Comment Back: GQ’s “Welcome To Pariahville”
Jay Kirk’s article in this month’s Kendall Jenner-covered issue of GQ is a good example of what I normally find in GQ—interesting features, with varied levels of quality in the writing they publish. “Welcome to Pariahville” discusses Jay’s trip to the City Of Refugee, a “town” in Pahokee, Florida that has a population made up completely of registered sex offenders. As they’re permitted within a certain range of children, there are few places in the states that they’re legally able to live—the City of Refugee community has developed in a ’60s era barracks built for migrant workers, miles away from anything but open sugar cane fields.
Kirk maintains that it’s not his position to discuss their crimes, but the one of the most interesting parts of the article is reading as the citizens of Refugee City discuss their own guilt and innocence.
“It took me a long time to forgive myself,” [Pat] says, with his fingers still twiddling. Without beating around the bush, he says how he had got “involved” with some racquetball players. He’d been a coach at a private club. He stares at me intently with his glinty blue eyes. “I’m guilty. I hurt people. Those are the hardest things to accept. But once you accept it and admit you’re a piece of crap—my attitude was, they couldn’t punish me enough. I thought I should have been killed at the time, okay? But then, after a while, you say, Wait a second, hold it. People have done things as bad if not worse and they’re not being punished anymore. Okay. Why? I did twelve years. We’ve paid our debt to society, so now let us live our life. You know? Let me tell you, if I screw up again, hang me.”
Pat, along with a few members of the community, also get to decide on whether or not to allow new members (recently released offenders) to move to their town. They’ll interview the candidate, then vote. For every guy they accept, Jay is told, they reject twenty. Apparently, they don’t accept serial rapists. They don’t accept pedophiles who are diagnosed, meaning that they’re attracted to children of a certain age group.
A photo from Jay Kirk’s GQ article, “Welcome to Pariahtown”
It’s interesting that Jay Kirk is not a very good writer, because he clearly has a good sense of what’s worth reporting on. The rest of the article explores Jay’s own experience as he figures out how to relate to the people in the City Of Refugee, discusses how the sex offender community has even displaced a community that existed there prior to them, and successfully paints a picture of this strange place that the average person wouldn’t step foot in. He also writes things like this:
“He falls silent, holding his breakfast sandwich mid-air, a pained wonder testing his eyes.”
“In the living room, the whole house is as fragrant as an ice cream shop on a warm summer day.”
He’s so dramatic, it’s actually kind of adorable. He wrote this!
The fires get so sooty, Chad says, they call it Pahokee snow.
“Black snow,” Pat says.
They have to sweep it from their stoops when it blankets the village. I feel like that must be some kind of metaphor, and I wonder if they think so, too, but I let it slide. I wonder, as Galore continues to explore methods of improving its own quality of content—how does somebody who writes like college freshman writing a soap opera screenplay get published in a magazine like GQ?