Fifty years ago last week, an underground coal fire erupted beneath the town of Centralia, Pa. and it’s been burning ever since.
Roads have buckled and houses have collapsed in the borough that once was home to 1,400 people.
News reports say the town is virtually empty now. The Post Office has eliminated Centralia's ZIP code, but there are still a handful of people who have refused to leave and are suing to keep the state of Pennsylvania from evicting them.
When I first heard this story, I thought I was imagining things. Who in their right mind would want to live in a place that sounds an awful lot like the backdoor to hell?
But then I started looking inwardly, examining how I react to difficulties, how I lose my temper so easily, how I dredge up ugly memories, and how I constantly find the negative side of anything.
I realized I’m in no position to point fingers at anybody. I’m living in my own private Centralia. Instead of coal fires burning underground, I have rage and frustration burning in my heart.
Every time January 1 rolls around I make a resolution that I’ll get my anger under control and have a more positive attitude. And every year that promise seems to slip away from me.
I have made minor improvements here and there. I’ve had these moments when I pulled myself out of a spiraling funk or staved off a conniption fit and accomplished something. But there haven’t been enough of them.
One More Time...
I really put myself through the wringer on Saturday. I had read a news story about yet another young screenwriter who finally broke into the business.
This guy went from sleeping on a mattress in a friend’s apartment and eating bologna sandwiches on a daily basis to selling his scripts for million dollars.
As usual, I managed to use this story as an excuse to emotionally club myself into a stupor.
Why didn’t I move out to L.A. when I was in my twenties? Why didn’t I live like an animal, eat garbage and struggle at lousy jobs until I succeeded?
Of course, this is a one-in-a-million story; L.A. is full of wannabe filmmakers, and, as the old song says, “all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas.” But I just wish I had tried. If I failed, I failed, but at least I would know.
I’ve never taken any risks, never walked away from a job and took off for a new town. And yet I wanted to be in the movie business—or at least that’s what I told myself.
I’m too old to be taken seriously in Hollywood and, frankly, I don’t really enjoy a lot of the stuff coming out of the major studios. I usually prefer independent or foreign films to big budget monstrosities that are fueled by CGI explosions and bathroom humor.
I’ve rented a few clunkers from Netflix over the last few weeks and they were so awful, yet so popular, that I really wonder if Hollywood is the place for me. Maybe low-budget indies are more my style.
And to be honest, when I look back on my younger self, I realize I wasn't emotionally equipped to move across the country in hopes of nailing down a dream.
I’m sure it would have ultimately made me a better person, assuming, of course, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown along the way.
Whatever I do, I want to stop this agonizing over every single decision. Move to L.A. or not? Go to this event or stay home? Have ham or turkey for lunch? Enough already! I just want to make a decision and dispense with all the drama. Right or wrong, I’ll live with it.
Scientists say the fires in Centralia will burn for the next two hundred years. I don’t have that much time, so if I do nothing else I want to be kind to myself and enjoy life--instead of watching it go up in smoke.