We compare cities, unproductive as that may be, since the answers are both obvious and as well-known as the name of that mountain that graces our view. Plus, it accomplishes nothing. Whose town is biggest? Whose town has it going on? Whose town has the best restaurants, the best shops?
Or — here’s the unproductive part — we compare them to cities that, frankly, dwarf anything we can offer, which brings neither fault nor realistic complaint. Comparisons to Gadsden or Dothan or Decatur are one thing, but comparing Anniston to Birmingham? Oxford to Huntsville? Calhoun County to … umm … see?
It’s a silly waste of time.
Inevitably, human nature gets the best of us. We want what we don’t have: Calhoun County doesn’t have a Publix — yet — but we want one. We don’t have this restaurant or that store, but we want them both. We don’t have a real minor-league baseball team (and Rome, Ga., does?) and we no longer have the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and too many Oscar-worthy movies never come our way, and we feel left out, shunned, ignored. We complain because it’s more fun picking at a bloody scab of pessimism than it is appreciating what we do have, which is more than malcontents think.
If it sounds as if I’m scolding, well, OK.
I’m guilty, too.
Spring is one of the marvelous times for northeast Alabama, this pretty part of a pretty state. Get rid of the pollen and it’d be near perfect, weather-wise. And this weekend’s smorgasbord of springtime events offers yet another opportunity to practice the covenants of this sermon.
In other words, enjoy what we have.
Yeah, sure, cycling may not be your thing. The thought of spending a few hours watching professional cyclists go round-and-round in downtown Anniston may seem as riveting as drying paint. The idea of spending Sunday morning — early Sunday morning — in Piedmont to cheer cyclists as they embark on a grueling endurance ride may bore you to tears.
No interest in the Noble Street Festival, or the Sunny King Criterium, or the Foothills Classic Road Race, or any other of this weekend’s cycling-related events?
Stay home. There’ll be something on TV.
But at least acknowledge that these events — quality events that lure visitors, fill hotels and cast Calhoun County in an overwhelming, undeniable positive light — are examples of the things that, if multiplied over and over, can accomplish two critical goals: (a.) improve the quality of life in this county, and (b.) scrub off the graffiti of pollution and lackluster economic development that’s tarnished parts of this county for too long.
It’s not my job to be the Chamber of Commerce’s spokesperson. That job’s taken. If you called her, I’m sure she’d remind you of the other marquee events in this little part of this pretty state: Music at McClellan, Oxfordfest, the Mountain Longleaf Festival and Knox Concert Series, not to mention the Chief Ladiga Trail, Mount Cheaha, the Talladega National Forest, the museums in Anniston, and C.A.S.T., and the theater and music departments at Jacksonville State, and the … well, it’s not a dumpy list.
Again, it’s not my job to tell you that.
Those who want to see dearth can find it. If they want Calhoun County to be Madison County or Shelby County or Baldwin County, tough. They’re apples, we’re an orange. And they may see this weekend as just a bunch of green, earthy, health-nut bicycle people who are fouling up downtown traffic.
If that’s what naysayers believe, you’re not likely to change their mind.
The point is you don’t have to enjoy cycling to appreciate the effort. You don’t have to dig Vince Gill’s music — the Grammy-winning singer/guitarist who closed the Knox season last weekend — to appreciate the fact that he played in Anniston, of all gosh-darned places. You don’t have to love the goings-in at Oxfordfest, or the acts signed to play Music at McClellan, or the plays put on by C.A.S.T., to appreciate the fact that people are trying — hard — to expand horizons, to entertain.
We should thank them.
Improving our lives is difficult. It takes effort. Sweat’s required. We have no beach. We have no riverfront. We have an average-sized population and a bunch of small towns. We have to strain harder than most.
When we do, it pays off. This weekend is proof, yet again.
Phillip Tutor — email@example.com — is The Star’s commentary editor.