Verbosity on remembrance of things ville:
Did I read that correctly? Is it really going to be 120 today with the heat index? Yeah, that’s normal. No global warming here. And you’re telling me that I live in a large brick house that holds heat like an Italian bread oven so I should just accept that I am going to get baked. We have central air, so we are fine, but when the bill comes we may be less so. It’s been too hot to do anything, too hot to blog even.
What can I tell you about? What do you want to know? Nobody even asks me any questions. That’s not true. Michelle wanted to know if anyone cried at J & D’s wedding. Well, I wasn’t there for the wedding. The wedding was over before I even woke up on Tuesday last. They did it at nine and the first clock I saw said nine thirty on it. We, Beth and I, told them we’d be up from St. Louis after my night class got out, because I can’t really miss any of them. I only get one absence and then it starts to seriously affect my grade. So, I took this as my one absence and we left when Beth got off work.
We made great time and arrived in under three hours. The four-lane has not made it all the way to the ville yet, but soon it shall and the cloistered, monastic, rural, Wal-Mart dominated, off the map, rustic, Northern Exposure quality of this much beloved town may wane. It already feels like twice, or three times the city it was when I moved there in 1992 and yet not. The Wal-Mart then was not the super thing that it is now. It was no bigger than the Dollar General and located on the south end of town where the small Sears is now. Some things have grown, but all is not well in this transitional economy.
Having broken the barrier that some college campuses have, and actually become part of the town, I know that things aren’t going very well. The recession of the Bush ascendancy has hit hard, with most of the major employers folding. Wolverine shoes, Wire Rope industrial cable, and several other factories (seven of the major employers) are just gone. The hog plant employs mostly migrants shifting the demographic to Hispanic. Wal-Mart killed the local clothing and specialty stores, which are gradually being replaced by niche boutique stores.
My old wallet from Mr. Jim’s finally wore out last month. Mr. Jim’s was a huge locally owned men’s clothing store on the south side of the square. Its’ space was divided in two and now houses both the coffee shop that belongs to our friends Monica and Julia and their neighboring Jesus bookstore, where the opiate of the people has been co modified into t-shirts and collectibles. The economy has had to shift to depend primarily on the student population. This is a bitter pill as a few years ago the valedictorian of the local high school couldn’t get into the college. Many local children have no shot at the highly selective institution upon which the town depends. Town and gown, there is also a medical college for Osteopathic medicine in the ville. Without these two schools I doubt there would still be a ville.
I remember sitting in the back of my parent’s Toyota mini-van watching the vegetation roll bye in cornfield, soybean, forest and hill. I was thinking, “Where in the fuck is this place, oh my God, what have I done.” St. Louis has lots of green space, but that did not prepare my citified self for the journey into America’s agrarian past.
That first week of school I was drugged to the gills from having my wisdom teeth out, so an already surreal experience of culture shock got a dose of Fear and Loathing frivolity from the mixture of prescription meds and freshman week kegs. Wal-Mart, where all students were encouraged to furnish their dorm rooms, was having a special give away on plastic gun racks for your truck.
Just south of the ville is a town called Macon. For reasons that are clear only to international smugglers of non-tradable commodities, Macon is one of the places in America where exotic animals can trade hands legally. Right around this time of year, coinciding with the start of the fall term in the ville, people come from all over the world with their lions, tigers, and bears to get a good price on the spoils of Rome.
If you want a loop in legally liquidating lions then Macon is your hole. My first night in the dorms I turned on the TV in the common room to watch the local news, where it was sadly being reported that a man had been killed in Macon at the exotic animal fair by a falling water buffalo. I knew then, when a local man could be killed by a falling buffalo whose genetic ancestry would have put him properly in a relatively safely spongy Vietnamese rice paddy that I had gone off the proverbial map into absurdity. To be fair, any shift in locale can sensitize us to the fundamental absurdities of life and death that persist wherever these statistically dramatic instances of cellular organization and dissolution occur.
As new residents of the ville, we students were cautioned with all the usual invectives about the local rates of incest, syphilis, and methamphetamine production (actually based in fact and the highest in Missouri for all three). We were told, as I’ve discovered many rural students are told at many schools across the country, that the town was built on land where the Indians wouldn’t camp because the weather was too changeable. Jes was just telling me almost the same thing about her college town in upstate New York and I read something similar in Bret Easton Eliss’ account of college life in Rules of Attraction; it must be a rural-urban legend.
This much is true of the ville, the town is hit by nearly every storm that passes through the region, both those that miss St. Louis to the north and those that drift down from Iowa to the south, and it has had national disaster status for ice storm damage twice in recent memory. During finals one year I had several friends crashed in my apartment because it was December and the power was out for three days, but I could still use my gas stove to keep us all warm.
The CDC also keeps a task force in the ville because apparently there are seven national zones of seasonal illness that all converge on and mutate in the ville. So they catch all the seasonal and all esophageal disturbances that the country can throw at them.
I give you one more surreal locater to zero in on this thing that is the ville. Soon after perestroika, the ville chapter of the ROTC brought in the Russian pilot whose job it had been to know this part of the country from the air so that he could destroy it in the event of war. The ville is/was a strategic target because it is a major north south conduit. In the event of nuclear war one of your goals is to trap populations in toxic areas. Also, there is a radar station just of north of town, on the left of the highway before you get to Greentop, that the locals call “The Golf Ball”. This is not in fact another roadside attraction in tribute to golfing, but is instead a major radar installation that is key Midwestern aviation and thus a prime military target. When my brother flies from Milwaukee to Kansas City for Skyway International or Midwest Express, he goes to the ville and hangs a slight left.
Shifting again to the more recent past, I had IM’d with Derek so I knew their schedule and he knew we were coming early. After a brief walkthrough of their empty house, ah Kirksville and your low crime rate, we found them up at Il Spazio. We were just figuring out how best to make our surprise entrance, I had D on the cell phone saying loudly, “Karl just got out of class and they’ll be here in three hours.” When Jen turned around and saw us through the window. “They’re here, they’re here.” is all we heard for the next few minutes, as Jen danced around us in the alley behind the restaurant. Apparently we had perfect timing as they had just finished eating and were ready to head over to the Dukum to set up for the reception.
Il Spazio is a relatively new addition to the ville. A gay couple moved in and opened this micro brew and stone hearth eatery shortly after I left town. For you old school ville folks it’s in the old Golden Ruler stationary store just off the south side of the square.
End of Part One – Please flip the tape to side B and continue with your lesson