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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Common uncommonness

Tonight there was a basketball game I wanted to catch that was on ESPN. Since we have little kids in the house and we want to watch less television anyway, we subscribe to cable, but only to the lowest level. We’re talking sub-basic cable. For something like $11 a month you can get just the local stations plus a few others. I think we get a dozen channels in all, including a couple of local access, C-span, a religious channel, PBS, the local affiliates and not much else. ESPN actually does come in, but it’s in black and white and the sound is full of static. In most communities, this probably puts us in the bottom 3% of the population unless you’re talking rural Montana or sub-Saharan Africa.

So, I decide to cruise down to a local bar where I figure the game would be on and I could grab a pint of draft beer and chill out before heading to bed. Lisa had been at a meeting of an education organization for most of the evening and I got the kids to bed, picked up the kitchen and hung out till she got home. She wanted to work on the computer a while – I figured I could duck out for an hour. There I am, in a trendy east Nashville bar on Woodland Street in tennis shoes, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt fading into the background when in walks an entourage of the hip and trendy. Lots of tall skinny people dressed mostly in black with funky glasses and hats, tight-fitting jeans, long coats, different hair. Then I realize one couple amidst the group are the parents of one of Olivia’s kindergarten classmates. I knew the dad was in a band. The mom has multi-colored hair. But their house is one of the few places Olivia has felt comfortable enough to spend the night with no trouble at all. They seem to be wonderful parents and genuinely kind and decent people. I can guarantee if we had gone to the same high school, we’d have run in different crowds.

For a while earlier in our marriage it seemed Lisa and I were in demand as the "normal" couple in our friends’ lives. We were the people invited over when somebody’s parents were in town or when a friend wanted to make a good impression on someone. "See mom, not all my friends are weirdos!" Of course, we got to feel a little bit cool by association knowing these artists and musicians and outsiders and assorted mini-celebrities. In our families, we’re the black sheep because we aren’t sticking with the party line and playing the role of traditional southern Baptist, Republican, social conservative, suburbanite white people. Amongst our friends (at least for a time) we were dreadfully mundane.

The thing is, we’re all still people. The cool crowd aren’t from a different species (homo trendicus?). The normal people aren’t missing a chromosome. Speaking for us normal types, I think we can be just as unusual as some of you others, we’re just nervous about showing it. I'll probably see either the mom or dad tomorrow morning when we're dropping off the kids at school. And here I am sitting writing this and I either smell of smoke like I've been out at a bar or I like the woman who watches the kids in the nursery at church.


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