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April 22, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

by Nancy Go to fullsize image

Now and then, I am reminded that I'm not from around these parts. I grew up on the outskirts of a small, conservative rural town, on the edge of a national forest--a town where we left our doors unlocked. Our dogs ran loose.  Our neighbors raised Shetland ponies, and I remember the morning we woke up to a newborn foal in our backyard.

But earlier this week as my husband and I entertained our daughter Sarah for dinner (pot roast) in our little house in a charming city neighborhood, I happened to glance out the dining room window to see two boys come sauntering up our street.  Since the street is only two blocks long and a dead end at that, we know everyone who lives here, and the two boys were strangers.  (Does anybody know the source of the phrase "strangers in town where strangers ain't welcome"?)

And they were jiggling the door handles of every car parked on the street.  They especially coveted my neighbor Gene's little red Mustang. Disappointed to find the Mustang locked, they checked all the other cars and even strolled up a few driveways to check availability. 

It took a lot of guts to come looking for a car to steal at 6:30 on a sunny evening in a residential, right?  Guts or stupidity, I guess.

The police dispatcher couldn't answer right away because--we learned later--there had been a "big shooting" a few neighborhoods over.  When the officers did come--long after our young would-be thieves were gone--someone was already stowed in the back of the cruiser. The police apologized for being late.  They had been "slammed" that evening doing other crimestopping.

Later in the evening, while I was in my office--which doubles in the evenings as the family TV room--Jeff watched The Pacific. It's a WW II miniseries that features a lot of gunfire and screaming. I had a distinct, disembodied feeling that evening that I was a long way from home.

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My mother still lives in my hometown, which has remained so small that everybody pretty knows everybody else's business.  There, the big story a couple of weeks ago was that the local police had come upon a man in the road, who, according to the police report was "giving mouth-to-mouth resusitation to a possum."  The possum had been dead a considerable length of time.

The possum resusitator is in jail, awaiting bail.  The car-stealing boys are still at large, as far as I know.  Or maybe they're in their junior high classroom today.

Ever feel as though you've traveled a long way from where you started? 




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And what a long, strange ride it's been . . . no, I could never have imagined our present circumstances.

I certainly have. The road has had its bumps and construction delays, but I don't thing there's much I'd change.

Grrr, 'I don't think' damn it. Time to go to bed...

Nancy, sometime I feel just like Dorothy..If Happy Little Bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?

But then I guess Dorothy epitomized the dreamer in all of us.
It is a long way from home but each day I try to achieve that rainbow..

Oh Nancy, I think about this quite often...more who've I become than how far I've traveled...but they must be directly related, right? Oh to be sweet and somewhat naive, without the reality check that has caused sarcasm and whatever else cloaks me! Another great blog! What has happened to all of us?????

I am going to come right out and say it.

I do not like the movie "The Wizard of Oz". Never have. Those monkeys scared the hell out of me, and I thought everyone else was too mean or too selfish. Judy Garland had a magnificent voice, no doubt about it, and the song is beautiful.

That's it. It's out there. I'm out of the Oz Closet. I don't get it - but then I never thought "Citizen Kane" was a masterpiece either. Talk about mean, selfish people.

I don't care either. Among other things, I'm a Fanilow and proud of it.

I can’t imagine “living” in a major city anymore. Being a serial curmudgeon, Charleston, SC is starting to get too big for my taste. Despite being able to get pretty much anywhere in less than 20 minutes no matter the time of day I would be out of here in a heartbeat if the grandkids weren’t a few miles away.

But before I could put the “for sale” sign in the yard I would have to convince “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. My giggling bride – 40 years this summer – needs a teaching hospital for her work and Charleston is about as small of a metro area where one of those exists.

I saw an interesting comparison a few years back it asked teachers what are their biggest classroom problems. In the 1950s it was passing notes, talking in class and chewing guns. Today it is fear the metal detectors will malfunction and one of their students will sneak a gun into class and shoot them.

We’ve come a long way baby.

I think the most intriguing part of this post is that the police apologized for being late, because they were being slammed.

I grew up in the middle of a cane field, which was really boring. Now I live in a suburb, which is even more boring. But I think boring is good in this case.

Kathy! What an interesting comment about everyone being mean and selfish in WoO.

I hate West Side Story. Thugs wearing v-neck sweaters, and singing? Please.

Marie, I think you're right.--Dorothy is the dreamer in all of us--sometimes the dreams are nightmares, because the fear of leaving home and who we really are is alive in all of us.

Kathy, I hated RENT for the same reason you hated Oz. The guy's girlfriend dies of AIDS and he's moping about himself? Grrr.

But I think Dorothy's desire to get along, to help her friends, to be nice even to the witch (that curtsy!) is the quality children need to see--her empathy when others lack it.

Being a born and bred City Boy, I don't know any different than locks on the doors, checking windows, asking "Who is it?" to a door knock after 7pm, etc.etc.etc.

The Boss's mother lived in a small town south of us. The type of place, when a second traffic light went up, it was a huge deal. The Dairy Queen was THE place on Friday nights, and yes, people left their doors unlocked as an accepted way of life.

When my mother in law passed away in 1994, we were all down there. The Boss's older sister and her family drove up from Corpus in a Mercedes. We had the bigger car at the time, so we all piled in and tried to go out for dinner. When we got back, everyone went inside while I stayed outside to smoke a cigarette. Few street lights, pitch pitch black. A shadow moved, and my first caveman reactive thought was "Boy, did you pick the WRONG night for this one, pal." A soft voice came out of the darkness, asking if I knew Mrs. L. I said yes, I'm her son in law.

It was one of her neighbors, holding a set of keys. No one was thinking right, and when sister in law's family got there, they'd left the car keys sticking out of the trunk. A total stranger had driven by, headlights catching the reflection, stopped, took the keys, and gone knocking on doors until finding someone who was home to leave the keys with. I invited the guy in, and asked him to tell the story to the family.

That, and trying to reach the medical examiner to find out exactly what had happened, and learned the local police department closed at 6pm on Friday.

Friday night. 6pm. Police closed.

It took me a while to get my mind around that one. Everywhere I'd ever lived, the police doubled up on Friday nights, and this little town closed down.

There are times I fantasize about moving there. The consensus at the time was I'd go crazy; no bookstores, no video stores, no nothing. Now, I point to Mystery Lovers, Amazon.Com, and Barnes and Noble.Com.

Yeah, I think I'd be good in a place like that. If it's still like that....

BTW, last night's Straight No Chaser concert was one of the best live events I've attended in a loooong time. They're adorable! So upbeat! And masterful with their music.

Go click on their Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

That possum story's the best. I especially like the link you posted, which pointed out that the possum pictured was not the actual possum, and that police listed "society" as the victim.

Pot roast is one of my favorite meals. Just in case you want to make a note.

Nancy, I'm thrilled you enjoyed the concert. They're so talented, and so entertaining in their live show. I'm still in awe when I stop to consider they use no music whatsoever. Kathy, are you liking Barry Manilow's appearance on their album?

I've lived in the suburbs pretty much all my life. After visiting New York over the weekend, it's a nice place to visit, but I could never live with all that teeming humanity. My poor daughter actually got panicky in Macy's, and it wasn't from the price of shoes.

What kills me, Laura, is that "society" is the victim in the possum case, but yesterday afternoon, just half a mile from my house, an 11-yr-old boy was shot in the leg--he was passing by on his bicycle when two men--one of them his own father--got into a gun battle because one owned the other $5.

It's a long way from Shetland ponies in the backyard.

Nancy, are you aware that, just this past week, Arizona passed a law allowing citizens who own guns to conceal carry, without a permit, background check or mandatory gun safety classes? Two other states, Vermont and Alaska, do the same.

A gun owner still has to pass background to purchase the gun, but now, anyone, anywhere, can be packing and you don't know it.

Am I the only one who finds this scary?


Caught sight of one of my favorite authors last night at SNC.

Those guys are so very talented!

I'm so confused. Possum cpr? What did I miss?

Anyway--I must be in a contemplative mood, or something. Nancy, I think your post is so moving. I've been thinking a lot about how we all arrived where we are, and what will happen next, and what we might have thought about along the way that we didn't. Decisions. Turning points. Remembering to be happy.

And Happy Earth Day. Remember when that was weird and lefty?

No, you're not the only one finds that scary. My husband and I work at an urban University in a town that has many "wrong sides of the track". We don't want to move into town because of the crime rate. More immediately, we both worry about increasingly contentious students who lack any semblance of impulse control. He basically assumes that everyone is armed; I'm not quite that paranoid yet, but do actually expend brain cells worrying about students who get mad about (fill in the blank with your choice of triggers here).

Maybe it's a good time to be getting out . . .

Janet, were you there?? Why didn't we think to have some kind of TLC powwow at the intermission? Missed opportunity.

Ramona, did you read the article in the New Yorker a while back about the law enforcement guy in Arizona? I will go look for that one, because it's enlightening.

Hm. Today I was going to pour vinegar on my dandelions (a home remedy I saw on TV) but since it's Earth Day it seems un-PC to kill anything green.

In case we all forgot, this date was selected for Earth Day because it marked Vladimir Lenin's birthday. One of the primary arguments I hear from right wingers against environmentalist is “the Green Movement has red roots.” Whatever the politics, you can’t argue with the results. Despite overwrought claims from both sides, 40 years later the air and water are cleaner and the Cuyahoga River hasn’t burst into flames in years.

Here's a letter to the editor from yesterday about dandelions -- one I wholeheartedly agree with.


As for the rest of it, I can't wrap my head around it today. Just found out that the company I've worked for 30 years is merging with another one and everyone is all in a dither about it.

One kind soul brought in massive amounts of sugar and fat, so we'll all be comatose by the time the meeting about this starts.

To me, a dandelion is the worst kind of weed. I don't even like stepping on them barefoot. Disgusting! But I can see that might seem irrational.

Debrasue, good luck at the meeting. I'm sure they'll say, "Everything's fine." And a month from now, the world will go upside down. Enjoy the sugar! Hope there's a chocolate component.

"One Voice" is one of my favorite songs - I was so excited to see it on the new Straight No Chaser CD with the Man Himself - WOW!

It is superb! Last Sunday we went to see a local a cappella band - Pittsburgh's own Double Shot - keep an eye out for these young guys!

I am in and out of the office all day - but for heaven's sake, someone text me if the Steelers trade Little Ben!

I'm from the 'burbs (Chicago's to be exact), but I never knew 'dead bolt' until someone told me they had one on their back door. I went to school with kids from rural towns who never ever locked ANY doors (that may have changed since the I-57 car chase that included two people locked in a car trunk AND the killing of a small town cop), but I get in trouble with the hubby for locking the screen door (who knows where the keys went?) in the summer. I trust no one these days. We live on a court, which means we know who belongs and who doesn't. My former neighbor (a retired nurse) made it her business to know who was gone and who was home and whether that unfamiliar van should be parked in anyone's driveway when the neighbor was at work. She was also the unofficial "kid watcher". She was the first person my daughter's best friend ran to when a stranger broke in (through the locked screen door btw)one summer afternoon when her mom had gone to the store. We miss that woman. :o)
Debbrasue--hang in there. I went through five mergers of varying degrees before I'd had enough. My job disappeared and I was on the verge of doing that too, so I decided to make my part-time job more permanent.
Nancy-can't tell you how green (Earth Day) I am with envy that you saw SNC. I've almost memorized all the lyrics on their new CD and sing along shamelessly :o) I keep hoping for a Big Ten tour (they're all Hoosier alums).
Now I have to spend the day searching for my query letter. One of my flash drives seems to have converted a few files to boxes and circles and I fear the revised letter is one of them. Perhaps I need a new laptop?
Happy Earth Day all. Hope it is as sunny and warm as it promises to be here.

PS. Kathy...as one Fanilow to another, dont you love the fact that SNC included One Voice on the CD?

Maryann, you are so right about the dead bolt! The house where I grew up didn't have one, nor did any of the houses I've lived in since---until now. How wild is that?

Posted very late yesterday about school lunches and other food challenges, because it took forever to figure out how to post a story/ slide show on You Tube (but I DID IT!!!!)
There's also one of Prince singing that Jill did for me -- she IS in Kansas right now, but eager to get out and act! Maybe she needs to talk with Harley?

Much of what we experience today is really the passage of time. I grew up in this city.....actually spent over 50 years within a mile of your home.......and we used to sleep outside in the summer, doors unlocked, kids went off to play with other kids, rode bikes everywhere...........it was simply another time.
For your neighbors I will thank you for calling the police......had they not moved the station to an area that's almost a mile from any home or business........well that's another rant.

Anyone who still wants to order a signed copy of nancy Martin's fabulous OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION.............call or go to www.mysterylovers.com

Nancy will be signing copies at the store today........Mother's Day??????

Interesting since I live in the big city and know better. Last week while I was out I got a frantic phone call from da' wife. Our neighbor was shot in the parking lot. He is ok and the denial brigade keep telling me he is a good kid. Yes a good kid who got chased by to guys who fired six shots and it wasn't a robbery. He is fine. Apparently, the shooters managed to hit parked cars better than their target. He was shot in the hand.

Bad things happen in good neighborhoods. Even in small towns. My mother grew up in a town of less than 5,000. Her brother-in-law had a police scanner. They were pretty busy officers. One thing is in small towns, people know to stay away from "Jimmy's house" because he is a bad guy.

Two quick car thief stories. I have a good friend who is a retired St. Louis County Juvenile officer. One of the "darlings" hopped into a driver's car on a Domino's parking lot with a friend. They made a sharp left out of the parking lot to start their joy ride. Fifty feet later they discovered why everyone else made a right. Yep, road dead ended in a really tall fence and wall. Then he discovered that his juvenile officer, who he liked, needed to transfer him to someone else, conflict of interest.

Second "darling" was arrested for car theft. He could barely read and was three or so years behind in school. He took the police on a tour of North St. Louis County showing them where all of the cars he stole were. It was an afternoon of pulling into an apartment complex parking lot and "blue Firebird here, Red Nova here, You can't take a BMW but the stereo comes out in a second. Black Jeep here, cloth doors don't even stop the rain." In all he listed more than 40 cars and their locations. He did get several years to work on his GED from the tax payers.

Kathy, it's okay. I love The Wizard of Oz, but I never ever liked E.T., which made me some kind of cultural pariah back in the day.

And as much as I like wildlife, I would never try to resuscitate a possum, regardless of how long it had been dead.

On that note, I'm off to Nebraska for the weekend! Yes, you CAN go home again.

Living in an so-called idyllic suburb I witnessed a four hour helicopter surveillance over my house last week.
Circling for hours on end helicopters closed in on a kid who was a threat with a gun and other issues.
A SWAT TEAM was called in with a dog and heavy armour. This all occurred as we watched from our garage. Talk about a surreal experience.
The suspect eluded the cops and later turned himself in.
In early years I have viewed this on TV show but no, this was in my quiet little neighborhood.
We're not in Kansas anymore..we're in the midst of modern day warfare with our youth.
It may seem dramatic but believe me the adrenaline was pumping for hours.

We live in an area where we usually don't lock. Of course we don't have much to take, either. Whoever wants to take what doesn't belong to them has to work to get it as we are a long where from anywhere. This was a beach community where all the Berkeley profs had beach shacks that have now been converted to insulated-for-the-winter shacks. I think that the sheriff has to drive 25 miles from the county seat to get here. It's quiet.

I have seen Barry Manilow in concert, live, 5 times. Man knows how to put on a show. He performed "One Voice" with a local choir and it was goosebump inducing to be sure. The concert was in the round at the old Arena (Checkerdome at the time) and the choir rose from the depts of the 'pit' around the stage. Was fabulous.

I find it amazing that more publicity hasn't been focused on the lunatic that is attacking women at St. Louis University. One dead, two attacked, heaven knows how many others just haven't said anything. After the initial interest...no more publicity.

Nancy, I grew up way out in the country here in Northern California and things were alot like you describe. unlocked doors, dogs & kids running loose, livestock wandering through the yard, hardly any real crime.

Then I graduated high school, joined the Navy, lived in big cities and over the next couple of decades pretty much had the simple country boy burned out of me. This did not help my already shakey opinion of humanity in general.

As for Oz, I'd prefer Wonderland myself. It's that whole trippy psychedelic aspect that I find attractive.

Grew up in a small town--never locked the doors; never locked the cars, and, in fact, only those considered paranoid even removed keys from the ignition (and usually placed them under the floor mat); kids played outside, with no supervision, until the streetlights came on; adults magically appeared if there was a scream of pain or fright from one of the kids; we walked and rode bikes everywhere; we learned to play tennis, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and soccer with no formal teams, no formal games, and a tenuous grasp of the rules.

Back then, it worked out most of the time. But today? A parent who doesn't ensure supervision 24/7 is criticized, self-esteem is more important than competence, and kids are car pooled everywhere (with lap and shoulder harness properly latched). On the other hand, a sexual predator in my neighborhood managed to prey on kids for a while. Life is dangerous.

And, by the way, I also can't stand the Wizard of Oz. That wicked witch, among other characters, terrified me, and I was sure that Toto was going to be killed. I still won't watch it.

Bea----It's safe to come out now. Toto stays alive.

Mary Alice, you just tickled my funny bone at the idea of giving my mother, if she were still among us, a copy of OLoID -- it would be very . . . interesting . . .

Oh, Toto!! So glad he made it back to Kansas. Still won't watch, though--Toto was my primary concern, but there was plenty of other stuff that freaked me out; it made me anxious. I can't follow along very well when folks start discussing the political/social symbolism of the story, but I can live with that.

I have yet to see Barry Manilow in person y but he is returning to Las Vegas and I would love to go there.
I have not been to Vegas for a while but it is very tempting to go there soon.
ET scared the life out of me. When Drew Barrymore screamed I screamed too.

Count me among the ET non-fans. In fact, the "penis breath" line made me forbid my daughters to see it! Even now, I'm not sure they've ever seen the movie.

Hey, I forgot to mention that Straight No Chaser is going to be in Atlantic City for 6 weeks this summer! Road trip, anyone?

A neighbor's grandson's jeep was stolen (many years ago). A day or so later, someone at work offered a really good deal on a jeep. Our neighbor gave another friend's address (few thieves would be stupid enough to bring it back to the same house), and met the thief, with the police. Haha!!
I have friends in Tennessee who don't even have locks on their doors, and while at home, the keys stay in the car ignition . . . what a lovely way to live!

Thanks so much, Harley. You were a big hit, as always. It's amazing that such a sweet woman can play evil so well.

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