Friday, March 6, 2009

What's Op Op, Part 4

(Finishing the introduction to this blog.)

So I’ve adopted the Opulent Opossum as my mascot, my icon. At first glance the opossum seems pretty homely, maybe even repugnant, but, when properly considered, it is actually unique and quite wonderful. The reason this seems like appropriate symbolism is because I live in Jefferson City, Missouri, and I don’t seem to be moving away.

Of course, everyone who has traveled, even just a little bit, or who has lived in different states, or who has even communicated with people from elsewhere, can get a “grass is greener” attitude about where they live. And of all the places I’ve lived, Jefferson City is the most challenging.

Every place has its “down” side. My own experiences are limited, but they kind of sum things up: Phoenix was hot, impersonal, and huge. It lacked a true winter. San Francisco was cold, foggy, and crammed with people. Helena was snowy half the year, lacked a true summer, and seemed surrounded by white supremacists—and the nearest big airports were themselves a jet flight away. Every place has its drawbacks.

And I need to point out that my beloved hometown of Columbia, Missouri, a half-hour’s drive to the north, across the river from Jeff City, is a city eternally caught in sophomoric limbo, jazzed by college youth and from fast-paced infusions from Kansas City and St. Louis, direct via I-70, yet always a smaller town than those, always a “kid sister,” and a magnet for country people for shopping, doctor visits, and other “city” needs.

Columbia’s clash of cultures is intense: The left and right wings. Rednecks from Hallsville driving battered pickups, and coiffed sophisticates in BMWs from Ladue. Ballcapped youths who can’t drive fast enough, and irked locals who punish tailgaters by slowing down even more.

And no one’s quite satisfied in Columbia; half the town wants it to speed up, lose the twang, expand, offer everything St. Louis has; the other half wants it to slow down, remain a comfortable, quiet, and clean place.

But Jeff City? It seems that everyone here who likes progress runs away north to Columbia, and usually much farther away than that. Jeff City is the home of mundane. When other towns are sleepy, this one is willfully comatose. Well, who would choose to live in Jefferson City, with its perceived homogeneity, its “stuck in its ways,” its backwardness, when Columbia, with all its restaurants, shopping, parks and green spaces, civic recycling program, generally accepting attitude toward diversity, and on and on, is just a half hour away? What does Jeff City have that Columbia doesn’t have?

Think hard. If you lived here, you’d know what I mean.

For that matter, why would someone choose to live in any kind of sleepy small town, in the “heartland,” the Middle West, when so much fun and important stuff is happening in big cities and on the coasts?

Tune in on subsequent posts for some possible answers to this burning issue.

Because I want to know, too.

So this is our challenge: How can we live here as opulent opossums?


SFerber said...

Wow, congrats on getting your blog up and running!

Julie said...

Thanks! And you did a great job with the masthead. I love the way you tied the pink type with the critter's pink schnozzle. You're the best.