In the late '90s, Warren Ellis wrote a comic book series called Transmetropolitan. It chronicled the exploits of futuristic outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem (largely based on legendary gonzo wordsmith Hunter Thompson) following his return from his secluded mountain hideaway to the dystopian urban sprawl known only as “The City.” Spider took no prisoners and told it like it will be. Through his column, “I Hate It Here,” he spat bile, calling out not only the criminals in power and the parasites hocking commercial and religious distractions, but most often and most importantly his fellow citizens.
These future dwellers spend their days ignoring crippling issues of social inequality, openly malicious politicians, institutionally brutal police forces, an apathetic, oversaturated, ineffective media, and an apocalyptically deteriorating environment, instead loading themselves up with bizarre new drugs, inventing a new religion every six minutes, and pouring any leftover energy into finding new and more interesting ways to fuck one another (both literally and figuratively).
I wasn’t actually born here. I was born in Yugoslavia and moved here at age 6 when it was torn to pieces by greedy politicians, militant extremists and genocidal lunatics. I attended Santa Fe Public Schools, graduated from Santa Fe High School, and even went to the College of Santa Fe back when that was a thing. I remember when Warehouse 21 was just a dilapidated shack on a big dirt lot and the Railyard was a seedy eyesore that read, “Now Leaving Downtown Santa Fe: Nothing to See Here.”
See, I wasn’t born here, but I have been born here all my life. I was born here when I was 6 years old and I spoke about 15 words of English and was dropped at school without a friend or a clue. I was born here a second time in middle school when the day before my 13th birthday, Clinton’s NATO campaign blew up the hospital I was originally born in.
I was really born here in high school when I realized that all my friends hated it here more than I did and only ragged on me because they were so desperate to go anywhere else themselves. Looking back years later, I realized that no matter how xenophobic the culture, eventually, you assimilate and start to think like those same people you will always be somewhat alien to. By the time I went to college, to the other kids from all over the country who came here to learn in the wild, open desert, I was a local.
When I went back to Belgrade for the first time in 2012, to them I was an American from New Mexico, despite not having lived here in four years at that point. All my stories are from here. All my opinions and attitudes, my mannerisms and even my prejudices echo the pulse of this weird little ancient city in the sky.
I was most recently born here a year ago when I returned because I knew there was nowhere else I’d rather be. You see, I hate it here. But the thing you have to understand about hatred and love is that if you push either of them far enough you find out that they’re really the same emotion. I was born here all my life. I spent my five years “on the mountain.” And now I’m back and I’d like to tell you about yourself. About myself. About us, together. To quote Spider: “Here in these streets are the things that we want: sex and birth, votes and traits, money and guilt, television and teddy bears. But all we’ve actually got is each other. You decide what that means.”