Can’t you just be nice?

Harry Drabik

Heaven knows I’ve been asked often enough why I’m so annoying. Such queries usually inspire reflection along the line of “if you think this is taxing try living in it every moment.” Reminders, however, that I’m in character too often aren’t lost on me. I end up wondering, though, how good any of us is at not being who/what we are. Is it good for me to pretend a different persona? Does it do others much service if I’m phony and don’t make the contribution (however annoying it may be) that’s in me? If your beliefs or your calling isn’t popular and doesn’t entertain should you not follow your inclinations and not be who you are? If a lot of hands come up in a vote I’d hope a lot of them will mean tone-it-down rather than stop it entirely.

But also when I get a “be nice” reminder I rankle, and not in delayed fashion. I feel it right away because it gripes the living business out of me thinking someone might be saying I should pander more. I want to say to them “You want pandering; you do it!” I know sometimes these sentiments represent an innocent desire for less controversy and more local color fluffy stuff as if a North Shore perspective should be funny jibes about lutefisk or poignant descriptions of seagulls, chipmunks, and dramatic accounts of lake storms. (This time of year, however, gulls and chipmunks are scarce and instead of big waves I’d have to talk ice. How much ice news is wanted out there?) 

The north shore view that would generate little controversy and be benignly entertaining would likely have everyone east of the Harbors Two shown Kromer hat on head wearing a red and black mac and our long portage boots as we sit in colorful local cafes where we all stir coffee with our thumbs. Ya sure you betcha and Uff-da will only go so far, however, and that’s not a real long trip; one over near soon as you drag out saying  Ya Sure with a bit of vocal lilt for the right touch of studied authenticity. (Ya Sure as it should be done is not, I’m here to tell ye, not a thing easily put to paper. It needs to be heard but so far no one has been dumb enough to put me on the air.) Fair numbers of recent locals get uncomfortable with non-cool, un-woodsy, or other content contrary to their constructed image of the north shore. (Seasoned and real locals tend to take differences in stride until a newcomer will try lecturing a logger on how they should treat the forest.)

People with generations’ long histories on the shore and those with a lifetime interest, however, are not local color caricatures that drive truck or have pickups with fuel barrels in the back for the sake of regional ambience. They’re making a living and have all the usual concerns with costs and schedules and repairs and so on that the rest of the working world shares. In many cases if not most a very large area on their minds is family and their personal role in the larger scheme of things. If you want to meet someone with a deep regard for family try spending time with an Deputy or Homeland Security officer who leaves her or his hearth not knowing if they’ll ever see it again. If you’re interested in people with a passion for the environment look to those who have a relationship with timber of wildlife far deeper than on paper.

When people remind me to be nice I have to resist the urge to battle their stereotype because I know that while the north shore is primo fantasy getaway turf for many it is also home to many and is no more superficial or type case than the urban world. Speaking frankly, when I work with a touchy topic I know I’m going to annoy people (local or transient) for lots of different reasons. I also know that all worthy topics are larger than a thousand-word article is able to fully handle. Just because people live up the shore doesn’t mean they don’t think about and feel deeply as anyone else the weight of big social issues. In fact it might just be the case that the local rubes have seen and heard it all a great many more times than the hype givers and flam artists realize and are more than savvy to the reasoning in many a line of bs from a BS but are too polite to tell the deliverer of scam they need to scrub some crap off their shoes before walking on the rug.

Because I live in an out of the way place with fewer residents than some apartment complexes does not mean I can’t make a limited argument on the topic of gender. I think I well enough grasp the idea behind gender fluidity arguments as I do the biologic certainty that for the pure preponderance of individuals one of two chromosome combinations is cast in the process we call fertilization. Gender politics and biology are different things. Understanding the difference and what each says is essential if we want to make sense.

I know gender fluidity is supposed to address a lot of ills, but there are things that an individual has to face on their own and figure out as best they can. Had someone tried to “help” me into a new identity when I was 14 the thought I might have a future in poetry the sort of help I’d have got would have assumed I was too weak and dumb to figure it out on my own. Who in hell gives anyone but me the right to tackle my own issues? I was the only boy in the Oral Interp. of Poetry category, and I was the only one who could come to realize that the likelihood of making a living in poetry was damn doubtful. I suspect Bart Sutter might agree.