Maybe Go Back To RockVille

photoAA friend of mine was telling me about his niece who lives and works somewhere in the ski area of Colorado. She is a massage therapist and does most of her business in the ski season when the slopes are packed with the snow-whatevertheyrecallednow… bunnies? In the warmer months, she scrapes by like the rest of the full-time residents out there except for one thing. She and her husband (and a few kids now) have been living there long enough to have developed a network of others, people with skills who primarily serve as seasonal labor since even the restaurants and high-end resorts have a feast and famine business cycle and whatever is made, whether tips as a waitstaff or profit as the owner, must cover the warmer dryer months when hikers and other fresh-air types replace the crisp-popping dollar dropping bling a ding crowds airlifted in for this or that affair. However, these are but transplants and in-transit folks and the basic infrastructure of full-time residents have built a tight community where trade is the currency so that more of them can hold on to whatever earnings they have and share their skills with others. When the family wants to go out on horses, the niece barters her skills for that service. Restaurant dining, this is affordable too even for a family since she barters her skills. Her husband also barters. It seems that, according to my friend at least, she and her family are saving more money each year since while they make all they can in a short period, the year sees them saving up as they are able to live and do things and only spending money on those things that we have yet to figure out a way to barter for.
photoBThis is not the fantasy of the Bitcoin(sm) or some collective, it is a regular community of people who do not move about every few years or months and have gotten to learn about one another, develop trust, learn who has what skills, learn who will follow through with their reciprocity and in the end a benefit to all. It seems something out of the past, perhaps even the 1950s to think there is still a place like this. In the past it was common to know your neighbors, the US government actually used to (and still does) interview neighbors in order to grant security clearance or find out if you are a communist/alqaeda even though the percentage of people who know their neighbors pets more than their actual neighbors. In a recent visit to some friends I was told that “Oh, I don’t know my neighbors, before I put this fence up the woman over there started talking to me and I was like… Why are you talking to me? Why are you telling me these things?” (in her defense her neighbor was telling her that her daughter had a kid by her uncle.. I mean, the woman’s brother). In the city this is even more the case. Who can know your neighbors, and who can know what sort of people they are? When I was a kid, we knew our neighbors, but somewhere in my mother’s generation the ideal was to move out of the suburbs in order to never see your neighbors to do this imaginary “my own thing” and “not be bothered” so that we could I guess masturbate while standing in the front yard pooping…. Or mow the lawn no one will see since we can’t see our neighbors…. Or keep several young women prisoner, which strangely enough was done in the Mistake By The Lake right in the city…
I know much of suburban culture came from the old neighborhoods when people lived on top of each other. “I grew up in the Irish Bronx,” a man in the cafe told me, “we were piled up everywhere, from the cellar to the roof, mattresses here and there, all gathered together each Sunday at the table in our best dress all sweating and eating, no one had privacy…. It was great.” However, not everyone agreed, and certainly the generation before mine really didn’t agree. They wanted more that the suburbs. They wanted exurbia, the forests, the winding driveway up a hill where they could shit out a house that looked like a GI Bill cracker box with fake tits and an ass filled with sprayfoam. They wanted to know nobody. When my family left the suburbs we didn’t even tell the neighbors where we were going. Just vanished. Many of these people my mother had grown up with, some she had met later in the thirty years she had lived there, but all of them were to be removed from our lives since we were moving away, far away, and not going to spend too much time learning who our new neighbors were since this was part of the dream. True, my family lived the dream in a more extreme way, but what are the cray-crays but an extension or distillation of those forces throughout our society? A rarer form of a social madness we can see in ourselves, hear from our friends, see in the world around us as one after another house pokes up on a mountain top, delves into the woods needlessly, or otherwise is built around an entire city of cul-de-sacs.
Many of us find it hard since we move so often. That is true, perhaps something of another subject in that we suffer from too much motion and not enough movement in this country. If we move about the land, how can we settle in one place long enough to develop those relationships? This may be where we have to think outside of the old form of community and find a way to locate those of like minds and develop a community that not only is physically there, but there in a way where we can have a network of trust and sharing… This may exist for some, but I believe that while digital relationships are good – I mean, I am a semi-anonymous blogger and you are my dear reader – the ability to become fast friends is a skill, we need to cultivate long-term relationships that occur in time and space. Close time and space…. not having to go to a wedding, bat mitzvah, pharaonic circumcision party, or Kool Aid drink-a-thon every weekend in some other state, but here at home, connect so that we are not waiting for the times to get tough in order to barter and trade whatever skills or things we have, but have this network to improve our lives, Change or no Change.
I did not really believe the Colorado story. I’ve lived in Gotham too long. Yes, there is an Ashville everywhere… at least one in each state… but we can’t all trade and barter. We need a special place for this to happen. We need to live an entire generation in one place… we need some special handshake or at least a pie we all make by rotting it on our counter, passing it on, letting someone else rot it, and then seeing who dies of food poisoning [Editor’s Note – this is an actual thing, do not attempt it at home.]
A few friends and I were in the nearby village of Guitarville, a place known for its Three Days ™ of Peace(sm), Love(c), and Boobies. We had all worked in the community, and one of our party was related to several people in town and has lived h/is/er/ whole life in the region.
At the cafe, a former student of our program comped our coffee.
At the ice cream shop a relation of one of us comped our ice cream.
When I parted company, I brought plenty of veggies and quite a few eggs from a garden I assist with and was able to enjoy a home brew we had all made a few months prior.
Perhaps we don’t need a special place for this all to happen. And, perhaps my friend was right when s/h/e told me to blog about “something positive, you don’t always have to be so goddamn negative.”
And so, perhaps Change or no Change, more of us are rejecting the neighbor-less existence and monitization of everything since, considering we’re all experiencing flat growth of income, we are learning that while we may not go bowling, we can no longer afford to be alone.

3 thoughts on “Maybe Go Back To RockVille

    • Yes, right in the end. I still am trying to take advantage of the public where I can… which is less and less these days…

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