Like Time Traveling Back To the 1950s

A place stuck in time — Chapter 5

Public domain photo from Pixabay

Chapter 5

“So what’s it like living in Nebraska?”

I was talking on the phone with my long-time friend Greg. Back in the late 1980s Greg and I were neighbors living high up in the Sangre de Christo mountains of Northern New Mexico. We worked together as stone masons while our wives sang together in a two-woman rock and roll band. I left New Mexico in the 1990s but we’ve remained close friends ever since.

“What’s it like living in Nebraska?” I repeated the question for emphasis. “It’s like time traveling back to the 1950s”

“What?”

“Seriously. This place is exactly the same as it was back in the Fifties. It hasn’t changed one iota. And the collective mass consciousness of the people here hasn’t changed at all since the Fifties, either. Everyone is still fighting the communists in their heads. The Cold War is still alive and well here. And, of course, to the people here commies are anyone who is not a white Christian Republican. This town regularly votes 99%+ Republican in every election. Rush Limbaugh is considered a god, Archie Bunker is considered a folk hero and Donald Trump is considered a messiah.”

“Holy shit. Yikes. Is it really that bad?”

“It is. It’s worse than that even. You know, I don’t think I’ve lived in any community that didn’t offer recycling. Well, there is no recycling here. None. Recycling is a liberal commie idea and people here won’t have anything to do with it. And I have not seen one single solar panel in this town. Solar power is another liberal commie plot. Oil and coal are American so people here stick with that.”

“And every week in the local newspaper there are letters to the editor from people proclaiming that all of America’s problems are caused by homosexuals, Mexicans and liberals. I can assure you there are no gay bars here. The gay people (I’m sure there must be some) are all hiding in the closet in fear just like in the Fifties.”

“This town has more Christian churches per capita than any town in the world. There’s a church on every third street corner. There are so many churches I don’t know how they all stay in business. The competition is fierce. Every week I get junk mail from local churches trying to get my business. The official census figures say this town is 99.9% Christian. Of course those figures were calculated before I moved here. Maybe now it’s 99.89% Christian.”

“I guess you’re in the bible belt then.”

“Smack dab right in the middle of it. There is even a small group of Christians here who are affiliated with the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.”

“Oh my God!”

“But it’s not just religion and politics. All the men around here wear those military crew cuts that were so ubiquitous in America in the 1950s.”

“Everything old is new again, as they say. I’ve noticed those military crew cuts have become quite popular all over the country.”

“But those hair styles were never old here. They’ve been exactly the same since the Fifties. They never changed.”

“Well, I’m a child of the Sixties. You’ll never catch me with a military crew cut.”

“Yes, I know, Greg. And, as you know, my hair is down to the middle of my back. I don’t know how many times someone I don’t even know comes up to me and the first thing they say is, ‘When ya gonna get a haircut?’ Seriously?”

After a brief silence I turned the tables on Greg; “So what’s it like living in West Virginia?”

“Well…. uh…. I’d have to say it’s pretty darn fantastic. I love it. I spent almost my entire life in New Mexico and a day doesn’t go by when I don’t miss New Mexico but it’s been almost four years since I moved here to West Virginia and every day is like a new exciting adventure. We love our house here sitting right up next to the National Forest. There are so many trees and the dog and I just love the creek running through the property. I look out from my deck and I can see mountains in all directions — of course they’re really just big hills compared to the mountains out west. And there’s a ski resort just 30 minutes down the road. You know I have to ski to stay sane. And most of my family lives here now so I really do feel at home despite missing New Mexico every day. I know that I’ll be spending the rest of my days right where I am.”

“Wow. Good for you. You seem very happy.” (The notion that I might die in Nebraska fleeted through my mind and I shuddered. I was born in the 1950s. I don’t want to die in the 1950s, too.)

“Yeah, well you know, there are bible-thumping Republicans here, too. And plenty of rednecks. But there are also plenty of open-minded progressive people, too. You know, Bernie Sanders did pretty well in the primary here.”

“I think I was the only person who voted for Bernie in the primary here.”

“Oh, I bet you’re wrong. There were probably a few others who did.”

“Maybe. Around here it’s best to never ever talk politics unless you’re Republican. I had a conversation with this guy about a month ago and he repeated some ridiculous, insane comment of Donald Trump. I accidentally let out a snort of derision at which point his eyes lit up and he looked fiercely at me, saying, ‘Don’t tell me you’re a commie liberal. Please tell me you’re not for Hillary.’ I replied, ‘Oh God no. I’m for Bernie.’ He seemed to inflate like a balloon when I said that, saying forcefully, ‘But he’s a communist! Oh, I can’t talk to you.’ With that he turned around and walked off. Since then every time I see him walking down the street he will cross the street when he sees me in order to avoid me. Ever since then I have kept my mouth shut tight when it comes to politics.”

“Yeah, me, too. There’s a lot of people like that. I just don’t care to waste any energy on them.”

After a brief silence I continued, “So we both ended up leaving the Rocky Mountains. I moved to Nebraska and you moved to West Virginia. Why did we do that?”

“Well, for me it was mostly about family.”

“Yeah, I guess me, too. If my daughter and my two granddaughters weren’t here I sure as hell wouldn’t be.”

“Family.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Well, maybe when you finally top the New York Times Bestseller list you can afford to come visit me in West Virginia. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with it. I did.”

I let out a very deep sigh. I didn’t know what to say.

*****

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