Thursday, April 12, 2007

An introspective drive home

As I was driving home from work this evening I was listening to Def Leppard and was instantly transported back to 1988 when Hysteria was at the peak of popularity. I was in sixth grade... I didn't particularly like sixth grade any more than grade seven... nor was I too fond of grades eight through eleven. My senior year, however, wasn't too bad as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and my escape from a hometown that seemingly sucked the ambition out of anyone crazy enough to stay there.

It hadn't always been/wasn't always that bad. Back in the early twentieth century it was like a Norman Rockwell painting. It was the epitome of small town life-- a thriving downtown, a growing population, Canadian golfers and skiiers who would drive down for long weekends at the golf course, or camping and hiking in the Adirondacks just south of the town.

Then... they took out the railroad, the town's link to the outside world. That wasn't the end-- it was just the beginning of the end, the turning point if you will. A few incidents of arson over the years blemishing the once beautiful downtown, the emergence of strip malls driving the once-thriving downtown shopping district out of business, and then the last nails in the coffin-- 2 medium security state prisons, and 1 super-max security federal prison. Add to that the long bleak winters and the town suddenly matches/matched the despair of an Ingmar Bergman film in which the only real escape seemed to be death.

My parents still live there-- hold-outs who remember the town as it once was-- who have lived their whole lives there, as does one of my brothers. I don't know his reasoning-- all I can figure is that he missed his "window" to escape before the town was able to suck the ambition and dreams right out of him. I love the guy, he's my brother, but I also see what that town has done to him and know that he could have done so much more with his life had he escaped like I had.

And to think this all came about from listening to Def Leppard, FUN hair metal from a decade that was a bit more carefree than the one we're currently in... Imagine what I could/would have come up with if I'd been listening to the Cure on the way home...

Wait, tomorrow's Friday.... I'm in love. ;-)


Bruce said...

My mother was from a railroad town in Southern NY state called Hornell, and the same thing happened there. The last time we were there was in August, 2004 when we went to bury my mom next to my dad in our hometown of Olean. Anyway, we drove the 60 miles to Hornell to show the young'uns where their Mema grew up, and it was truly depressing to see how the town had deteriorated.

Awareness said...

Hi there

Have you read the book "Empire Falls......." or seen the movie? I think it was on HBO. I thought of it while reading your post. There are so many pockets of communities which are slowly fading away.....who seem to have lost their vibrancy or even sense of purpose. I see this in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick, and in towns and villages I travel through in the Maritimes of Canada.

Bruce's been a long time since I travelled through that area, about 25 years ago. Even then..... I grew up skiing with my family in a Ellicottville NY. The ski business rejuvenated this little village, once known as a wood mill town. But, the surrounding areas I"m sure continue to slide.....Salamanca is one that comes to mind.

I don't know how the residents of these towns, who have a past and no motivating future can keep optimistic.

good thought provoking post.

it is amazing how one song can transport thoughts!!

Dantallion said...

Def Leppard gives me flashbacks as well - although nothing quite as profound as what you describe. In my case it's mostly getting drunk as a kid and other general sillyness. Ah....good times.

Bruce said...

Awareness- I think one thing that keeps the Olean area going is St. Bonaventure University. The area is still somewhat depressed, but it's been that way for a very long time.

St. Dickeybird said...

I'm sure I'd have a similar experience if I let myself listen to Guns N Roses.

I hope this memory pleases you in part, because you made it out and have a good life.

Layla (aka Barbara) said...

I just "awarded" you with The Thinking Bloggers Award, you can see details at my blog.

The Phoenix said...

When I hear Def Leopard, I am often reminded of skipping class and playing frisbee in the sand.