I noted that I hate casinos– and SueK responded that they are pretty easy to avoid. That’s true, unless your in-laws have invited to to spend the weekend at a casino.
Mr. Big Food’s Father & Mr. Big Food’s Mother celebrated 60 years of wedded bliss this past weekend. As they frequently do, they invited the family to share in the festivities. Upon hearing of the location of the celebration, my first thought was, “Oh. God. A casino.” I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. It was a resort & casino, with unexpected emphasis on resort. It wasn’t too big and the food was excellent. There was fried catfish on the breakfast buffet which reminded us of Tommy Curry who hails from Lake Charles and who loves catfish for breakfast. Lots of people-watching at the pools and outdoor bars. We also liked the fact that it was in a legitimate town with a history and things to do.
In sum, a good time was had by all! (Still hate casinos but that’s a story for another day.)
Mr. Big Food & I decided to take some back roads through Louisiana on our way back to The Farm. It was on the drive that it hit me just how empty much of America really is– at least my little corner of the country.
In the relatively small states of the Deep South, there are vast swatches of untended land. Most have the tell tale signs of having once been productive. But they’ve gone fallow, and Mother Nature’s plan of succession has taken hold. Sure, sure. All those grasses and scrub, and those pine and shade tolerate trees– and finally the deciduous trees– spew O2 into the air and I am eternally grateful for that. But it’s not very productive.
Worse for me are the structures. The empty barns and sheds. The little homes whose driveways leading to the carport are barely visible under the kudzu. Collapsed roofs. Maybe some 70s era faded plastic jungle gyms still sticking up under a fallen tree in the side yard. Larger old homes whose grand wrap around porches have fallen to the ground. Termite food.
Those are the crossroad towns and surrounds. Pop. a few hundred a while ago. Used to have a filling station and a grocery. Empty now.
The actual towns fare little better. We passed through one which was particularly sad. At some point in its recent past Main Street had been refurbished. It was a wide street and the bricks had either been reclaimed from under the asphalt, or were reproductions. The sidewalks were walkable– the roots of the trees in the planters haven’t yet had made them a topological nightmare. The store fronts were clean. Windows were unbroken. But the buildings were empty. No hardware store. No florist. No shoe repair or Western wear shops. No downtown plate lunch restaurant. Just empty. [See footnote]
I’m glad to be back on The Farm and don’t mean this travel post to be such a downer. So I’ll end on a note of wishful thinking.
When I hit the jackpot– or win the lottery!– and after I do all of the responsible things that one does after hitting the jackpot, and after setting Daughter C up in her very own gallery, and securing Kat & Tony a place they can call home when they are not wandering about the world, and surprising Miss M with a cozy little brick ranch, and buying ‘Phen a pony, I am going to find a little town that appeals to me. I am going to buy up all of the salvageable homes in the town, and a few in the surrounds. (Those properties that are not salvageable will be demolished and the land will be … hell, I’ll figure out what to do with it.) I will hire some locals (who meet Daughter C’s standards as contractors) to rehabilitate the houses. And then I will open a widget factory and a private college. The widget factory will pay a fair wage and one will be able to buy a home, raise a family, and climb the ladder based on nothing more than one’s ability to demonstrate superior ability to do the job. (There will be Peter Principle safeguards.) And of course, shops and stores and restaurants and auto parts and hardware stores will– poof!– spontaneously open up on Main Street.
The private college will employ individuals capable of teaching the foundations of Western thought. Freshman and Know-It-All Students will begin with Durant’s popular– POPULAR, not academic but popular– eleven volume history of civilization, followed by that BBC series, Civilisations, and all of the Great Books in chronological order. At the end of this two year program, students will read Durant’s The Tragedy of Russia: Impressions from a Brief Visit (1933). In the final two years (no more than four total) students will focus on whatever the heck they want.
Doesn’t that sound lovely? Oh! I forgot. Folks will buy their peaches from the Farmer’s stand at the edge of his road. If Mr. or Mrs. Farmer or one of the children is not in attendance at the stand, there will be a jug into which folks can put their cash.
Footnote: If you are interested in our country’s Main Streets, I encourage you to go see James Lileks’ Main Streets USA features.