Friday, November 09, 2007

Invasion of the City Folks

Jonathan Hanson sent me this NYT article on rich city people who move to the country knowing it would both rile me and make me laugh. I don't write about it much in the blog, but the subject is one I have been known to go on about a bit-- well, maybe more than a bit! The invasion of clueless country people to rural areas, where they bring all the baggage they claim to want to leave behind, is a problem everywhere, including, yes, Magdalena, which is now surrounded by "ranchette" subdivisions.

Some think I exaggerate. So I am just going to quote some of these ninnies-- and remember, this is the New York Times-- it is not written by disgruntled rednecks.

"WHEN Evan Gotlib and his fiancĂ©e, Lindsey Pollack, bought a three-bedroom cottage surrounded by pine trees in rural Sharon, Conn., they couldn’t wait to flee their cramped Manhattan studio on weekends to spend their days dozing in a hammock and barbecuing on their brand new 42,000 B.T.U., 60-burger-capacity Weber grill."

"But being city people, they did what anyone looking to “get away from it all” would do first, before they even spent the night: they paid $3,000 for a home-security system complete with motion detectors, a one-touch intercom that connects to fire and police dispatchers and an emergency hand-held remote-control device they could leave on the bedside table at night. 'I know it sounds ridiculous now that I talk about it, but I just feel safer sleeping with the remote control,' Mr. Gotlib, a 32-year-old corporate sales director for Time Inc. Media Group, confessed, 'because those deer are aggressive.' "


" 'New York thinking applied to nature equals paranoia,' said Augusten Burroughs, the author of the memoir “Running with Scissors,” from his country house on the outskirts of Amherst, Mass., which he and his partner, Dennis Pilsits, built three years ago. Since then, Mr. Burroughs, 42, has poured several book advances into what he calls his “prison in the trees” in an effort to defend his rustic outpost 'from nature in all its malicious glory.' This includes installing an $8,000 lightning protection system and spending $2,000 on various military-grade “tactical illumination devices” — flashlights — and even a pair of night-vision goggles, thanks to some terrifying encounters with nocturnal neighbors.

"Late one recent night, Mr. Burroughs had gone out to check the mailbox when he saw two green, glittering eyes, triangular ears 'and the general impression of height' in the shadows. When the creature began to walk toward him, Mr. Burroughs ran into the garage, fearing for his life. 'Our skinny, gym-polished urban bodies are no match for anything that scratches its back on a tree,' he said. “Whatever it was, it was both curious and unafraid — two traits one does not admire in wildlife when one is alone in the dark.'"


" 'When it’s bedtime, I’m terrified,” said Mary McCann, an actress from New York City, who owns a house on 11 acres in Napanoch, in Ulster County, N.Y., with her husband, Neil Pepe. When he can’t join her and their daughter, Lena, 6, there on weekends, Ms. McCann has been known to bed down with a knife by her side. 'I’ve definitely had some sleepless nights listening to the sound of coyotes killing something, and I’m thinking ‘what a stupid system, I don’t know how to defend myself with a knife,’” she said. “My husband thinks I’m crazy.'"


"Indeed, perhaps it’s better not to bump into other people in the country, especially during hunting season. Charon Marden and her husband, Roy, often like to go for walks in the state wildlife area behind their property in Otis, Mass., but last November they were strolling through the trees when a man in a mask and full camouflage rose out of the bushes five feet away from them, wielding a crossbow. 'I almost had a heart attack,' said Ms. Marden, an art director for Dow Jones & Company. 'I’ve definitely seen too many Lifetime movies, because after that I had visions of commandos in the woods wanting to break into our house.'"


“ 'There is something inherently unnatural and vulnerable about humans being in social isolation, because out there no one can hear you scream.'”


"It took Dr. Holland and her husband, Jeremy Wolff, a photographer, a while to get over that anxiety. Even so, encounters with armed hunters are always unsettling, even for a seasoned second-home owner. After disturbing a camouflaged fellow in a tree during a family hike last autumn, Mr. Wolf wrote a letter to the hunting club that leases the land beside his, asking members to 'please make sure your bullets don’t cross my property lines.'”


"'I feel I’m more of an intellectual artist and they’re kind of machine people,” he said. “Everyone has their own backhoe up there, and their kids have A.T.V.’s and motorboats. And they all have guns, which scares me.'”


"Howard Gold, a doctor from Miami who owns a mountain home near Aspen, Colo., built a guest room on the ground floor with large French windows opening onto the spruce-dotted slopes, thinking his friends would love waking up to the view. 'Everyone absolutely refuses to sleep there because they think a person or a bear will come through those doors, so it just sits empty,' he said."

"Four hours east, in Estes Park, Natalie Galyon, a photographer who lives in Dallas, was recently host of a friend’s bachelorette party at her cabin overlooking the Big Thompson River. 'When a herd of elk jammed the road, we got out of the car to take photos, but one of the girls stood by the car guarding everyone’s purses, when we were the only people in sight,' said Ms. Galyon, 32, 'and each night they would shut all the blinds, even though we were on a cliff in the middle of nowhere.'”


“'I thought I loved nature,' said Mr. Burroughs, back in his Manhattan apartment. 'I was wrong. I love escalators.'”

As reader Bruce Douglas (born in Tucson) says, "After reading this I started to feel a little empathy toward the locals in 'Straw Dogs.' I hope when Mr.'I feel I’m more of an intellectual artist and they’re kind of machine people' gets his Saab stuck in a ditch he just visualizes it back on the road and doesn't ask his neighbors to use their tractor to pull it out."

I am actually NOT a rural chauvinist. I spent the first half of my life mostly in Boston and Cambridge, and know and love New York City more than these people will ever know and love the country. But I think at best they ought to do obey the Rural Immigration Law from Vermont writer Noel Perrin's Second Person Rural (hint: there's a test).

But my real reaction is more like:

Get. A. Life.
Get. A. Gun. (On second thought, scared ninnies with guns is probably not a great idea-- scratch that).
Go. Home.


PBurns said...

Excellent. Noel Perrin's passing was a sadness. I encourage folks to read him, but here's the gist of the Rural Immigration Law Thematic from *Second Person Rural*:

“Each man kills the thing he loves, Oscar Wilde wrote in a poem that later became a popular song. As a general statement, this won’t do ... But practically all tourists and most people who move to the country do kill the thing they love. They don’t mean to — they may not even realize they have done it — but they still kill it. The tourist does it simply by being a tourist. What he loves is foreignness, difference, the exotic. So he goes in search of it and, of course, brings himself along. The next thing you know there’s a Holiday Inn in Munich. The case with people who move to the country is more complicated. What they bring along is a series of unconscious assumptions.”



mdmnm said...

Can't speak to rural life, but people and guns are funny. In a townhouse development in a large SW city a few years ago, my neighbor single neighbor rang the doorbell. She'd come home to find her door open and didn't recall leaving it that way, and asked me to go through the place with her. Fair enough. I said "sure, give me a minute" grabbed a pistol, made sure it was loaded and ready to go, then went through her house. She was really put off by the gun and I think she wanted to beg off, being suddenly faced with an evil equal in her mind to that of a potential robber. !?!!? No one was around and she hadn't been robbed, as it turned out. I still kind of wonder what she expected me to do.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Too funny. But I still think that Noel Perrin is a jerk, based on one of his writings in regard to Colorado.

Heidi the Hick said...

I can't believe I almost missed this post.


Anonymous said...

In NYC, neurosis and incompetence are celebrated traits. Those people and their fears, gawd!

I'm a westerner tranplanted to the city about 30 years ago and the Manhattan affluent inhabit a world of their own. My brother in law is a great example; he was miffed over paying $1,800 to have a washer and dryer installed in his midtown co-op. I told him it wasn't a bad deal, there was a lot of plumbing and electric work. He responded that all the hook-ups were already there, provided by the previous owner.
I just shut my open mouth and tried not to look astounded - he's family. A physician, but unable to plug in his own appliances. :(

When we bought our smallholding upstate, I noticed the locals quickly bring up hunting in conversation. I think they use the response to sort us into two pigeon holes: rich artsy and rich hick-wannabes.

I try not kill (all of) what I love; a healthy grouse population on my own land.

Steve Bodio said...

BT: I'd love to hear more tales. This edge is where we (or at least I) live.