A place belongs forever
to whoever claims it hardest, remembers
it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself,
shapes it, renders it,
loves it so radically that he
remakes it in his own image.
People ask me from time to time why I've stayed with the newspaper, why I still live in the community in which I was born -- in essence, why I've stayed here in Halls.
Fair enough question.
Part of the answer is that, by and large, I'm happy here. Halls Crossroads, TN (unincorporated) is my home. People here have been good to me. They've put up with my rants. They've helped me grow. They've taught me valuable lessons, either about what to do or what not to do. They've come to hear me sing, been kind enough to laugh at my jokes. Some of them have even commissioned me to write the community's history, which will be completed later this year.
I always wanted to write and found out a way to get paid doing it in my own backyard. Not bad, huh?
Don't get me wrong. I get the itch now and again.
I've told you before about that Garrison Keillor novel "Love Me." The main character hits the big time with a best-seller, goes to New York, works for Mr. Shawn at The New Yorker. That's my dream!
Just the other day, I was feeling stifled, sick, tired, beautifully, simply longing to move to Bay St. Louis, wondering if it was worth killing all these trees and working all these hours, all this stress, all this newsprint. And then I read this article by Keillor in National Geographic. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.
What I finally discovered is you don't have to go away somewhere to be successful. Success is subjective.
Sure, I get tired of the rednecks, a term I use carefully, in its most blunt, direct, definition. But that's everywhere. There's a difference, a big one, between being Southern, certainly being country, and being a redneck. Rednecks live in all 50 states, can be found in any economic bracket, any country in the world, and are among the most disgusting vermin to ever go slouching across the soil.
I'm happy here. I'm happy at the paper. Some days I miss my old Charles Kuralt-esque beat, but it's cool.
Plus, as you can imagine, covering county government is the best job in town. Who needs so-called "reality TV" when you have that kind of entertainment?
I could make more money elsewhere, but, as I said, I'm happy. Don't guess I'll leave unless the Detroit Tigers or The New Yorker calls.
And, at the end of the day, I love this area, not only Halls, but Knox County, its people, its beauty. It's just big enough to have access to parks and cinema and hyperlocal radio and the fine arts and still be small enough to feel familiar.
Plus, I figure why not subvert from within? My politics are more moderate, a little to the left, a little to the right. People will put up with you, and sometimes listen, if you're purposeful and pleasant. I try to be both. I often fail, but I try.
There's an old, old saying in this business of herding words:
"Write what you know."
Most importantly of all, my loved ones are here.
Compelling reasons to stay, eh?