Sleepy Little Town

For a while I posted a lot of music in this space. I have gotten away from it some, but I stumbled across a tune this weekend that really resonated. I have been a small town guy forever. I went to college in a small to medium size city, about 100,000 people, but it was a tiny school which amounted to a small town inside the larger city. I lived and worked for a couple years in what passes for a city around here, but would just be a big town in most places. My roots are from tiny communities on offshore islands so small town living and everything that goes with it is truly a part of my identity. From the outside these little communities look all quaint and quiet and thye mostly are, but when things go bad there are no secrets and there is no place to hide. This J.T. Hodges song “Sleep Little Town” does a pretty good job and capturing what it like when the façade comes down around big fish in small ponds.



5 thoughts on “Sleepy Little Town

  1. I always wondered what it would be like to be a part of a small town, and then I lived in a village for two years in central/upstate NY. It wasn’t even a town. It was actually called a village. Everyone was in everyone’s business. You couldn’t pick your nose without some village hen knowing about it. There were few men around as it was a village dominated by a women’s college so the women were extra prickly about any and all eligible men. I must say that I look back on those two years with affection. It was a kind of magical time, but, considering that I grew up in one of the biggest urban areas in the US, I almost went insane during the winters when we were snowed in for weeks at a time unable to leave the campus. Watching “The Shining” nowadays? Aaaaw yeah…I think a few of us might have gone down that path. All girls. 7 feet snow drifts. No way out of the village for weeks. Nothing to do but stare at your homework. Utter misery. I mean if there had been some nice boys around at least we could have…you know….FLIRTED.

    I wonder how growing up as you have shapes your worldview. I wonder if it’s even possible to know…to parse it.

    • It has been a crazy week so it took me forever to get back to it. I never really noticed the isolation of small town rural living until I went to college. It was really all I knew so with nothing to compare it to you didn’t really miss anything. In summer time the place was a tourism mangnet so there was a quite a bit happening, but when Columbus Day rolled around the entire place changed. It was 30 minutes to the nearest movie theater, but had two screens so you could pick the movie you wanted ;), and restaurants. The closest big town, we called it a city, was a little over and hour and it had pretty much everything, a Mall, national chain restaurants, and 8 screen theater, you know all the important stuff ;). When I got to college I couldn’t figure out why nobody wanted to drive the hour it took to get to the beach. “its too far” they would say. Shit, I used to drive that far to go on a date in the winter. As far as shaping my world view I think it is probably impossible to sort it all out, but when everybody know your business the idea of social conformity takes firm hold. There are always those folks who will be and act “different”, but they are fewer and less “different” than what you find in larger areas. Your peer group selections are so limited that you really do risk isolation if you don’t conform on some level. I think in general this type of living creates folks with a more conservative viewpoint. I am certainly conservative in my outlook, but was that the community environment or just upbringing? Both? Of course my folks were both small town people as well. My mother came from an island community of about 100 people, and she is very very conservative socially and otherwise. My a Dad moved to that community when he was a teenager from a tiny town in the deep south and his worldview is pretty much the same as my mothers.

      • Oooh, this is very, very interesting. This is “coffee talk” stuff. You are alluding to some interesting things. Do you think your anxiety is rooted or exacerbated by living in such a small town? I was thinking this through. My choices would be very limited if everyone was in my business. If I was deprived of anonymity? Oh Lord…panic. I do struggle with anxiety, and it’s better. So much better. But, if I lived in a place where everywhere I went people talked about me, looked at me, and there was a potential for some kind of symbolic invasion of my privacy? I might develop agoraphobia.

        A few years ago, I had to deal with an issue in my daughter’s elementary school. I live in a first-ring suburb; it’s not a tiny suburb, but one does bump into others in the community from time to time. Well, the issue in the school attracted some media attention, and my photo was taken and put in two newspapers–my worst nightmare. So, I became the face of a a school-wide issue, and I had never even been to a PTA meeting! It made no sense. Anyway, a few opponents of the issue starting harassing me whenever I was out, glaring at me, glaring at my children, following me around when I was at the grocery store or community events. My children became anxious. I became anxious. Three years later, there is still one woman who still acts as if she hates me, and I don’t know her! We’ve never met. All because some reporter took my photo and published it. All this is to say, I was a bit of a mess in the middle of that situation because of all the talking, gossiping, and staring. I was scared at one point to go out, and I had a helluva time going into my daughter’s school–the lions’ den!

        Is this what it’s like then? If you didn’t conform? If you did what you really wanted? Would your life become something like that? Fodder for gossip? Would you be a pariah? Ostracized? Would you wife and children be mistreated? If that’s the case, then I would certainly understand where at least some of our anxiety originated or why your nervous system is irritated…

      • I doubt its rooted in the small town stuff, I have little doubt that I just wired this way, but there are small town things that will make it worse for sure. I used to say I didn’t really care what others thought of me, but that was never really true, and in small towns if you want to succeed you better care because if you burn one bridge there very well may not be another. You don’t have to be all friendly with people you don’t care for, but you’d be better served to keep your opinions to yourself and let things go rather than make a fuss. Of course this can lead to having some “stuff” bottled up which with the wrong disposition can be the first step down a bad path. My neighbor is back on the war path and we both spoke at the same meeting last night. It was the first time we had spoken at the same meeting and the first time I had spoken with her in the room. It got mildly tense, but not too bad. This is a situation where everybody in the room has come to see what is going on, and a few town officials and employees have expressed their sympathy to me over it. I know that I have the support of the town, but I still chose my words very carefully, and I still am careful about making waves on the street. I just want it to go away and I don’t want her all pissed off. My experience tells me this is bad position to be in, but in this particular case I could probably be more aggressive and get away with it. The problem is I am not100% sure and it goes against my programing to make those kinds of waves. Things go easy when small town officials like you, and they go harder when they don’t so I see future potential risk in looking like an ass or a bully today. This conflict makes my anxiety worse. I didn’t sleep last night as my mind tossed the evening events around and around. My mind is still chewing on it today pretty much full time. The effect is that I am running at a higher level of emotion than normal so I will hit the anxiety trigger quicker. When things settle down it will have little daily effect. The reality of day to day life in small towns is that these types of conflicts are rare, and typically centered around the same problem citizens. I have never been in the center of a conflict like this before and I have been in tiny communities my whole life. I have a problem with making people angry. I don’t like it I will avoid conflict to keep it from happening. The truth is I don’t know if this has anything to do with small town conditioning or it is just me.

  2. That’s all very interesting, and thanks for commenting. Good for you for dealing with The Neighbor. I don’t envy you. I loathe conflicts of that sort, and I can only imagine how hard it must be particularly since you live in a small community…and she lives across the street. Uff’da…as my grandmother would say.

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