Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Small Town Gripes

Returning to the town where I grew up after my mother's death seemed like a good idea at the time. When she was in the hospital in September, 2008, I was all "it's so beautiful here, the air is clean and the people are friendly, why did I leave?" After being back for two years, I TOTALLY remember why I couldn't wait to leave.
I miss the energy and anonimity of big cities. I miss the fast pace of urban life. I miss the option of refusing to return to a store when I get crappy service. When there's only one place in town to get something, then you pretty much HAVE to go there, crappy service or not. The other options are to order over the internet (and pay for shipping,) or drive a hundred and sixty miles round trip to the next, slightly larger, town (and pay for gas) neither of which is a great choice.
Having lived here for over thirty years, my mother had quite a history. She was a visible, active member of the community, ran for city council a couple of times, never failed to make her opinions known. It can be a nice thing, being known for your family, but sometimes you can just feel the judgment when someone finds out who your parent was. It can leave a bitter aftertaste. And did I mention seeing her ex-lovers? That can be rather embarassing, especially when some of them really have NO idea what's in good taste.
I like running into people I know, even though I've become quite masterful at the sweet-but-swift brush-off, since otherwise a fifteen minute trip to the store becomes a forty-five minute "Oh I haven't seen you in so long!" conversation. Being surrounded by people who've known you for years is great, except when it's not, when it's petty and spiteful and grudge-holding.
Small town life can be amusing. There was a letter to the editor in one of the local papers this week about the illegalities of shooting and butchering a neighbor's goat that happened to get loose. It was funny, but it also struck me as being so provincial and vaguely ridiculous.
I liked having my choice of first-run movies to see in a variety of luxe theaters, even if we rarely went. Ditto with other entertainment and dining options. Here, there is ONE theater that hasn't been updated since the 70's, showing two or three movies per week. Last time I saw a film on the big screen, I was distracted by the ratcheting of the projector and how cold the building was.
Maybe I'm being petty or short-sighted, maybe I'm spoiled or impatient, but 99% of the people I went to school with now live elsewhere. Some of them didn't go too far, a couple of really good friends live in Anchorage. Anchorage is a city, a small city, but a city nevertheless.