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Conflict: Country Mouse or City Mouse?
September 18, 2006

We've lived in the country by Okemos and Williamston, in mid-Michigan, for 15 years now. We have one friend who stops by. We can't keep up our yard or even our house.

It's not really country, but it is pretty. And our house is more like a cottage. Falling into ruin. We're not handyfolk. We can do a lot, but not that. No harm---except to houses.

Maybe we should move to a town. Should be renters. We have other things to do than own a home.

I need water. There's no water around here.

Martha just spent several days in our old Ann Arbor, where we did have a house til recently that we rented out. A rare chance, probably our only chance. Who could afford a house there now? But we sold it. If we hadn't embarked on that wildhair we could've just moved back. Oh well. But I couldn't take care of it either. That work's not for me, I guess. Big deal, but I do need to face it.

So what's the downside of renting? No appreciation. I could just be bearish and suggest that appreciation isn't what's in store anyway. I just want a place to work and finally to die.

Anyway, Martha had a great time in AA. Friends all see each other every week, at least. Old pals stopped by after walking their kids to school. Everything is in walking distance. School for the kids just down the street. Groceries, post office. If you want country it's a five minute drive away.

Here it's the reverse, but here you can't ever get to a city, coz there ain't none. A city is rare in America anymore, isn't it. So if you can get at one and decide you need it, don't secondguess it.

Martha helped Mike run his big wacky garage sale then for the next few days she ran into people who she met at the sale everywhere in town.

AA is a town where you know the people who work at the places here'n'there.

Where we live now, in the semi-burbs, all we get are vacant stares. It's true! For 15 years! Martha is the only person around here who rides her bike for groceries.

Sure, there are some nice folks. Just not many. And they're in their cars. It's not a neighborhood. The kids are a bit lonely, too. I was, too, growing up here. It's a thin place. Kids know it. It depresses them.

We have good friends and family here. The kids do have friends. It's just not a neighborhood. It's farflung carland. And the nearby towns and cities are in big trouble. The freeway exits and big boxes dominate where we live and that's hard to live with. Some must be able to at least tolerate it all, but we're hurtin'.

Our kids have a pediatrician who treats them like cattle. Well, the local doc is part of a "team" of course. Teams are so great, right! The parts are replaceable, isn't that sweet. There's no humanity there, is the problem. We've seen each doc once, so we get the lovely stranger vibe. Our AA pals just mentioned having their doc over for a potluck. Big difference!

People stop by in AA. That's what they do in neighborhoods. Sure, we get a lot of work done here, with no one stopping by hardly (except one!).

OK, AA is famous for having an attitude (here and there). And it's pricey and doesn't have the space of the rural-burbs. Ingham County is famous...for what? For its nothingness. Everything here is DIY. Nothingness gives freedom. There's a good side to it. It's a blank slate. ...With blank stares. It's easy to do your own thing, no crowds, not much noise, but the blankness gets at us. I try to think that, Hey, this is America. It needs uplift and help. People want to learn how to survive the TV and the car. Is there a way to thrive in the burbs? We should try to make it work and pass the word along. I need to pitch in, contribute. But really I should admit it: it's a goner. I do contribute: and get funny looks.

Some people get by by joining interest groups. Well, I want to contribute to a culture not to a club that I sign up to that others aren't members of. We could pre-select for decent folk by orienting our lives around a nice church, but we want to be inclusive.

This mode of gutted cities and diffused car-land around it is a goner. It kills, in every way that can kill, from within and without. The people with the stares are going away. There's no helping them or their kind. Ya can't relate to a TV or a car or a social club or an "appreciation" value scheme.

Speculation is not a cultural dynamic. It's a business poison. It used to be castigated as debased by businessmen! Today it's the ruling part of America. And so that part is a goner. They forgot that it's still a poison even if popular. Even if it works to create exploitable bloat in the short-term, a cancer is a cancer. Maybe it's not as bad as all that, but it probably is. You can't thrive if you live somewhere where it's part of some "bargain," some deal you'll cash in on. A dollar isn't something to base a life on.

AA would cost us a lot to move to. Some people pay to be part of plain old neighborhoods these days. If that's what they value. Do we? Less yard, less house, less car...

Maybe we need a test move. Lighten our load here. Rent something there. But a test would require renting out our house here...and then maintaining it for whomever. It would be like keeping up our own house only worse.

The best way to save time, energy and cash is to stay put. Maybe we just need to deal with it. It's hard for everyone, isn't it. But we can make choices. I hated growing up here, with only drainage ditches to play in, if I wanted some water. We did have some dandy fields and woods, but those are built up now. Still, there's some space around... Maybe just enough, for kids anyway...

Reader Comments - Add Your Own Comment
JeffOYB - Williamston, MI, posted on Sep 19, 2006
Idea: In AA, I could set up my shipping/inventory in our garage and also run it as a stop-by store. Maybe even have a sign out (do they bust you for that promptly there?). I could develop my Man Booth concept there.

No one would stop by out here in the rural-burbs...but I would have more room to store bigger things to sell, like trailers, vans, boats, if I ever got to that kind of thing.

But in AA I could have a little stop-by shop. I'd have all my books, mags, vids, music CD's in shelves for shipping, but they would also be there for browsing by stop-by customers. I could keep my eye out and pick up steady stock of other things, too, so I could always have a few bikes for sale, versatile boats, some furniture (made by my bro), paintings, luggage, hats, knives, pipes, tweed, beachstone jewelry. It would be a nice hangout place. Have a frig. Then I'd have a trailer to load up and go to shows with my Man Booth. (Well, we'd have two booths, right? ---Martha's "Lazy Gal" fabric art---and the kids' art---booth is already rockin' way strong at the fancy shows. Some shows might have a craft side where a booth like mine could get in.)
sisu - ann arbor, posted on Sep 20, 2006
What about TC? Better snow for xc, woodsy, lotsa water. Maybe cheaper than AA housing-wise? More and Moore (as in Michael and his TC film fest) culture these days. I like TC lots, but I'll admit that I'd rather live 30 minutes from it than right in the belly of the beast--too much traffic, too many fudgies.
JeffOYB - Williamston, MI, posted on Sep 20, 2006
Oh, it's all "a thought." But the thing about AA for us is that we've kept in touch with folks since we left there 15 years ago and we've even gotten to know more good folks there. And it's not far from our families and friends here.

So part of the idea is to build more roots with folks we've been building them with already. We've tried here but we haven't cracked the code. We have family and friends here, but with the School Years coming on strong for our kids we're thinking that a neighborhood-values scene and walk-to school might be best.

Oh well, maybe alienation is a threat wherever you go. America is a land of spread out minimalls, cars and social nichification (and oh so much more!). There are pro's and con's to it all---a lot of UGLY con's, yo. Even so, there are hopefully ways to thrive amidst it. (But what if there aren't?) We try to "bloom where you're planted" but we get fatigued. But, hey, isn't that what life's about? Work, effort, fatigue? I mean, I'm fed up with home ownership, too. And a yard. And stuff. This isn't reasonalbe. I need to just buck up, right? Unless you keep *working* at it, it all gloms onto you wherever you go probably. Of course, who needs to be considered freaks on top of it all for not being into stadium sports and for riding bikes to get groceries? That's needle enough to break ye ole camel's back.