Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Build a Proper Melting Pot - A Diffle County Update Part 3

The year is 1960. Diffle County is a quiet, wooded rural community with rounded mountains to the Northeast, a highland plateau to the Northwest,  and a large mountain, called Kitakima (lenni-lenape origin), running like a spine the entire length of Diffle County’s Southeastern border. The county is shaped like postage stamp that got pulled in two opposite directions, no longer square, but not too far out of square either.

On the very top of Kitakima mountain is the most desolate trail in the country- the Ahsenike (AH-SNEAK-A) trail.  The rumor is that the army uses the Ahsenike to train its green berets for night maneuvers.  I walked 17 miles of the trail one weekend. I slept in a hammock between two trees, all snuggled in my sleeping bag.  The coyotes howled all night long.  I wanted to ah-sneak-ah  right out of there!   Hiking off the mountain, ten miles to the North, right in the heart of Diffle County sits Jacobsville, founded in 1802 by the Rev. Paul Jacobs, a Methodist Minister looking for a new flock.

In 1960, Diffle County was extremely rural. It’s entire population was, according to the U.S. census, 32,398 persons.  The people of Diffle County were of the mostly of the same color, 98.9 percent white. The 1960 US Census actually listed them as “Native White”.  I’m not certain how native Americans felt about that but I suppose back in those days, Native Americans were still called Injuns in the movie westerns. The remaining residents in the county, all 1.1% of them, were non-white: Yep, a grand total of 357 non-white residents within the whole county of Diffle.  Only two of them owned their homes.

Fifty years ago, there were other differences too. Most important were the two-lane roads.  There was no interstate system that slammed a commercial hand-palm on the area, no 4-lane highways that by-passed Main street, no airport larger than a piper cub, and no minor league sports team.  If you wanted to visit here, you had to drive in on treacherous, narrow mountain roads.  Very few businesses advertised outside the local paper, tourists arrived by word of mouth.  A friend would mention to a cousin what a wonderful time his family had a Greenbriar Lodge. The next year, the cousin was there with his family.  Slowly, quietly, the county took care of its business- along with its family resorts and hunting clubs.

There is always one exception- Winding Brook Resort and Golf Club advertised in all the city newspapers and television stations.  It was the ultimate resort with an indoor pool, concert hall, and a thousand rooms in 6 different Greek revival buildings spread out across a gaudy landscape of Roman statues and modern fountains.  The city folk loved it.  The locals laughed, but many of them worked there at one time or another.  The checks never bounced.        

Back in those days, most people had coal furnaces and there was a coal yard in each town.  You walked to the store, there was no Wallyworld, Kmart, and the nearest McDonalds was 20 miles away.  Then there was Sally’s Coffee shop on Diamond Street.  You could always count on Sally’s for latest in fine diner cuisine. In 1967, she introduced the pizza burger and received a “good citizen” award from the East Jacobsville town council.  If you did happen to see an African American, he or she was either washing dishes at Sally’s, sweeping the sidewalk at Cotterman’s Funeral Home, or weeding Mr's. Turnball’s garden.   Diffle county folks loved their white-washed fences as much as their whitewashed faces.  

You didn’t see much prejudice in a small county in Pennsyltucky in 1960.  There just wasn’t enough non-whites around to harass.  But you didn’t let your white daughter anywhere near Jefferson or 9th street.  That is where the black folk lived.  You didn’t let your son hang out on Carmen Street- the Mexicans might carve him up.  For the middle class and wealthier white folk,  the attitude was more prejudice masked as socially incorrect behavior.  “Jimmy does a wonderful job with trimming my bushes and he is always punctual when I call, but he knows he is not welcome inside my house!”  Mrs. Turnball would declare with a laugh.  “Sarah, you should not be talking to that boy.  What will your friends think?  Your grandfather is rolling over in his grave! Now, stick with your own friends (that we chose for you) from now on!”

The poorer folk weren’t as refined with their prejudice.  Confederate flags hung from their porches, there were more than a few night meetings in white robes, and every now and again, a big old cross would get torched in some dishwasher’s front yard.  Just a reminder, the local men would say, just a reminder.

In 1970, the interstate system reached Diffle County and everything changed.  The monster highway cut through the County like a snake, across the highlands, down into Haney valley, three exits for Jacobsville, one exit for East Jacobsville  (next to the hospital), then through the East Kitakima gap and gone, bound for the bright lights of the big cities on the coast. The local business association hailed it as the beginning of a new era. Unfortunately for them, the new era included chain stores that undercut their prices and ran them out of town.  Suddenly a four hour drive into the city became an easy two-hour drive.  New people poured into the county like water out of a spilled glass.

The interstate was the pot and people of all races, creeds, and religions melted into Diffle County.  The 2000 U.S. Census looked remarkably different than 1960.  The county had grown to 140,000 people with 76% white, and 24% non-white.  The minorities were mainly African American (10%), Hispanic (8%), Asian (2%), and the remaining 4% included Native Americans (0.3%).  There were more minorities living in Diffle County in the year 2000  (33,621) than the entire population in 1960. Most of those folks owned their own homes. Diffle County didn't need change, it had already been changed.

In the mid-1980’s, after witnessing 15 years of (radical- to them) change, and in keeping with their heritage, local political white folk decided to take action to protect their children and preserve their way of life.  What happened next is something more of a shared vision than a single individual leading the way forward (backward).  At cocktail parties, golf outings, etc.,  the discussion amongst the folk revolved around topics like, “preserving our way of life”,  “keeping what is already here intact and creating new schools for the city folk”. Certain well-known individuals with large, deep family ties ran for school board, council, and township office and they won.  Most had no competition.  Those already in office were re-elected again and again by wide margins.

The vision became a plan and the plan became a reality- build new schools near the new subdivisions and create a parallel elementary and secondary educational system.  It can’t be prejudice if the newer residents get to send their children to a brand new school!  It is true that with a growth rate exceeding the national average by 10-15% a year, new schools were needed, and it made sense to build them close to the new neighborhoods. It was simply coincidental that the older schools would mostly house the students from the local, deep-rooted families.  Those schools had a history, daddy played football there and mommy was a cheerleader.  Keeping those schools was a necessity- there was no other option.

Some folks would call that smart planning. Others might think of it as a kind of community enforced segregation- Diffle County versus the big city.  I call it  “use your political power while you still have it.”

Tomorrow: Part 4   New School, Old Attitudes, and Inevitable Change  

Disclaimer:  All characters are fictional. Any likeness to real or somewhat real individuals is completely and intentionally coincidental.There is no Diffle County in Pennsyltucky.  In fact, there is no Pennsyltucky.  Liability is strictly limited to double the compensation received for writing this article. Copyright (C) 2010  The Mutant Mouse Chronicles, A Fishfire Media Lab Presentation, subsidiary of Data Corp LLC, another Waterbunny migraine company.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The History of Education: A Diffle County Update, Part 2

Sometime shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Diffle County received a bonus.  A college was formed on the outskirts of East Jacobsville, a small town across the Trouthead Creek from Jacobsville- which was and always will be a larger town.

At some point in its history, perhaps all the way back to the days of our founding fathers, Pennsyltucky had politicians with a sweet and simple purpose: the better educated the citizens are, the more money they will earn, the more taxes we can collect, and the more money we can spend on improving the lives of those same citizens.  Let’s call this the “educational pyramid scheme” or EPS for short.  It worked.

Young people showed up and took advantage of the affordable education at East Jacobsville Teachers College. The dozen or so other state-supported colleges scattered around the Commonwealth also became popular with the local middle class kids.

After a time, Pennsyltucky politicians wanted some recognition for their success- good paying jobs, educated citizens, partially paid for by tax dollars. So they changed the name to East Jacobsville State College.  Since Pennsyltucky is a Commonwealth, the correct name should have been East Jacobsville Commonwealth College, but that’s a bit dreary.  Besides, common folk don’t have much wealth, but we are always in some sort of state.

The college grew and yet, our college-educated young adults had limited opportunities in the local area, and many of them moved away for better jobs.  In more recent times, Pennsyltucky decided that “State College” sounded archaic and they changed the name again to East Jacobsville University.  I am not certain changing names improves anything, but there ya go, it’s already done.

East Jacobsville University became one of the largest employers in the area.  But the cost of attending began to increase and the Commonwealth, due its own decline after the end of the Industrial Era, began to decrease funding.  By the turn of 21st century, the cost of higher education required money that many folks in Diffle County didn’t have and couldn't earn.   Folks became desperate to provide their children with a better education and borrowed money to pay for the ever-increasing tuition.

The Commonwealth was all too happy to guarantee the loans- enforcement is always cheaper than awarding monetary grants.  Besides, now the bankers were involved and they could make some serious interest on those 50,000 dollar loans.  “Yummy”, said the bankers and they donated money to their favorite politicians,  who got re-elected, then cut funding and increased loan maximums. We’ll call this the  “Commonwealth Re-Elected Educational Pyramid Scheme” or CREEPS for short..

My goodness, this isn’t a short lesson at all!

South of Diffle County sits Nother County, a very prosperous region where the flatlanders live.  Nother County has many colleges, one in each big town, and none of them are State Universities. Some colleges are upscaley. Even the ivy leaguers are impressed- usually right before their non-conference lacrosse match.

One college is a 2-year commuter school and is very affordable for average kids with average grades.  One day, a Nother County Community College trustee was fishing in Diffle County and had a great idea.  Why not open a Diffle County branch of the Nother County Community College!  And we will call it....well, you couldn't be called Diffle County Community College because who would know it was an outreach of Nother County?   Now he could fish and be a trustee at the same time (Wasn't he already doing this?)..

Once everyone was in happy agreement, Nother County bought a few buildings in Dannerville. They added a few trailers, a parking lot with entrance, a few handicap access improvements, and a fresh coat of paint.  Then they tossed in some teachers and chairs (This is getting to be like Field of Dreams for schools). New students showed up and, within a few short years, overwhelmed the tiny campus.

Let’s tie the time-lines together now, shall we?   When the new school opened, the folks of all  colors and creeds were just beginning to arrive in Diffle County.  As time went on, many of the children of these non-white adventurers decided to go to their local community college and then transfer to a four year school- which was usually located a few sleepy miles away in East Jacobsville. Ah, the kids are staying close to home.  Well...their kids- the transplants from the big city, not so much our kids, from the local poor white folk homes.

And that’s about when Nother County and Diffle County started to get on each other’s nerves. That’s about when the minorities with ridiculous mortgages discovered their builders had played three card monty with their credit reports, bank accounts, and house appraisals.   And that is about the time when the local newspaper, The Diffle County Recorder, actually sent out some reporters to investigate their neighborhood. And that is about the same time when political correctness and prejudice fell in love.

Tomorrow: Part 3  Racism and Political Correctness, Diffle County Melts in the Pot.

Disclaimer:  All characters are fictional. Any likeness to real or somewhat real individuals is completely and intentionally coincidental.There is no Diffle County in Pennsyltucky.  In fact, there is no Pennsyltucky.  Liability is strictly limited to double the compensation received for writing this article. Copyright (C) 2010  The Mutant Mouse Chronicles, A Fishfire Media Lab Presentation, subsidiary of Data Corp LLC, another Waterbunny migraine company.

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Logs on the Fire: A Diffle County Update, Part 1

Here in Diffle County, there has been a good deal of controversy brewing over the planned construction of  a Nother County Community College, new Diffle County Campus.  It seems there are a few white folk from the Western edge of the County who don't care much about education- especially when it involves black and Hispanic children from the more "developed areas" of the Diffle County.   To understand, we need a short lesson.

There has been a long history in Diffle County of white folk.  They founded the place back in the 1700's, their grandpappy's moved rocks, built the stone rows, tried and failed to grow crops in the poor bony soil. When the farming and tanning faded out, the trees grew back and their pappys' took to hunting varmits like squirrel, deer, bear, rabbit, and whatever else popped its head out from behind a white Pine tree.  Some folk built cabins and offered them out for families, hunting, boy scouts.  Diffle County became a big ol' resort and before you could say "Da Bronx", white city folk started visiting our little mountain county.

Sometime around the 1970's, the white city folk got bored and stopped vacationing here.  The resorts had grown and some were for honeymooners only and did OK, but the family resorts with the big table dinners, shuffleboard courts, concrete pools, and Church service on Sunday- they died slow, lingering, run-down deaths.  Once again, Diffle County struggled mightily.  White folk making minimum wage at the resorts turning down beds, cooking meals, and mowing the lawn lost their jobs.  Diffle County was in decline.

That doesn't mean the locals left the area. Quite the contrary, the taxes were cheap, the land plentiful, and food pranced in the woods on Bambi legs. But their children saw the county as a big fricking dead end and they bailed.  What to do?   With so many beautiful woods, cool summer breezes, and plenty of room for everyone, why not subdivide off a few lots and sell them to those city folk for second homes.

By the 1980's a few homes turned into thousands of homes. How did that happen?  A few of the smarter locals, meaning the greedy ones, called themselves builders, then learned the trade.  When they started running out of white folk to sell homes to,  they looked around the closest city and saw a new market- black and Hispanics, living in tiny homes, with no yard or trees, and paying more money to live in the city than it costs to live in a fine home in Diffle County.  The real fun had begun.

Call it genius marketing, call it good builder fortune, call it Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hunting for minorities to lend money to for brand new homes, call it luck- but it all came together like the perfect storm.  Roads were built, streets were paved, houses were constructed and people came, oh how the people came to Diffle County.

By the year 2000, everything had changed.  People of all races, religions, and countries poured into the county and began commuting to the city, 1-1/2 hours away on a good day.  There were seldom any good days, however.  Because back before the rainbow folks showed up, Diffle County was essentially a poor county.

They didn't get money for a high speed rail to the city. They didn't even try to get it.  They didn't improve their sewer systems, they just made people install septic on their brand new lots.

On 9/11/2001, the terrorists attacked and the exodus from the city increased dramatically.  The more urban centers of the county began to change.  Stores took on new and unusual flavors. Woolworths had long since vanished and JJ Newberry's was next.   People fled the city for a new life. However, the commute sucked and soon folks started looking for local jobs. But guess what?  There weren't any local jobs except tradesman- building homes.  The local white folks had been busy all this time learning trades so they could replace their old shacks with  brand new modular homes.  It was a lovely industry that went well with hunting and fishing.

The locals complained bout the city folk, but they also knew their bread was being buttered by those fancy new homes. After awhile, the white folk began to notice the rainbow folks in all their colors and ethnicity were just about everywhere.  But the white folk felt progressive because they voted three white women onto the County Commissioner seats.  Locals would grumble about the city folk, then pat each other on the back about their elected officials.

In 2008, the housing market collapsed. Diffle County was broke and the white folk lost their jobs.  But truth be told, they were losing the jobs already to cheap East European and Mexican labor before the crash.

Tomorrow: Part 2 -  The parallel rise of education and ignorance.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Words for The Dictionary

Every once in awhile in my family, we have a desire to create new words.  While we love to nickname restaurants, why not add new words to describe our emotions, our likes and dislikes, and most importantly, to stereotype other people for our own amusement!

It all began on an afternoon drive in the country, probably Delaware County, Pennsylvania. This is a lovely pastoral setting, upon which the wealthy horse owners love to erect miles of split-rail fencing, along with well-placed security cameras in trees.  Even in the fields rented to dairy farmers there are scenic fence-rows with hidden tree cameras.

We know from experience that cows love cameras. Try this out yourself:  Drive to a field of cows, park, get out of your car, and just stand there.  The cow herd will ignore you (except one, there is always one looking for attention). Now lift up your camera. Woah!  Cow stampede!   And I thought pigs were hams.

Yet we didn't expect wealthy, upscale, main-line, Devonesque, property owners to keep cameras on their rental cows.  Are there teams of cow-tippers lurking behind the fences?  Are they expecting us common folk to steal milk right from the source?  What kind of sick, paranoid millionaires are we dealing with here? What do we call these crazed horsey people?  We call them Schmoos.

We live in a region inundated by tourists from New York City.  They bring an economic punch to our area that has been unparalleled in the history of our community.  Many bring along their city habits and customs, which can be unsettling to the local populace.  New Yorkers own very small city properties then see our millions of trees in the woodlands. They can not believe that these vast tracts of land are owned by local yokels.

It is not unusual to come home to find an entire family of sixteen from Brooklyn having a wonderful picnic on your two-acre front lawn.  What kind of moron tourist would just park their car and dump the entire clan directly in front of your house?  A Touron would.

In an effort to preserve our new word heritage, we have compiled a list of words desiring of recognition:

1. Schmoo  - See above, also schmooey, schmooduh, schmool, schmoot 
                    ex. Bernie Madoff is schmoot.
2. Touron  - See above, also  Touronimous, Touronic, Touramous, Tourontake80east
3. farmslut -  Once you see two of these at the fairgrounds, you will understand
4. merpies -  M+M addiction, usually crushed, served in vanilla ice cream, used for private sexual pleasures
5. Miishlamoo - A young schmoo, oftentimes an adopted Wallengurl
6. ashlanack(ack) -  only understood by dogs, who attack when this word is spoken aggressively
7. Wallengurl - An Asian girl to be adopted by an older man, then later married
8. bouver -  To bouver something, to be bouvered by someone, bouvering your neighbor (dutch-West End, donjano)
9. happybirthday - means to go screw yourself, unless it is your birthday. Used in polite company only.  ex. "Happy Birthday, blog reader"
10. halper - everyone needs a halper from time to time see also halp, halpin', halpple

We will have more new words in a future post coming soon.  Thanks for reading our baschlammie!

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