Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It looks like my cranky genes are rearing their heads big time. This has been simmering just below the surface and it finally had to come out.


William Raspberry had a column in the paper Monday discussing the changes in our community life since the end of WWII. I believe I understand where he’s coming from. I’m not sure I want to give up ease of travel that the car gives us or the fingertip access to entertainment and information that television and computers give us but the loss of community that has crept into our lives over the past forty or fifty years frankly scares the bejesus out of me.


When my folks got married they moved into a little place on D Street in Springfield. Basically the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker were within a dozen blocks of the house. Folks walked a lot more and the meat cutter knew just how you liked your pot roast trimmed. They used an ice box for the basic needs, the milkman still made deliveries, there was a garden in the back, mom canned anything that wasn’t nailed down or failed to salute and if you needed to store frozen food you rented a locker at the market on main street.


We moved to Oakridge right after I was born and came back to Springfield eighteen years later. Richer by two sisters and poorer by a disabled stove-up logger. Dad wore himself out working in the logging industry. When his legs gave out he ended up on the scrap heap. Thank you FDR for Social Security Disability. We finally ended up all of ten blocks from where we started. All the basic shops are gone from Main Street except for a large fabric store. They’ve been replaced by second hand stores, small offices and vacant storefronts. The closest grocery store is a Fred Meyer. It’s about a mile and half away on the other side of several very busy streets. Nobody walks there if they can help it, nobody really knows you and everything comes wrapped in plastic. You drive there in your individual tinted window vehicle and you drive home behind your tinted windows and nobody looks you in the eye if they can help it.


We’ve been sold self-service in the name of convenience but all it really does is cut down the number of people they need to hire and pay employee taxes on. The trick is to tell us we're getting it our way, when what they're selling is their way. Orwells’ Newspeak is alive and well. Marketing managers are fluent in it


Instead they use the money they save on people to try to convince me to buy stuff I probably don’t need, didn’t even know existed until I saw the commercial and isn’t worth half what they want for it in the first place, if that. When mom talks about what she and dad had when they got married it wasn't much but they seemed think it was enough. Madison Avenue was just getting into the game of convincing us that no matter how much we have it isn't enough. That somehow if we buy just the right combinations of stuff we’ll  somehow be smarter or sexier or some darn thing. We keep shoveling things into the black hole at the center of our spirits and wonder why all we keep hearing is the sucking sound as little pieces of our selves follow them in


I don't want to make those early days of mom's marriage sound better than they were. People spent a most of their time just making sure the basics got done. A lot of time was spent doing the wash in a wringer washer, hanging the clothes to dry and then ironing the blessed things. And man, you did not want to let my grandmother get near the laundry. Dad used to say she could shrink a house if she put her mind to it and no button was safe. There were just as many gossips per square mile as there are now. They just had to be nosy closer to home and most of the local nosiness stayed local


I really don’t know how the repair the tatters of the threads that tie us all to each other but I think we’d better start mending………real fast


oceanmrc said...

This is why I love where I live.  If you walk or bike or drive to the grocery or the library or the park or anywhere, you will run into people you know who know you and ask about your kids.  Community IS still here, but we have to be intentional about finding it and preserving it.

ibspiccoli4life said...


This is just a brilliant piece of work. I love what you've written here and I wish everybody in this damn country would read it. It really is wonderful.

I was listening to speech the other night. This doctor had traveled off to Nepal. He noted that by our standards they were just as poor as you can get; yet he marveled that they didn't seem to have a want in the world. They had food; they had shelter; and they spent a great deal of time with each other. What more could one want?

As you pointed out, there is so much in our lives that keeps us apart. We can be in a crowded movie theatre with hundreds of people and not say boo to the person next to us. So much of our technology, it seems, is bent on keeping us separated.

I'm a nut. I say hello to everyone. I talk to random strangers. And I really think we need to break down this wall of isolation and bring the idea of community back. Peak oil may force us to make that move sooner than expected, but it's inevitable.

Thanks a bunch for an awesome entry.


toonguykc said...

WHOA!!!  You are an ass-kicking writer!!  I am verrrrrry impressed!  

Our country has been Wal-Martized while we weren't paying attention.  I'd patronize family-owned business in my neighborhood, but there just aren't any left.


sistercdr said...

Wonderful, wonderful entry.  I miss the days of community as well.  It seems that now instead of connecting with people, our culture seems obsessed with ranking people and seeing who is impressive or not.  I think we do need to redefine community in this era, but if we don't work on reconnecting, our culture will be in shreds.

lisaram1955 said...

This is a great entry!  And, though I know you are absolutely right about all this, the "lack of community" doesn't really bother me as much as it probably does other people.  I'm not the most neighborly person in the world.  But the part about throwing stuff at the black hole in our souls really hits home...  Lisa  :-/