As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
I was fishing around for an idea for a blog the other day. I wanted to keep it personal, but Carol, I think, was right that I leave My battles with ear wax between me and my PCP. Then, while daydreaming through the coronavirus news one evening, it suddenly struck me: I’ve lived in a lot of places over my lifetime. Nine different states to be precise.
That may not sound like too many for say, an army brat, but when you consider that most Americans have only visited an average of twelve states, living in nine might suggest the journey of a cultural Renaissance Man. Especially when you consider the nine represent all the regions of the Lower 48, from the Deep South (Louisiana and Georgia) to the East (Pennsylvania and New York), Mid-Atlantic (Delaware), Southwest (Missouri), Midwest (Illinois), Northwest (Washington) and Far West (Southern California). Looking back though, all that moving around seems to be no more than the ramblings of a restless and unsettled soul.
“every time I glanced up from my book and looked through the window: the same expanse of field, red barn, pickup truck and blank horizon for hour after unyielding hour until we hit North Dakota and…”
Without planning it that way (or at all, for that matter), I’ve managed to give myself blanket coverage of the contiguous states, as well as to the lyrics to the Beach Boys’s “California Girls” (though having been married in all these regions provided a distinctly different experience from Brian Wilson’s).
Maybe it’s the country itself that drives the restlessness. There’s so much geography, and a lot of typography to go along with it. It was only in eastern Montana via Amtrak that I had the sense of deja-vous all over again – every time I glanced up from my book and looked through the window: the same expanse of field, red barn, pickup truck and blank horizon for hour after unyielding hour until we hit North Dakota and…
Whether fairly accomplished or not (and it certainly wasn’t for my money), the country grew and stitched itself together based on an innate restlessness, especially when it comes to religion. One reading of our history can make the case that every time a Christian sect got sick of its preacher and congregation, it packed up, moved out and started all over again from scratch farther and farther west. Restlessness and fundamental disagreement on what a book really means fueled our Westward Ho. And then, after running head first into an ocean on the other coast, we realized there was no place left to go, except to start fighting it out amongst ourselves.
Which is where we are today, and have been since Manifest Destiny became Mission Accomplished. Now we’re duking it out amongst ourselves, making it look like those stitches more correctly belong to an American Frankenstein than the fifty states they were meant to bind.
And there’s no place to hide. That’s what having lived in those nine states over a lifetime has taught me. And maybe what traveling through eastern Montana had also suggested: we’re too big, too diverse, and at the same time, too much the same to be constrained by a narrow, simplistic and divisive narrative, where we can’t seem to reach a consensus on a damned mask.
They’re playing baseball in empty stadiums. It looks like the whole country is in time out. We’re giving ourselves some space. We could use it. Fortunately, we have it to give.