I was chatting it up a bit with the old high school friend who sent me the pictures I posted of my ancient past. Her name is Kate, if you read the post. Actually, I knew her as Katie back in the day and she had a different last name since then (and I’m not sure what the story is with that, as she appears to be single, from what I can tell) — but I was more often called Mike back then and now people call me Michael, so I won’t begrudge her the more mature-sounding variant. Aside: I shifted from Mike to Michael about 10th or 11th grade because I wanted to be taken more seriously in my many endeavors. Not sure why people feel it is okay to call me Mike. Or worse, Mikey. I’ll accept Mick, but the others grate on my nerves. And I’m not sure it achieved the goal of being taken more seriously.
But anyway, Kate came across the old pictures while purging her belongings. She was forthcoming enough to mention she had no children and didn’t want to dump a bunch of old meaningless knickknacks and mementos on whomever had to clean up after her when she passed away and she stumbled in those photos. Yay, for me.
As we chatted it up a bit for the first time in at least thirty years (aside from my standard attempts to wipe clean the past slate), I mentioned getting together for coffee if she was back in town (she now lives about as far removed as you can be from city living and about ten hours — a guess based on experience driving in her direction — from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area). She immediately expressed horror at the idea of coming back to her hometown. And not because of me, thankfully.
Her aversion to coming back to the Cities is similar to my increased distaste for the area I grew up in and loved until recently. Plainly put — we both have the perception that people have gone off the rails in the past ten years. Not just here, but all across America. She was dismayed by the destruction caused by last year’s protests because many of the places she grew up knowing were obliterated in those events. And now, she saw the news that I posted about a few days ago concerning the dismembered murdered man in the area. Like I said before, that was actually one of the most singularly shocking bits of crime news I’ve ever read for the Cities. Shit like that just didn’t happen until now. And, when you toss in young kids getting shot in our old neighborhoods because irresponsible people with guns are joykilling in broad daylight, and things like what happened at my daughter’s school with a kid discharging a firearm between classes… Things just seem to have gone insane. I know this has been happening elsewhere for a while now, but the Cities adheres to certain unspoken rules until lately — and so these kinds of things didn’t happen except rarely.
The school we both went to back in the late 80s was located in a neighborhood where you had to watch your step, but nobody usually messed with you if you didn’t mess with them. We both walked around the neighborhood, skipped school in the nearby park or grabbed bad coffee at the nearby McD’s. Now, drugs are openly for sale (they always were for sale, just not openly), people are packing guns and not being much into the conceal part of it (whether or not they are permitted to conceal carry; we don’t have open carry), kids under 10 have been killed to the tune of about one a month. or so, this year.
I used to walk around that neighborhood, with only a modicum of caution. Now, I won’t drive through it, if I have my daughters in the car with me — that’s how bad shit has gotten. And I’ll detour around it when possible.
And it’s gotten bad all around. We just had several incidents of people taking umbrage to folks protesting police-related violence and deciding the solution was to weaponize their monster trucks and drive into crowds. This is not the town I grew up in. People didn’t do things like this.
Road rage is off the charts, and driving habits reflect that rage. I cringe at the idea of driving anytime near rush hour these days because of it. And people — yes, again — are increasingly using guns to solve their road rage issues.
When you toss in the whole barf-worthy modern architecture full of steel, glass and muted somber panels of color at the cost of ripping down architectural icons… or a national landlord shutting down a classic theater for non-payment when theaters were closed down for 18 months… or the DMZ that the downtown area becomes on weekend nights… or the conspiracy theorists trying to tell me white is the new black…
I almost have to agree with Kate. Sometimes it seems like it might not be such a bad idea to stay out of the Cities. I certainly don’t feel much connection with the Cities these days — and I live here. If I thought I could go somewhere and not just replace this particular brand of insanity with another, I might do it. But — post 2k, things seem like they’ve lost all perspective everywhere (in the US, at least).
Kate is lucky in that she can feel comfortable where she is now. I am left having to wish for some kind of global or countrywide sea change. And I’m not sure it is coming.