jrtheotter (jrtheotter) wrote,

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Sunday Musings # 6

I was reading through another LJ and found the suggestion of looking up your town in the Urban Dictionary. This was the first (of two) definitions there. I am at once intensely amused and direly offended.

1. Erie

The mistake by the lake. The snow capital of the world. Where schools never cancel classes and no one is surprised if the temp changes from 100 degrees to negative 20 in 4 hours. The adults are all either really sheltered or mega whacked out. Kids start drinking, smoking, and f*cking in elementary school. And you can find a bag of pot easier than you can spot a car. You might live in the city but have 3 farms in a mile radius. Nick Scott is a known hated monopolist. If you go to college, you are probably either a science or communications major. If you once went to college, chances are you did drugs or drank every day, all day, for years, and still do. The millcreek mall and the dollar theater were the coolest places to hang growing up, and the penninsula was so awesome with its nasty shit infested water. If you ever want to see the most messed up city in all the world, come here.

Erie, PA received 10 feet of snow today and nothing closed down except the plowing companies.

I'm amused because much of that is so true, and amused in a different way because this was so clearly written by a very young person, who talks about growing up, but I suspect hasn't done so yet. I suspect that because the majority of Erie's current native population was growing up before the Millcreek Mall was even there and long before the dollar theatre was even build. That theatre was constructed when I was... around ten, I think? I was in high school when it went to the $1 ticket price, and it did, then, become a serious hang-out. This also suggests to me that this was written by a person not actually from Erie, as kids within the city limits have very different places to hang out, even today. Technically, neither the Mall nor the dollar theatre are in Erie, they're in Millcreek, as is my house, but that's not a technicality anyone stands on much around here.

I'm offended because I like my home, and I believe it has a lot to offer. I find myself wondering exactly what people want there to be here. On the rare occasions when I've inquired directly, people have typically described things to me which are, in fact, available here, they simply never bothered to look.
I've spent time in larger cities, including San Francisco, New York, LA, Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and others. I like big cities, and I look forward to some nice, long visits to Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, and others. I've seen some amazing things in some of those places that made me love them, but these were unique things, not things that could be repeated in other places, no matter how rich or urbane.

Without presenting any defense of my chosen city, I'll try and advance toward my point.

What this got me thinking about was the idea of home towns, communities, and our connections to them. Most of pagandom (a fun word I heard much used at Sirius Rising) recognizes and does much with the connection of humankind to the natural world, i.e. the earth, plants, animals, weather and seasonal cycles, etc. In my personal teaching efforts, I often make the point that the works of humankind (if you will) are also environments and systems to which we are connected and which deserve thought and, at times, even sacred treatment. In pursuit of balance and achievement--or of balanced achievement, if you like--it has always seemed to me that an understanding of both of these must be built to truly be whole. This did not, at least not to me, establish a connection to a unique place or physical community, which strikes me as something different. Connecting to the earth is not quite the same as connecting to the dirt and stone and nematodes that make up your county soil. Similarly, finding the sacred within the physical works of humankind is not quite the same as finding the spirit on your home town or city as an individual entity.

I've always been fascinated with the feel of places, the sort of atmosphere and energy that seems to me to accompany unique and established areas, be they cities or forests or great, whacking canyons. When two friends and I drove from Erie to San Diego, I took many moments, in both cities and countrysides, to stop and lay my hands on the ground or the sidewalk and just try to connect to the spirit of the place. There are places I have been that have had such a unique feel or flavor that, given some more visits, I would almost bet I could tell where I was if you abducted me and took me there blindfolded.

Given that, it surprises me that this comes to me as a new thought. I grew up in the country without anything much resembling neighbors, a son of very private parents, and a part of a very non-close family. Once my parents split, it was one move after another, never really settling in one place long enough to develop of good, solid feel or connection to it. This is a part of why I call Erie my home town, even though, technically, I've never lived within the city limits. That and the fact that telling someone you're from Waterford of Mill Village or Wattsburg doesn't really tell them anything, unless they're from Erie, in which case they do not care. All this, I think, accounts for why this seems like a new idea to me, as well as why I'm so inherently fascinated with visiting new places and finding their flavor.

So now I'm wondering if this is something I've neglected. I've tried to develop a balance in finding the sacred and the divine in both the natural (I hate that use of the term--seems to me human beings are a part of nature, and I don't see us building things out of thin air and sunshine, but I also consider arguing over terminology to be a bad habit...) and human made parts of the living world around me. But this was without regard to the unique spirit of the specific piece of the world in which I live. I don't think this is merely a different view of what I'm already doing, it really strikes me as something different still.

I am, by nature, terribly independent. I don't make much of a neighbor and I spend a great deal of time alone without feeling lonely. Striving for a sense of community, community as something more than a collection of allies, friends, and folk bonded by common interests and common foes (who are we kidding?), is not something that comes easily to me. Otters are solitary animals, joining only for a romp, and that often by chance. Community as something that has a spirit of its own, a there-like-it-or-not kind of spirit? It's something I'll have to think about. In the meantime, and in the process, I think I'll be feeling out the flavor of my chosen city a bit more, and see what it might have to say on the matter, so to speak.
Tags: musings

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