Saturday, December 13, 2008

What "small town"...?

Colin Powell mentioned he grew up in the Bronx (and turned out all right), so what is Sarah Palin talking about when she says "small town values?"

Good point. I've never lived in a "small" town. Born in Manhattan, KS, and grew up in the metropolitan suburbs of Kansas City (Olathe, Ottawa, Overland Park), New York City (Pearl River), (East) Lansing, Michigan, Ames and Des Moines and now Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Spent a long cold winter '74-'75 in a sleeping bag in an unfurnished eleventh story efficiency at 1234 Mass. Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., walking down the Mall from the Cannon H.O.B. to that hard, parquet floor past Scholl's Cafeteria. I gave my change and last two bucks to bums who ate better than I did at Scholl's — usually, I had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, grapefruit juice, chocolate milk or coffee (depending), for not a lot of money plus an unwilling ear for conversation from the Damon Runyan racing touts at the colorful next table laughing about the fortunes they should have made at the track that day.... A little farther along, a Mom & Pop that sold Dannon Yogurt in waxed cups with real fruit on the bottom. Staples.

Weekend walks to Georgetown, somewhere south of that urban campus a map store, a map of any city in the world, fantastic, bookstores on Penn next to the White House and up there on Q Street, sometimes a long slow walk up Connecticut to the National Zoo. Anything to blank out a job you loathe, the reason you're in D.C. again. It makes me believe in reincarnation, lives wasted in stinking layers, like vats of tanning hides. You gotta love Christmas, getting home, getting away.

Back in the Seventies, I once met a Democratic Party hack from New York City who thought Des Moines was a small town, and once I rode an airport shuttlebus with a kvetching old biddy from the hoity toity side of Brooklyn who thought Denver, Colorado was the back of beyond. I guess we are what we fear.

We're all town mice these days, no country mice left. Television, and now the internet, are the great annealing factor in cultural values — we're all Californians, now. Except that those of us who aren't actually in California are retarded, by California standards.



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