I didn’t even know people were calling Odessa that. I’m still partial to “Slowdeatha” myself, but to each his own.
Anyway, I think it’s fairly easy to see there are problems in and with Odessa. Check the wikipedia entry some time for some of them. Basically, though, we’re poor, undereducated, and crime ridden, with especially high rates of drug and alcohol use. On the east side you may not see those problems quite as much, but they exist, they’re just hidden better. Less quantifiable problems such as a high school football obsession and lingering racism might even be worse on the east, and those are fairly obvious.
So the question is “why?” Why is Odessa the way it is?
That’s a much more complicated question to answer than it is to ask, but I’m going to try to anyway.
The first reason is: Mexicans. Yes you read that right, and no, I’m not a racist. If anything I’m a culturalist, because I am talking specifically about people from Mexico, especially first and second generation immigrants. We have a lot of them and naturally, they’re going to bring the average down for the city. I say naturally because a person who doesn’t have the equivalent of a high school education and doesn’t have a firm grasp of the English language is going to have a much harder time getting and keeping a well paying job. This means the person, and his family, is likely going to be poor, and poverty brings with it a lot of interconnected issues, most of them lasting at least into the third generation. Culturally, Mexicans are disadvantaged in America, and this makes them less successful, therefore the city of Odessa is less successful than it might otherwise be.
But that’s not the whole story. Whites in Odessa perform about as badly, drink and use drugs about as much, drop out higher than the national average, etc. Honkies are for the most part poor and uneducated too. So there has to be a common factor for that as well.
There’s an intelligent old man who comes by my store from time to time. He’s smart, but sadly crazy as fuck, so it’s tough to hold a conversation with him. He is of the opinion that Odessa is in the shape it is now because with every oil boom come workers from all over, and most of these workers are criminals or manual labor hands who settle here and dirty up the gene pool.
I disagree completely, at least for the long run consequences. While a criminal may commit crimes, that doesn’t mean his children are predisposed to it. Let’s not forget, Australia, the destination for however many thousands of British criminals, has a lower crime rate than America i.e. the land of the Puritans.
I think he’s right about the cause being related to oil booms though. Almost definitely in the short term, and probably also in the long run.
The problem with Odessa is the economy. It is almost completely dependent on the price and demand for oil. We’ve got it and when other people want it, things are good. When they don’t, things are bad.
It’s a boom and bust economy. Everyone knows that. But the reason that things are consistently as bad as they are during busts, why they are worse than they should be, is that so many people rest their entire futures on oil. Twenty or thirty bucks an hour is good money, I don’t care who you are. But that’s not a steady job. The economy slows down and you’ll either get your hours/wages cut back, or laid off entirely. People don’t get the education they need to have alternatives, so they don’t have the skills necessary to diversify the economy when the next bust comes along.
Things can’t improve because there’s no one here able to improve them. Or at least not enough people able to.
This indirectly effects the drug/alcohol use in the area, as well as teen pregnancies. Because the economy is so heavily focused on oil, there isn’t much entertainment. There’s the mall. The movies… And pretty much nothing else (except football games in the fall). Being so near to the border with Mexico, it doesn’t take a genius to see why there’d be more weed around, but the reason why the use is so high is because we are basically a big rural town. You drink, smoke, and fuck your girl or boyfriend. That’s not an excuse, but I think it’s the explanation.
So what we have is a culture of failure. There are exceptions, of course, but in my experience, Odessa produces two things: people with no skills and people with no ambition. There are many people who want to get out, to go some place and do big things. But they spent all their time in junior high and high school living life and thinking of what they were going to do instead of learning the things they needed to do them. Meanwhile, the other kind of person spent all of his or her time learning in schools, but not developing the goals or life experiences to be useful in practice. Neither kind can truly be successful.
As for the exceptions, they leave because there’s nothing for them here. And it all continues for the next generation.
Like I said, I prefer the nickname “Slowdeatha”.
An update to this because it really doesn’t warrant its own post. A friend of mine from junior high and high school came by tonight, we shot the shit for a couple of hours and then he left. We were pretty good friends for a while but drifted apart in high school, kind of went our own ways. Eventually, he moved to Midland and I didn’t see him again for a million years. I’d seen him a couple of times before he came by most recently, but nothing much had changed for either one of us. He’s still playing World of Warcraft, Counterstrike, and smoking weed, and nothing else. I’m not doing much better, I’m just doing less. But it’s kind of funny. We are typical products of Odessa.
He also reminded me of his original term “Odessolation” which is also pretty nice.