Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The times, they are a' changin'

Tropical Storm Fay zipped across the Florida pennisula and then chose to hang out right over the city where I live. By hang out, I mean it's been raining hard for more than twenty-four hours. The flooding is far worse from this tropical storm than anything I've ever seen from the six-or-so full-fledged hurricanes that I've been through. Anyway, as a result, I'm not at work today. My employer (wisely) considered it too dangerous for us to be out driving. There are a lot of roads and intersections under water. So... I will while away my time (and, I guess, yours) with this little story about the place where I grew up:

I grew up in a small city (around 12,000 people) in New Hampshire. It was racially and culturally homogeneous. How homogeneous, you ask? Well, I am not exaggerating when I say that in my town, "cultural diversity" meant French Catholics and Irish Catholics. And, to the best of my knowledge, there was only one non-white family in town: We had a single Chinese restaurant, King's, operated by a Chinese family. My mother sometimes called in for take-out, and although I walked over (it was less than ten minutes away), paid the money, and collected the paper bag, I don't recall ever seeing the "King" family outside the restaurant, or any Chinese children.

It wasn't until I started at a Catholic high school down-state that I saw my first black people in the flesh: We had three black students, two brothers and their sister, in our student body of 400. And it wasn't until I arrived at college in Florida that I actually spoke to a black person, face-to-face, for the first time, or that I saw my first Hispanic.

That's how lily-white my town was.

Fast forward to today. My brother recently moved back to our hometown, and I received this email message from him: of the houses we seriously looked at [buying] was being sold by a family from Bosnia. One of the regulars at Leavitt Park down the street wears the Muslim head covering. I took Evelyn to Tardiff Park the other day and I don't know what the only other family in the park was speaking but it wasn't English (it sounded Eastern European). And, tragically, there was a report in the Citizen [Newspaper] of a Laconia man who was killed while working on his car. His birthplace? Laos.

The old town has changed. The ad for the [Laconia Multicultural] Festival notes that Laconia is now home to immigrants or refugees from 30 countries.
Wow. My little hometown has changed.

The funny thing is, it's still around 12,000 people. Just not 12,000 people who are all practically the same.


Yikes! (about the flooding, not the cultural diversity) Stay off the roads, and stay safe!

I wonder if my small town will ever undergo something similar? Currently, home to a drug rehab and prison, the only diversity (outside of the Indian Reservation) is felonious in nature.

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