Localism. I borrowed that word from Surf culture because it best describes my feelings. In surfing it can apply to being a 'kook.' as opposed to a 'Loc' # 25 top definition at link as applies to surfers. ( It isn't Exactly what I am talking about but it is hysterical because I have seen it.)
I don't post the grumpier side of my nature often and I have whittled this down considerably since I started it. July is a pretty good place to put it. I think I usually put my best foot forward on my blog. If you've read some of my posts you might be thinking "what?" But I mean my nicest side. I think I basically am a pretty nice person. I try to be kind and courteous and thoughtful of others. But I have an insidious under belly that rears it head in my real world. I have tried to fight it but it bubbles to the surface in my daily life as I navigate through my home town and take a look at the "progress" and meet new people wherever I may roam.
Just the other day at Office Depot a car was racing through the parking lot way too fast and as it blew past us I saw a NJ license plate and yelled, Why don't you go back to New Jersey and endanger lives there! And. I. Meant. It. No offense Jersey people who don't drive like idiots in my hometown. But.
You see, I have to stand up and admit it in public:
My name is Ms. G. and I Am A Local.
There is a popular bumper sticker around here. It says 'Localized'. It's like a 'I'm not from here' beacon. It is people who want to be local. Cause this place is so cool. I roll my eyes when I see it. I can't help my annoyance. It isn't with all people who move here. It is for the ones who move here and make a big deal of being locals. But they are not. I know this is ridiculous but I also know I'm not the only local that feels this way. I don't know if this is a weird circumstance of where I live or something that takes place in other communities. Because this is my only community. As my husband says, "If you really are a local you don't have to tell anyone you're a local."
These days people move around a lot more than they used to. The home town where the families have known each other for generations is becoming more rare. I have the good fortune or maybe misfortune to live in a desirable area. It isn't common. It has something special. It used to be a sleepy little place where everybody knows your name but not because you sit on adjacent bar stools every night. Not anymore.
It is a string of small communities that I call, My Town, The Town across the street (Which is the one I mostly grew up in) and The Town a few blocks down and we band together as a generic group that calls itself The ----- Insert word that describes where we are.
My grandparents met here around ninety years ago. They were both from somewhere else originally but at that time not that many people were actually 'From' here. My parents met here in the forties. My dad was from Rhode Island but it was wartime and anyone who was military and decided to stay is an honorary local. My husbands family didn't move here until after he was born but I let him be a local because he's cute and he's considered local in the surfing department ( Has been known to drive a jacked up truck...and other stuff..a looong time ago.) The rest of his family are from Maryland and they moved away again so they don't get to be locals.
Several months ago I came across a blog that is centered on The Town A Few Blocks Down and the entire -----es area. It made it sound like Xanadu. I honestly can't figure out why people think it's such a big deal to be a local here. Except, me of course. Because I'm a local ; ) The only thing I find special about this place is that it is My hometown.
The woman who wrote the blog seemed like a very nice woman. The whole blog is about how she loves being a local. She loves it so much she is attempting to market products about it. She has been here for ten years. She loves it. I'm glad she does. She can have it. I would rather get out of here. Because my town is not my town anymore. It has been ' improved.'
When I was a kid we had a fishing pier. It was old and splintery. You could see the ocean between the cracks in the boards and if you watched long enough you could get dizzy with the motion of the waves. It was full of colorful old characters fishing and drinking beer. I used to go there with my brother to fish and listen to the old men and their bawdy stories. Just smiling quietly when they noticed I was there and sheepishly apologized for their bad language. Inside they made great burgers and you could sit on a rickety bench and eat with the ocean breeze blowing across your sunburned skin with a relief that central air can never duplicate and a million dollar view.
It's gone. After suffering some damage from a storm they decided to build a whole new one.
There used to be funky little shops near the main street. A deli/bakery that was family owned. They had a neat little glass revolving display with birthday cakes. The library was across the street and we could stop in for a snack after a lovely morning choosing books. They are gone. We have a new library on some less prime real estate. The bakery is still in business in a strip mall even further away. When I was a little older I would explore the little independent shops. Like the messily arranged Asian import store, full of treasures stacked haphazardly in random piles. The used book store smelling of antique paper, old leather and dust.
We have new stores now. Upscale shops and restaurants in nifty stucco developments that accessorize the condos. They are just beautiful. yes. they. are. Like Acetate lining in a suit.
You see the 'Localized' worked hard to get that distinction. They worked hard building color coordinated McMansions where there used to be woods. They put a lot of effort into creating an atmosphere of polish and small town sophistication. What the Locals find amusing is that some of the tacky and crappy refused to be moved. It all now rests side by side. The 'Localized' have created a pretentious atmosphere and like to refer to it as "The Island." Ok, technically, surrounded by water. Like an Island? Like a bicycle wheel in relation to a semi tire. Really people? Get over yourselves.
It used to be pretty cool here. Way before my time there was a boardwalk and amusement park. When I was little it was reduced to a Ferris wheel and carousel and some bumper cars but that was cool too. Then we went through a period of decline. The powers that be felt that the only way to shape things up was to upscale them. We do still have something of a boardwalk and it's true that there is an improvement on the area from 20 years ago when much of it was considered blighted. They still have failed to transform it into a tourist destination.
I thank God they haven't accomplished this. I would much rather have my ratty little buildings next door to million dollar developments, now marked down to $ 250,000, overshadowing a few surviving beach houses, than a Ripley's Museum.
This community never had a sense of history. It was always looking for something new. Until recently when they desperately began trying to collect any trivia to show there was a past and then had to house the Historical Society in a Brand New Building. By the time I was grown there were only a handful of quirky landmarks built around the thirties left, but they were my quirky landmarks and I loved them. They are gone now or renovated beyond recognition. The most recent being a hideous turquoise monstrosity that used to have the best pizza on earth. For years it was a local icon. It survived the arrival of Pizza Hut and Domino's but with an influx of chains sadly the family run business was gone by 1994. The building with it's sloping floors and funky light fixtures continued under new management for awhile. Then they tore it down. And put a street through it. So that people wouldn't have to turn left and drive half a block to turn right. It skirts our truly historic African American Cemetery. So now you just drive straight for a few yards and then curve to the left and curve to the right. OOH, what a relief. But it gave them a place to put a big fancy expensive sign Welcoming everyone. Set dead (no pun intended ) center beside the towns two cemeteries. There is some city planning for you! Welcome to our Beautiful (Hodgepodge), mediocre (if not macabre ) not very special town that I personally would pass by if I was a tourist. Cause you know, if I'm a tourist I want my Ripley's Museum.
Recently my husband and I went out to a popular local eatery. We have gone there for years but we aren't 'regulars'. We only very occasionally go out. We do know the bartender though. We have come in enough years for that. We go early to avoid the crowds. It was about 5 and we settled in to relax when a gentleman came in with his kids and bypassed the restaurant area, where people who are not morons sit to eat dinner with their small children, and the rest of the entire, huge, empty bar, to park on the corner where we were sitting and crowd us and block the window we were enjoying looking through, watching people wander around looking for something special, with his children. Who were cranky. And one of them was sick and coughing all over the bar. Or maybe he trained them to do that. I don't know. (ok, they were cute too and I had a more enjoyable conversation with them because I'm not really that mean and grumpy.)
He hailed the bartender with a mighty wave of his hand loudly calling him by name. "The usual please!" Wow. That was so cool. But our quiet little corner was gone and uncomfortably crowded by this guy who stood 5 inches away from my elbow on the corner of the bar while I tried to eat instead of sitting down on the other side and hyper actively jumped around like a freakin monkey.
Finally he couldn't stand it anymore, He turned to us and said hi.
"Hi", we answer and turn back to each other to continue our conversation.
"Are you guys Local?" he asks condescendingly.
"Yes". We answer.
I swear his face fell.
Darn we ruined his chances to lord his localism. He wasn't quite buying it though.
"When did you come here", he asked?
"When I was 5", my husband answered. I smiled sweetly, "I was born here." Maybe it was an Evil Smirk.
"Wow", he said, "you guys are an anomaly, did you know that?"
"Really?", I said. No kidding, I thought.
He launched into the story of how he lived here for awhile after he got out of college and then came back or something and I don't really care so he goes on to 'who do you know ?' Which floored him because I think he was still suspicious and we knew everybody he mentioned, only we knew them ten years longer but he had never seen us before and blah blah blah - We Don't Care. We came here so we could have a conversation with each other without other people blathering at us.
He then asked if we ever went to the local Dive Bar which is about the only historical place thought worthy of preservation around here and it's depression era but not ancient, or their special celebration every year in which people go get drunk first thing in the morning on a family Holiday. I said, "I haven't been there in years." And I haven't. Because they pissed me off 24 years ago and one thing about a real Local, we hold a grudge. And as for the Famous Dive. Oh Boy, it's a dive, full of transplants who think they are hanging out with the 'local flavor' when they are all just hanging out with each other.
At one point he looked crestfallen and murmured that his wife wanted to move back to Michigan.
Well Michigan is a wonderful place too. You want your wife to be happy don't you?
Eventually the rest of his posse showed up- yoga pants mom who looked like she had just rolled off a couch ( and wanted to go back to Michigan) and the neighbors. That explained the crowding. Apparently we were 'in their spot'. I would have stayed longer just to annoy them but we had to drive home and I couldn't have stayed without switching to bourbon. Before we left he managed to get where we live out of us, which just happened to be very near them so they know about my secret neighborhood. He said, " We ride our bikes down their all the time!" Oh. Joy. Hopefully we were just stand offish enough that I won't have to be on the lookout in case they decide to bike over and visit. He introduced us as 'they are actually from here', but his wife was being appropriately stuck-up and didn't really acknowledge us, so we are probably safe.
In any case, when we left I told my husband, we should put up a sign,
"Chat with a Real Local, 5 minutes for 5 bucks". We could make a killing.
I'll stop being mean now. But this is honestly me. And my snobbery. Because that's what it is. When we bought our house it was on a dead end dirt road and just beyond was the homestead of one of the oldest families in the area. My house is the one the Matriarch of the family built for her retirement. A few years ago the last of the family sold, to misquote Longfellow, "folded their tents, like the Arabs, And as silently stole away."
I don't blame them. They moved to a quieter place. It is too crowded here. The new culdesac down the street is named after their family. The street is named after the woman who built my house. I like that simply because I know it and they don't. The market fell and the investors who bought the land beyond me were left hanging. I get to enjoy my natural view a few more years before the walls of beige with little squares set meaninglessly into the corners goes up. When they do I will be ready to leave. I always say that if I have to live in the area I do, I want to live right where I am. In this town. In this house. On my nice little chunk of property that gives us just enough privacy. I love my home and my yard but I know that will change as progress...progresses.
I have tried to find a way to come to an understanding of my duality in this. Even though I think this place is ridiculous, it has always been My ridiculous place and I have great pride in being one of the real locals. At the same time I don't know why I get so annoyed with people who want to be locals. Maybe because I have lost my feeling of connection with the place, for the most part. Maybe that's it. New people made it a new place. Not the one I knew.
I wish I could go someplace else. This place is the story of my life but I can walk away and never look back. It's always been too darn hot here anyway. I only hope that if I ever go, I can go to the place I love. I have mentioned before that I love the mountains. I feel about them the way the nice lady with the 'local' blog feels about my hometown. If I ever do, I hope the locals won't be mean like me.
I can promise them this. I won't pretend to be one of you. I won't show up, say, "what a great place" and then suggest improvements. I won't try to change the face of your world to suit what I like. I won't change the rules. I won't commandeer your environment. I would just enjoy it the way it is.
I hope they would Not feel as I do.
The only thing special left about this place is that it is My Hometown.
And I wish they would all go back where they came from.
How about you? Are you a local or a transplant?
Do you suffer from Localism or are you a victim of it?
I just used I or I'll to begin 6 paragraphs in a row. That has to be some kind of grammar travesty. Obviously a local yokel ; )
© 2011 All Rights Reserved
Alzheimer's Awareness (4) Biggest Stories (16) clearing some clutter (6) Drive Thru Blog (33) Foolishness (45) Guest Posts (4) I Hate July (7) Just Stuff (63) Littlest stories (25) marriage (4) Middlest Stories (30) Moon Music (29) music (17) My Father (3) My Mother (9) My Past (5) parenting teens (31) Poetry (11) randomly irrelevent (16) re-runs (4) Really Bad Hokey Poetry (14) reflection (35) School Issues (7) she said what? (6) Stream of Semiconciousness (5) They didn't learn that at home (5) Yes. It has been that kind of week. (5)