For those of you that remember my Born in the USA post, you might start seeing a pattern developing. That pattern is that I am a fan of irony. I enjoy irony the most when it is unintentional. Another bit of music related irony is my love of John Mellencamp's "Small Town." Why is it ironic? Well,for starters, the song begins "I was born in a small town. And I live in a small town. Probably die in a small town, Oh, those small communities." I was born in one of the largest cities in the world and have spent most of my time in large cities. I feel most energetic and alive in a city.
Given all those facts, why on earth do I like this song so much? And the reason is because it reminds me of a bygone time. In some ways a much better time, in other ways a much worse time. Perhaps the nicest way of putting it is....a different time. The cufflinks you see pictured above are maps. One cufflink is a map of Kutztown, PA where I was raised. I've spoken about Kutztown frequently and will continue to do so. The other cufflink is of my wife's hometown Anderson, Indiana. I have not spoken about Anderson before, and for good reason. It's a terrible place. It's also the hometown of my wife. If a big city and a small town met at a bar, got drunk, and decided to irresponsibly bump uglies later in the night, the resulting offspring would be Anderson, IN. Anderson's population peaked in the 1970s at around 70,787. Today the population is around 55,130. A former GM town, Anderson is the poster child of a Rust Belt community that has fallen on hard times.
The primary reason for my dislike of Anderson is that I can feel the decay. I hear the stories from my wife about her childhood and I look around and I just can't picture it. Kutztown is a terrible place to live, for sure. But, there is a quaintness to it that visitors seem to appreciate and remark on. Anderson is to quaint as Mike Tyson is to mellifluous. Anderson's charm absolutely depends on vibrancy. Back in the day of my wife's childhood, Anderson was a booming community on its way to breaking the 100,000 population mark. GM was kicking ass and taking names. The enemy was the USSR, gluten allergies didn't fucking get discovered yet, and little girls were allowed to ride their bikes to neighbouring towns. Buildings were going up, but it still had a neighbourly small town feel to the place. After all, as my wife loves to point out, she grew up with corn fields on three sides of her house. I like to joke around that you can't say you are from a small town if there is a 10 story building in your downtown. But, if you look at the residents of Anderson, you will most definitely conclude that it is indeed, a small town.
There is a part of Mellencamp's "Small Town" toward the end where a harmonica plays in a haunting and forlorn manner. To me, that exact moment is Anderson, IN. I worry that in 100 years, the only thing left of Anderson will be relics and mementos like my cufflinks. I worry that I will become a similar relic as I descend into the latter stages of my life, yearning for simpler times. I can already feel words like rapscallions, whippersnappers, and tomfoolery being uttered with increasing frequency. So the secondary reason why I dislike Anderson so much is because it reminds me of myself. Past my prime, struggling to stay relevant in a faster and more complicated world, Anderson and I are definitely kindred spirits.