My friends continue to ask me how I like moving from Arenzville to the metropolis of Jacksonville and I always say that it depends upon what day you ask me that question. If you ask me some night when I’m hungry then I’ll say that the move 14 miles closer to the Burger Board has proven to be a good one. Ask me the same question when I’m trying to pull out onto Walnut Street at five minutes until 8 a.m. and you’ll get a different answer.
Pulling up to an intersection in Arenzville and meeting another car is a real treat in that it only happens once or twice a week. In the first place, if you meet someone at a four-way stop in Arenzville chances are very good that you know them, chances are so-so that they attend your church, and there’s a decent chance that they’re your cousin or aunt. In fact, odds are you not only know where they’re coming from, but if you look to see which turn signal they have flashing, you can make a good guess at where they’re going and how long it’s been since the last time they went there. Gatherings of any sort in Arenzville … town council meetings, church services, burgoos … often resemble a family reunion. True, there are a few “outsiders” like me who’ve only been in town for 30 years, but I’ve been happily adopted into many families. I like that. I’ve found that you can wander into about any family reunion there, grab a plastic plate, and the folks will assume you’re some long lost cousin.
Such occurrences just don’t take place as often in Jacksonville. There are a few stoplights like the intersection of Morton and Route 67 at Buchheit where if you’re coming from the north you have to wait long enough to get out of your car and get to know the folks behind you, and if you make good use of your time you can get engaged and consummate the marriage, but you’ll need to hop back in your vehicle quickly since the south-bound green light only allows you three seconds to get onto Morton. If you want to carry on the relationship, then drive down to Walnut and simply try to cross a single lane of traffic. Some people have been known to raise entire families while waiting.
But ah, the joy of being close to a bit of commerce. People in Arenzville have to plan two days ahead of time if they’re hungry and don’t feel like convenience store pizza. When the local gas station offers a new flavor of coffee, then it becomes an event likened to the Second Coming. Word spreads around town like wildfire when a new sandwich appears in the hotbox. Living in Jacksonville I can get hungry at 6 p.m., decide what I want to eat at 6:04, and have the sandwich in my hand by 6:15. I’m a bit too old to be falling in love, but it was like Valentine’s Day when I discovered that Arby’s served a brisket sandwich. When the little gal at the pickup window wondered why I was so ecstatic over a simple sandwich, I told her that I was from Arenzville.
Of course the town of J’ville still holds a few puzzlements for me … like those cars taking up every parking spot on the square. Where are those people? Is Andy Mitchell holding secret poetry conventions in the basement of Our Town Books? Probably not or there’d be nothing but hybrid cars and bicycles parked on the square. Are all those floors of the Farmers Bank building filled with people peeking out the windows to make sure no one has a parking place? Is Schiraz restaurant secretly hiding hundreds of illegal baristas on their mysterious second floor? Perhaps Mulligan’s is hosting an SUV convention of wild Irishmen back in the kitchen. The proportion of businesses on the square to parking places is plumb wacky. In lieu of a better explanation, I’ll blame Mayor Andy Ezard. In Arenzville, I could never figure who the mayor was, but chances were very good that he held my bank loan so I didn’t complain. Besides, Andy’s a big boy and can shoulder the blame for about anything.
Certainly there are still things I miss about Arenzville. Things … like coyotes. Used to be I’d be sitting on my front porch of an evening chatting with my dad on the phone and he would ask me when I’d gotten a dog. “It’s not my dog, Dad. It’s the Arenzville coyotes.” But, of course, in Arenzville it may actually have been the neighbor’s dog and Fido might have been on the porch with me. Leash laws are sort of an idea in Cass County, not a reality. Jacksonville has its quotient of wandering kitties but the pups seem to stay where we put them.
So far the move has been a pleasant one and I’ve politely ignored the fact that three houses on my block have gone up for sale since I’ve moved to Jacksonville. Perhaps they all went to Arenzville.