Monthly Archives: July 2013

Small Town Life

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small – communities

I don’t know if Waupun is considered a small town now that we have a Taco Bell, not to mention a McDonalds, a Subway and a Culvers (and three prisons).  Probably not.  But maybe we’re close, and I like to imagine at least that I live in a relatively small community.  You see, unlike John Mellancamp, I was not born in a small town, but as the saying goes, I got to one as soon as possible.

stownMellancamp’s song is on my mind as I think about Wendell Berry’s book, Jayber Crow, which I finished just yesterday.  Jayber is the nickname of the first person character of the book, a bachelor barber named Jonah, who was orphaned as a young boy and given the name “J” by his caregivers at a local orphanage.  J becomes “Jaybird” and gets shortened to “Jayber”, as life has it.  The story was…delightful…and all about life in a small town named Port William. This was my first read by Wendell Berry, but as I understand it, most all of his books take place in Port William, Kentucky, and the characters overlap throughout.

Educated in a small town
Taught to fear Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another born romantic that’s me

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

I suppose that Jayber the barber could have written Mellencamp’s song, for he certainly finds some of the heretofore mentioned blessings from the throne of the barber’s chair on Main Street.  I myself have found such bounties, and if my children and my children’s children do as well some day, all the better.

That said, I have to admit that some days I feel the romance of the big city, and beyond romance, the need of the multitudes, the cry of the crowds.  I know demographers say that small town life is slowly disappearing, that the world is going to the cities.  But for me…for now, as they say, “It’s a nice place to visit…”

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in a small town
Ah, that’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me

– John Mellencamp, Small Town


Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


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On Writing

stephen-king-on-writing-d1d225f2c6e25fcd45dce87de1f77d4d6e695e5f-s3[1]I’ve had a book in the back of my mind for a year or two, and I recently picked it up – Stephen King’s On Writing, his memoir and thoughts on the craft.  Since I’ve written about a Stephen King novel before, you might be under the impression I’m a big fan.  Not really.  Mind you, I think he’s a fine writer, whatever my opinion matters; I’m just not much into the horror genre – what he’s more or less known for.  But On Writing received rave reviews, and I thought it would be worth my time.  Disclaimer: If you’re thinking about a read, be warned – he is a profane man, and as I’m listening to it, I can’t just let it play aloud in the kitchen while I’m loading the dishwasher.

But beyond the vulgarities, it’s been a delight, learning about King’s antipathy toward the adverb (really!), his writing process, his life-long marriage to Tabby (whom he met in a creative writing class in college), and his love for his kids. King was an alcohol and drug abuser (he barely remembers writing Cujo), and Tabby staged an intervention saying he needed to go to rehab or leave the house.  The writer wanted time to think it over, which he says is akin to being on the roof of a burning building with a helicopter lowering a ladder.  The rescuer from the copter shouts, “Climb on!”

“Give me two weeks to think about it,” the man replies.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to work anymore if I quit drinking and drugging, but I decided, again, so far as I was able to decide anything in my distraught and depressed state of mind, that I would trade writing for staying married and watching the kids grow up, if it came to that. It didn’t, of course.  The idea that creative endeavor and mind altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop intellectual myths of our time.

King believes in God, and he has more recently been quoted as saying that he is on the side of intelligent design.  That’s encouraging, as I sure like the guy, and I’m very glad he took the rescue his wife offered.  Perhaps someday he will consider the most important rescue ladder which we all need to grab on to.

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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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