To give you a better view of "My Town," I will perch him atop the highest point of the some-kind-of-wonderful city of Hillside: The Giza pyramid-shaped pile of garbage majestically sitting in the town dump. The movie theater is to the west; a neon-pink fluorescent sign frames this week's shows: Th' Bach, Scram 3, and y' of Th' Bholdr. Teenage employees relinquish all responsibility for the missing "E"s. A makeshift lemonade
stand is set up a block away. Sometimes, its determined entrepreneurs, the set of five-year-old twins, Brooke and Blake Simone like to mix their drink of choice with "extra flavoring," such as leaves, rocks, and the occasionally, yet classic family of ants. Needless to say, the single dime in their yellow Teletubbie cash box has not multiplied since their first day of business.
The strip mall to the north has been replaced by Car Max, the automobile superstore. Unfortunately, the abundance of cars has not, in fact, improved anyone's driving skills, or lack of them. Further west is Proviso West High School; the peeling, forest-green painted fence that protects the school grounds
failed to prevent kleptomaniacs from stealing seven car stereos from the parking lot last December. The football field
behind the school patiently waits with its freshly mowed green splendor for the team of big, burly boys (and one girl) to actually win a game. At 5:30 AM, a shivering Student Council vice-president with the intent to do extra work trudges the perimeter of the edifice, praying for an open door to a building that doesn't like to be occupied outside of the normal school hours.
Psychologically, two opposing beliefs surface for why I dream of dancing sugarplums and college diplomas rather than a pin on my Dairy Queen hat that reads "Employee of the Month." A child is either influenced by his surroundings and peers or repelled into the opposite direction. As a magnet gone a rye, I am thankful that Hillside has not influenced me to blend in with the crowd; neither the cemetery across the street from school nor the various monument and flower shops entice me to- pardon my morbidity- just drop dead. The strategically located bowling alley down the block does not tempt me to ditch school. Certainly, the smell of the garbage dump has turned me off to the wide-eyed world of garbage disposal and handicapped my nose, thus threatening me into giving a hoot. I have been headed on "The Road Not Taken" all my life, much to my surrounding oppressors' dismay. Actually, I possess an especial amount of pride that I take of the fact that my rough-around-the-edges landscape has not influenced the quirky-'til-the-cows-come-home individual that I exist as and the unique level of intellectual being that I crave.
My town and its blindly contented inhabitants have taught me quite plainly to not be like them. I prefer to lead them to the Red Sea, rather than follow someone else who will stop along the way to sell our food supply for something absurd like carved wooden pigeons. Even though I have happily adopted a few Buddhist beliefs, bare feet, meditation, good luck tummy rubs, and all, sometimes I feel like Jesus Christ, Jane Eyre, Stephen Daedalus, or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Yes, I know these comparisons are very self-centered, but hey, I'm human; I'm allowed to believe that my problems are greater than everyone else's are!) I feel like The Chosen One, sans the bloodsucking undead part, with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Sometimes I long for the life of the characters sprinkled throughout the impressionist painting of my landscape: something old, nothing new, nothing learned, without a clue. Many a time, I walk alone, searching for sidewalks of life and people to question; on some blocks, there is no sidewalk to stroll upon, and I am forced to walk on a street littered with once-valiant squirrel corpses who were the victims of the speed-happy wrath of the bad drivers a fore-mentioned.
Currently, I am unable to distinguish whether my landscape has improved for the better of its people. Maybe if I was someone who avoided the truth, overlooked the homeless people living by the train tracks with spare tires for Lay-Z Boys and stolen mattresses as their water beds, and acted like the adults who scorn my proposal for community service as a graduation requirement, I would shout, "Golly gee, my landscape sure is great." But I am not like anyone else, and, as the odd one out, I remain the cat that continually risks curiosity's malice.
I don't mind the fact that I do not have a bumbling speech on how my town has constructed and enriched me, yadda, yadda, and more yadda. Apart from the few enlightened ones who have assisted me on my journey, I have built myself, brick by brick, to form a building that is the center of attention in my own painting of a landscape. Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin will I let anyone or anything blow me down. If they do, I will be certain to come back as the philosophically big, bad wolf in my next life and enjoy them for the Last Supper.