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March 12, 2009


Very well put. We've only lived in this part of Pennsylvania for 38 years, so I don't really feel qualified to generalize on how values might've changed here specifically. But we still look wistfully northeastward sometimes when we become exasperated at what strikes us as the extreme pliability of Central Pennsylvanians compared to New Englanders - the way New Englanders used to be when we (briefly) lived in Maine back in the 60s. It's very difficult for environmental activists to get anyone to stand up against the developers here, because of the subservient attitude people have toward their perceived social betters. And public service is held in very low esteem here, so that of course produces a very low grade of public servant. I could go on. My point is that this area hasn't really seen much of an influx in population; people have pretty much just lied down and let the monoculture run over them.

Elkhart County, Indiana with its Amish and Mennonite culture, and forests very similar to those of New England--lost a lot during the boom years of the 1990s and 2000s. Exurbia destroyed a lot of the countryside. Now with the county leading the nation in unemployment, even the Amish, who supplemented farming with cabinetmaking for the RV business, are hurting. The Amish will survive, with their "Deitsch" dialect of German, but whether our unique culture will survive what amounts to a regional depression, I don't know.

a New England blog you might enjoy (not mine):

I often wonder what the children living now will be nostalgic for when they are our age. Walmart? We've seen a lot of growth here in northern NH over the last 20 years, most of it terrible outlet malls which are now losing stores. It the 70's it was pretty quiet here, not really rural because it is a tourist area, but not suburban either. The downtown village used to be a real village with hardware store and drugstore and local restaurants. Now it is all gift shops.

What you say of New England is equally true of rural areas of England like Devon or Hereford and Worcester, I think. The process began later but it all sounds familiar.

It fills me with horror and despair. I work with a number of scholars of globalization who tend to a kind of 'critical optimism', not minimizing the horrors of economic and cultural destruction and homogenization, but nonetheless stressing what they view as irrepressible and equal trends to heteroginization - every country and region receiving the new in its own way and creating its own version. They are good people and I'd like to be with them on this, but I'm afraid on the whole I am not, but with the wholehearted anti-globalizationists. And selfishly glad that I am old enough to remember a different world that lives on in my heart, at least.

oops, that would be heterogenization. If I must use abstract terminology, I could try to spell it right.

A friend told me her son...raised in Quebec, the son of expat americans, now working in the Canadian foreign service and married to a young woman from India...was shopping for property near Bangalore, where abandoned tea plantations go... I think she said... for around US$30K. They were using a real estate agent specializing in new buyers in that part of India. What will those "newcomers" ...bright and sensitive people in their own right...be like as neighbours in that part of the world, I wonder? Analogous to your Texans?

I was thinking about this the other day as I drove down Broadway in Edmond, Oklahoma. A couple of the local stores that I shop have closed. They were home furnishing stores, carrying everything from furniture and decorative items to linens and collectibles. It made me profoundly sad. The other stores left on Broadway are equally unique and lovely, and I hope they can make it. I am so much more attached to my dining room suite and china cabinet from the antique store than I am of the pricey leather sectional from Thomasville, chosen to please my husband and provide enough seating in our living room. I think that has as much to do with the process of finding and buying as it does the piece of furniture.

Small town Oklahoma is still rather small town. However, you can still shop at Target or Wal-Mart and pick up your lunch at Subway and your coffee at Starbucks. As long as there is a local grocery or farmer's market, a local deli, and the Java Dave's on Broadway, that's where you'll find me. Maybe it will at least slow the pace a bit.

I found your blog from a comment you made at the Cold Antler Farm blog that I read. I'm grateful you provided the address for your site.

I know it is difficult to write about these subjects without making generalizations. I am a native New Yorker -- of northeast New York state, not the big city with the same name at the southern end. It is a very rural area with a few cities, as is most of the land mass that is New York state. (And most of the people in my family say "ayup" instead of yes, like friends from rural Maine -- just an example.)

I was fortunate to buy my house in NY at a good time, and bent over backwards to pay the mortgage in five years, by the late 90's. Two years ago I paid cash for a tiny former hunting camp in SW Vermont. I was choosy and cautious with my purchase, wanting a small place and well maintained with a bit of land.

Here's what I've experienced in the past two years: A shocking number of local Vermonters want me to hire them. What for? I always shake my head in wonder after another person stops by with a business card. What needs improving? Nothing. Can't I shovel my own driveway? Is there something about owning a cabin in VT that makes me incompetent and unable to be self-sufficient? There is something in the culture here I don't understand. I have not walked into any of the many craft or antique stores, because that's not my thing. I didn't use any of the business cards local people dropped off -- because so far there isn't anything I can't do. I'm also not a rich person who doesn't consider cost.

I suspect it's the economy and the lack of jobs that's created this situation over time. I wish it wasn't so obvious.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.