Excited enough, in fact, to create a separate blog dedicated to it’s creation, so check it out here if you get the chance and have the inclination.
We are finally at the end of the tourist season and into the beginning of the student season. They’re both great–don’t get me wrong by what I’m about to do here, but sometimes, I just want to make out a little pamphlet to hand out to people who visit or move here. So, here’s my little set of observations on life in this small mountain town.
- Traffic through town is one way. There are two lanes so that people can drive slowly in the left lane to find a parking spot while being careful not to ram into someone backing out of said parking spot. People just going through town drive in the right hand lane. The left lane is NOT for you to zoom past the rest of us and when you WHAM into the back of my neighbor’s humongous pickup as he’s backing out of his spot in front of the barber shop, I am going to laugh at you.
- When the young guy who mows your lawn tells you he saw that your car was ready for pick up from the body shop (when you never even talked to the boy about your car. ever. ever.), he is not a stalker. He’s just being neighborly. Everybody in town knows you’re car was in the shop even if you never told a soul.
- It is quite rude not to accept vegetables from someone’s garden when offered. Unless you’re allergic, take them and do your best to eat them. People are proud of their gardens here and you’re rejecting them when you reject their produce. This also goes for canned goods, fresh eggs, fish and venison–if you’re lucky!
- It is not a novel or new idea to buy local.
- No, we do not have a single chain restaurant in town apart from fast food. Really. And not everyone is upset by that fact. We also have one Chinese Buffett and we are damned happy to have it, too!
- Yes, we have yet another auto parts store that just opened. We have one of every kind known to man, plus a few locally owned.
- The movie theater does not take credit cards and probably never will. Get over it. You’re seeing a first run movie at half the cost of the Big City and they have candy bars that are cheap enough to not require credit to purchase.
- Downtown Cullowhee is that spot where they told you. It’s a laundry mat, tattoo shop, a few abandoned places that used to be stores. It’s not even a “wide spot’ in the road–it’s just a spot. Once you see the pizza place, you’ve already missed it.
- This is a college town because there is a college here, but it is not like any other college town because there is no “there” there.
- There is one Catholic church, two Episcopal churches, one Lutheran church and 9,584,625 Baptist churches. Oh and about half that number of Methodist.
- Yes, there are churches here where people handle snakes. They are not in the yellow pages and do not really want you to visit and take their picture. They are not the Amish.
- When someone asks you who your “people” are, they are not assuming you’re a different race or from another country. They want to know if you’re “local” or “outlander”.
- No matter how long you’ve lived here, you are not a “local” unless your great grandmother was born here. For some, that still might not be good enough.
- Just because you are an “outlander” does not mean that people don’t love you or that they aren’t glad you’re here. You can be an outlander and still make this your home.
- It does not matter where you came from, nobody can drive on ice. Snow, yes. Ice, no. People slide on ice. See all those guys in giant pickups out playing in the snow and ice? They’re all volunteer firemen with massive life insurance policies whose wives have said, “sure honey, go out and play in the snow!”
- Be nice to the volunteer firemen because that is all we have. And they will save your life.
- If you see a funeral with a cremation then you know the person wasn’t “local”. There’s nothing wrong with cremation but people just do not do that here. They love the land and see nothing wrong with being planted in it.
- We do not talk funny here and we do not have an “accent”.
- A “painter” is a panther. “Yonder” means over there. (And, by the way, Shakespeare used that word so I suggest, unless you wish to show your literary ignorance, that you not make fun of it. Many of the colloquialisms of the area are directly linked to Olde English, so perhaps we speak more properly than you.)
- Everybody is related. Or might as well be. Gossip at your own risk.
- Big houses on the side of the mountain makes for an ugly mountain.
- We are not Hillbillys. We are mountaineers.
- Storytelling is a fine art.
Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a friend about books. Not just reading books but also where to buy them. She was lamenting the plight of our local independent bookseller and how she does not see how they can compete with Amazon and B&N and that she, who is a big ‘buy local’ kinda person, has given in and ordered from Amazon quite a bit. Because money is tight. Because there is free shipping. Because it is 40% off.
Well, money is tight for all of us, that is for certain. But here is a different way to put things in perspective. When money is tight for everyone, and with the exception of the super-rich, it is tight for all of us, we tend to think we have less buying power. Well, we do have less money to buy stuff with, that’s a mathematical reality. But that also means every cent is more powerful in its affect upon the world around us.
This is far easier to see in non-profit areas, such as the church. During the fat times, people can give to multiple charities and it is not as much of a strain. The choice of who you wish to support is not as difficult to make. But, during the lean times, tougher choices have to be made. Do you give to your local congregation? Disaster relief? The arts? World Wildlife? Etc etc. Every dollar has to be thought through and its destination carefully chosen. In turn, each dollar is prized more by the recipient because there simply isn’t as much to go around and you know that if your organization received the donation it was far more likely that the support was genuine, deep and abiding. Organizations in the non-profit field stand or fall in lean times based not on services provided to the money sources but on the quality of life they represent or purpose and meaning they espouse.
Same thing is true of for-profit businesses. Each dollar we spend during the lean times has an impact upon which companies stand or fall.
As of late, there have been many pleas for Americans to revive their interest in choosing to buy American made products over those made in other countries. This is important for the very reason I just stated: each dollar has greater weight, goes farther and has more lasting impact in the lean times. I contend that we need to examine something else which is, most likely, even greater in significance: who are you buying from?
Extra discounts, free shipping and the like are all so very tempting. But what are we supporting? Better said, what are we choosing not to support? I’ll confess that I have an Amazon wish list and there are things I still order from them. But not books. I am slowly whittling away at my book list by ordering them one at a time from City Lights Books here in town. And the same is true for any gift or item I need. If it is at all possible, I will buy it from a locally owned business in the town where I live. If I can, I’ll buy it from someone who made it themselves.
Recently, I purchased an oil lamp for the frequent times the power goes out in this area. I could have gone to Wal-mart and gotten one for fairly cheap, but I went to the local hardware store instead. I chose to buy the same lantern, which was moderately more, and a smaller bottle of oil than I would have purchased at the big store. In the end, I spent the same amount I would have at Wal-mart and ended up with the same lantern and less oil. I’ve used the lantern several times and still haven’t run out of oil, so I didn’t even need the larger bottle I would have purchased at the store where I would have gotten a “better deal”. Wal-mart doesn’t really care that I did not buy from them. The hardware store does.
I may buy fewer books, bottles of oil, odds and ends and smaller portions of the necessities, but I want the money I do spend on these items to help the survival of a local business owner. Is it better for me to be able to buy as much as I want in a gluttony of false purchasing power, or is it better to moderately purchase and do so in such a way that it supports people who live in my own town? Amazon, Wal-mart, B&N and all the other big box companies will not feel the loss of my dollars but the local businesses here will feel their addition. They are investments in the future of their companies and, in no small way, investments in the local communities.
Here’s some other interesting information from the 3/50 Project:
If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, etc. (and that’s true whether the item you purchase was made in the USA or China or anywhere else, for that matter.) If you spend the same $100 at a national chain store, only $43 stays in the community. If you spend it online, NOTHING returns to the community. Get That? NOTHING. Not A Penny.
So buy a book from your independent bookseller, tools and supplies from your local hardware, cards and gifts from the little shop on the corner, eat at the small owner-operated restaurant, and get produce from the farmer’s market. Use the power of our fewer dollars to invest in local businesses and in our own community.
Spring is here! The Sunshine! The Blooming trees and flowers! The Easter celebrations! The Allergies! The Tornadoes! The Summer movie previews!
And the greening up the mountain–which is something I am always amazed by. It’s kinda like the moon being visible in the daytime. I know it’s a natural phenomenon and not particularly uncommon but it seems so magical all the same.
I went to my mother’s house in the big city right after services on Sunday [so. tired.] but on the way home on Tuesday I stopped by my aunt’s house in Arden to photograph these:
They are Lady slippers and are particularly rare and are even rarer in great gobs of them and she has lots of them growing wild in her yard. Just amazing! One more can be seen here.
Also, new books on the pile for the spring/summer and a few to write about as well. Soon!
When I came back from lunch today I discovered that the vegetable fairy had visited my desk and left some treasures
When my friend came to visit this week, she was frequently amazed at the world around her. Mostly, that was due to the fact that she is, through and through, a city girl. Now, I will admit that I am not a chop-wood-carry-water kind of country girl, but I still know a little bit about the natural world. I’m more like the Victorian lady who is fascinated with the out doors and loves to walk in the woods, collecting acorns and unusually shaped leaves, admiring the view, the trees and the wild life while never actually wanting to perspire.
At any rate, one of the light bulb moments for her was when we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were talking about the different kinds of trees and I said that the kind of trees change with the elevation. But, she protested, these kinds of higher elevation trees grow other places, too. Yes, I said, but they were planted in those locations.
She stopped a moment, a bit puzzled. So, who planted those? she asked, pointing to the huge deep green trees on the high mountains. God, I said with a bit of a giggle. I did not realize at first that she thought of parks and parkways as having trees and plants specifically placed there by gardeners and landscapers. It was not that she consciously thought that the Blue Ridge Parkway had been landscaped by a group of people, it was just that she had never thought of it NOT being.
We had several other great experiences that day, including seeing a rainbow across an entire valley and watching a thick cloud roll over us as it passed by, getting tangled up in the mountain. Beautiful day.
Went to the farmer’s market today. Lots of lovely things. Sunflowers, local honey, a light purple eggplant and a dozen eggs. And a small raspberry pie–baked not fried. Yummy stuff!