Friday, January 7, 2011

The Weirdest Place I Have Ever Been: Jonesborough 1968

By weirdest I'm totally talking about within my own vision. The people who lived in small towns, the people who lived in Jonesborough in 1968, would not have seen it as strange. I know that. But I was a kid of, what?, 11 years old or some such when we moved from the Pacific West Coast, from Washington, and into that little tiny burg in semi-Appalachia Tennessee.
For us--at least Mother, Oldest Brother, Second Oldest Brother, me, Sister and Younger Brother--it was a shock to the system. We went from a bedroom community of Portland, Oregon, a burgeoning town with ties to Seattle, to a smaller than small town in the almost deep south. In the late Sixties! We did not understand the history, the customs, and almost the language . . . Ah, I'll explain later.

LATER: much later. Trying to pick this thread back up but suffice it to say that the United States of the 60s and early 70s was not the homogenized, restaurant and retail chain, cable TV/Internet/cell phone connected country that we live in today. We were all midwesterners and, though my parents were not sophisticates by any means, both from small towns in the midwest (Red Oak, Iowa; Arlington, South Dakota) and we kids had been born in Sioux Falls and had a bit of the west coast in us from Vancouver [not L.A. or San Fran or even Seattle], but it was still a shock to the system to have landed in a small burg like Jonesborough--even Johnson City would have been shocking enough. It was world still wrapped in racism and small thinking, one of rural sensibilities, it was like a foreign country in the sense that the language was different, the food was different (how many hot school lunches did I have that were simple beans or cheese toast, collard greens?), the people were different. That's not to say I disliked the people or even, eventually, the culture. I grew to like it in many ways, but more in Johnson City than Jonesborough; I adapted--perhaps more than my brothers and sister, perhaps not as much as my father who liked it, over all. But it was--the small town of Jonesborough, where I did return briefly in the eighties with Fru, a quick car trip for a look-see when I lived with her in Champaign, and where it had changed and was a charming little southern town, pretty and unassuming with a cafe and bed and breakfast and antique shops and such--the damned weirdest place I'd ever lived.

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