My entry yesterday has received a comment from a somewhat appropriate source. Kevin Smokler has written a book, Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, which essentially asks, is it worth writing a book if no one is reading them.
He also offers a consulting service to newly published and aspiring authors to help them operate in the current reality of literature. I don’t know much about consulting and coaching in this area, but what you get for his rates seems pretty reasonable to me.
But anyway, at first blush his suggestions seemed pretty naive to me. As a society, we are looking for easier ways to do things and aren’t about to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of nostalgia. You’d just as soon wish that the Donny and Marie Show were still on so your family would have something wholesome to watch on Friday nights. I am sure there will come a day when we look back nostalgically to the days Home Depot was bustling with excitement and talk about how much we miss the unspoken camaraderie and respect when do-it-yourselfers stood side by side with building contractors.
As I thought about it though, I came to realize I had witnessed some community building activities like those he suggested. As a society, we may be moving in a certain direction, but individually, our actions and gestures still have power. Home Depot and Walmart may never notice if you don’t shop in their stores, but the places you do shop instead might recognize your gesture.
Also, it may be easier than you think to build a community and establish the types of traditions and values I mentioned yesterday. My sister moved into one of those houses in the suburbs Kevin mentioned (though to be fair, the mortgage payments on her large house were less than the rent on her two bedroom apartment in Hoboken, NJ). Shortly after they did, they invited their neighbors to a “meet the new folks” bar-b-que.
Come to find out, most of the neighbors had never met each other either. They enjoyed each other’s company and decided they should have more parties. The started a themed round the world party at Christmas time. It is now in the 5th year. Right now, the biggest problem is whether to let others in the neighborhood into their circle because they are getting so bloated and drunk from all the food and alcohol available at the half hour stops at participating houses now.
Since then the people in #15 have established that they will have an annual picnic on July 4th and my sister has drawn her neighbors into the annual August summer party tradition she had going when she was living in Hoboken. When I was there in June, another of the neighbors had decided to establish the first annual ice cream social. (Alas, I missed it!)
In a sense, Kevin is correct. If we, as a society are engaging in conspicious consumption far beyond our means, it might be nice to turn it to the benefit of our community and create our own niche traditions and culture. Sure you have a 60′ television with an awesome sound system. Pick a night and roll it out on the patio and turn your yard into a drive-in for the neighborhood kids (minus the cars, of course.) The kids are probably amusing themselves with the fact they can watch television through your windows from all the way across the street anyway.