Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fairfield, Iowa

My mother was born and raised in a small town in the American Midwest. People are kind there. They speak slowly, eat iceberg lettuce salads (with wedge of tomato, and ranch dressing), and on Friday nights they bring their lawn chairs downtown to the bandstand, and listen to the retired military men play swing music. They may dance. There are lots of children running around with fresh haircuts. They say things like, "I tell you what..." and "Aw, nuts!" If you're a visitor, they look quizzically at your nosering, and lean in while they talk to you, as though there's a microphone installed in that nostril. When someone dies, many casseroles are gathered from deep freezers. They pull over when the funeral procession drives through town.

What's special about Fairfield is that it's also the location of Maharishi University of Management, a fully accredited school where you can graduate with a degree in Business, or Literature, or Environment Science, but you spend your school years in a state of happy hum, since you and your cohorts practice Trancendental Meditation, live in spacious, single dorm rooms (with private baths), and eat three organic vegetarian meals in the cafeteria every day ("Organic mango ice cream, made from the milk of local cows, is a favorite in summertime.")

What you're not doing is drinking, smoking, or getting high since that isn't allowed anywhere on campus. You can go rock climbing in the rec centre, though. Also, Salsa dancing is popular (for credit!). Dude, you even blog.

Twice a day you enter one of the gold domes on campus (there's a girl dome and a boy dome, and they're both awfully shiny) and spend twenty minutes settling your mind. If you're extra super good, you may learn Yogic Flying. And who wouldn't be into "bubbling bliss?"

The students at MUM, with their integrated brains, and modest business wear, have mingled with Fairfield's corn-eatin' folk for the last thirty years. There's an unspoken truce between them, but they can pick each other out in the grocery store lineups. The presence of the "carpet-baggers" has changed the chemistry of the town, forever. There may be more health food stores in any given block than can be found in Vancouver. Soups in the restaurants are made with vegetable stock. You can schedule a light therapy session, while your laptop is loaded with Vedic Astrology Software. On your way home, you can still register with the Army National Guard and grab some new tube socks at Wal-Mart, though. Don't worry.

When I was eighteen I went on a prospective student tour of the campus. I had no intention of studying there, but wanted to take advantage of my status as a high school graduate and access that mysterious campus planned in accordance with Natural Law ("connecting individual life with cosmic life.") Also, the freak factor made me high with judgment fumes. The only snickering came when I asked my tour guide to explain why they separated the sexes during the daily TM sessions. "Too distracting," she said. Maybe lesbians can't do TM. I bet they score a lot, there, though.

My Fairfield relatives have all died off, so I have no reason to ever return. That's not true. My mother wants me to drive her ashes down there when she dies. But apart from when I bury my mom in a jar, I won't be listening to Moon River play in the town square any more muggy July nights. I held on to the school calendar they gave me during the tour, though. I had many dorky fantasies of spending a mellow four years in Fairfield studying, but ended up buying steel-toed work boots and taking Theatre in Montreal, instead. I've never learned TM.

You have to wonder if the Doug Hennings of the world might have it right. Maybe taking twenty minutes each day to chill out would end the misery in the world. I do think it could explain the gentle balance found on Friday nights in Fairfield, where the local school teacher's blanket butts up against Gabriel Renfrow's on the lawn downtown, and where Gabriel offers her one of the organic spelt muffins he's got in his backpack, and she takes it with only a small eyeroll, and feels a burst of newness and excitement somewhere near the base of her spine.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cleaning house

I've had this blog for nearly two years, now. Y'all have let me spout and froth and lecture and wonder and you've held me up, or smooshed my face in it (depending on what was appropriate...and you've always known when I'm full of shit). But I've decided to cull the blog. This has always been a place of honesty for me, but not reality. I know none of my readers in real life. We've met through links or google searches or mistyped addresses and it's all been very other-worldly. Now the real world is closing in.

Time to start over: new life, new tattoo, new blog.

I'd love it if you'd come with....