Go to Homeschool – My Education Among the Strange Kids of Rural Georgia in the 90s
“To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid.” - John Holt
My brother’s first-grade classroom was a repurposed janitor’s closet. There wasn’t enough room for aisles, so he and his 40 classmates would crawl over the tops of the desks to enter and exit the room. They went on exactly one field trip that year, to one of the actual, honest-to-God classrooms the Cherokee County, Georgia, school system was frantically building to catch up to the massive influx of families moving to suburban Atlanta. “You’d better be on your best behavior,” his teacher said, “or we’ll never move into this classroom.” They never did.
I reckon that my fourth-grade classroom, on the other end of the school, didn’t suffer from as many health-code violations. There were a half-dozen leaks in the ceiling, but those would have probably helped if the classroom had ever caught on fire. We didn’t really have aisles either; the desks were arranged in a sort of amorphous jumble to avoid the drips from above.
My parents were more concerned with the curriculum than what the classroom looked like. In third grade up North, I was learning long division, and then we moved to Georgia, where I stepped down to single-digit addition and subtraction. Worksheets featured such problems as 6-2, 3+9, even the occasional 1+1. One day, the kid next to me scooted his desk over. I thought he was going to laugh with me about the 1+1. He spoke in a thoroughly Southern drawl I was still getting used to. “You know how to do this? I don’t get it,” he said as he pointed at the first problem on his worksheet. Eight plus zero.
The following summer, I encountered the term homeschool for the first time. It was on a button my mom had brought home from a conference of some sort, and it read:
Sold. For the next four years, my brother and I were homeschooled.
Inside Cassadaga, the “Psychic Capital of the World”
On the surface, Cassadaga resembles a Florida Mayberry. Set back in the backwoods between Daytona and Orlando, the little “Psychic Capital of the World,” has long been a sanctuary for mediums, healers, psychics, and just plain freaks.
The Spiritualist Camp in Cassadaga was founded in the late 1800s by one George P. Colby. Colby, a New York native and medium had been instructed by his spirit guide—a Native American named Seneca—to go to Florida and start a spiritual center. He trekked into the Central Florida wilderness in 1875 and homesteaded the land, in accordance with Seneca’s prophecy. A charter to form the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was granted in 1894, and Colby acquired 35 acres. This spirit guide apparently had quite the knowledge of property rights. Over the decades, the Spiritualist Camp has grown to 57 acres. Cassadaga started as a place for snowbirds to practice their Spiritualism—a secular-minded, turn-of-the-century mish-mash of science, philosophy and religion.
Fast forward to 2013 – things have changed.
Two distinct tendencies have emerged within the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp—the New Agers and the religious, non-profit organization charged with running the camp. Like the Jews and the Muslims in certain parts of the world, a single street separates them from each other.
The New Agers use tarot cards and stick to the Cassadaga Hotel. A stone’s throw away is the religious organization maintains the traditional belief system that Colby established in the 1800s. That’s not to say the Cassadaga Hotel and its hired psychics don’t stay true to Spiritualism as religion, but they’re a bit more relaxed about it. Its like Episcopalians and Catholics.
The Cassadaga Hotel—the only hotel in Cassadaga—is allegedly haunted. The perimeter porch with its rocking chairs and hunchbacked palm trees resemble a more Mediterranean incarnation of the Bates Motel. The hotel’s website states that the hotel has “friendly spirits”—I’m guessing this means Ghost Dad-like apparitions. The original hotel burned down on Christmas Day of 1926 and was rebuilt a year later. The inside of the hotel evokes the Roaring Twenties with its Tuscan-style furniture and speakeasy-style lobby. To the side of the lobby is Sinatra’s Ristorante, which features a piano player, full liquor bar, and Italian food. Saturday night is karaoke, but we’ll get to that later.
Cry-Baby of the Week
The incident: In an effort to get a date, a man handcuffed himself to a coworker.
The appropriate response: Some kind of argument.
The actual response: Police were called, and the handcuffer has been sent to jail for four years.
Jason Earl Dean worked at a Taco Bell in Ringgold, Georgia. He had a crush on an unnamed 18-year-old coworker, and asked her out on several occasions. On all of these occasions, she said no.
Undeterred, Jason made the extremely unwise and creepy decision to wait for the girl outside of work one night and handcuff himself to her as she tried to get into her car. Shockingly, the girl wasn’t too into this and started to scream. At which point Jason unlocked the handcuffs and ran away.
Two days later, Jason was arrested and charged with false imprisonment.
Jason entered a blind guilty plea in court and WAS SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS—four years in jail, and six on probation. Holy. Fucking. Shit.
The State of the Sketchball Internet
Last year there was a lot of buzz surrounding “the Deep Web” due to a viral Gawker article exposing the Silk Road, an anonymous drug market place. This was shortly after Inception came out so people were already hyped about “going deeper” into things. The existence of such an accessible black market outraged parents, politicians, and local news syndicates, but could anyone actually do anything to stop it? In order to understand the impact of this viral event it’s worth it to do a bit of spelunking, post-factum.
To clear up some misconceptions, the Deep Web is hundreds of times larger than the “surface net” we all know and love, and is growing at a faster rate. In fact, most of the internet is composed of deep web matter. Not even Google itself has the capacity to crawl it, so its content exists in the most remote reaches of the internet. It’s everything from innocuous web pages that don’t index to government data like the stuff Wikileaks finds. The juicy parts live on hidden anonymity networks like freenet and tor.
My first encounter with tor was freshman year of college. I used it to bypass annoying network logins and to torrent in my dorm without IT getting on my case. It’s used in countries like China to view censored media without risk of execution. More famously, it serves as a data haven for taboo content and nefarious e-commerce. The system has known vulnerabilities so it’s not guaranteed that you won’t get in trouble if you try to do those things. And you can still find virtually any drug you want on the Silk Road. The bitcoin itself is significantly less volatile compared to its exchange rate in the months following the media frenzy. I got a quote of $140 for an ounce of AK47, $95 for a gram of meth, and $60 for a gram of MDMA at 86% purity.
“I kinda want to take my boobs out,” Handley (otherwise known as Miss Sticky Buns) counters, and out they come. Carefully, she paints each breast white in front of the mirror. With a pleased look on her face she proclaims, “They’re like having little marshmallows on my chest. See now it’s like I’m wearing a shirt.” Then softly she whispers to herself, “Clown tits.” She smiles at the magic.
Here’s an article about four sexy, party-crashing clowns.