Matt Forney
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The Kingdom of Heaven is Within


“Hey man! Hey sir!”

Jesus Christ, no…

“Hey sir! You look lost!”

The black guy was hobbling after me, clad in a plaid shirt and dirty jeans; the bum’s uniform. I hopped away, not wanting to scuff my nice shoes. Around us, the rain had gone from a sprinkle to a shower, soaking my blazer and pants.

“Sir? Sir!”

Fuck you very much pal. Go find someone else to hustle.

Rochester, New York is a tiny, semi-inhabitable urban core surrounded by a sprawling ghetto. The second you leave the Inner Loop, you’re surrounded by trash-strewn lawns, fat single moms, and gangbangers with sagging pants. Demographics and the compactness of downtown embolden the scum to terrorize the nice neighborhoods. Then again, the fact that I was dressed like a rich guy probably didn’t help.

The black guy was closing the distance. I sped into a half-walk, half-jog as the backs of my shoes dug into my skin.

Where the fuck did I park, where the fuck did I… oh, there it is.

I spotted the dingy lot where I’d left my car, sandwiched between two abandoned brick buildings. I skidded over, tore my keys out of my pocket like I was unsheathing a knife, and piled into the driver’s seat, taking off my jacket and tie and throwing them over the shotgun chair.

Car’s untouched. Safe from the hustlers and the rain.

I hit the ignition and tore out onto the Inner Loop as the rain accelerated into monsoon conditions. Heading eastbound towards 490, I ran into a “Bridge Closed” sign that directed me onto a detour… that sent me in the completely opposite direction. Fine. Following the detour westbound, I ran into a second sign telling me to get off the highway due to a road closure… leaving me exactly where I started.

I pulled into a FasTrac to grab a Full Throttle and get my bearings. This particular station was on the outer edge of the Inner Loop and was manned by a security guard. Not hard to see why, as I stood in line behind a twitching bald guy who kept yelling about how he was “gonna go home and scratch [his] balls.”

I hopped back into the car and retraced my steps across downtown before I finally found a segment of the highway that wasn’t blocked off. The rain was coming down in sheets and the lack of streetlights on the Loop meant I was driving through foot-deep water every ten seconds. I finally found the exit to 490 and sped towards the Thruway, gripping the wheel in anger.


I don’t recognize this place anymore.

The old highway exit I used to get home in Syracuse is always flooded with bums. You’d think winter would have scared them away, but nope; even when the mercury drops below sixty, there’s at least one hobo on the off-ramp shoving a “Homeless: Please Help” sign in your face. At least the bums here are polite and unobtrusive. They don’t hustle you like in Rochester or Chicago, spinning yarns about how they need twenty dollars to get home on the bus or trying to sell you a stack of Onions they swiped from a Potbelly’s.

The neighborhood I grew up in is undergoing a renaissance. The infamous run-down block of abandoned storefronts is now full up with new tenants, including a year-round ice cream joint. An empty gravel-filled lot that once was home to a bowling alley back in the nineties was finally sold and developed into a Kinney Drugs. One of the local convenience store chains was bought up by 7-Eleven.

America as a whole is Portlandizing. University Hill now has bike lanes and a self-serve yogurt shop. There’s a new Jimmy John’s out by Carrier Circle. Syracuse is now officially on the indie touring circuit, with Dirty Projectors, Explosions in the Sky and the Melvins playing gigs at the Westcott. The nice parts of town are full of skinny white boys wearing beanies in 80 degree weather and girls proudly showing off enormous tattoos on their vampire-pale arms. Even Destiny USA, that horrendously expensive attempt to outdo the Mall of America, was finally finished… in time for the economy to bottom out. The new wing is still about two-thirds empty.

This place has changed more in a year than it did in the previous six years since I moved away, yet at the same time it hasn’t changed at all.

Everybody I care about is gone now. I talk to my friends on Skype and the phone, but I see them in person once a year, if that. There’s no one else I have anything in common with. I feel like a soldier returning home from a war to find the same people doing the same things, still going nowhere in life.

Recently, Black Knight wrote about how travel is not a panacea for men. He was talking more specifically about game, but his point applies to life in general: if you’re a failure in Bumfuck, Arkansas, you’re going to be a failure no matter where you end up. The Kingdom of Heaven is within.

While I’m a success in my personal life, there’s one urge I’ll never be able to fulfill: the desire to belong.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll always feel like a stranger no matter where I go. I started hiking out of Syracuse last year full of a certain amount of starry-eyed wonder. “Oooh yeah, I’m gonna see the country!” Right now, I’m planning a second hitchhiking trip through the southern states, west to east: start out in Portland, head south along the coast, then back through the states I missed the first time around.

But the optimism, the joy of discovery is gone.

To be sure, I want to see California, the Grand Canyon, the South and whatnot, but that’s no longer my primary motivation. I want to do it because I have to. Because I can’t not do it. Because I have a compulsion to insert myself into stressful, life-threatening situations. Because I’m a junkie searching for an adrenaline high.

And because if you feel like an outsider no matter where you are, one place is as good as the next.

Is it a bad thing? A good thing? I don’t know. But I do know this: if you romanticize this kind of thing, I’m pretty sure you’re missing the point.

Read Next: Crawling Towards Heaven

  • “And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born / Then, it’s time to go…/”

    Some of us just have that wanderlust, and even if it is largely satisfied, one may still find oneself getting restless every so often, and needing to shake things up by a move. Been there, done that, several times… And will, again…

    “When in doubt, move on / No need to sort it out…”

  • Robert K.

    Children, children are your answer. Without them you know subconsciously that you are at a dead end. They solve many problems confronting man. As long as you are an active part in their life you will never be a stranger with them. If you cannot find a place to fit in, you must create one.

  • Chip

    If you died the World would be a better place. I was going to tweet you but you like to let everyone know how people dislike, because you are that convoluted with your need to be acknowledged. I would never kill you, or anyone else for that matter, but if you just ceased to exist, things would be much better. And Rochester is an alright place. Sorry that a black guy was near you. Must have been tough.

  • Jeremy



    There’s an article today posted on a voice for men. There are a number of comments, like always. A little way down, Paul Elam posts encouraging that kind of article and says that men need to see alternatives to game. I immediately questioned Paul, saying that I saw no alternative to game in the article. When pounced upon by 4 other commenters, I respeonded. One of those responses was from a moderator who didn’t like my arguments for some reason. He then proceeded to delete every reply I made to Paul, even when I pointed out that Paul opened the OT discussion by mentioning game in the first place.

    It didn’t matter, I was banned.

    I just wanted this on record somewhere other than AVfM since they obviously don’t like open debate there.

  • Jeremy

    oops, The article is about creep shaming

  • Jeremy: Wow, I’m totally shocked that Paul Elam and his gang are intolerant of opposing views. Just flabbergasted. *sarcasm*

  • Jeremy

    Yes, I have a failing, I treat people like adults who can respect and answer reasonable questions about their stance.

    I’m told I can go to college and get that trained out of me.

  • G. C.

    I’m a native-born Tennessean and I’ve always felt like I belong in this state even though I live in Memphis right now (which is not, in my learned opinion, very representative of Tennessee as a whole).

    Let me know if your journey South takes you through here. I’d be proud to buy you a beer (or better yet a bourbon or two).

  • Lena S.

  • Lena S.

    This world is not my home, I’m just passing through…

  • Allen

    I live 20 minutsles east of Rochester. Its a hell hole. This whole area feels like a vortex constantly sucking at life with little to no chance of escape. I recently discovered your blog through an angry (female) friend of mine, I love it. It’s always an entertaining read and I’m finding myself dragged towards the manosphere more and more everyday. Keep it up