I’ve said before: I live in what remains of what I’d call “the real North Shore.” Out on our limb near the border, we are sometimes smiled or laughed at for being so behind the times and out of synch. Indeed we are, but there is a certain compensation (shall I say satisfaction?) in not being part of an amusement area or development scheme designed to squeeze the most while giving the least. If you pity me or my neighbors missing out on the heady atmosphere of condo and amusement land, your effort is wasted. I think many if not most of those who stay here would agree with my saying we enjoy the sight of developer complexes sprouting masses of cookie-cut units as monuments to average tastes. So far the blight stays sixty miles west, an hour’s drive being a decent buffer to shake off a sight sorry as the stark demise of so many North Shore birch left standing, pale shrouds of mortality waiting wind and weather to topple them.

A reason, and I think it a good one, for remaining true to the old North Shore lies in the value of perspective. A senseless frenzy is easier to assess when you’re not in its midst. Mob rule of bad or conspicuous tastes is no better than any other form of forced obedience. In any case and at the very least, it is a more peaceful existence not having to forever revamp one’s worth picture in an ever-changing economic market, or go to bed at night never knowing when the all-wise developer gods will abandon ye for fresher, riper victims on a grander scale in a location better favored by the fates. The unit with a “great view” drops value faster than a boulder dropped off the end of Chicago Bay dock when a fresh flock of up-scale units inhabits where the view once stood.

I’m not saying all development is bad and should be mockingly avoided. I’d be wrong to say so. But what appears clear as Lake Superior ice is that expectations people were or are encouraged to hold far outstrip the capacity of any realistic view that’s not on par with cancerous growth-gobbling organs and replacing working tissue with condos of disease.

That was grim, wasn’t it? I didn’t quite see it coming myself nor what prompted it, no more than a quick drop into the Whole Foods Co-op for something healthy—though sometimes I wonder at the wisdom of healthful living, seeing as life so often brings more vexation than I’ve appetite and belly for. Regardless, there I was in the Co-op with organic broccoli in hand when a kindly person asked my plans for that Sunday afternoon. I told them, a few simple elements I need not repeat here if I want to prevent your boredom. My listener did a doubting double take. (I’d say they looked aghast, but use of that word gives one away far too much, I fear.) They double took, “Aren’t you watching the Super Bowl?”
My thought was, “Gads, that time of year, is it? How nice not to have known.” My reply was, “That’s where they throw the odd-shaped ball, isn’t it?” (I find that approach an effective game stopper.)
“You should at least watch for the commercials.”
“I don’t get commercial TV.”
“You could go someplace that does and watch there.”
My thought was, “That would mean the presence of other people. Out of kindness to them, if no other reason, I should do no such thing. Besides, if memory serves, they grow damned noisy, and why on earth would I want or enjoy that?” What I said was, “Thanks for the suggestion.”
“You might have fun.”
“Yes.” OK, I lied there, but I balanced a lie with truth. “I had an uncle who was a fan.”
“He ate and drank himself to death and was quite loud about it. Actually, I never liked him very much either. Can’t recall if I attended the funeral. I think not.” An end-of-field run like that will generally silence even the most ardent well-wisher into silence heading toward flight.

I wasn’t intending to be mean or rude. I’ve nothing against people who enjoy watching other people throw balls. My animosity is none. My involvement with ball games is virtually none. Others use their time their way. I use my time other ways. The difference is, I took my broccoli home and had not a single thought about Super Bowl Sunday until its existence crept into this piece as an aside, which is all I can give it. Upon a time I tried keeping track of scores—eleven, seventeen, thirty-two, nine, forty-one, and so on. My favorite was nineteen; no reason for that, just liked it best. I’ve noticed, though, that fans have a different appreciation of scores than mine, and they cheer whereas I do not. To each their own.

What I did that Sunday afternoon was work on a chapter of a fantasy adventure (book six of a series with no end yet in sight). But in the back of my mind were thoughts on the value of life out of synch, and with that came recollections of things that were and are no more or are fast slipping away, away into the quiet of dying memories. Do you recall the lost ritual of setting up a screen (on a tripod if your family was serious about its art) to show 33mm slides or home movies to a room full of family, friends, or neighbors? This was generally enjoyable, except for the loud uncle mentioned earlier and now resting in peace. Images from the out-of-synch past interest me more than those of today, where the movie theatre “experience” is juvenilia rampant in a smelly room with aisles sticky from old spilled drink and crunchy with discarded corn and box. Do you recall when boys greased their hair instead of dyeing it hues? In some changes, things remain the same, while in other change there is sad exchange of worth for short value.