Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Small Town, USA

If you're a Seinfeld fan you might remember the episode when Kramer decided to recreate the feeling of small town USA in his New York City apartment building. He installed a screen door on the hallway entrance to his apartment to create his "front porch". He then sat there sipping lemonade and lighting a sparkler to simulate a genuine Fourth of July celebration in small town USA . Kramer is a certified whack job, but in his own loonie way, he captured the secret dream of all harried city folk who long for the simplicity and peace of small town life.

My daughter Laura and her family live in Portland, Connecticut, a small town just south of Hartford. Having grown up in a big city like Brooklyn, I was surprised at how different life could be in the country. This is not to suggest people in Brooklyn were unfriendly, it's just that in Portland, life seems slower and more relaxed. Storekeepers know your name, the librarian, postal clerk and police officers greet you politely, and neighbors are always ready to help. The friendliness isn't pushy, just there if you want it. Brooklynites were friendly enough, but tended to mind their own business. A polite question might draw the response: "What's it to you?" They didn't mean to be hostile, they were just letting you know you were crowding them a bit.

Another thing I like about Portland is the diversity of the population. Walk into a diner and you might be sitting next to truck-driving, gun-owning, blue-collar guys, or BMW-driving, frappucino-sipping Yuppies. I think it's important for children to grow up meeting all kinds of people. It's too easy to stay with your own kind and see your child's character formed by a narrow set of beliefs and values. Better to broaden their sphere of influence and let them see and hear from a wider variety of people. My judgemental, opinionated views are proof positive of the truth in this theory.

This past weekend we went to the Haddam Neck fair a few miles from Portland. It was a typical small town affair with rides, games of chance, animals on display, and lots of food. My daughter Laura, her daughter Ava and I were at the booth where you shoot a stream of water into a clown's mouth to win prizes. There was another woman playing and she won. I never saw her and started yelling at Ava that we had won the game. As I reached into my pocket to play another round, the operator of the booth motioned to me to put my money away. "This one's on me" he said.

This time Ava and I played against just Laura, and of course we won. Normally, the winner could choose any small stuffed animal on the lower prize shelf. The man said to Ava, "Pick any prize in the booth", signalling that this offer included the really big stuffed animals on the top shelf. Ava was thrilled of course, and picked out a giant black and white teddy bear that she carried around with her for the rest of the day. I was really touched by this man's generosity and eagerness to please a small child. (Ava tends to bring this out in people.)

The bottom line...there are good people everywhere...in Brooklyn and in small town USA. It's nice to be reminded of that once in a while.


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The Whiner said...

Yup it's easy to love small town life. Now if ZI could only convince my other half...

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

One would have to have inner goodness in order to recognize it in others!