In an effort to avoid being holed up in my abode on a Friday night, I decided to attend a local event in town. There’s an annual party in downtown Hooterville involving a makeshift stage, a couple of cover bands, a smattering of food carts, and lots of cheap beer. These elements are vaguely familiar to the county fair, including the people.
Being there was alcohol involved, a block of Main Street had to be fenced off like a playpen. All of the adults were now children, and couldn’t wander past the gate with their beverage. It vaguely reminded me of K. Jean King’s Celebratory Gunfire: Why You Can’t Drink in the Park. There’s plenty of distrust and control, admittedly with some reasonable concern. Idiots ruin it for the rest of us.
I found the event unimpressive. Shocking, I’m sure, for those who frequently read my blog entries. There’s still a valid reason though: it reminded me of the junior high dances I attended. Everyone was clustered in familiar circles, there were several people in attendance I didn’t care to see, the music was mediocre at best, and it left me wondering what exactly was I expecting.
During a long, sobering march to pick up cigarettes (in and of itself a complicated struggle) I had plenty of time to think what the Devil was I trying to accomplish. I was trying to accomplish something. I know in my gut when I set out to find an experience, even if it had little definition at the time. There was no time like the present to figure it out.
As it seems to me, I’m looking for: like-minded people, vivacity in community, and a fresh start. When corralled into these three categories, I can easily extrapolate them to other facets of my life. Explaining them in more detail, I’ll discuss each item with a bullet. I’m very business oriented, you see, and businessmen like bullet points (pew! pew!). I also get a sick pleasure out of seeing someone shoot me with finger pistols. It’s only second to referring to oneself in the third person.
- Like-minded People: Sure, the phrase has probably been worn out by now. I’m not terribly sure how else to reword it though. “Logging in to the right hot spot” perhaps? Regardless, the fact that I don’t feel a connection with the general population is worrisome. I grew up here. I had many similar experiences as the rest of these people. Why, then, do I not bond with them in such ways as other communities do? I’ve watched resonance happen in Greenwich Village, Austin, TX, and in other parts of the country. It’s different here. The feel is totally different. People work together differently. There’s no other way to describe it.
- Vivacity in Community: Whether it is my perception through years of buildup or genuinely observed, there is a complete and utter lack of energy in this area. It feels very tired. Everyone is simply there. They could be replaced with cardboard cutouts, and the atmosphere wouldn’t change. The crowd is a nonentity. I find this troubling, as we’re allowed to have personality. No one seems willing to take it out of the box. Why is that?!
- A Fresh Start: From personal experience, this is not taken as seriously as it should. A few years ago, I spoke with a medical technician from New York who relocated to Hooterville on a job offer. She said, “it’s strange here; the majority of people I’ve met never lived anywhere else in their entire lives!” People like me often get accused of being too familiar with a place. We’re labeled as malcontents and told “familiarity breeds contempt.” For a population that has had no desire to leave its place of origin, that may very well be the only lens available. What about all of those ghosts (read: bad memories) piling up over the years? What about all of the bad blood? What about the freedom of anonymity? This counts for much more in happiness than people are willing to give it.
Ultimately, I think I’ve worn out my welcome around here. I’m like the annoying relative that doesn’t know when to wrap up his affairs and “head back home.” What’s concerning is that I don’t have a home, not in a metaphorical sense anyway. For many years, I thought I knew my home if I saw it. Now that I’m older, I’m starting to question my instincts.
If it is any conciliation, some great medieval literature is based on finding the way home, or feeling like an exile, amongst other people. “The Wanderer” and The Seafarer” are but two. Of course, they might be early Christian writings pertaining to the thoughts that earth is not our true home, but that aside, I think the themes of home, wandering, and alienation, are a few of big ones.
Just read the most thought provoking Chekhov short story. The protagonist goes about his daily life pretending to be happy, when he is really miserable. Doesn’t love his wife, kids, job, life, etc. He finds another woman on the side, and really does love her. He thinks about their secret rendezvous. It dawns on him that the life he leads in the open, is his false life and the one that causes him misery, while his real life, the one that brings him untold joy is the one lived in secret. He thinks that this is the way it is with most people, and surmises that we are all living the lies of our false facades, while our real selves remain hidden away in secret.
Sorry, meant to say “consolation” and not “conciliation.” Must be that blasted auto-correct…
No worries. I’ll write down those titles as a reminder. I just picked up 12 books over the last 14 days, and feel overwhelmed a bit. Once things settle down, I’ll wander the used section for more. I do have to play catch up, as I’ve been working in my field for over a decade instead of reading.
I can believe several people put on a public face for their daily activities. Either they’re afraid of hurting someone else, or of some sort of negative outcome. It has a Winston-Smith-of-1984 feel, doesn’t it? As I reflect on my life, I find I’m not terribly secret about my ambitions. I’m often diffident in face-to-face conversation which gives off either an appearance of scheming or simple-mindedness. There may be some argument, but I don’t think myself as either. I do, however, come back here to be vocal about it. It’s much easier for me to write than speak my mind on the spot.
[…] valuable knick-knacks on a definitely valuable Saturday. When I received a text during the Junior High Dance about a friend having such an event, I was hesitant. He did mention there would be books available, […]