Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End-of-Year College Football Post

This has been an annual event the past few years, despite the circumstance that I never actually watch any of the games. Old readers will know that most of these reports include a recap of my favorite team's season, that being (*cough, cough*) the Nittany Lions of Pennsylvania State University. The scandal there so overshadowed everything else that went on this season that nearly the whole of this year's review will be in reference to it.

As I often note here, I am a native of the state of Pennsylvania and lived there for most of my childhood. Almost all of my extended family, including both parents and siblings, though most of these are estranged from some part of the rest in various ways, still live there, and many of them, as well as numerous other old family friends and other acquaintances, are alumni of the University that Joe Paterno built, most retaining a comparatively high degree of school spirit many decades after graduation. While I did not attend PSU myself, I did apply there, and they actually did accept me. While the place held some appeal to me, deep down I knew I would be eaten alive socially and that this would cause me to be depressed and probably to flunk out of school. Indeed I barely functioned socially at my eventual alma mater, of which a friend of one of my classmate's visiting for the weekend declared while perusing the scene in the cafeteria during Friday night dinner, "I have never seen so many unhip people in my life." But I digress. Even later in life, up to as recently as 6 or 7 years ago, I was given to contemplating the possibility of taking the whole family down there for a couple of years to get some kind of master's degree, the subject of and purpose for which, other than as an excuse to get away from my routine work and home life and be once again, temporarily at least, in an academic environment as a plausible actual participant in the life of the mind, always remaining nebulous, nothing ever came of it.

Nationally the school, which is of course humongous, came in for a scourge of consternation, mostly focused on the culture surrounding the football program and the fecklessness of the administration or anybody else in a position of potential moral authority to stand up to it, but there were certainly plenty of voices suggesting that the whole atmosphere of the place must be infested with spiritual and moral rot. I appreciate that it is easy when one has no previous positive sense for a place to imagine that the whole culture must be awful. I felt something of the sort regarding Virginia Tech after the mass murder there, my reaction being heavily influenced by the extreme distaste I felt for the people and lifestyle in the D.C. suburbs in the northern part of that state during a brief period when I lived there, and which general area I knew the murderer and doubtless many of the people he perceived to be a major cause of his misery to be from. However tenuous and fanciful my emotional ties to Penn State are, I was nonetheless unable to react to the crisis there with the same instinctual repulsion as regarded the place as a whole.

Once the story broke, it reached an extremely high degree of intensity within a few days. Large numbers of people were furious, not merely at all of the parties implicated in abetting the crimes, but at seemingly anyone in the general public who was not sufficiently indignant and unforgiving on every point regarding those above-named, and in some instances the entirety of the university as well. Obviously as a soft person by nature, I felt myself to be implicated among those not responding with proper heat to what I was hearing. This is not simply the result of toadying to Joe Paterno and the football team, of which I am not exactly the most devoted fan--I have never attended a game, or any college game, in person, and I don't think I have watched a full one on televsion since probably the mid-90s--it is more the curse of my havinga mild temperament. I know very well that people who sexually abuse children have to be imprisoned and ostracized and disgraced--but I do not seem to be able to feel the same release or sense of vindication at seeing this comeuppance exacted that others do. A person in shackles is almost always a wretched spectacle, depressing, in most instances emblematic of civilizational failure. I can take no relish or sense of satisfaction in it.

Regarding Joe Paterno's demise as a result of the scandal, unhappily revealed to be necessary the more the story played itself out, there is little I can say. While I had been for the most part ambivalent towards what I took to be his setting a good example for the New America by never retiring even though he was well into his eighties, in hindsight it is clear he probably should have stepped down a decade ago at least; the picture painted of the program and the administration of the university as a whole was sclerotic, hidebound and sheltered in a way not only unbecoming but unsettling; especially in terms of the dynamic, cosmopolitan, and forward-looking ideals which are supposed to govern institutions such as major universities in our time. I do not know that this would have prevented his former assistant coach from committing the crimes alleged against him, though perhaps the university would not have been so intimately entwined in the case as it finds itself now. I know that one of the main thrusts of the public outrage was that no one, including Joe Paterno, called the police immediately upon discovering what was happening, though I have never heard of an instance in any powerful, high-status hierarchical masculine endeavor where someone in any position of prominence turned over to the police a high-ranking associate of long-standing who had demonstrated loyalty and professional competence and been instrumental in any substantial degree to the group's success for any crime not personally directed upon the associate's own persom, and not even always then. Such things are not done in that kind of environment. I must admit, I find the idea myself of turning an ancient friend, or, God forbid, one of my children over to the police and legal system even though I knew them to be committing unacceptable crimes to be highly distasteful. Is there no other means of reform? No, there isn't, I suppose, and I shall have to be on guard as to what my conscience is telling me about the seriousness of what I am privy to in the thankless event that anything of this unpleasant nature ever comes to my direct knowledge.

On the other hand, following my conscience may not do any good either, since I do believe that Joe Paterno had a real blind spot concerning the seriousness of what was going on. The impression I got from his body language and his statements in the aftermath of the breaking of the scandal was, initially, bewilderment, followed by a steadily dawning realization that this was a much bigger deal than it had ever occurred to him. I may be wrong, but I do not have the sense that whatever knowledge he had of the crimes were tormenting him on a regular basis over a period of years, that his mind was constantly uneasy with the fear of being exposed. The whole thing really seemed to catch him somewhat by surprise. I have observed in other instances people of his generation not responding to confirmed reports of child sexual abuse with the horror that it is now expected a respectable adult would feel instinctively. When the Catholic priest abuse scandals first began to break I remember that my late grandparents, who were around Joe Paterno's age, were indeed outraged--at the accusers. I do not know whether they were simply unable to visualize apparently normal-functioning adults, especially ones in respected positions, performing the acts they were accused of, or if their instinct was not to trust the word of an adolescent or much younger person against an adult of proven responsibility, especially when the incidents were alleged to have taken place many years previously. I think we do underestimate how strong this latter instinct was in people of that generation, since we do not hold it very important in our own time.
Having been listening to Joe Paterno speak and watched him coach the team most of my life, while I obviously cannot claim to know him, and have always recognized that like all human beings he obviously has multifarious limitations which previously did not seem overwhelmingly important to dwell upon, I confess that I had always had a generally positive opinion of him, considering him as a football coach, as opposed to followers of other professions, and while I find the end to his career disheartening to say the least, he was I think at his best a genuinely positive force in his field, his sport, his university and his state; certainly he tried to be these things, and succeeded in them to a greater degree than most people are able to do.

My one non-Penn State note in this year's review refers to the first LSU-Alabama game which I saw about a half hour of between either falling asleep or performing one of my endless domestic duties. I am generally anti-SEC in my football sentiments, though in a sporting kind of way, and as the traditional poster child of old-school southern football, Alabama's team has always been especially pernicious to my northern eyes. As I noted previously on the site, I finally went to Alabama for the first time this past summer, and while I admittedly only saw about 20 people, they were decent and well-mannered and presentable enough, and the state-run park and facilities I stayed at were beautiful and well-maintained, so while I still can't abide the football program, I have a more positive impression of the state than I had formerly. All that acknowledged, I have to give some credit to the many Alabama fans and students (the game was in Tuscaloosa) who turned up smartly groomed and dressed, which outside of the Army-Navy game, you almost never see. Almost all of these people I am talking about of course are the kind of white, wealthy southern Republicans that make most of the people I would know reflexively gag, and I would probably think they were evil myself if I actually met most of them, but truly, young people who take some pride in their appearance and dress with some sense of a classic style really look great and stand out as above the crowd whether you like them or not.

This will close the posting year, which was a weak one. There is no direction where this site is concerned, so we will probably continue to go on in 2012 pretty much as we have been.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Mortems

Christopher Hitchens: I used to read him and listen to him on television quite a bit around the time of the buildup to the Iraq war, of which he was of course greatly in favor. Since he was the most forceful and apparently most intelligent advocate among the prominent pro-war government or media figures, as well as the only representative of that type whose enthusiasm was not compromised to my sense by blatant self-interest. My thought at the time was that the whole episode was a great test of the ability of the people, or that significant portion of them who were opposed to George Bush and the agenda of his administration, to resist, not just politically but intellectually, this course of action, in which, needless to add, said people--or at least their ideas concerning right policy--were routed, humiliated and exposed as impotent and insignificant in the current configuration of society. As such I was quite anxious at the time about the outcome of the controversy. Hitchens was very convincing not only that he understood the case thoroughly and that military action was necessary beyond all reasonable doubt, but that anybody who did not arrive at the same conclusion was likely stupid, certainly cowardly, morally bankrupt, obtrusive to the progess of history, had completely missed the important lessons of the whole of western civilization in school, and other imprecations besides which such a hapless reader as myself was hardly going to be able to offer much of a defense against in his own behalf. At one point I actually considered writing him a personal letter in which I would try to explain reasonably the various objections to the war which I seemed constitutionally incapable of overcoming, well aware of the constant drumbeat from half of society, and apparently the more vigorous half, that anybody who had any objections to the main points in the case had something severely wrong with either his mind or his spirit, because for some reason--probably because he had a good literary education and sensibility--I did regard him as the sort of reasonable person who would be able to recognize that surely there were grounds on which another reasonable person could be skeptical of the war. But I got over that idea pretty quickly.

After a while I stopped reading him regularly because however clever he was, his main interest seemed to me to be to demonstrate on nearly every occasion that he was right on some matter relating either to literary interpretation and world affairs while various other people were wrong, and not merely wrong, but wrong in such a way as to render them stupid or contemptible, usually both; which perhaps they were but I came to find it tiresome after a while.

In spite of a few detractors I have come across who claim to be unimpressed by his literary education, I'm sure he had a pretty good one, certainly by any standard that prevails in the present English-speaking world. While the large range of his reading and the extent of it he committed to memory have been frequently attested to as well as demonstrated, it was his success in incorporating this knowledge into both his professional life as well as his social persona such that it seemed an inherent part of his character that served to inform and enhance it at all times that made the greatest impression, as this effect is something a great many people would like to project themselves, but very few, especially perhaps Americans, ever seem to be able to no matter how many years they devote to reading. Of course the formal education of the Hitchens-like people is perhaps a little broader than the typical American English student, such as to include history, with a strong emphasis on political and military affairs, elocution, probably some philosophy and European belles-lettres, as well as carries a greater expectation that the student will attain a serious proficiency in these areas useful for adult thinking, which is a very rare expectation to be found among American professors...I could go on about what appear to me the myriad glories of Hitchens's social life, especially the carefree and evidently brilliant London set he ran with in his early 70s youth, which included Martin Amis, at that time handsome and irresistible to women of an intellectual bent in a way that seems to have no parallel in our own age (at least that we know of yet), but I have already written more about him than most of his actual friends did.

Vaclav Havel. I had the impression when I was in his country--he was still the president at the time, though that office was considered to be politically largely ceremonial--that most people trusted him and respected him enough to consider whatever he had to say worth listening to even if they disagreed with him. There was not to my knowledge a substantial portion of the population which absolutely hated him on either personal or political grounds, which needless to say would be almost unthinkable for either a politician or a substantial literary figure in this country. At the same time Havel's image in the Western mind, so far as one exists, probably has more of a heroic, and certainly a more romantic, tinge than that which his own countrymen have of him. Being a small nation speaking an obscure language and without even any delusions of grandeur on a global scale, the Czech conception of a hero, if they would even call it that, is a lot more subdued than certainly Americans would be accustomed to thinking of it. His signature qualities as an author were a concern with the manipulation and corruption of language an advanced and particularly subtle sense of the myriad ways in which human existence, when subjected to pointed consideration, does not make any sense (I would have said absurd, but that word in English has connotations of lightness which do not always capture the sense intended). He struck me as having a mind that was not necessarily spectacular and was certainly not bombastic, but was well-organized and uncluttered by the excessive nonsense that has been the intellectual Achilles heel of the English-speaking world probably since the Restoration. Of course the price of that mind was having to grow up under oppressed circumstances, such that he himself would argue it was not worth it, though the writings and other artistic products of the people who had them contributed particular insight and beauty and seriousness to 20th century culture that was absent from their counterparts in the free West which I consider important.

Kim Jong Il. I know these guys are pound for pound maybe the worst people in the world. I of course find their country fascinating, because unlike a place like Afghanistan, where the whole mode of existence is somehow mentally inaccessible, a lot of aspects of North Korean life are superficially similiar to that in Western countries, or Western countries fifty or seventy-five years ago anyway, albeit in a kind of fake way, as if the whole society is a kind of giant model train set. Of course like most people who do not know how to hold bad opinions and still be cool and the object of fascination by women, without which qualities such opinions really are not worth having, I sincerely want the regime to fall and for North Korea to become a regular country with global banks and cell phones and a modern airport and all the rest of it, because I know the people are suffering terribly and unfairly. The more the rest of the world becomes more tied together and alike in its social and economic values however, the more interesting North Korea will continue to become to people who desire a respite from all of this modernity.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas II



One could fill up many posts on the subject of Christmas music--I was just revisiting 'Christmas in Hollis', another blast from my youth that I don't expect I will ever be hearing on a regular basis in these parts--but I have had my eye on this song for this spot for several months, and as it's still working for me, it will stay. This is a good number for them. Their interpretation embodies the spirit of the song.

There is always a danger, not so much in being wrong, but in being facile, to make some comment such as that 1959 was likely one of our sweller Christmases. I am quite certain that by the standards of the people who love the American-style Christmas the most, the 1959 season played out as close to that ideal as any other (in my family either '65 or '66 was the template for the perfect Christmas because it snowed a beautiful powdery snow in Philadelphia, nobody on either side of the family had any significant problems, and my parents were young, beautiful and in love, which must indeed have been something to see). While I have heard some bad words about things individual people did in the year 1959, I have never heard anybody speak poorly of the year itself, and heard many people affirm it was a good year for them. I even once met a guy hiking in the woods in Maine who it turned out had grown up in Concord and graduated from the high school in 1959, which was the same class as my father-in-law, whom of course he knew, and his parents and brother as well, as which revelation my wife turned to me and said, 'didn't you just know he was going to say the class of '59?' to which the man said 'yes, I guess I just have the look about me that says 1959. It was a good year.'

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas I




I have noticed in recent years that the radio stations where I live at least have largely dropped this song, and indeed most of the 80s contributions to the holiday canon. A few years back I noticed when I heard this song around December 21st that it was the first time I had heard it the whole season, and I made a point of looking out for it during subsequent Christmases. The next year it made its appearance early, around the 10th, but last year I went right down to the wire again, not appearing until the 22nd or 23rd, and this year, as of 9:46pm on the 23rd, I have yet to hear it on commercial radio, Rite Aid radio (I spend a lot of time at Rite Aid), other stores. I haven't been to a party in years but they probably aren't playing this at the parties I would be most likely to be invited to either. Yet for some of us d'un certain age, this is as much a part of the fabric of the season as White Christmas and Dick Clark on New Year's Eve. Granted, the scenario in the video of being stuck in a cabin in the mountains with a bunch of 80s yuppies couples, two of which include George Michael and Ridgeley, his erstwhile Wham! bandmate, approaches very close to my worst nightmare not involving prison or homelessness or starvation. In fact, I actually hate it. I don't even really like the song that much, to be honest, but I find I am unable to fully engage with the spirit of the season until I hear it in a public setting, where it must set loose several vital associations with Christmases past that enable me to move forward.

Along with several other Wham! songs--"Careless Whisper", "Everything She Wants"--which describe romantic strife in much more detail than is ordinary in popular music songs, I was at the age of 14 greatly impressed by the sophisticated adult relationships I imagined George Michael and Ridgeley must have. They argue, they cry, they are way beyond expressing any kindness for the other person, she's having his baby even though she doesn't seem to like him and he is openly indifferent about the matter as well. This was heavy stuff to me, who primarily related to the traditional trifecta of boy-meets-girl-boy-asks-girl-out-girl-likes-boy-they-get-married-and-live-happily-ever-after, boys-sees-hot-girl-boy-wants-hot-girl-boy-gets-hot-girl-hot-girl-starts-to-annoy-boy-so-he-shows-her-the-door, and the one I was most partial to, boy-sees-girl-boy-wants-girl-boy-cannot-get-girl-boy-is-wretched. So Wham! seemed to be operating on a totally foreign level. Which ultimately of course they were.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Rally Against Hate

I have been debating whether or not to write about this incident which took place in the town where I live around three months ago. It struck me at the time as being revealing about the psychic state of current respectable society; and as that sense has not substantially diminished, I have decided to do a (hopefully) short posting about it.

The backstory: Sometime around the middle of September, some racist and xenophobic graffiti was discovered written on the walls of three houses where families of African refugees were living (Article here). The perpetrator(s) of this deed remain, as far as I know, unidentified to this hour. The ordinarily sedate local professional class immediately rose in impassioned and unified outrage to denounce this action and express to the all immigrants and people of diverse cultures and races in the community, how truly welcome they were, and how much the town had already been, and could expect to continue to be, improved in every conceivable way by the newcomers' presence. The incident was a godsend--no pun intended--for the creatively strained clergy at our family church, providing fodder for over a month's worth of sermons. Area schools held panels on the disturbing event in which such students as might be considered to be most impacted by it were encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings on the matter, and reassured that all of the school and other civic authorities were 100% on their side in opposition to the evil lurking among us. No less than two full blown demonstrations on the state house grounds were organized. The first and more impromptu of the pair, staged in the first flush of heat a couple of days after the story hit the papers, was dubbed the "Rally Against Hate"; while the second, held about a week afterwards, under the influence perhaps of slightly more sober deliberation, went by the sobriquet of "Love Your Neighbor". Among the distinguished speakers at the second event was the Episcopalian Bishop of the state of New Hampshire.

I have to confess at the time I found the response a little over the top, and partaking of perhaps a slight--very slight--portion of phoniness, as well as somewhat amusing. As usual my wife put me in my place by asking if I would rather live in a town where people did nothing, which naturally was not how I had been looking at the matter. Of course I do not approve of scrawling anonymous racist messages on the sides of houses and recognize the importance of demonstrating that such acts are unacceptable and will be unambiguously and publicly condemned whenever they occur and all the rest of it. But still. Even though there are apparently no leads as to who the criminal was, one presumes almost automatically that it was a white male of a low social origin and level of education, possibly a kid (meaning roughly anywhere from a teenager up to an especially developmentally arrested 22 year old), possibly a generic 30 to early 40-something failure of a person, but in general somebody whom the class of people making up the bulk of the rally participants (who, as you may have gathered, were educated white professionals) would have found easy enough to despise and feel anger towards.

On the occasion of both rallies I took care to drive by the state house at the time of day when they were in full flower with the intention of observing them up close and attempt to feed off the emotions that had overcome most of our town's leading citizens, but both times once I got to the site the idea made me uncomfortable and I neglected to get out of my car. Partly this was because each time I had my three youngest children with me, aged (at the time) 4 months, 2, and 5, and the prospect of carrying or monitoring them amongst a decent sized crowd brimming with righteous intensity was suddenly daunting in a way it had not seemed to be at home. But partly it was also because I knoew I could not bring myself to really identify with the crowd and the instinctive revulsion that they were tapping into, though at some level I obviously desired to. I had read quotes and, by the time of the second rally, seen pictures from the first in the newspaper, which featured several people I had a passing enough acquaintance with, and several others who seemed to me representative of a type, whose generosity of spirit in the context of day-to-day American society, however sincere their regard for the refugees might have been, and I have no reason other than my own personal prejudices for doubting that it was, I cannot help having some reservations about. So having determined that I was not going to be able to enter the necessary spirit, from whatever angle I would approach it, for engaging with the event, plus having all the children to take care of, I elected to sit it out.

All this said, I still think the response, while perhaps noble after a way, was a bit overwrought. I am convinced that the way people immediately jumped on this was as much an expression of their frustration and dissatisfaction with present political life than outrage at some racist grafitti written in the greatest likelihood by a totally inconsequential lowlife. Present day progressives especially do not know how to effectively combat the business interests and their political representatives on the economic and social justice and environmental issues, among others, that are dear to them. But everyone of any significance knows, and more importantly agrees upon, exactly what to do when an open display of racism, especially one by some hapless individual, rears itself, and they waste no time mobilizing all their available forces for action. I was surprised by how many serious and busy adults well into middle age felt that this incident called for their involvement and leadership in order for it to be gotten through satisfactorily. I am convinced there is some compensation happening here--guilt over not being able to prevent, or even disturb, the war, imposition of the security state, the concentration of wealth and the cavernous disparities of income, the total implosion of the lower third of the population, the decline of education, of culture, etc, etc. A protest against racism--which officially no one condemns or dares to ridicule--takes the form of an assertion of one's own relevance and virtue...

This essay is mostly complete. I was unable to nail the ending, but I have run out of time (self-imposed).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Is New England Dying?

The political leadership in my state has lately embarked on another lame campaign to try to persuade young people, especially recent college graduates, not to leave at the first opportunity. Several of our neighbors have started their own initiatives along these lines, or at least have openly expressed similar concerns about their own rotten demographics, and the ongoing exodus of the best of their young people. Good luck with that. In addition to those referenced in the article above, here are some pertinent numbers: Maine and Rhode Island were both estimated to have declined in absolute population in the year 2009, which given the current low death rate, is generally regarded by demographers as indicative or forboding of catastrophe; the under-18 population during the decade of the 2000s declined in every New England (indeed every northeastern) state, led by Vermont (14% decline), Maine (10%), Rhode Island (9%) and New Hampshire (7%--this is even with my own children figured); Vermont has had the lowest birth rate (around 1.6-1.7 per woman) of any state in the country for most of the last decade, with the rest of the New England states making up most of those right behind it, usually around 1.7-1.8, meaning that barring much more substantial migration/immigration into these states than has already occurred the child population will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. The largest age cohort in all of these places in the recent census was that in the 45-54 range, and the 55-64 range is still the second largest. Even to bring in anecdotal evidence, until about 2 years ago, when I was 39, and had been on staff for 12 years, I was still the 3rd youngest person out of about 20 in my department at work, which included more people over 70 than under 40. This age distribution seems to be pretty typical throughout the organization, with the exception of the excessive number of septuagenarians. My particular city, which has no college or youth-oriented cultural scene to speak of at all and is dominated by sober professionals, seems to suffer especially from a dearth of people between the ages of 23 and 35. Though while this situation is not quite so extreme everywhere, and there are certain towns that appear to be attractive to decent numbers of relatively energetic, if not world-changingly innovative young people (Brattleboro; Portsmouth; Burlington (VT)), most are even worse off than the place I live, which at least has a few possibilities for achieving a modestly prosperous career.

It could be objected, of course, that New England, especially the New England in which the laconic, industrious and resourceful character of the Yankee is the predominate figure, has been pronounced to be dying before, that indeed the sense of imminent death is a permanent feature of the local zeitgeist. The literature has certainly inclined in this direction. Hawthorne's gloomy depictions of a hidebound, mirthless society hounded by doom on all sides were set in the period when Europeans had scarcely been settled in the region for fifty years, in some instances less than 20, come to mind. Though Hawthorne was writing at a distance of two centuries, such specimens of literature as do survive the early colonial era as Michael Wigglesworth's The Day of Doom and Jonathan Edwards's epic sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God reinforce the idea that this was not the most optimistic, life loving and earthly future directed people, though in reality of course they were to some extent. Immigrants poured into Massachusetts and diffused all over the region throughout this era, while the birth rate was around 6-9 children per women over a period of several generations, which is one of the highest credible numbers found anywhere in history. Moving on to the post-Civil War Go-West-Young-Man era, in concert with the ascension of New York to melting pot colossus and one of the handful of most important cities in the world, New England comes to stand in symbolically as a graveyard for the living dead for literary types once again. Does American literature contain a more grim community and landscape than the town, presumably in western Massachusetts, in which Ethan Frome is set? Eugene O'Neill milked these themes to good effect throughout his illustrious career; the stunted sons hopelessly tilling the rocky soil of their overbearing father's farm in Desire Under the Elms and the beautiful but faded and oppressive summer home in Long Day's Journey Into Night being two notable instances of this. In this era immigrants from Ireland and Italy and French Canada streamed into the region in large numbers and the population consistently grew from 10-20% every decade. In the recent (Post World War II) era the New England = death motif in literature and movies has hardly abated, though the sense where it appears has become more of nostalgia for some more refined ideal that possibly existed in the past and to which the vulgarity of modern existence will not permit ascendance. A Separate Peace, the 'haunting' nostalgia films Summer of '42 and its underappreciated sequel Class of '44, even by my reading more highbrow efforts like the poems of Robert Lowell partake heavily of this quality. In my later teens and early 20s when I was living outside the region and confused about where I should tell people where I was from, when I would say Maine/New England the response of my interlocuter would frequently be to express the sense he or (rarely) she had that the region was dead, that they had felt the deadness viscerally on some visit or even collegiate stint there, implying then of course that the future dynamism of the country--this was before everybody had adopted the globalist mindset--both cultural and economic, would come from elsewhere, Texas and California and the southwest and west generally being considered the favorites for this leading role at that time. People are comfortable with the idea.

At bottom of course all of this concern is about the increasing desperation to grow the tax base--especially via the much vaunted entrepreneurship/innovation that a properly educated young workforce is supposed to spawn if congregated in substantial enough numbers--bring consumers into the economy who need to buy houses and furniture and baby clothes and so on, and to subsidize, or at least ease the burden that the needs of the increasingly aging population are threatening to overwhelm the various states with. Anybody who reads the papers knows that all hope for maintaining the living standards that North Americans have become accustomed to is invested in attracting entrepreneurship and innovation to one's community, with the holy grail being any kind of industry that will produce thousands or at this point even a few dozens of middle class jobs. Trends and statistics would seem to indicate that in the current situation (much-maligned) theater graduates have about as good a chance of making a living in their chosen fields as the would be entrepreneur does of seeing his business succeed to the point of providing him with a middle class income for himself over a period of several years, let alone one that will come to the economic rescue of entire regions, yet unlike in almost any other field with a similar rate of professional failure (most estimates seem to agree between 80-90% of new businesses), the leadership of society continually calls for more people, smarter people, harder working people to direct their energies towards innovative and imaginative business creation--as the only possible solution to all our problems.

With regard to myself, after finishing high school I too left the region for about 8-9 years, and returned when I was 27. Looking back, I should have made a greater effort to spend another couple of years overseas; even though I was out of money and was not having much luck getting jobs, it's something I should have forced myself to do, as it might have had the effect of shaking me out of my lethargy and enabled me to join one of the energetic and interesting segments of society. There was certainly no reason to rush back and grasp hold of a lowly position in the regular workforce that could not have been put off for a few more years. Anyway I came to New Hampshire for romance--my wife is from here--and because at the time I was not in an immediate position to find any better arrangement in the US. Plus I did retain a general affection for the area as I had lived in Maine, and entertained some idea at the time, as I have noted before, of eventually settling there. I was still technically one of these young graduates that are always supposedly so much in demand, though not an entrepreneur, and without any verifiable job skills. Still, I thought must be intelligent enough to eventually figure out the game of the professions, or make a positive impression on somebody who would be in a position to "set me up" somehow (this is one of the drawbacks of reading too many novels--characters in them are always getting "set up" by people they have made an impression on). Also it must be remembered that I was still expecting at the time to finish writing my book within a couple of years, and for the book to be both good and recognized as such. I suppose I ought to be embarrassed to have actually ever thought this now, and to offer a different and more reasonable explanation for what I expected to happen with my life, but I don't see what it matters. Of such conventional careers as might have been realistically open to me, I still cannot think of any that I have any great desire to have now.

But I have gotten a little off track. The object was to examine what a state like New Hampshire offers to an enterprising young person. My answer, even though I personally seem to have stagnated in many ways, is still, I think, quite a lot. Of course there are a lot of careers that it would be impossible to pursue here to any great height, or even at all, but there is enough proven substantial brainpower deposited around the state to demonstrate that one is not dooming oneself to a life devoid of meaningful accomplishment in many fields by staying here. The overall quality of life is very high, especially once you get past your early thirties--every time I go to visit any of my other old haunts in the Mid-Atlantic I am reminded how many extra years of life I have managed to preserve by not having to spend several hours in traffic jams every day--and largely accessible. The last time I checked the statistics, which was within the last 5 years, New Hampshire had the lowest income inequality of any state in the country. While this might sound distasteful to super-achievers, this is mostly due I think to the comparatively low numbers of absolute wastrels in the state compared to almost everywhere else. There is certainly a healthy population of rich people, though evidently they are not quite as rich as rich people are in other states, or else they leave the state, which is not hard to do, to indulge in any extreme high-end consumption; for I am not aware of any restaurants or stores or leisure activities anywhere in New Hampshire, or the southern half of Vermont for that matter, that it would be completely impossible for me to contemplate going to even once due to their expense (I'm sure some probably exist, but I do not as yet know about them). The unemployment rate is much lower than elsewhere in the country--officially 5%, maybe double that in reality. That number is deceptive though, I think, because a lot of people do leave the state because the job situation is limited, and the economy being on such a small scale it is easy to perceive when that is the case. If you live in a town of 15,000 people surrounded by woods and the largest employer in it closes down, it doesn't require the acumen of John Kenneth Galbreath to see that waiting around for things to pick up again is probably not a smart idea, as might be the case in a place like California or Florida. There is a notable influx of professional people who come back in their mid-30s after having failed to make it really big/burned out on the super-competitive lifestyle in Boston and New York, especially if they have children. One of my children's friends' father spent his youth trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood (he is an energetic and active Republican in the comminty now). They still want to impress upon each other that they played and achieved no small success in the game of life though.

The population of New Hampshire it should be noted did increase by 6% during the last decade even though the child population declined substantially. We seem to be becoming a popular retirement/late career destination for baby boomers fleeing the oppressive taxes, and, some assert, the diversity that have overwhelmed their native haunts to the south. There is also a libertarian movement called the Free State Project whose goal is to get libertarians to settle in the state in large enough numbers to be able to begin getting elected to office, which has apparently attracted a few people...

This essay is garbage and it is incomplete but it has been 8 days, my kid won't go to sleep and I have to get ready for an appointment, so I am letting it go now.