Growing up in these areas, I always felt the landscape was almost oppressive to me. It was so flat, and all the trees had been cut down and the only thing on the horizon was a refinery pumping smoke into the sky. These things were as much a part of me as my personal tastes. Henry James said, “landscape is character,” and I’ve always felt that way.
We’re all trapped, and the first thing that traps us is our ego, which separates us from the rest of the world and makes us think that we’re all a bunch of different things instead of one thing. And the cages just multiply from there. You have a series of personal cages, defenses, illusions, predilections, narratives. And then you lay on top of that the narratives of family, the narratives of God and country, and this is before you even get to the landscape, mind you. And then the landscape, with its economic depression and its lack of upward mobility and its lack of opportunities, can be oppressive.