Friday, July 3, 2015

Back Home Again

Andy the Goose, one of my hometown's biggest celebrities

Today, after a meandering, week-long trip across the upper South seeing sights and visiting friends and family, I finally arrived with my wife and kids to my hometown.  It feels good to be back, but also strange.  This morning, as I was gassing up my car at station where I could look out across the vast windswept Kansas plains, I had a strange out of body experience, thinking about those mornings frantically trying to refill my MTA card while catching the express subway train in Penn Station.  Where I live now is in many ways very alien to the place where I'm from.

My differences with the land of my upbringing have been with me for a long time, but now they seem more stark than ever.  I am not sure how much this has to do with me changing, or with my hometown changing.  I do sometimes get the feeling that life in my hometown of Hastings, Nebraska, has become coarser and meaner.  I then remind myself of my hometown's strange habit of destroying its most cherished symbols.  The town has a beautiful old chautauqua pavilion that was almost burned to the ground by vandals in the 1990s.  Fisher Fountain, which combines jets of water with alternating color projection, was long a pride of the town.  In the early 1980s someone dynamited it.  Last but not least, years ago a local man found a baby goose with malformed feet.  He helped that goose by making it shoes, and Andy the Goose quickly became a cause celebre, and soon even appeared with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.  Some horrible person then went into Andy's pen at night and broke off his wings, killing him.

There is a vein of awful darkness in this town, obviously.  I just feel like it is closer to the surface than it used to be.  This town feels more and more like Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life when George sees what it would have been like had old man Potter took over.  Then again, maybe I'm wrong.  In any case, over the next few days I will be making some reports from the "heartland" and will be thinking a lot about politics and social change.

No comments: