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Surrendering to my inner suburbanite




Surrendering to my inner suburbanite

What marks one as a true suburbanite? The answer is simple - one has a patio and a grill. I suppose if one has but a simple patio/deck and a simple grill one is a mini-suburbanite whereas if one has an elaborate patio/deck and a monster grill suitable for feeding a small town one is a maxi-suburbanite. I wouldn't know - I'm new to this suburbanite thing.

Now I have been an urban sort of chap. Once I moved to the Boston area I happily made do with the ameneties of urbia and ignored those who did the outdoor barbecuing thing. The whole idea of cooking outside on a grill was utterly alien to me. Times change. I moved back from urbia to my native home and settled in to be a remittance man.

Enter Our Lady of the Large Black Dog. She has a deck and a grill. The deck is very nice and the grill is functional. It's not one of the maxi-monsters but it works quite well. She likes to cook on the grill in the summertime. I don't know why, precisely. I suppose it has something to do with not having a hot kitchen. Whatever the reason, she's very good at it. (She's very good at cooking, period.)

She also likes to hang out at my place. Over time she has made a few helpful suggestions about improving the place. These helpful suggestions have included putting in a patio door, a patio, and patio furniture. Recently she suggested that I consider getting a grill for my patio so that supper could happily cook on the grill while we were sitting outside enjoying the birds, the view, the gardening, and a bottle of good German wine.

You know how that turned out. There is now a simple grill sitting out on my patio. It turns out that these things can be quite inexpensive - my little grill cost $87 (some assembly required). Of course there is the cost of propane and one of those little bottles. I don't know what they cost. You see, I haven't actually fired the thing up. I have enough urb left in my soul to be afraid of the thing. What if it blows up? Of course, millions of suburbanites fire up their grills every weekend, but that's different. They're real suburbanites. I'm just a former urbanite getting checked out on this suburbia thing. Grills and such like that probably don't work for me.

There is another issue. The "City" of Highmore doesn't officially have suburbs. I take the view, however, that I'm living a suburb called South Highmore. There is some question as to how many people live in South Highmore. There are three houses in the neighbourhood, mine, that of the farmer who bought the Harter land to the north of me, and the couple with their doublewide on the former Harter land to the east of me. Then there are some homes directly south of Highmore. In my view, they aren't part of my suburb, because we live a mile south of town.

Aha! I have it. Those folks live in South Highmore, whereas me and my neighbours live in Harterville. Of course my neighbours don't know that they live in Harterville, and I don't propose to mention it to them. Leave sleeping dogs lie, I always say. (Or not - I seldom say that.)

You may ask, why am I fussing about this. The answer is quite simple; if I am going to surrender to my inner suburbanite, I need to be in a suburb.

Ronald Reagan's diaries

A quote from Ronald Reagan's diaries dated 5/17/1986

"A moment I've been dreading. George brought his n'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida ; the one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job.Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."
I don't know if this is legitimate, but I like to believe that it is.

The man with the large face

In a previous editorial I mentioned that I had had a root canal recently. This was not an entirely happy experience because the tooth scraper mucked the job. I don't know what he did wrong - not surprising - and my dentist doesn't know either, which is a bit unnerving. It just occurred to me that root canals are unnerving experiences in more ways than way. In any case, the tooth hurt from time to time.

Apparently the tooth scraper left a bit of nerve (the root canal was not as unnerving as it should have been) or something because all of a sudden it started to really hurt. This was on a weekend, of course. These things always happen on a weekend. Monday I hied over to the dentist. He took an xray and said that it looked normal. I looked at it myself and I thought it looked normal. That shows what I know. Still, the thing hurt, so he gave me a prescription for a pain pill and an antibiotic. Monday night was unpleasant.

Tuesday morning I inspected my face in the mirror. It didn't much look like the way I remembered it looking. The right side of my face my face had bloomed. As it happened my doctor was in Highmore that day, so I made a quick appointment to see him. I don't recall exactly what he said when he saw me but it was something pretty close to "My, that's ugly. What happened?" I explained about the tooth and my fear that I might be having an allergy reaction to the antibiotic. He looked at the prescription and at my face (brave man). He decided it wasn't an allergy reaction, just a nasty infection, and that the prescription was under powered. He tripled it.

The new prescription did the trick. In a few days my face returned to normal. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog was all sympathy and concern. She has expressed the opinion, though, that for someone who is basically healthy, I seem to have such peculiar ailments.

Not making it

In 1977 I wrote an essay called Not making it, the agricultural future. It was clear then to me that "The industrial age which we are now in is an unstable transition period which is, of necessity, short lived." I wrote a brief paragraph on what the requirements for a prosperous high-tech future were and what it would look like. The question is: can we as a species make the transition from the industrial age to a prosperous post-industrial age? I expressed doubts in the next paragraph:

"Can we make it? It seems likely that we won't. Our social institutions are designed for a world that is coming to an end, a world of inexhaustible (but not renewable) resources, a world of ever expanding growth. For every problem we solve we plant the seeds of two new ones. The odds are that the whole house of cards will come tumbling down in the next century, that the industrial society will collapse in social chaos. When the collapse comes it will take with it the means for creating the infrastructure for a technological future. We won't make it. If we don't, what sort of future is in store for us?"
So, was I wrong? Maybe, maybe not. We are thirty years closer to the time of troubles, and about twenty years away from the time when things begin to get really sticky - maybe less. The outlines of the future that should not be are clearer.

It is rather likely that the whole global economy will come apart in the next decade or two and that the process will be very messy. Still, people are doing things about that which is about to come. I opine that the result may be islands of order in a sea of chaos. One of these days I will write a long and probably depressing essay about the whole thing.

And maybe I won't. I hear they have a great dance band on the deck of the Titanic.

Spring in South Dakota - part II

In my April editorial I wrote:

I finally figured out the deal with spring in South Dakota. The thing is, South Dakota doesn't actually have a season called spring. The way it works is that in the transitional period between full winter and full summer the weather flips backs and forth between summer days and winter days.
The weatherman seems determined to make a prophet of me. On the 21st it in the 70's; in the night of the 23rd it snowed and there were blizzard conditions. At that, things weren't too bad in these here parts. We only got 2-3 inches. In the eastern part of the state they got a foot of wet goopy snow.

The weather man says we may get snow in May. How loverly.

Getting it right

In the May, 2007 editorial I expressed my delight in discovering that the National Wildlife Federation seemed to think that North Dakota's southern neighbour was the District of Columbia. Sometime in the past year they seem to have figured out that it actually is South Dakota. This is progress. I like to think that it was one of my readers who called their attention to their errors in geography.

Getting it wrong

Being politically irrelevant has been one of the fixtures of my life experience. The reason why is very simple. Most of my life has been spent in two states, South Dakota and Massachusetts, one being absurdly conservative and the other absurdly liberal. One is certain to go Republican, the other Democrat. So it has never mattered who I voted for in the presidential elections.

There is a caveat to that irrelevance - Massachusetts can matter in the primaries. However I was certain that South Dakota was monumentally irrelevant. Not only does it have its primary in June, it has few electoral votes. Nobody ever worries about whom South Dakota votes for and, I was certain, nobody ever would. It seems I was wrong.

This, after all, is the century in which the supreme court decides who will be elected president and the Red Sox win world series. So it is only natural that South Dakota should matter in a presidential election. The competition in the Democratic party is so intense that even South Dakota's votes may matter. Barack Obama is running ads here, and I understand Hillary is soon to follow.

But it isn't just that. I always figured that since my vote didn't matter in the presidential election, it behooved me to register in the dominant party because that was where the action would be. Ergo, in Massacusetts I was a registered Democrat and in South Dakota ... a registered Republican. Oh, the irony. The one time my vote would matter in a presidential primary and I can't vote.

I guess I always get these things wrong.


This page was last updated May 1, 2008.

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