Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Small towns

This one's inspired by a conversation at Kevin Drum's. Drum made note of fellow blogger Tyler Cowen's list of his "Anti-American" attitudes, specifically Cowen's observation that "I could not live in rural America and be happy".

"Rural America" is one of those descriptions that means different things to different people. To a New York City native, virtually the rest of the country is Rural America. To me, Rural America implies something that's not as populated, mostly agricultural and slow-paced.

Most of my experience with rural America comes from visits to my grandmother in Lamont, Oklahoma (population 465) when I was young. Lamont is about six blocks long and six blocks wide, and my brother and I thought it was neat to walk from one end of town to the other. A special highlight was walking to the ice-cream stand two blocks from Grandma's house. Later, when I was in college, I'd go to visit Grandma a few times a year until she passed away. I usually got bored stiff quickly on those visits, but at that time anything not involving music, sex, drugs or alcohol bored me in a hurry. I haven't been back to Lamont since Grandma's funeral.

I've lived most of my life in suburbs of fairly large cities. Pole Hill is semi-rural; there's a lot of open space where I live, but civilization is only over a couple of hills and a couple of right turns away. The hills make running the sewers out my way cost-prohibitive, which is the main thing keeping the open space from getting too developed.

The places I've lived for the most part are places where you can drive 15 minutes one way and be in the heart of the city, and drive 15 minutes the other way and be in the country. I guess it's spoiled me in a way. Sometimes I think I'd like to live further out, but I've also enjoyed having proximity to good bookstores and record shops. Having nice restaurants nearby is good, too, but we don't go out to eat often enough that it would bother me if we lost that.

I dunno, just thought I'd throw that out there for folks to chew on for a while.