Nothing good ever came from a look like this.
I was musing today about the unstoppable march of “progress.” Well…perhaps progress is the wrong word…how about “the unstoppable march of people”?
I don’t know what the solution is…people need places to live, of course, and if they want to live in a nice place they should be able to…but there’s no denying that when a place is known for its quiet, slow pace and rustic charm…that slow pace and charm are hard to maintain once a few thousand more people descend upon it.
I was thinking about my town today, and feeling kind of melancholy about it. Not to boast but I live in a pretty idyllic sort of place. Some of you may be city people; lovers of the hustle and bustle that comes with the congested streets of a concrete jungle. That’s not me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to visit. But for home-life, I need some nature, lots of green landscape, and some semblance of quiet.
The region where I live is both rural and water-oriented. In the past it was home to family farms and any number of watermen. In fact, there are still some small towns dotting the landscape here and there where families make their living on the water — fishing, crabbing, and harvesting oysters as generations have done before them. But those small towns are described as “quaint” these days instead of “bustling” and are becoming more and more like ghost towns every day. The family owned farms are mostly shut down—consumed by the much larger corporate farms.
By and large the area used to be slow-paced with plenty of open space. Mom and Pop stores were where you used to go to get whatever home-goods, knick-knacks, or specialty food you needed. We’ve always had our main “chain” grocery stores (Acme, Food Lion and Safeway), but there were barely any franchise restaurants except for one of each of the staples McDonald’s, Burger King, and Dairy Queen. Besides these three there were only local eateries that served fresh, locally sourced seafood, as well as a couple of “homestyle” restaurants. This was the Eastern Shore and the atmosphere was fantastic.
Years ago, going across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get to Maryland’s Eastern Shore was no issue; you could make it across and be home in no time. Except on Friday evenings in the summer.
On the weekends in summer, traffic was a mess because people from the Western Shore just had to get to the beach (it was the only route to Ocean City). If you were caught on the Western side on a Friday evening, it sometimes could take hours to get home. But people who lived over here knew that the occasional tourist traffic congestion was a necessary evil, and they felt it was worth it because of the lovely Eastern Shore atmosphere. We adjusted our commuting lives accordingly on those “seasonal weekends.”
Then, somewhere along the way, things changed.
Western Shore people got wise to how great the Eastern Shore was. Eventually, just visiting on weekends wasn’t enough. They wanted to live on the Eastern Shore. So the transition began and they started moving over in droves. Unfortunately, once they got here, they couldn’t do without all those amenities that they were once so anxious to leave behind.
It was okay, apparently, to enjoy the “small town life” when they were just visiting and getting away from the chaos of their own lives. But once they lived here – oh no. They had to have those amenities then!
So in came the strip malls, the nationwide franchise stores, the franchise dime a dozen restaurants, convenience stores on every corner, and out went the locally owned places – driven out because they couldn’t compete.
Up went the sky-high hotels, and houses upon houses upon houses to accommodate the number of people moving here and concrete….concrete everywhere.
And now, now we have traffic every day of the friggin’ week! Instead of expecting hours of traffic on a Friday, we have daily rush hour traffic that takes forever. And it doesn’t stop at the bridge either. The throng of new inhabitants has caused bumper to bumper traffic all the way down the highway and across the Island.
Now, instead of a placid, rural place, the Eastern Shore has been mutated into a paved extension of the suburban Western Shore with miles and miles of constant development.
And they call this progress. My question is, progress towards what? More noise? More corporations exerting their influence? More congestion? More pollution? If that’s the definition of progress, I just want to state for the record that I liked exactly where I used to be.
at home on the road and I want to give a shout out to all those altruistic folks on the highways, at red lights, and in parking lots who are oh so kind enough to share their music with those of us less fortunate who might not have music of our own to listen to.
Without you we might have to sit in glorious silence going over that speech we have to give in the PR meeting later, or perhaps, god forbid, we might catch up on the news or the latest weather report, or even be forced to listen to that audio book we checked out at the library just for our commute to work. If it weren’t for you sharing your music at such a loud decibel that our cars shake, we might never know the pleasures of obscenity laden music or lyrical rape scenarios, all while having our spines realigned and our heads on the verge of implosion from the sheer force of the bass.
So thank you! Thank you for doing your part to make what is already an annoying undertaking — our daily commute or running errands — that much more intolerable by giving of yourselves and your delightful taste in music.
Okay, so I’m a little late for Saint Patrick’s Day as the day is almost over. And I have no valid reason for being behind because I’m re-posting an entry I wrote from February 2014. So I didn’t even need to write something from scratch. My only excuse is I’ve been under the weather and not really on my game. Still, I hope you enjoy it and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
** originally posted 2/7/14: Out of Time and Place **
Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu and known it was something you can’t possibly have experienced in your own lifetime? I get this feeling often, a heartfelt pining for a time period I’ve never lived through and a place that I’ve never even visited. Many of these feelings are tied directly to Ireland in the early 20th century and onward. I’ve never been to Ireland and although I’m not about to disclose my age, suffice it to say that while I may not be a spring chicken anymore I certainly wasn’t alive that long ago. So where does this pull come from? I know that I have Irish ancestry so maybe it’s some sort of engrained memory in my genes; some attachment that’s been passed down from generation to generation, gently calling me back to the homeland. Maybe the memories of a past life are bubbling subtly to the surface of my consciousness.
Since I can’t time travel or teleport, the best I can do to ease this unnerving feeling of living out-of-place and out of time is to read as much as possible about the subject. History books, news articles, and authors specializing in the place and era. I read and read and read some more, stoking this connection and hoping to quell this unexplained feeling of homesickness….a strange yet compelling homesickness for a place I’ve never even been. The reading does help, but it doesn’t answer the burning question lying underneath the feelings. Are the ghosts of my past whispering to me or am I just a nutcase?
We all have that little voice in our head that gives its unsolicited advice whenever we’re in a bit of an ethical pickle. Some people call it that “gut feeling” or the angel and devil sitting on each shoulder. We try to listen to these logical parts of our psyche but sometimes what we know is right are different from what we want to do.
Let’s be honest: Sometimes we want to be bad. We want to have that extra drink. We want to stay out a bit longer on a weeknight. We want to…well, our wants can be quite strong cravings. But, as we all know, many times we end up kicking ourselves for not listening to that little voice. We knew the voice was right. We knew we were getting ourselves in trouble. Yet we did it anyway. Then where are we? In bed with a scorching hangover trying figure out how you’re going to make it to work in the next 30 minutes. Then we’re in the office, groaning next to the coffee machine. A co-worker comes in and asks what’s wrong. While you might have a great story to tell, you don’t feel all that great.
My stories from back in the day all tend to start the same way. Something along the lines of “So my friend and I were at this bar…” Cue the hilarity that resulted in a hangover.
So, why is our little voice so ineffective? We have that shot glass in our hand and the voice says, “You should not be drinking tequila right now. You need to be awake in five hours and you will regret this.” Yet, gulp. Down the shot goes because it’s going to make the rest of the night that much more fun. If we know it’s looking out for our best interest why don’t we listen more often? Simple. It’s too easy to ignore.
Imagine if our little voice could manifest itself in no uncertain terms — clear and obvious STOP signs that appears right in front of you rather that just rattling around in your head. How great would that be! I know for a fact this would be more successful in stopping our foolish choices because I’ve seen it happen.
So my friend and I were this bar…and while she had made the decision to save herself for marriage (a decision I admired greatly), the alcohol had loosened her up a bit on this particular night. We were hanging out with some friends and closed the place down. Unwilling to concede that the night was over; we joined an after party at one of our friends’ places. I will never forget that night because while I’m in the middle of mingling with friends in the living room, here comes my friend traipsing down the steps laughing her fool head off and ready to go home. I didn’t even realize she’d gone upstairs, but she wasn’t out of sight for more than ten minutes.
Here she came, giggling like crazy as she weaved down the stairs. The guy she apparently stole away with quickly followed…begging loudly as he stumbled after her, and wearing, I kid you not, nothing but a pair of the absolute brightest neon smiley face boxer shorts I have ever seen in my life. They were so superbly comical that I could totally see why my friend had a moment of clarity smack her right in the face as it were.
That was her sign. That was her little voice jumping right out of her head and showing her (not just whispering to her) that what she was about to get into would be a serious mistake. And boy did it work.
As she told me later on, she had been internally waffling on what to do about this guy even though they hadn’t gotten into anything “serious,” when he suddenly excused himself to go to the bathroom and surprise, surprise, he came back in nothing but his crazy boxer shorts…and the absurdity of it hit her.
I wish we had more of those blatant signs in life. It might help me say “no” to a relationship with someone I know is bad for me from day one. If the guy had an insanely, neon smiley face tattoo on his forehead that would really help save some time.
Just in general, signs would definitely make decisions so much easier. Then we’d know, okay, this situation is so damn laughable and so crazy there’s no way this will end well. We’d save ourselves a lot of remorse, embarrassment, and heartache down the road. Until then I guess trying to listen to the little voice is the best we can do. It’s certainly there for a reason.
Many of you probably saw that the Westminster Dog Show recently crowned its top pooch but how boring is that? They walk around in circles, they have their teeth checked, they try desperately not to pee on the Astroturf lest they lose the title they don’t even understand. Have you ever wanted more from your dog competition? More flair, more color, more X-tremeness? Well, lucky for you other people have had the same idea and now our world has this in it:
It’s called Extreme Dog Grooming and, yes, this is a thing. One photographer called it “detestable” and I can’t say that I disagree. Look at some of those pictures. It’s one thing to keep your dog clean. The coat is shiny, the nails are trimmed, the slobber is contained. That’s well and good for me. But coloring your dog with a portrait of Popeye and Bluto? Plastering on eyelashes so it can resemble a My Little Pony? Cutting their hair to look like a punk rock legend? Dousing it with dye so it can resemble a cheetah? I’m sorry but this has just got to stop.
I’m afraid that their owners are forgetting that these are real, live animals. I highly doubt these people realize how ridiculous they look, but even if they are oblivious, doesn’t it factor in at all that dogs (and cats) shouldn’t be treated as blank canvases? It’s not like these are stuffed play toys… they are sentient beings.
Do these owners have nothing better to do with their time? It seems like they could find something else to do that would keep them from looking at their dog and thinking, “You know what, you’d look a lot better with cartoon characters scrawled across your body and your hair moussed out to there! To the barber shop!”
What’s even sadder is that people actually show up to these “sporting” events to see what “works of art” these owners have created. The fact that people are doing this to their dogs is bad enough, but please don’t reinforce the behavior by giving them the satisfaction of an audience. It’s degrading not just to the dogs (and again, cats as well), but what does it say about our society that this is now a form of actual entertainment?