In the rural section of Ohio I now inhabit, time seems stuck in particular grooves--the 50s, the 80s, and sometimes dark regions of the collective American mind. A friend recently observed that where we live reminds him at times of the creepy landscape of Blue Velvet, that 80s flick in which strange occurrences often disrupt the mundane--Remember suddenly seeing that human ear lying in a field? Such images jar consciousness while reminding one that anything can happen in the midst of the everyday.
In this small village, among rows of compact ranch houses, much the same, so quiet you can hear a dog barking for miles in winter when it snows, a man drinks too much and a fight breaks out between him and his wife. He pulls a gun and by the time the police arrive, he has shot and killed himself. The local paper doesn't print his name. The incident passes. No one mentions it again.
In the local high school of 200 students, football is everything: America. Success. Manhood. The Future--here and distant. At the start of every school day children take turns at a mike delivering perfectly enunciated announcements that go out to each classroom. There is no tom foolery. No graffiti mars the lockers. No one is sent home for misbehaving or kept after school. The boys all sport crew cuts and the girls wear long hair and dress neatly, conservatively. As Jim, who works at the Board of Ed, once explained, "The guys all know they won't get a job if they have long hair."
You often feel you are living in the 50s here, among people who don't yet know there was a love revolution in the 60s, who smoke like there is no warning on the package, gossip endlessly, know everybody's business, drink in secret and have affairs that never take them further away than down the road a piece.
Whoever doesn't drive a truck, drives a car so grimy, you can't figure out its make or its color, particularly in winter. Should dust on it clear for a moment, you will probably see stickers that read, "I'm a Catholic and vote," "Pro Life," and "Support the Troops," slapped across the back fender. Philosophies to live by and calls to prayer harken from the roadside, like the Jib Jab Hot Dogs along Route 422, where something like a blue steeple rises around the marquis whose statements read like a cross between Chinese cookie fortune and a biblical verse. Today's Jib Jab reminder: "Whoever worries lets it master the mind."
This town is a good place to hide if you know what you want and where you are going and worrisome for those that stray, who yearn for more than the agreed upon ticket to adulthood and success. I'm reminded of this every time I stroll along its placid sidewalks, senses alert, trying not to be distracted by what I might encounter along the roadside.