The days of Thompson and Kerouac aren’t the only things in the rear view. When did we start allowing people in power, in this case cops, to trick us into doing something wrong? When did we start allowing them to get away with entrapment?...

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Tennessee

There’s a new breed of young person, the politically apathetic, self-ascribed libertarian who believes the government is something that can’t be saved. “I don’t vote. It’s pointless,” says David in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s one of these New Age Americans, fiscally conservative but socially liberal, or really he doesn’t give a fuck what you do in the comfort of your own home. “But if Trump got nominated, I’d vote Bernie Sanders,” he says, if he thought his vote counted that is. This sentiment is especially odd coming from a Libertarian, seeing as Ron Paul’s success raising money and securing votes on the party’s platform allowed the political philosophy to gain momentum. After all, it’s because of his votes and publicity they received,his ideals have continued to grow as states consider legalizing marijuana. His son Rand Paul was even a former Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election, running in a large part on issues his father championed. In my opinion, as I wax on over pizza, you’ve got a 50-50 chance of your candidate winning, at least here in the two-party-dominated USA. So, it’s not so much about our favorite candidate winning but more about exactly this, shifting the conversation. “Although I also kind of support everyone voting for Donald Trump, just to burn this country down,” he says. In his eyes, America can’t be great again, and there’s nothing...

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Colorado

There’s this Utopia in my mind with a mountain range backdrop where idealists come together to talk about humanity’s existence while experimenting with drugs, doing art and snowboarding. Utopias have long been sought by philosophers and political science majors, the anarchists, the religious and hippies. “Nowhere has given rise to more local utopias than the U.S.,” says Nathan Schneider, an author and journalist who covers religion and political movements in the States and recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. Speaking of Colorado, it’s become the state many young people think of as paradise, and much of that stems from the state’s move to legalize marijuana, both medically and recreationally. Cannabis has a cult following. There aren’t many people like myself, sympathetic to the cause but yet, uninterested in smoking it (most the time). Most people either smoke the herb every damn day or abstain. Hordes of hippies and entrepreneurs have moved to the state in recent years to join the weed industry, from growing to distributing to dispensing. It’s industry is more mature than Oregon’s or Washington’s or Alaska’s, so if there’s a story about pot, it mentions Colorado, and if there’s a story about Colorado, it mentions pot. “Sounds like the easy way out,” a friend in Denver says when I pull him for references in the industry. “Reading another article about Colorado and marijuana is…. dead. It’s been...

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Nebraska

My friend has already warned me I’d be sleeping by the snake tank. But when I walk into her cousin’s house in Omaha, Nebraska, there’s a parrot, uncaged, perched on a tree stand on the other end of the couch. There’s also two dogs, a rescue opossum and three boys who each keep snakes, lizards and tarantulas in their respective rooms. Katy, the cousin, and I are getting to know each other in the kitchen when her career comes up. “I work with cadavers at the university,” she says. The answer catches me so off guard, I basically ask what a cadaver is. She...

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