The Wrong Side of the Tracks
Apparently I am going to have to go and get my roots done damned quick because my white trash is showing.
Another hour of my life was sucked from me as I sat through the Historic Planning board meeting in McIntosh tonight. Honestly, I love a public meeting. I have to admit that and these are rife with arguments and anger. They're better than TV news and worse than Jerry Springer.
Every time a person's roof came up for discussion tonight, one woman -- we'll call her Red Sweater -- turned one way and then the next as if to see who she could rile up, to see who might be as outraged as she was at the prospect of someone having a gray tin roof in her historic district. You know, she said McIntosh is like Savannah and Charleston. Those people just accept if they want to live there, they will have to paint their shutters Savannah green.
So out came the chorus of, "They NEVER would have done it like that."
"They" are the mysterious people of yester-year.
One couple wanted to close in their laundry room. He'd spent a great amount of time scanning and drawing in the wall and doors he would install. The board ohhh'ed and ahhh'ed over his handiwork. And you could hear it building from Red Sweater in the middle room... feel it building in the room...
"They never would have done it like that."
It's the kiss of death, living in the shadow of the ghosts of McIntosh. You could sense the couple's initial hope shift to fear, despair. And then came the questions. The image didn't show enough dimension to show how far away the doors were from each other.
"They never would have had it this close together."
Because people in the 1890's had architectural software for designs like this.
Pictures were passed around. A laundry room stood out in the open. Washing machine, etc. They were closing that in and building a wall with french doors.
One woman showed me, "Do you want to see it? See?" See... see? As if I would see in items on their porch the outrage of such an abomination as a wall as opposed to their lives out for all to see. Whose business is it?
Someone else began suggesting, describing in detail what they could do instead and how nice it would look, how well it would fit in. The woman asking for the wall had her jaw set and she asked, "Oh, you mean like your house is?"
Oh, shades of Stepford ... do you think "they" would have done it like that? You know, "they" never would have had an electric washing machine.
All-in-all, they seem like good people. Good people but for Red Sweater.
No one here has a proper agenda or approaches boards in any kind of fashion resembling that of proper municipal government. I was invited out of a public meeting of the school board last night. I demurred. I went. I hated it. It took more out of me than you can imagine. I held in the words, "Show me the exemption."
Because I am not writing an expose of the town. I am writing a profile. I am here to watch. I am remembering that and reminding myself...
Even with that, I needed to know Red Sweater's name. I moved toward her after the meeting, "You seem to know a lot of about this."
I'm not afraid to look stupid. I can be completely stupid. She demanded to know who I am. A student, a journalist. Student journalist, freelance. I'm writing a profile, it's for a class.
We have cotton moccasins that come out of the lake with friendlier eyes than her's. She then moved to the other question they always ask, "Where do you live?"
I knew where this was going and answered her honestly, giving the name of the Cove. I live in the fish camp. I live on the poor side of town, where historic is circa 1970 and perhaps not as much to be proud of as say cracker house two blocks away ... most of the time, I don't care.
It's interesting. The people are nice. They're retirees who most of them had homes and lives up north and some have been here 20 years. They are from another time and care about each other in a way that you don't see anymore. They watch out for each other. Not like in the "real" historic part of town. Well, not so you could tell from their meeting, anyway.
So, I give her my answer and I watch something happen that's never happened to me.
Red Sweater's pit-viper eyes traveled the length of me and came back to my eyes, "Yes, I figured."
I called my mother and told on the woman. I grew up in a nice neighborhood. I was preppy at all the right times. I secretly knew I didn't really fit in that scene but hey - I had the right address if I wanted to push the issue. Add to that, I could hardly look like I am from the Cove when most of everyone who lives here is in AARP.
There's a sign in front of the playground and outside the Civic Center here in McIntosh. It says, "Play at your own Risk." I've looked at it wondering what the hell that means.
Now I know.