Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Small Town Ballyhoo

Two weeks ago I made the front page of my hometown newspaper.  It was (at least) the second time I had ever made the front page on my own merits.  The first time occurred when I earned my Bagel Scout rank in the Diminutive Man Scouts.  My parents had actually insisted I have a professional portrait made in my uniform.  Had I known they intended to emblazon it upon the only social media known to Eastern Kentucky way back in 1992 I would have resisted more aggressively.

At the time I believed the whole scheme was some plot to ensure I would never have sex with a girl.  I was shocked and horrified to see a nearly life sized photo of myself at eighteen years old in a too-small scout uniform with my chronic bad haircut and goofy smile blanketing my hometown rag margin to margin.  Thankfully I have been able to destroy most existing copies of the photo and a good number of the buildings where they have been displayed.

This most recent instance of my notoriety was a result of my waxing importance to the organization wherein I am currently employed.  As our land use planning staff came to be regarded as “former” employees in droves (if two people quitting within a month of each other can be considered the plural of a “drove”) my New boss relied more and more upon my mad land use planning skillz to keep his can out of the fire.

Someone's can is in the fire...

The result of this surprising turn of events was me standing in front of the PC fiscal court discussing the pros and cons of county-wide planning & zoning.  I knew the editor/lead reporter/typsettist/janitor at the local paper was sitting in the back of the room, but I never expected that he would give my presentation so much ink.  He was chucking my name around like the prosecution would the name of the accused in a heinous bloody massacre.  It was mostly good, and mostly accurate, but it was a little disconcerting to be the center of attention so abruptly and on such a massively pathetic scale.

I guess it’s fitting that about the same time I received a letter confirming my passing of the American Institute of Certified Planners’ exam.  I can now string a whole bunch of capital letters after my name on business cards and in my email signature:

Chris Chainring, AICP@#$!.com:-p

It would be nice if simply passing the test would equate to a sizable increase in income.  It would be nice if I could retire to San Diego and become a surf bum or move back to Colorado and become a ski bum.  I don’t think Jeaph would appreciate me moving to High Rock and becoming a skate bum.  He has a nice bowl and all, but in a community this size you can only have so many of a given demographic or you skew the census results.

What’s really in my nature would be to move into a tilted upper apartment over some ghetto storefront in Slade and be a climbing bum.  I’ve got that down like nobody’s business.  And that’s where I started down this road.  The outdoor industry around the Red River Gorge has never thrived.  There’s some disconnect that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you compare the world class climbing area of the Red to other similar areas around the country.  So I gave it a go and found an occupational cul-de-sac.  With a new wife and dreams of children and the smoke from 9/11 still getting kicked up from time to time I decided it made sense to pursue a more formal career path.  College.  Degree. Planning. 

Maybe I could try and save the world.  Maybe I would like having a Big Boy job.

Some days I do and some I don’t.  I’ve enjoyed this recent stint in land use planning again.  I do enjoy being a transportation planner.  I really do.  I miss my bohemian lifestyle some days.  I wouldn’t trade my family for that lifestyle though. 

I’ve tried to emulate the professional bohemians.  Y’know, the people who have so much money and privilege they seem to defy the laws of economics.  Some dirtbag climber once said: “At both ends of the social spectrum is a leisure class” or something like that.  I don’t want to be rich, but I’d probably rather be poor than enslaved to middle class illusions.

Playing by the rules rarely gains widespread fame and fortune.  I’ve tried it for so long I think I’ve forgotten there are other ways to get the message out.  I’m not talking about employing the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, but if they’re free next Saturday…

Actually, next Saturday I think I’ll be lapping around the city park for the annual Corn Festival 5k run.  It really is a festival for High Fructose Corn Syrup.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Maybe I’ll win my age group.

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