John B. McLemore Email to JHK: Huffing gas fumes in shittown alabama

Huffing gas fumes in shittown alabama

The following is the only email written by John B. McLemore, the main subject of the S-Town podcast, to James Howard Kunstler that Kunstler saved.

Huffing gas fumes in shittown alabama

So I am sitting over about 5 gallons of gas yesterday cleaning out my lawnmower engine parts prior to reassembly. after waiting about 2 fucking months we managed to break one of the brittle ass cast iron piston rings, and now I am fucked waiting around again for a replacement…no telling how goddamn long as this is a discontinued model. (Pay attention…I am going somewhere with this).

So I am using a precious resource to clean out an engine…now the fucking thing is sitting on the bench waiting for another goddamn piston ring (.020″ oversize, a fucking special order item).

Now, imagine the lawnmowers, weed-eaters, saws, etc. etc. etc. that are scrapped in the millions each year by persons not able to build their own engines. Appliances, etc.

Newer shit is made so sorry that a new washing machine has a life expectancy of about 5 years where as an older model typically lasted 30.

Whirlpools typically are tossed out in about 3 to 5 years because of a $20.00 plastic u joint between the motor output shaft and the transmission input. But most people don’t have the ability to even know how to go about replacing it….I made my replacement out of brass and steel…it will beat out the plastic gears inside the transmission one day…not to mention the teeny little plastic finger that rotates the drum during the spin cycle…I guess I can make up a steel one for that someday also.

When I spoke to you, I remember you expecting us to become a salvage nation at some point….BUT:

Many of the repairable objects of our former daily lives have already been melted down, scrapped, and turnted into useless detritus, where as newer objects from the past 30 years or so that still exist are non repairable due to poor manufacturing methods insuring that they will be Unrecyclable at some point in the future.

So we will not even have anything left worth salvaging. Consider Stereo Equipment for example: the Denon DND9000CD player was the most advanced disc drive system in the world around the year 2000…You can’t even get replacement drives for the fucking thing today. A victor Type II Automatic Victrola, however, is still restorable (assuming you have some discs to play).

The little Briggs engine block is already showing signs of inter-crystalline corrosion on the side opposite the cylinder head.

This is a common feature of older Aluminum castings..they just die of cancer (actually internal autoanodisation of the aluminum into Al2O3 and similar compounds. Once the outer anodised film is scratched, worn away, or otherwise breached, intercrystalline corrosion is the ultimate end of nearly all Aluminum alloys…they oxidise back to their former highest oxidation state (they way they were found in nature).

This is the ultimate Future of nearly ALL Aluminum block engines, Appliance parts, gears, etc. Ditto with Zinc Die Castings also.

The plastic gears in the Whirlpool washing machine transmission will em-brittle over time as Carbon bonds are broken even without photodegradation. Of course, plastics exposed to light are guaranteed to photodegrade to the point of uselessness within less than a century typically.

Some plastics (such as types of polycarbonate) are amazingly stable…but no plastic is typically stable for the long haul…Even UV stabilised plastics typically rely on a coating or lacquer which provides temporary stability…Plating tanks in industrial process operations for example, are considered “worn Out” in about 10 years. Same for Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester, and many of the other exotics that our complex chemical process operations rely on today.

And these Polymers are Not Recyclable…they can only be chipped up for use in lawn furniture, road fill, or end up in the giant floating garbage dump that was formerly known as the Pacific Ocean.

That is my take on the possibility of us becoming even a Salvage Nation.


James Howard Kunstler on John B. McLemore of S-Town

James Howard Kunstler on John B. McLemore of S-Town

The following addendum, by James Howard Kunstler, originally appeared on the Clusterfuck Nation blog titled “Wonderland,” on April 10, 2017 .

I was quite surprised to hear that a podcast called “S-Town,” about the dark doings in an Alabama backwater, had become a huge hit on the Web-waves. Back around 2012-2013, I had some email correspondence from John B. McLemore, the tragic figure at the center of the series. He was a real person, referred to by various people in the series as “brilliant,” “a genius,” “a real character,” and he was for sure.

Apparently, he was also a fan of my books. He got my phone number off my website and took to calling me on the phone. I probably had a dozen long phone conversations with him. Hours. It is well-known now that he called his home of Woodstock, Alabama, “Shit-town.” He regaled me with many a sordid tale of the home-folk, and even of himself. The place sounded like Hieronymus Bosch meets Dogpatch. Since John B seemed so unhappy under his mask of hilarity and mirth, I tried to encourage him to think about moving. He always had an excuse for not doing that, but clearly John B and the neighbors he disdained, fought with, looked for love with, had a synergistic thing going. They needed each other to play out their never-ending crazy scripts of cracker mischief, vengeance, and failure. After a while, John B went dark. I thought he’d just gotten tired of me telling him to move.

I was startled to hear in the second episode of the “S-Town” podcast that John B had made good on his constant intimations of suicide. Startled, but not especially surprised. He was more than a fish out of water. He was like a Martian suffocating in an atmosphere too heavy for him. I suspect the truth is there are thousands of places like “S-Town” all over America, places devastated by the poor choices of the last several generations — most particularly the way they threw away their livelihoods and surrendered to one vice after another in boredom, defeat, and self-loathing. It’s a very sad story and it’s not over yet by a long shot.

— James Howard Kunstler

KunstlerCast #198: Catherine Tumber on Small Cities – Part 2

Urban Contraction, Urban Farming, Urban Schooling

Released: March 15, 2012

Smal Gritty & GreenJames Howard Kunstler speaks by phone with Catherine Tumber, author of Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World. Tumber believes that small industrial cities, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, are well suited for the energy and climate change realities of future. Tumber is a journalist, historian and Research Affiliate in the Community Innovators Lab in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. In part 2 of this conversation, Kunstler and Tumber discuss urban contraction and urban farming as it is occurring in Youngstown, Ohio. They talk about the economy of Rochester and Syracuse, New York. Tumber shares her thoughts on living in Detroit, Albany and Boston. Though they share the same general view of small cities, the two disagree on the current battle over suburban sprawl. JHK believes the sprawl building in places like Youngstown is over, while Tumber says it continues today and must be opposed. They also discuss racial segregation and schooling in small industrial cities.

Direct Download:
(36 MB | 39:44 mins.)

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ANNOUNCEMENT: The 200th episode of The KunstlerCast is coming up. Call the listener line and share your favorite moment from the kast.


Join CNU in West Palm Beach, FL this year May 9-12, for the 20th anniversary event of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Confirmed speakers include Richard Florida, Sprawl Repair Manual author Galina Tachieva, retail guru Robert Gibbs, Fighting Traffic author Peter Norton, Peter Calthorpe, Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Jaime Correa, Andres Duany and many more speakers being added every day. *Note JHK and Duncan will be appearing on a living local panel at CNU.

Go to and register now to take advantage of early registration rates.

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