A Part-Time Heretic’s Guide to Small-Town Living*, Part One


    It’s Sunday morning. The birds are chirping, the sun is slanting in through your crooked window shade, and from somewhere outside a chorus of slamming car-doors greets your ears. You glance at the clock. It is only 10 am.
     Welcome to life in the Bible-belt. You live across the street from one of your small town’s many (and I do mean many) churches. There’s no helping it, really. There is almost-literally a church on every corner. And the corners without churches usually host convenience stores. If you like your Sundays of the lazy variety, this may be a problem for you. What you need is a strategy, and someone experienced to help you create that strategy.
     You are in luck.
     I will be your tour guide to life on these pot-hole ridden streets. I’m a long time resident, you see.
     Consider me the slightly nasal voice of reason. By the time we’re through, you may want to look into relocating–possibly to one of those nice locations they advertise, quite conveniently, on the sides of U-haul trucks.
     But we should really get started. Time is of the essence, because in small towns everything shuts down early on Sundays–well, everything except Walmart.
     Before the day is over, you will know everything you need to know to make it in this town–especially if you are a fast learner and take my first piece of advice to heart:
Booze:
     In the Bible-belt, dry counties are the rulerather than the exception. If you want to stay sane, you should develop a strategy for the procurement and maintenance of a booze stash. Practically speaking, this means that you should do your “grocery” shopping before Sundays roll around. Because, although you can now purchase alcohol in restaurants and bars on the Lord’s day, you cannot purchase it and take it home.
     You probably feel perplexed, if not slightly annoyed and disgusted at this fact. It has often flummoxed me as well. It would seem that city ordinance encourages public drunkenness to an unsettling degree. Why prevent people from drinking in their homes? Why force them to make a spectacle of themselves while they attempt to drown their sorrows and keep their sanity? The answer is elusive; that this blue law is allowed to persist is beyond me–although I suspect that the religious figures and upstanding citizens responsible for it must be firm believers in the doctrine of public confession of sins…
     It may have occurred to you that this ordinance wreaks havoc on a national pastime that smalltowners hold in deep reverence: Sunday night football. If you, like so many of your new neighbors and fellow citizens, are a football lover, the strategy I’ve suggested is vital to your happiness in this small town. Superbowl Sunday, after all, is only a shell of a celebration without a nice, cold brew in hand.
Entertainment:
     I hope you did not forget your appetite when you moved to this booming metropolis. From here on out, your primary form of entertainment will consist of eating-out or drinking. That’s right, other than a few events (mostly musical in nature), this small town offers good, clean, wholesome fun in an edible form.
     If you happen to be an innovator, then you may not feel the absence of typical entertainment venues (such as a movie theater, a bowling alley, a skating rink, or even a bookstore) so drastically. This is because you will be too busy entertaining yourself at the expense of your neighbors and fellow citizens.
     If you are not an innovator, I suggest that you learn how to entertain yourself as quickly as possible. I’ll give some suggestions as to where you might start:
Develop your eccentricities. A good friend of mine recently began channeling her witch-like inclinations–cackling, reading musty tomes aloud, lighting thousands of candles, chanting to the moon, and more cackling–in order to make her life a better place and scare away some of the less reputable elements of small town society–thieves, drug-dealers, neighborhood busybodies, and junkies.
Invent your own logic. Instead of groaning about the mundane nature of your new reality, you can take that reality and make it interesting. That cable van that’s been outside of your neighbor’s house all morning? The driver is really an FBI agent. See, isn’t that better?
Mess with people’s heads. Instead of responding politely, honestly, and predictably to everyday conversation, make things up. Become a storyteller. Sure, you may lose a stodgy friend or two, but the people who still like you afterward will be the more…colorful…type.
Today’s small town tour is now complete. Check back next week, same time and same place, for  the next leg of the tour…
*Disclaimer: some advice contained herein may be a selfish attempt to drive away new residents so that the small town can remain small. It may or may not be funded by the city planners. Lawyers may or may not have advised this disclaimer.

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