Unlike many I grew up with, I’m proud to be an Oklahoman. I’m proud to have a family heritage that is tied to a place and has roots in a community. I’m proud of a community, however flawed, that has an identity and a passion for keeping itself as honest and pure as possible.
I fear that neither liberals nor most self-styled conservatives want to reexamine the habits, both economic and sexual, that have impoverished the working class, set the middle class on the wheels of a machine that literally sends their extra income up the chimney, and eviscerated neighborhood life.
As someone who squirms every time I see a couple or family all quietly tapping their cell phones, a room of twenty people talking is a beautiful sight. It is easy to despair at our polarized and atomized society, but I appreciate Gray’s book for giving a clear, achievable step for building community and making friends.
The value in seeing payphones is the way it develops a practice of seeing. So often we are driving or walking down streets, unaware of what serves us no purpose or where we aren’t heading. Looking for things forces you to notice things. Sometimes it will cause you to turn around and drive back to some spot you never would have seen if you weren’t watching so closely.
Places shape us and provide the contours of our communities. And despite the grittier dramas, the grip that a place has on us is not always all about past crimes and complicated emotions. Sometimes even a place we can’t seem to “escape” can be a source of pleasure or comfort in some ways.
eading Cheap Land Colorado makes you wonder how we can make more space for human flourishing among the poor and on the edges of society? Conover’s approach to the San Luis Valley might offer us a starting point.