Rings In Your Nose, Dirt Between Your Toes…

It’s summer and time for travel. Sure, I go to the beach as well as the mountains but it’s the towns in-between that are starting to interest me as well. Normally these small places were a wayward quick stop for gas or a bathroom break. But things are changing.

They’re quickly becoming hip. Small cafes and bistros offering organic coffee and artisanal food sourced “locally.” Old brick buildings are re-pointed and sandblasted and kids with Portland (east or west) tattoos are efficiently serving my every whim. What’s happening?

I’m told it’s the invasion of “hicksters” priced out and/or spiritually crushed by the weight of big cites who’ve OD’d on their newness quotient (see Portland, east or west, Austin, Silver Lake, Wicker Park, Boston’s South End, and everywhere in Brooklyn). Cities paved over with townhomes at every bend come to attention like lines of soldiers over the horizon. And traffic everywhere.

Sure, one can move to Detroit, Pittsburgh, Providence, Durham, or any other mid-tier industrial city on the mend but the truly committed are driving right past them in search of places such as Thomas, West Virginia or Salida, Colorado to stake their ground. Rather than going to the local farmers’ market they are going to the farm itself.

Perhaps it’s a ‘boomerang’ effect of technology overload or a final adolescent flip of the bird to their suburban Boomer parents, but the idea of infusing cultural cosmopolitanism into tiny agrarian hamlets has become irresistible to a certain swath of Millennials. Travel + Leisure magazine states locales such as Thomas, West Virginia “is only one of a constellation of newly modish small towns across America.”

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the recent phenomena – when I drive through and stop in such places it sure is convenient and comfortable, familiar to the many ‘of the moment’ places I’ve lived over the years. But another part of me, as I age, tells me that it’s all foolishness, a sophomoric whim to rape and drape a small place of its authenticity, it’s “sense of place.” A Hollywood Green Acres hipster set that’s unsettling…for I believe if you need to import a manufactured cool, that sure ain’t cool.

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