Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Small Perks of Small Town Living

I loved living in New York. I loved my tenement apartments, even, and especially the first, which had a bathtub in the kitchen and no sink in the toilet-only bathroom. But I moved to Texas after a stint in Peru, and it was pretty country out here. You always smelled skunk when you came close to Joshua, a town of about 4,000 at the time, between the county seat of Cleburne and Burleson, the last suburb of Fort Worth.
    I never made friends here. The neighbors all had pretty good plots: The guy next to me, Ty, had an acre; to my left, the guy had about 3.5 acres. Across the street, the guy had about 40 acres. Next to him a woman had 55 acres but didn't live on the property. So it wasn't like just running into people. And it wasn't like New York: Johnson County was a dry town, so if you wanted a drink you had to go to Fort Worth, and what's the fun of driving 20 miles for a drink if you have to leave after having two because you have to drive another 20 miles to go home? So I didn't make those drinking buddy friends, either.
   Now I did like my neighbors, and we often said hello, and if I was doing a project they might come to check it out and have a beer, and vice-versa, but I don't think I was ever in any of their houses and I know they were never in mine. No matter. I had my friend Lynn, over in Irving, and we'd talk on the phone and see one another every couple of weeks. And over the years I've made friends with Mike and Dian and they come over every couple of weeks; and Pat comes over now and then. And then I've got lots of former guests from the jungle who stop by for a few days, and some people who want a little healing--so I end up with lots of company, even though that company is not normally nearby. This week I've got two friends, one from Oregon, one from New York, coming in for a few days. And then Mike and Dian are coming on Sunday for dinner. So I don't lack for company, I just don't have friends nearby like I did in New York.
   But now and then, I get surprised at people who know me. Now I know some people in the police department, and the crew at the jail and a couple of judges know me, because I've written about the corruption in this town and county quite a bit and gotten some jailers fired and clipped the wings of a constable what was doing bad shit to single women late at night, and helped get a few state laws changed along the way with regards to criminalizing school truancy and such. But then that kind of being known isn't always the best, because it means you have to be so clean, so straight, that you don't give anyone the chance to come at you--knowing that some people would love to do just that.
   Okay, all of that preamble is much longer than the real story. The story was that yesterday, while in the Post Office, the guy behind the counter greeted me with: "Hello, Mr. Gorman, what can I help you with?" and then helped tape up a package I was sending while we talked a little about an upcoming surgery he's facing at the VA. Good guy. I once bought him and one of the women who work there a couple of Dairy Queen ice creams and I guess they didn't forget that. But they'd earned them, putting up with me sending a lot of books out when my books first got published.
    While I was talking with the Post Office man, Madeleina's piano teacher came in and said: "Why, hello, Peter Gorman! I haven't seen you for some time? How's my Madeleina? Off to college?"
    Nice, right?
    Then this morning I was doing the manly job of taking the garbage to the dump. There was a line of cars maybe 12 deep waiting for a space to get to dump their garbage. But the guy who registers you in and weighs your truck before and after you dump to know how much to charge you, told me to skip the line and put my garbage in a big metal container off to the side instead. "You don't need to be waiting in line. You've probably got better things to do." He's a nice guy. We've talked about his blood pressure and how sometimes the blood pressure pills just make you have to pee like crazy right after you take them.
    So I went over to the big dumpster and got out of the truck and tossed the first bag high into the air to get over its 8' walls. Then I heard a beep behind me. I turned. It was the neighbor with the 3.5 acres who works at the dump. He was in a good sized Caterpillar right behind my truck and indicated that I should just toss my trash into the huge machine's maw. That meant I didn't have to toss the garbage into the air. When I was done, he lifted the arm and dumped the mess into the dumpster. Cool.
   Then I went around to the scale, waited on line and when it was my turn the high blood pressure guy said: "I'm not gonna charge you today. Free. Have a good one!" And then I rode off.
   There are some perks to living out here in a small town. For a day or two it felt like I was a mafia don, people being so nice to me for no reason. Yo! Where's my crew?

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