Saturday, January 22, 2011

So you think arts towns are different?

This picture kind of sums it all up for me. Let me explain.
I live in what is known as the most famous small town in the world. It's super-artsy, the namesake for the most famous music festival ever, the land of peace, love and do-your-own-thing. And don't get me wrong - I love it. But you'd be surprised at what really goes on here.
See that building? See that yellow sun-flourish they added after slapping on a new coat of red barn paint? That was apparently a problem here.
That barn, which is the first thing you see when you hit the main intersection leading to town, was a sickening, washed out pink for a few years. Someone bought it, started a new business, and repainted.
They got in trouble with the town. That yellow design apparently was not approved by the powers that be.
There were rumors they were going to have to repaint.
That's apparently subsided - but do you get the picture?
Let me give you another example.
There's a woman I know who does a remarkable thing - she tows an old trailer around behind her Jeep, parks at places and events around the country, and interviews people for a radio feature. Her name is Sabrina Artel and it's called Trailer Talk.
I have a radio show, too, but I think this is the coolest idea ever. Truth be told, I'm envious.
She decided she wanted to interview me, and we made plans to meet in town. She would park, talk to folks in this famous little town, and I'd stop by and talk to her, too.
She found a legal spot on the street, opened up the door and started talking. I found her and sat down at the kitchen table for my interview. She served brownies!
And then the local official showed up.
"I have a complaint that you're taking up two spaces," he told her. "You have to move."
I knew the guy (he has since passed) and popped out with a big smile. I introduced him to Sabrina, explained what she was doing, pointed out that she was parked legally.
He was not to be moved.
"She has to park out in one of the public lots," he insisted.
That, we pointed out, would put her out of the way of where people were and would make it impossible for her to work. He was sorry, but that was final. She had to move. A member of the town board had seen her there and didn't think she should be doing a radio broadcast from the side of the road.
Sabrina packed up her gear as I apologized profusely. We were both amazed.
"I have NEVER had this happen anywhere else," she said, shaking her head. "Not even in Manhattan."
Then there's the neighbor down the road who sent us an anonymous letter complaining about the pale amber lights on the back of the studio building.
"We moved here for the country ambiance," he wrote. "This is not the city."
A backyard neighbor, now a friend, mentioned the letter to our unhappy letter writer (he was sure of his identity)..."Can you believe it?", he asked. "We LOVE those lights! Who could be so mean - and to write it anonymously!"
Hard to believe, Mr. Cranky agreed.
It's an old town these days, not the mecca for young folks it once was. Now the kids loiter around the convenience store and gather on the wall across from the pizza place. There's nothing much to do. So the town proposed a curfew.
That was a stunner - this was the town where young folks used to camp out on the village green. One strange guy lived in a hole in a tree.
It got voted down - that was apparently just too much. Now the town is figuring out how it can improve its youth program.
It's a great little town and it's always been a little schizophrenic - the free spirits irritate the hell out of the folks with their roots planted deep and they both have had to co-exist for generations here. Plus we've got the we-live-here folks vs. the weekenders or the fresh-from-the-citiers. On and on it goes.
Today it's blisteringly cold and there's a heavy blanket of ice-crusted snow over everything.
It seems very peaceful.
Wait til spring!


Jo said...

Susan, this post makes me smile and yet shake my head all at once.

I live in a subdivision where we can get cited for leaving our garage door opened. The name of our neighborhood is "Camelot" and apparently, the trustees think it their job to uphold the myth of a perfect utopia.

There will be rebels like us everywhere, leaving our doors open, gathering brush on the edge of the path for wildlife to take refuge in, and allowing wildflowers to grow in the back yard.

I kindly tell the "Camelot Gestapo" that if this is truly a problem in their world, they are fortunate, indeed.

Enjoy your blog...thanks so much.

Jo said...

What you need to do is vote those folks out of office, and put in some reasonable people. I can't stand people who micromanage how other folks live. Who sets the rules and standards? If enough people break the rules, nothing can be done about it. That has always been my philosophy.

Susan said...

Hello Jo and Jo! Camelot made me laugh, and I completely agree that if enough people refuse to acknowledge the rules, the rules disappear.
As for voting those folks out of office, I think there may be a shortage of people willing to serve, and thus it's the same people over and over.
I tried doing my civic duty - it was very disheartening. Now I just watch and shake my head.

Reya Mellicker said...

People are afraid of anything out of the ordinary - well - some people. Since when did a radio interview become a radical action?

ArtSparker said...

It's like that in Berkeley also ( I am an Oakland resident, so somewhat prejudiced). People in Berkeley get outraged about EVERYTHING and pass laws to regulate same.