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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why City People Make Me Smile

A few weeks ago, Karen and I had the chance to visit our daughter in Colorado Springs. In case you haven't heard, besides Pike's Peak and the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs is a pretty good size town - half a million people, by some counts.

We did lots of shopping and walking and eating and napping while Allison was at work. When we were in town, we were afforded lots of time for "people watching."

City people are funny. They are truly a different breed than we who enjoy the good life.

Consider this simple example: a friendly wave. In our neck of the woods, folks wave all the time. You see someone across the road, you wave. You're driving down a county road and come up on another driver, you wave. You drive by someone out working in their yard, you wave.

Not in the city.

I tried waving at some strangers while we were driving from the Denver Airport to "the Springs" and you would have thought I was waving a pistol at them.

We were shopping in Old Colorado City, an historic area of "the Springs." While Karen browsed in some of the endless women-only stores, I waited on one of the Husband Benches on the sidewalk. As I sat, I watched the passers-by. When someone would catch my eye - man, woman, child, dog - I'd just give them a little wave, my way of saying, "Howdy, I'm a visitor here."

You would have thought I had flashed them. (Ironically, I think if I had flashed someone in the city, they wouldn't have noticed.)

City people make me smile because they like to be pretentious. Karen and I have become dowdy, middle-aged Hoosiers, happy with ourselves, and, in Indiana, acting and appearing like many of our peers. All the falderol city-folks create to get you to eat in their place, shop in their store, visit their museum, and give up (lots) of your dollars is amusing.

You can't just buy a pizza in the city. You have to get an olive oil crust, with all sorts of "fromaggio" and sun-baked vegetables you never heard of. And pizza meat, where you can get it, isn't just pepperoni or sausage. There's cotechino, linguisa, salsiccia, cervellatina, salami, calabresse - not one thing produced by Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans.

It seems to me that Tony's in the freezer at the grocery is about as good.

Another bit of pretentiousness that amuses me is the lengths city folks seem to go to in order to look rural, or rustic, or country. Out here in corn country, old barns look weather-worn because they are. Folk art isn't necessarily intentional: it's what we do when we can't get any reception on our TV aerials.

And we raise beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, beets, cabbage, peas, and lettuce in our gardens. Sometimes green peppers. The surplus goes in canning jars, on shelves, in the basement.

In the city, they raise kholrabi and kale. They grow bok choi and purple carrots, endive and squash blossoms.


Karen told Allison that she grew up with organic foods and Allison seemed to be amazed. "My Mom put the kitchen scraps on the garden because we didn't have a disposal. She didn't know she was composting. Dad put manure from the barns on the garden long before they began bagging it and getting $5 for 20 lbs."

Allison stood agape.

I get to the city once in a while here in Indiana. The contrast isn't quite as stark, but it's there.

Heaven forbid you should take your time to look at the beautiful buildings while you're driving on I-465 in Indianapolis. The city folks seem to be in such a hurry to get places.

It was in the city that I first encountered a "Pay Before You Pump" gas station. In Roann, the station doesn't even take credit cards - cash or check only. (Yes, a check. Remember those?)

Even Church in the city is different. Our neice, who goes to an Indianapolis "mega-Church" pointed it out to me.

On a visit to our Church, where she was singing a special, her young sons played and ran and got all sweaty in the Church basement with other kids from the Church who came. They colored with crayons, played with non-electric toys, and snuck cookies from the refreshment table, just like the other Church kids there.

At her Church, the kids and parents are given a number and ID's that stop just this side of facial recognition technology. If the kids are causing trouble or need help, the kid's number flashes on a screen in the 'auditorium' and the parent brings their corresponding ID number and is then shown to their child.

This last thing - about the kids - doesn't really make me smile. It makes me sad.

And it reminds me again about how much I enjoy being a parson in the country.

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