ROUTE 66 – AMERICAS LONGEST COMMUNITY
More than a few fans of Route 66 have described it as a family. Well, yes, but that is a bit narrow.
I see it more as a linear community, a town populated by interesting and colorful characters, artists, old farts always ready with a story to share and an eager crowd to hear those stories, a town drunk or two, visionaries, myopic self serving individuals carving their little empire with disregard for the community as a whole, and a bunch of pretty decent, caring, hard working folks. Simply put, it is my kind of town.
The problem with the Route 66 community, as with any small town, is the need for balance. If the visionaries are given free reign the present is sacrificed for a dream of what might be. With artists running the show it becomes a colorful place where the siesta becomes a highly anticipated holiday that is celebrated every day.
If the self serving folks aren’t held in check the whole community suffers. Their corner of town is kept bright and shiny as a new copper penny but the rest of town is left dark and decaying.
Old farts and their stories, as well as those who gather around to listen, always present the past as the best of times, the present as something to endure while we try to get back to the best of times, and the future is to be dreaded. If they are left to run the show, there can be no progress and the town withers on the vine as progress passes them by.
Now, the town drunk is a tragic but sometimes comedic figure that if left in charge will have the town chasing an illusion of good times with a smile on their face. They will never notice that good times have come and gone.
The eccentrics and characters are what gives a town flavor, just like spices in a good soup. Put them in the drivers seat and up becomes down, left becomes right, and south becomes north and the town becomes a place where whimsy and chaos dance under a pale yellow harvest moon.
With the practical, hard working folks at the helm the town progresses in a methodical, structured way. But the town is as exciting as a white paper plate covered in mash potatoes without butter or salt.
As this is an important anniversary for that legendary highway, perhaps the community that is Route 66 needs to take a moment to see what worked in the past, discover how this old road was transformed into an icon, find a way to apply that to the present for a bright future, and reflect on how wonderful it is to live in our town. Perhaps we need some hardworking folks who have listened to the old farts, to give the artists and eccentrics a bit of direction, while the town drunk entertains, the visionary clears a path for the future, and the self serving few are left to harvest the bitterness they have sown.