Friday, July 06, 2012

Of Electricity and Small Towns

Two things came together this past week to get me thinking ...

First was the huge derecho storm that powered through Northern Virginia last Friday night, leaving severe damage and widespread power outages in its wake; in fact, there are still a fairly large number of people in the Virginia-Maryland region still without electricity.

No electricity! No air conditioning! No cell phones! AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!

Oddly enough, though, we survived for many thousands of years without electricity and the comforts and conveniences it has delivered ... most of which are now regarded as necessities. The ancient Egyptians built a vast and complex civilization and built the pyramids some 5,000 years ago, without a single lawsuit against the Nile Basin Electric Cooperative because the a/c went out. The Napoleonic Wars were won and lost (depending on your preferred side) without electricity. Yours truly grew up in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh without air conditioning ... and somehow survived with fans (granted, it wasn't quite this hot in Western Pennsylvania in the 50's and 60's, but still ...). Not having cable TV and a good Internet connection is a pain ... but people have been reading printed books and playing cards and board games by candlelight for a long, long time.

Somehow, we survived. I think we may need a refresher course in what we define as essentials. A pain in the neck - to be sure. The end of life as we know it - probably not.

The other thing on my mind is the death of Andy Griffith.

For those of you reading this outside the US, Andy Griffith was one of our most beloved television actors, famous for his portrayal of folksy sheriff Andy Taylor in the long-running series set in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. He was also an accomplished dramatic actor and a fine comedian ... one of his most popular and well-known routines was the story of the country bumpkin who stumbles into a football game and tries to make sense of what he's seeing in "What It Was, Was Football" ...

But much of what has been written about Andy Griffith in the wake of his death has dealt with why we need a place like his fictional town of Mayberry - a sort of bucolic, peaceful, friendly town that we like to think is the "real" America, a place that makes us feel better about ourselves in a time of political and social turmoil. This article from Atlantic Monthly sums it up - Why People Still Watch The Andy Griffith Show. Who wouldn't want to live in a place like Mayberry ... or Willoughby, in the classic Twilight Zone episode A Stop at Willoughby?

We need a chance to slow down and take life a bit easier. To read more and surf the web less. To live in a place where we know our neighbors and enjoy the sort of life that may never really have existed here in America.

It may be too late, given our dependence on a high-tech environment cooled and powered by electricity and our descent into the politics of extremism and bitter dispute ... but wouldn't it be nice to make a bit of a start?

Have a good day, and stay cool - with our without a/c. See you tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.

More thoughts then.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

We have our longings for that kind of Arcadia, where life is less complex, neighbors are neighborly, and people are happy. Even Sweet Valley, for the Sweet Valley twins, fits that.

Big Sky Heidi said...

So sad about Andy Griffith.

I hope people get their power back soon. It is so hot in the East.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

There is a man who we refer to as Barney Fife who lives across from us at the lake. When we say his name we have annointed him with people think that is his name. It makes us feel old, very old.

I have to admit that I long for a world like that and Leave it to Beaver. Aside from the racism, sexism and having to be a full time housewife as my only option, those days look pretty darn good to me. :-)

The Bastard King of England said...

The past is painted uncommonly rosier than it really was.

Leslie David said...

I remember sleeping on the floor when it was really hot before my parents broke down and bought 2 a/c units. I think the combination of no electric and no a/c and the high temps make it particularly miserable, especially if you had a freezer full of food that you have to pitch. Mayberry was where life was simple and the deputy only had 1 bullet for his gun.

Mike said...

We used to go to the basement when it got really hot.