Joseph Mansfield

I have lived in Mexico now for over seven years.

In previous chapters I have told you some of the things that drew me here, especially the exotic things.

But I was also drawn here by the ghost of 1950s America.

That is right. There was a lot to like about America in the fifties. Small, owner-operated stores. Compact town layout. Sidewalks. Grocery stores, a post office, schools, churches, all in easy walking distance. Benches on street corners and in the courthouse yard. Old boys on those benches, whittling and spitting and keeping each other company. Homes with doors left unlocked, so friends could walk in. Boys passing a summer day challenging the slate dump on their bicycles. Girls playing jacks in the shade of a maple.

And what else? Well, I could write fifties nostalgia for pages. But if it is fifties nostalgia you want, there are thousands of books and articles full of it, without me writing another.

What I wanted to talk about was Mexico as I found it. Very much like fifties America. A town not just greatly different from the Dunlap I knew. A few things were missing, like the local telephone operators which Dunlap had. And some things added, such as a city a few miles away and hourly buses to go over there; Dunlap's nearest city was thirty miles away and had only one daily bus. But more alike than different.

But we are looking across a fifty year time lag. And Mexioo is catching up fast.

My last attempt at living in Dunlap ran from 1986 to 1997. Three big changes marked those years. (1) The post office was moved to a location not too far to walk to, but with no safe way for a pedestrian to get there. (2) The downtown grocery store closed, leaving two stores both out of walking distance. (3) A freeway was built to Chattanooga, for me mainly a symbolic thing meaning that Chattanooga's ways were overtaking us.

Now two things have happened to mar my experience in Mexico.

One is that the freeway to the city across the river, under construction when I arrived, has been finished, finished a couple of years ago.

The other hit today.

I went out for a loaf of bread. And found the neighborhood grocery padlocked.

They had talked about closing for some time. Big new supers across the river hurt them. Making the street in front of the store one-way hurt them. A modern convenience store at the entrance to town hurt them.

Now they are closed.

I allowed to a friend that we need two funerals. One for the store. One for the mexican way of life.

Now the nearest store is seven blocks away, and who knows how long they will stay open?

There is a third thing that I expect to happen, do not know when, but I would say it is in the cards.

When I came here, many families had no car, and others had old jalopies. Today, a short seven years later, virtually every family has at least one car, and the jalopies are disappearing.

This cannot mean anything good for the buses.

It means their days are numbered.

It means my love of living without a car will be a love lost.

The buses, the grocery stores, the freeways. Changes. And the life that I am in love with is dying.

Copyright © 2011 Joseph Mansfield. All rights reserved.
2010.07.13 First draft
2011.07.27 Posted


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