Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Musical Interlude

Man, reeeeally having trouble with getting the words out lately.  Bear with me.

Describing my little hometown (Fruitvale, Texas) to the uninitiated is difficult.  Usually in my case I end up talking about it to a Brit, with hilarious results.  But I try.  The Euros are especially caught up with this mystique of the American South, and of Texas as well.  They've seen all the same the movies we did.  "About an hour east of Dallas.  Middle of nowhere, take a left.  More cows than people."

I really value, inestimably, the raising I got in that little town and the surrounding area.  It's a wonderful, wonderful way to grow up.  Mom and Dad are still there.  But necessarily, growing up "out here in the middle" as the song goes, impoverishes you in other ways.  As with most things, it's a trade off.  And a good one.  One I wouldn't change if I could.

I worried aloud to someone recently that I won't be able to quite relate how I grew up to Jack and Caroline.  "I'm raising city kids for crying out loud!"

In the small towns, there's some really interesting interplay between all these opposite forces.  Independence versus isolation.  Pride versus desperation.  Continuity versus change and encroachment from outside.  Tight-knit, supportive communities versus rabid cliquishness.  Traditional ideals versus the near complete privacy to do whatever you want (cough, meth labs, cough).

I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on rural America.  Wouldn't leave?  Couldn't wait to get out?  Can't be more indifferent?  Drove through it one time?

There are probably no other genres besides country (and western!), and hardly any songs that really give the feel of where (and how) I grew up.  But there are a few that nail that beautiful (or lonely), wide-sky silence...  and the hopelessness (or security) of never leaving.  The feelings can be at once both wonderful and bitingly sad.

I've embedded a few really terrible music videos of some really un-terrible songs:  Steve Earle's Someday, James McMurtry's Levelland (James is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry of Lonesome Dove fame) and an awful concert recording of Tift Merritt's beautiful Laid A Highway.  I threw in the incomparable Chris Knight's Rural Route for one line alone:  I go back but I can't go home.

That's true for wherever you grew up, city or country.  You can go back... but then again, you can't really.

Bon appétit.

1 comment:

Donna said...

I can't imagine growing up so isolated. I had the advantage of living in the city during the school year and spending my summers on my grandparents' farm on the outskirts. Not only is day-to-day life different- the people there were different. I can remember it so distinctly and I loved it. But I know that today I really value like-mindedness in my companions (particularly people who parent similarly and have a similar worldview) and I wonder if you can find that as easily in small communities, with slimmer pickins' so to speak. And with internet and cable TV the "small town family values" arent't a given anymore.