Old Tremonster Talks About His New Neighborhood and Some Learned Perspective Being Away
by Josh York
Well, I suppose you’ve figured it out, I no longer live in Tremont. In fairness, I admit I haven’t actually lived in Tremont for some time. I have written many an article for the Tremonster while living in the far-off lands of Westpark and Parma Heights. How can I write about Tremont then, you ask? I felt as though I could still write poignant pieces based around the perspective of the average Tremonster for two reasons; For one, I still worked my day job in Tremont, keeping me roughly in the buzz. And for two, the Tremonster has always been a publication that is supposed to represent what any neighborhood can aspire to be, by advocating local-based thinking and inclusion, wherever your neighborhood may be and whatever form your neighborhood takes.
Which brings me to the point of the piece; The dust has settled somewhat after the pandemic shutdowns and reopenings, and I have found myself in a different industry, working in Vermilion! Which is indeed as far as it sounds. Living, working and parenting in three completely different regions can show you some pretty stark realities about what you thought you knew about human beings, and their feelings and perspectives. And that is why I thought it was appropriate to do a first piece back, about how zany my new neighborhood is, how many cool things there are to see along the central coast of Lake Erie, and how we all can find common ground with those that, at first, we may find off-putting.
Now, you may be inclined to think I am about to go into how different the neighborhoods are in Vermilion compared to Tremont or something like that, but that is not the way I am seeing things at all these days. I look at the area that I cover regularly, which spans from Vermilion to Lakewood to Parma Heights and down to Akron, as my ‘one big neighborhood’. My world is large now and I am loving it. It gives me a chance to hike, kayak and ride in new parks, and I have food and beers in countless small towns, mid-size suburbs, country areas, urban areas, and various neighborhoods. I meet people of every degree on the conservative/liberal spectrum. I have been yelled at and openly made fun of for wearing a mask upon walking into establishments. I have been yelled at and harassed by fellow customers for standing up to shift my coat under my butt on a bar stool while my mask top was just below my nose. I exist in places where the fringes of different social sets brush against each other, and in a large enough area that I can start to understand the finer nuances of what we may write off as one group or another.
Let’s be honest too, this country has been polarized by so many different ideas and events, many political in nature and many involving difficult health decisions, and it’s a shame that we are drawing these lines with one another. In doing so, we are buying into an idea that you must be 100% on the side of one topic. And that means that the other side must be 100% exactly opposite of your side. In thinking like that, we are banishing ourselves into informational deserts, with little chance to find common ground. I am mostly liberal, and definitely did not agree with the storming of the Capitol. But when I heard that the QAnon Shaman was boycotting food because he only eats organic and whatnot, it made me go, “Hunh.” I support organic eating, too. I bet you if it never came up about QAnon or the Capitol, he and I would have a decent conversation about whole foods.
I am not out to make this piece heavy in its tone, I am only wanting to throw out a few observations in my travels back and forth and to and fro. Let’s keep it light and get to it.
- First, people are shell-shocked, exacerbated, stressed, and scared. All people. This pandemic was such a slow burn compared to other horrible events. I don’t think it feels real all the time for folks, especially if no one they know had any trouble with the virus. My dad just sent me the casualty totals for the top ten American wars combined. 659,746. Covid deaths, 602,000. That is crazy info. Everything feels off, and people are having a hard time looking each other in the eyes, and the supply chain is in shambles. The dust is starting to settle and I think it just is hard for the average person to keep making sense of it all. I say try to keep this in mind when dealing with your fellow human neighbor. Cut them some slack. Let’s take some of the angsty heat off when we are interacting with one another.
- Second, the youth are freaked out. And this isn’t just a pandemic thing, though I think that young people of all ages are really working to process the profound events that have happened this last year. But I think that the youth feel hopeless sometimes because there is such a doom and gloom perspective surrounding us, coming from peers, parents, schools, the media, social media and music. I don’t hear a lot of positivity. The climate is falling apart, there is no social security for them, college is too pricey for most and rent is impossible. I used to rail against the idea of parents letting their kids stay at home well into their adult years, and the young for not being adventurous enough to go out and rent a crappy first apartment. But it is not like it used to be for us. There are no cheap apartments. There are no cheap cell phones. I had a $6 phone line and $275 rent for my first one bedroom. What would that cost now? I am sure that can seem insurmountable. I also think young people are very distrusting of each other, and dating has all but dried up. I learned from some young folk at the bar I worked at that hardly any of them had ever been on a date. Many said they were afraid to be out alone with the guys. I don’t know what all makes this be. All I am saying is that we have to give these kids, of all ages and in all areas, a good injection of positivity. Take the time to mentor any young person you know on the ways of the world. Teach them how to be upbeat and good to each other. Make them know that there is magic still out there, and a whole world worth investing themselves into.
- Third, and this is a funny one, people aren’t always caring about what you are caring about. It goes back to drawing a shear line over issues like politics or social issues. Sometimes a person can get so into the idea that they are being slighted by the opposite party or that some government decision is going to ill affect them, or whatever it may be, that they don’t realize that no one else is really even thinking about what is driving them crazy. Better put, there isn’t always (and usually isn’t at all) an exact opposite side to any argument that people have. I was about an hour away one time and I came across a woman who was so hung up on the Cleveland riots that she asked me at least 20 questions about them, including how long they had been going on for, how much of the city was being destroyed and what I thought they should do. This was maybe five months after the riots happened. She had no idea that the thing that had been consuming her for months only happened for a day. She believed there were ongoing riots for months. I think a lot of people are falling into this type of category, too. It doesn’t have to be like, “Okay, you are a conservative so you must be pro-guns, anti-abortion and religious, and you probably like country music,” and so on. We are so much more complex. So, I guess I am saying to remember that we are people that have thousands of opinions about how the world around us should operate, so when you are heated about something, maybe take a big step back, a big deep breath and decide if it really is that important to be right. The night goes so much better when we focus on our similarities rather than our differences.
- Which leads me into the fourth and final observation. That life really is better when you get past all this mumbo jumbo that separates us as humans and neighbors and we find our common ground. If you are sitting in a bar, and you strike up a conversation, and the topic starts to go sour, try to redirect to another topic or interest. If you go through two or three topics and you still want to get into an argument, then turn away from each other and find someone else to talk to. You may just not be compatible folk. But, if you keep deflecting the negative a couple times, you may find that some people just have grumpy guards up or they may have a rough-around-the-edges demeanor, but usually will soften up and have some fine conversations. In doing so, I have learned about the plight of so many people. Once a guy in Amherst was giving me a lot of guff for riding my bicycle to the bar because it wasn’t a real bike, such as his motorcycle was. He said a couple things about what he thought about bicyclists, which weren’t super nice. Instead of amping up the situation, I just sparred with him a bit and held my ground, and eventually he chilled out and did the old “just kidding” thing. But I am glad I didn’t take offense to his nonsense, because within 20 minutes of talking, he was crying and telling me about some of his life troubles. Dude had real pain. I am glad I could sit there and drink my High Life and listen. People have lots going on. That dude seemed to need someone to just give him the space to be a jerk a couple times so he could feel more comfortable being himself.
In the last six months, I’ve had a number of encounters with people that I assumed would be difficult to find common ground with. Many of those people, once we got past initial differences, had cool knowledge to offer up or even some new places to see. Just some wicked stuff that I only knew about because they pointed me those ways. So, yeah, in conclusion. . . go out of your comfort zone, drive some countryside, eat in the suburbs, explore the city, immerse in nature. And wherever you go, engage people. Acknowledge your differences, but don’t dwell on them. Find common ground, and enjoy what you share.
Each of the photos I have included show something I could only have seen because I got past differences with somebody and took suggestions from them.