Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looking for The Real World

Deb and I live in dramatically different places. Part of the week we are inner-city dwellers, noise and motion and lots to do all within an easy walk; restaurants, gym, movies, bars, parks; and the occasional siren, gunshot and petty crime. Our house, uncounted square feet of 3 bedroom - two 1/2 baths - back yard + 3 car garage - is full of love and laughter and storybooks read at bedtime; and crying and winning and temper tantrums of the 4 and 2 and 18 month old kind. We generate dirty dishes and dirty laundry by the mountain and chew through electricity at an alarming (read "expensive") rate. Most days I pack up and head off to work, which often includes an overnight or two somewhere that I reach by flowing literally hundreds of gallons of fuel through twin tailpipes. It is all very urban, very American, very much a "modern" life, and I am very fond of it.

Part of the week we live on the lake, a 20 minute drive from the nearest, and rather small, town. We hear Blue Herons and gulls and cormorants, the closest thing to a siren is the whistle of a passing train. There is the occasional gunshot which we assume comes from hunters working nearby farmland. The most serious crime is when someone spills a drink; otherwise known as alcohol abuse. Our "house" is about 400 ft/sq of Tartan running, when at the dock, on a 30 amp feed. Out on the lake we live off a couple of batteries and a gallon or so of diesel. Our days are filled with manual labor and refining the ancient skill of making a boat move with the wind. There is nothing urban about it, modern shows up mostly in the tools that we use, the fiberglass of the hull, and the Dacron in the sails. It isn't even particularly American. Communities of the like minded, helping each other, working and playing together, are older than homo sapiens and predate any nation-state by eons. And anyway our marina has Germans, Russians, a family from Poland, friends from China, liberals, Republicans, atheists, - hell - we even have a redneck or two on pontoon boats. All are equally welcome and share in the fun. (A decidedly un-American trait at the moment, sure to get worse now that another election is about to assault [insult?] us.)

It is tempting to argue which is the "real" world, city dwelling or boat life? City dwelling is certainly the most contrived, resting on layer upon layer of infrastructure, taxes, politics, policies, police, committees, parking tickets, trash trucks, a dance so intricate that no one person can hope to grasp all the motion involved. Built as it is out of concrete and steal and millions of miles of piping and cable, it strikes me as incredibly fragile. The city relies entirely on human effort and sometimes I wonder if it will last long enough for my kids and grand kids to live there.

There are no such concerns about the water. Lakes and oceans are completely unaware of human effort and will be around long after the cities are gone. Nature takes care of policing up the stupid and inept, policy is determined by wind and wave and tide. Maybe the lake is the more "real" world after all? Maybe that's why most of us flock to the city?

And maybe, just maybe, that's why some of us want to go in the other direction?


RichC said...

Appreciated the essay very much and can somewhat relate ... although just don't have the weekly escape that you seem to be enjoying. I also chuckled when you dipped into politics and assumed the word "steal" was typed as an unintended slip of the fingers -- understandable that's for sure. ;-)

TJ said...

When I write or read I don't see words as much as I hear them, at least that's my excuse for being beyond the help of spell check. But I'll leave it as is...

TJ said...

...and when it comes to politics I usually manage to offend nearly everyone equally, be they left, right, capitalist, socialist, Republican, Democrat…maybe with another 10,000 years of social evolution in the bank (a blink in cosmic history) we might get some basics figured out. Those who do will look back and probably count us alongside the Neanderthals; if they remember us at all.