Sunday, December 03, 2006

Malone pines for her desert home

Before I begin my post in earnest, I would like to begin with praise for Daniel Craig, the new James Bond. Honey and I caught Casino Royale yesterday afternoon. I only went on the glowing recommendations of coworkers. I, too was skeptical of a blond Bond; moreover, I'm past tired of Bond's objectification of women. Must I really suffer through Denise Richards or Halle Berry stiff acting and cooing over some guy twice her age just to get to the intrigue and action? Casino did not disappoint - probably the best Bond I've ever seen; thanks in part to a screenplay cowritten by the writer of Crash - and Craig rocked my world! His performance wasn't the Bond archetype that we all know, love and yawn at. It was alert and in the moment. Best since Connery? Hell no: better than! Way to go Danny-boy! I can't wait to see the next offering.

Now, to the real point:
I had the dream again the other night. I don't know if I've ever blogged on it or not. I'm back in my hometown - not the city of my nativity, but where I spent puberty and adolescence - just visiting and I 'm happy to be there. These dreams are usually so vivid or so emotionally compelling that I convince myself that I am actually there. In the last year, I've wanted so badly for my presence there to be real that I pause, take in my surroundings and think to myself or outright proclaim: "this isn't a dream. I'm really here! I'm here! I'm not dreaming!" ... and of course I always am. On occasion, I've woken up actually sad or angry that it was a dream. In retrospect, the landscape of my town is rarely accurate: the temperature is too cool or the mountains too young, like the Rockies, not like the wizened old mounts that they are.

I haven't been back to my hometown, for all intents and purposes, for over 12 years. After I graduated high school, my family moved, I went off to college and the only times I returned were to pick up a friend en route somewhere else, and to scatter the ashes of my first dog. 48 hours total between the two trips in a dozen years doesn't feel like enough.

Sometimes I ask myself why I should care. It is a small town hundreds of miles from any city most outsiders might recognize, closer to Mexico than the nearest mall and I never completely felt like I fit in there. Most people scoff at places like that; and when folks never quite felt completely like they fit in, they write off that place and move on. I think I care for two reasons.

1. Unlike most people I know, I can't return to my hometown for a casual visit. My family no longer lives there, so I have no draw, and it's so remote that to get there would take two plane rides and a car ride that lasts longer than an Oscar-length movie. Because of this inconvenience and my absence from the place, I have no way of dealing with the ghosts of my youth. Honey can drive by his old high school anytime he visits his parents; he can see random old friends still in the area and old haunts for the same reason. I don't know what's up with the Pizza Hut where my friends and I used to hang out and where I had my first date. I don't know if the movie theater still has the John Travolta, Stayin' Alive poster from 1983 in the lobby. I lived in that town from ages 12 to 18, six very important years, which really help shape who one becomes. I feel unresolved a lot of times, not getting a chance to go back and just peek. And I'm terribly jealous of my brother and parents who return every year or two to visit friends. They report back on how much (or little) the place has changed and I feel like it's a kid growing up without me.

2. I long for the simplicity of that isolation, these days. The push and shove of metropolis life, of this part of the country can be overbearing. Elbow room, clean air and drinking water and inky night skies are a luxury anymore. I go in my dreams, maybe to reckon with ghosts and get away from the congestion here.

For almost ten years, when Honey and I started dating, I've been wanting to take him there. But we've never managed to go. My throbbing desire to get out there has only become palpable in the last 3 or 4 years. (Hmm. I wonder if that has anything to do with the war.) I know we'll go out for a visit sometime, but I joke that the only time we'll get a chance is when I die and Honey has to go scatter my ashes at the crook in the river where I want to settle. That would suck, because then I couldn't take him to my favorite places alive! Note to self: don't die at least until you can get Honey out there.

In this last dream I dreamt, Matt Dillon was waiting at a restaurant where I was eating in the old burg. Sounds strange, unless you also know that a neighboring town to my burg has become a mini-mecca for New York artists and the faddish richies who like to cling to the newest chi-chi art-spot. Why Matt Dillon, I don't really know, but that's incidental. As for the neighboring town: I am truly excited that in the last 5 or 6 years, there has been an arts injection into the area. Had there been a movement like that when I was a teen, I may have been less disaffected. (However, I'm sure all that stuff takes money, and I remember having to skip out of a community theatre show I really wanted to see because I had only half the $6 admission.)

What gives me pause though are the wealthy NY hangers-on who are jetting out to the middle of nowhere to visit these new spas that have cropped up in neighboring town and frankly probably my old burg. According to a magazine I read recently, published by a Manhattan retailer for the uber-rich, one of the new hotels to cater to the elite charges $425/night. In an area where the poverty rate is twice that the national average, the median income is rougly $25K and where "school choice" is not an issue because there is only one school to choose from in each town, that kind of stuff breaks my heart. While I'm sure it's good for some locals, I worry about the effect it has on the already depressed local economy. This is a part of the country where housing prices generally go at their own pace, but my family reports that in the last five years the prices have gone through the roof. When the NY Times first did a piece on neighboring town, within days, there were offers to buy property flooding in from the Northeast corridor. The new richies coming in might make it harder for the locals to buy in their own back yard. Additionally I worry that this rapid, specialized attention for neighboring town might balloon into the next Santa Fe. I love Santa Fe dearly - my family traveled Northern NM virtually every summer till I was 13 - but for all the excellence of its history and the art, both old and noveau, it has lost some of its soul to Hollywood and New York. I don't want to see this for neighboring town. I truly, truly hope that the community will continue to benefit from the newfound attention from the artworld (I do genuinely believe it has), I just also hope and pray that it doesn't become the next Park City or Santa Fe playground for the wealthy at the expense of local character. I feel kind of like that person whose friend finds fame: Do well! Benefit! Don't totally sell out, though!

The question still remains: Why Matt Dillon? Guess I'll have to sleep on it. Maybe he'll tour me through my old burg tonight and quell my fears for neighboring town.


Sonnjea B said...

It's a tricky thing -- on the one hand, the NYers can bring a much needed influx of money to an economically challenged area. On the other hand, well, yuck.

My brother lives in a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. At least a couple of the neighboring towns have been forever changed (ruined? Maybe; too soon to tell) by the SF and Silicon Valley and Napa Valley people who've bought weekend houses, etc. There's more art and culture and stuff -- but my brother and sister in law had a tough time buying a house, thanks to the out-of-towners pushing the values up.

I certainly hope you get to go for a visit soon! It sounds like you need one.

eve's lungs said...

I grew up in a small town and spent the happiest part of my life there .. I can go back to the place but I consciously do not want to . Like you , the place often figures in my dream . It would be useless going back because 1. the people who made life happy are mostly dead and 2. Nothing remains the same - the builders would have taken over the best parts of the rambling countryside . Hence , such places are best written about and revisited in dreams .

Virginia Gal said...

I heard this new james bond was da bomb.