This is initially about one of my co-workers. Now, I get along great with her and her husband. In fact, every year for Christmas, I buy him a couple of books. He initially thought I was doing it to kiss ass. Then he transfered out, and the books continued, so he knows my true intentions now (I made him into a Pearls Before Swine fan). The transfer meant they had to move to another town, and they landed in the town a short distance away from mine. They initially lived in a bigger town. It has county buildings and such there, and is actually kind of sizable. So they are experiencing a little bit of culture shock, dealing with a town where the only chain restaraunts are McDonald's and to hit anything other than a C-store, you have to drive about a half hour. A friend of mine who grew up and lived in one of those cities told me, “And I thought there was nothing to do in MY town. How do you keep from going crazy out here?!?”
The little town they moved to has its drawbacks, sure. The mayoral history at times reads like a Foster Brooks routine. It has a little restaraunt that pretty much everyone visits at least once at some time of the year. It's nothing fancy, but it's sit down, and fancier than the fast food joints in the area. The food ain’t bad, either, and it’s reasonably priced. The owner is friendly and the waitresses keep moving.
There’s a small movie theater in the town. It’s been there since the 50’s. Cheapest tickets in the area, sometimes undercutting the bigger theaters an hour away by half. It ain’t modern by any stretch. But it’s functional and everyone is there to have a good time.
I have always wondered (and, to some degree, feared) at what point things are considered beneath you. The people in this town aren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. But that hardly makes them worthless. The town has its corruption and inside deals like any city (especially if you need to hire a contractor for anything). The local motels have seen the vast majority of the local teens lose their virginities. My town had a baseball card shop that was running drugs and had illegal slot machines in the back – an investigation was triggered when one of the kids, 15 years old, paid for breast implants for his 14 year old girlfriend. The whole situation was just so full of wrong, it was mind-boggling.
But it also does good stuff. A bunch of white supremacist assholes tried to hold a rally there. The town’s official position was they had no choice due to First Amendment issues, but they made it abundantly clear they weren’t happy about it. The town united, posting signs saying reps for the group weren’t welcome there (the “rally” didn’t even attract twenty supporters. Meanwhile, the protestors telling them to go fuck themselves were like five deep). A family friend of mine is a lesbian (she still doesn’t think I know. I went to her and her “friend’s” place with my Sega Genesis for a night of video games. The only way you’d never guess is if you didn’t want to guess). She and her lover got a house in my little town. I never heard of protests or hate crimes against them. People who disagreed with them or didn’t like them were pretty much content to leave them alone. Even someone as unusual as me is simply part of the town instead of a target for ire.
My last job, a couple of my co-workers lived in the trailer park in my town. They had their fun, one wanting to start his own backyard wrestling club (he would stand on his roof and do wrestling poses and gestures at passing cars. Keep in mind he was built less like Kevin Nash and more like Jack Black). The other was kind of a good ol’ boy – he enjoyed spending his weekends drinking beer with his buddies or shooting pool. They were great guys (I drove the carpool). Didn’t matter where they lived, they were good people and thought I was good people (the second guy, when a guy at work talked some smack about me, told him I was smarter than the two of them and anyone else in the warehouse put together. It made me glow a little bit), and that was all they needed to be my pals.
The town my co-worker came from has gang activity. Because the gangs aren’t tagging buildings and are more careful about identifying themselves, lots of people think they aren’t there (I knew a cop who blew my illusions to Hell). They have outreach programs, for lack of a better phrase, in my town. But they aren’t as prominent. You can walk down the street and actually say hi as you pass. (Not that I do that, I like people thinking I’m anti-social.) It amazes me that kids and high schoolers will see me at McDonald’s working on my manga (many of whom probably wouldn’t have given me the time of day when I was in school) and act like I’m Miyazaki or something. A few months ago, I heard from a couple that I knew back in high school and hadn’t seen since. They had computer problems and were looking at $350 each machine to fix. I spent a few hours fixing them, didn’t ask for anything back. It seems I’ve made friends for life. He offered to build me new bookshelves. They offer to spring for my dinner if I’m out and run into them. She’s trying to set me up with a friend of hers – this woman is also into computers and single like I am.
Compared to bigger cities, where there is some phoniness and posing going on. One guy saw me in my camp shirt covered with Pikachu and started making fun of me. I ignored him, given that he was wearing a camp shirt covered with Simpsons characters so shooting back was too easy. The little towns in my area have far less irony. You can go out and do something, then come back to the sanguine.
It’s really not a bad place to live.