Monday, September 24, 2012

99 problems.

When I first moved to Alpine I grabbed a copy of the town newspaper The Alpine Avalanche and sat down to read all the ins and outs of my cute, new little community: So-and-so's daughter won an award in the pre-law department at her college; the first-ever taco festival was a great success!; Billy and Janie Sue are engaged, and a letter to the editor likened a city council member to Goebbels.

Wait, what?

Contrary to all logic, I've learned reactions in small towns are not at all handled in direct propotion to the size of the problem.

Quick lesson in Small Town Math, e.g. the reasoning used to arrive at conclusions having nothing to do with any sets of scientific, mathematical or economic principles practiced in the urban world. (Example: for every square foot of dirt in your front yard, Small Town Math (STM) calculates there is room enough to chain a dog to an inanimate object.)

Using this STM, the best way to calculate the volitility of any issue in a rural community ranging from "your dog is on my lawn!" to "X organization/person/business will RUIN this town!" is to add up the population size and divide that number by the number of city council/chamber members/individuals and/or civic organizations involved in the dispute.

The answer will tell you how many vats of vitriol that will spew forth: higher numbers equal acid reflux; smaller numbers, hydrofluoric acid. (This is probably also the equation used to determine how much fuel is needed to propel a 100,000 ton rocket into space, it's about the same level of firepower in the end.)

Things can get pretty thermonuclear in a small town in a matter of days  hours minutes if the gossip tree is up and working. And you should know the gossip tree is never, ever not completely up and working to full capacity (Why? What did you hear?).

Now I am in Marfa, where the population size is much, much smaller and the personalities are much, much larger and scandal is ten times more el escandalo!

In fact, recently an anonymous group circulated a satire 'zine they named after a real genetic disease that weakens the connective tissue keeping a body together, which just happens to be named Marfan Syndrome. I won't get into it (lest I get drawn in), but satire is one thing and libel another, and a couple more issues of this newsletter (if there are more issues) might truly break this town down like its namesake disease. Hell, maybe that's exactly what they want.  Who knows?

So why is there so much bubbling up in a small town? Because there's just as much boiling over in a big town. It's scientific fact.

From NPR:
If you took 10 drops of water (not extra-big drops, just regular drops, I'm presuming) and counted the number of H2O molecules in those drops, you'd get a number equal to all the stars in the universe. 
This is amazing to me. For some reason, when someone says million, billion or trillion, I see an enormous pile of something, a grand scene, great sweeps of desert sand, twirling masses of stars. Big things come from lots of stuff; little things from less stuff. That seems intuitive. 
But that's wrong. Little things, if they're really little, can pile up just like big things.
When you live your life in the snow globe of a small town, this makes perfect sense. (Marfan Syndrome, says the National Institutes of Health, is a condition that is usually inherited; I think that's important to note.)

As a newcomer and former city girl, I'm too new to understand who was talked about and why what was said was said, and you know what? I don't want to know. I told someone, "I don't have a dog in this fight," which is an expression I've never used before moving here and one I actually loathe. I think subconsciously I took it up because it conveys the viciousness I associate with these microscopic mega-battles. (I'm living by the slogan, "mean people suck" and that will be that.)

And, for now, whenever I happen across a conversation about this topic, it is always spoken in whispers or vagaries and in close quarters. My high school theatre teacher always said the only reason people stand too close to one another is they are about to kiss or they are about to punch.

I guess it's a wait-and-see to find out which one will happen next.

I'll just open the local newspaper, turn past the six-man football results, and look in the letters to the editor section for references to engineers of mass-murder.

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