In this week’s writing challenge, you are invited to write about the block on which you live.
We don’t really have blocks or sidewalks. Or streetlights. We have trees, rivers, lakes, ponds and a rich variety of wildlife … but blocks? That’s a city or suburban thing.
This is the Blackstone Valley, part of the Blackstone Valley National Historic Corridor. Where America first built working mills using the Blackstone River to power them. Eventually we also had a canal, then a railroad. Stuff made in the valley was carried to the world. Then, as the 20th century dawned, the mills closed. The work went away and so did many people. The town went to sleep.
Our town hasn’t made it into the 21st century. It never entirely accepted the previous century either. It crawled forward — unwillingly — until the mid 1950s, then dug its heels in and said “Hell no, we won’t go.”
There we stayed. A pretty, quiet town. Very few shops, no movie theater or bowling alley. No public transportation — not even a taxi . No cute little coffee shops or sidewalk cafés.
If that’s not enough, Boston’s an hour and a bit away. Worcester is just up the road. You can get to Providence in about 45 minutes. Depending on traffic. Other than natural beauty, an abundance of churches and a beautiful if underfunded public library, whatever you want probably isn’t here.
We have a new high school. Twenty years of arguing about it and after allocating millions of dollars to upgrade the old high school — and having those funds vanish with nary a trace — we were told we had to build a real High School or lose accreditation which would have made it tricky for our grads to get into college. So we built a high school — and our taxes have gone sky-high.
There is a mythos surrounding small towns. Cue “The Andy Griffith theme. On TV and in Hollywood, people disagree but everyone has the best interests of the town at heart. Good will always wins the day.
Here, the combination of nepotism, bullying, and a willingness to make life impossible for anyone who gets in their way has enabled a few families to keep a stranglehold on the town.They take what they want and the rest of us can stick a sock in it. Town meetings end in fistfights and verbal brawls that generate enough bad feeling to last into the next decade.
I didn’t understand the intensity of the acrimony until I covered — for a local paper — debates preceding town council elections. The level of venom was a wonder to behold! Each candidate was nastier than the next — closer to Stephen King than Andy Griffith.
Yet, I love the valley and our strange little town. Our village is home to many wonderful people. Caring, smart, and good hearted folks. Sadly, they aren’t in charge. The other wackos run the place.
And life goes on. White picket fences and green lawns. Big shade trees, lots of room for children to play and safe streets. Only two traffic lights in town, one of which is probably redundant. It’s a pretty place to live. Just avoid the politics and enjoy the scenery. Things are not quite what they seem.