Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Complaints about "Living in Misery"

I have a bone to pick with the blog entitled “Living in Misery.” For those who don’t live in Columbia, Missouri, the blog’s name refers to that lovely town (technically it’s a city) that I have called home for the past six years. (My husband has lived here for 11 years, so I’ve been acquainted with it for that long myself.) In case you don’t get the joke, “Misery” is a pun on “Missouri.” (Original, no? No.) Columbia is locally referred to as COMO for short.

I’ve written about this before, beginning in March 2008 and with a couple of follow-up posts in May (May 5 and May 9). I received lots of positive comments on those posts (via Facebook and verbally as well as on this blog) from folks in Columbia who are also annoyed by the blog’s persistent negativism. My position is that Columbia is a pretty darn good community in which to live. It’s not perfect, but no place is perfect. (Though if you read the “Living in Misery” blog you’d be told that Columbus, Ohio, IS perfect – it sounds like some sort of utopia, where there are no stupid politicians, no bad drivers, no evil police officers, no stupid people who don't know how to spell. I won’t dare to challenge THOSE sacred beliefs.)

Since I’ve given plenty of reasons in the past why I think COMO is a good place to live, I won’t recapitulate them here. Instead, I will point out the things that annoy me about the "Living in Misery" blog. Chiefly, there is something seriously wrong with his logic, which goes something like this:

A) Columbia, Missouri, sucks because there’s nothing good here.
B) Columbia, Missouri, sucks because there’s something great here but the local people are clueless and unable or unwilling to appreciate it.
C) Columbia, Missouri, sucks because there is something really great here, but I can’t get access to it because it’s so popular and everyone wants it.


A) First, the name of the blog implies “Columbia, Missouri, sucks because there’s nothing good here.” That attitude pervades the blog, even when he’s trying to say something nice about Columbia. Like this sentence from March 2008: “Since moving to COMO, we have struggled to find a place that made it just a little less miserable. The new Ragtag/Uprise/Ninth Street Video complex has done that for us.”

B) In his end-of-the-year post on “Best of 2008: Homegrown in COMO,” he asserts that “most COMO-ians don’t know what they’ve got” (actually the quote comes from a Facebook exchange about the post, but same author). The quote illustrates my pet peeve about the blog, which is the supposition that, really, most of the rest of us are ignoramuses. As if noone knew about the RagTag and Sparky’s before he came to town and enlightened us. His bloggings and rants are a subterfuge, because in fact HE is the one who believes “Walmart owns this town. Literally.” Those of us who thought all along that Columbia is a great place (and who didn't shop at Walmart) were evidently oblivious to Walmart’s dominance. NOW, it turns out, we were oblivious to the great local, non-corporate businesses. But I’m glad to see that the author has finally come around to my point of view.

C) In another "Living in Misery" post, he was complaining about how hard it was to get tickets to the True/False Film Festival screenings, even as a pass-holder. I'm afraid I can't provide a link to that post, I haven't been able to locate it on his blog. (He's a very prolific blogger and there are way too many posts for me to go back through all of them!) But he compared it to his experience in Columbus, Ohio, when a new Trader Joe's opened and very few people knew about it, so shopping there was a pleasant experience. Then the word got out, and in a matter of months it was mobbed (like all the other TJ's in the country!), so shopping there meant battling crowds in the parking lot and in the aisles. He likened the True/False Film Festival to that experience -- it's so popular now that even us longtime supporters can't get tickets to the films we want to see.

Here's my second major point: he does not always know whereof he speaks. In one of our exhanges in May 2008, he complained (on my blog) that "the gay community is rather invisible. We were here for several weeks before we saw any signs of a LGBT community. The only gay bars in town are nowhere near the supposedly progressive downtown." But in June 2009, he posted an essay called "The Gay of COMO," in which he reversed his previous position, writing the following:

"It's hard to believe that R and I moved here nearly four years ago. One of the things we felt was absent was the gay scene. There was (and still is) no gay bar downtown. No stores flew rainbow flags. We couldn't find the gay community anywhere. The place from which we came - Columbus, OH - is a gay mecca of sorts. So, this was a bit of culture shock for us.

"Then, R walked into Main Squeeze and things began to become clearer. I joined the Prism board. New friends came out to us and invited us to SoCo. The world regained its balance.

"There is a strong gay community in this town. Support it."

There's something to be said for being open-minded and willing to admit when you were wrong. But there's also something to be said for reserving judgment, and maybe waiting more than A WEEK to get to know a place before you pass judgment on it and declare yourself an ardent and vocal detractor of it.