Monday, May 07, 2007

"G'Day" Revisited

Late last week, mwbh reported on Dom Bettinelli's experience taking his little Isabella for a walk. The conversation appears to have evolved, into a comparison of the degree to which "the natives are friendly" in one portion of the USA or another, and why. Particularly interesting to yours truly, was this comment from a "Downeasterner" named Liam:

Many celebrities love to hang out in New England because, it is at least said often, New Englanders are less likely to go gaga over them than elsewhere... And we are somewhat more formal than elsewhere too. I can vividly recall when clerks at Jordan Marsh were told to start addressing customers by their first names, and the negative reaction by many (not all) to what was perceived as manipulative familiarity... Good fences make good neighbors, stone walls and all that. Amid the stereotypes lurk some truths. But many of us *like* it that way. As my friends from the South who’ve lived here note, it’s often harder to make friends among New Englanders but the friendships that are made tend to be deeper and longer-lasting than those they’ve made elsewhere...

When I go back Ohio, even after over a quarter-century, it feels as though I never left. I can pick up with neighbors, school chums, professional colleagues, even strangers, right where I left off.

In a later comment, Liam observes that while some parts of the country seem friendlier on the surface -- the Southwest being a case in point, and he may be on to something there -- it is New Englanders who are more likely to help neighbors in need. Indeed, interdependency is a distinctive trait of life in that region. The "town meeting" form of governance is unique to New England, and provides a lesson for the rest of the country, if not the world, on the role of local self-reliance as the best form of government. A book by Frank Bryan entitled "Real Democracy: The New Englahd Town Meeting and How It Works" provides a close study of the town meeting phenomenon as one of the purest forms of American democracy.

(Speaking of walking your little children, did I ever mention that by the time Paul was four years old, two women had already come up to me and offered to buy him?)

1 comment:

Catholic Mom said...

My husband always found it interesting that children were an amazing "chick magnet". We were in Florida for a medical meeting for me. Kids were ages 3, 2, and under 1. While I was attending a seminar, he carted the three to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. Women were coming out of the woodwork to help him. Funny. I carted all three to the store all the time and never encountered unceasing offers of help. Must be a Dad thing.